Tag Archives: Write Canada

Relying on the Truth

I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
Psalm 16:8, NLT*

Sometimes we just need to declare the truth and choose to believe it, whether it feels true or not.

God is patiently retraining my responses to stressful or fear-inducing situations, and my part is to remember—and rely on—the truth.

Travelling to and from Write! Canada the other week let me practice. My route to the conference involved two planes, a commuter train and a bus. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I actually suspect God allowed me to miss my train stop as part of the lesson. Not that He caused me to forget, but it was just after that stop a thought popped up: check where you’re supposed to get off.

It really was good practice to get off at the next stop muttering “I have a good Shepherd” and using the truth to subdue the muscles that wanted to clench. I repeated it in my mind when I had to ask a transit information worker for help.

My Shepherd had a friendly person on the desk, who didn’t yell at me or make me feel stupid. Instead, she told me what bus to take from there. No backtracking, no paying a second fare.

This retraining will be ongoing for some time, but after all, it took years for the problem to get this deeply entrenched. And it’s getting easier as long as I stay on guard.

God who rules the universe and yet who knows our smallest need, thank You for Your care. You love us, You save us, and You don’t leave us in the messes where You find us. Thank You for the truth in Your Word. Help us use all the armour of Christ and to cooperate with You in working out our salvation. Thank You that who the Son sets free is free indeed.

As an echo to today’s verse, here is Vineyard Music’s “I Will Not Be Shaken.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Write! Canada 2012


I look forward to the Write! Canada conference every year. It’s professional development, spiritual renewal and going home all in one, even though I’ve never lived in Guelph. The conference feels like home because among this eclectic mix of writers from beginners to professionals, I belong.

Have I published a novel yet by going? No. Have I improved the quality of said novel(s)? Significantly. Written other things? Yes. Found an agent? Yes. Been encouraged? Encouraged others? Yes to both. Made good friends? Definitely. Eaten well, slept little, laughed? Check, check, check.

Up to 250 Canadian writers and editors who are Christian will gather in Guelph, Ontario from June 14 to 16, 2012 for the 28th annual Write! Canada conference. Sponsored by The Word Guild, the conference features engaging keynote speakers, in-depth continuing classes, wide-ranging workshops, and a host of other learning and promotional opportunities.

Check out the faculty interviews and regular updates on the Write! Canada page. Registration is now open!

Interview: The Editors of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider

Since A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider: Words to Stimulate the Mind and Delight the Spirit was released in May 2011, the book’s writers have participated in more than 150 readings and signings in seven provinces.

A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider is an all-Canadian book that is receiving five-star reviews. The inspirational collection of stories by writers who share a Christian faith perspective contains short fiction, poetry, and personal experience articles, all of which provide hope and encouragement. [See more about the extensive cross-Canada launch.]

The book signings continue, and they’re listed on the Meet Us page of the hotapplecider.ca website. If there’s one near you, drop in to say hello!

In the January/February 2012 issue of Faith Today, reviewer Violet Nesdoly wrote, “Though the writing styles  are varied, the book [A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider] was skilfully edited to preserve  the individual  voices while  providing  a smooth  read.” [Faith Today review, part one and part two.]

The anthology’s co-editors, N.J. Lindquist  and Wendy Elaine Nelles,  did an amazing job of pulling the selections together, and they’ve taken time to answer a few questions:

Janet: A year ago now, you were both putting in some incredibly long hours to get the book ready for print. The initial work had started in August 2010, and for four months (October/10 to January/11), you were working seven days a week. You barely took time off for Christmas or New Years. This is the second volume of Hot Apple Cider, and you knew what you were getting into. What made you believe so strongly in the project?

N.J. LindquistNJL: Back in 2007, I was very frustrated because there were so few Christian books being published in Canada and there was very little support. When the opportunity arose to work with World Vision Canada, to have Canadian books given out at their events, I was determined to find a way to do it.  That led to Hot Apple Cider in 2008, which was written by 30 authors who had already published books.

However, I really wanted to have an open call for stories so that newer or unpublished writers could have a chance to be included. I knew that if the opportunity to produce a second book arose I would grab it. It was a terrific opportunity to help a whole bunch of new writers learn about the editing and promotion process, not to mention having their voices heard. And it also means another great book going out to readers.

Wendy Elaine NellesWEN: We believe strongly in the project because of all the many benefits it creates. We’ve showcased 60 Canadian writers who write from a Christian faith perspective in the two books. The first book became a Canadian bestseller, and the second book is well on its way. Mainstream stores like Chapters/Indigo are willing to stock it and hold book signings. Christian book retailers are becoming more aware of Canadian writers.

Janet: I know from personal experience that you didn’t just take whatever stories people turned in (my first submissions didn’t make the cut). Briefly, what submission criteria helped you choose the best of the best?

NJL: The pieces had to fit our themes, they had to be new (not reprints), they had to have originality and good writing, and the writers had to be willing to make changes and, ultimately, to trust us—or at least be willing to dialogue with us if they disagreed with a change we suggested.

Janet: Many of the final selections came in much rougher form than readers see in the book. The two of you make a formidable and effective editing team. I’ve heard contributors say they wished all their publishers edited like you do. Not only does this give a stronger result, in some cases it’s an investment in the development of new writers.

NJL: Thanks for your comments. Yes, there was a lot of editing. I’d say maybe 10 to 15% of the pieces required only minimal work on our part. Several final pieces actually involved combining two (in one case, three) smaller pieces.  A number were almost completely rewritten or reordered. But we didn’t mind investing our time and energy if we felt the writers were learning, and of course, if we felt the resulting book would be great.

We could have rejected pieces that needed a lot of work, or picked more pieces that were okay but not great, or we could have gone in and made the changes on our own, but we wanted the writers to be involved in every part of the process, so they would understand the many facets of good editing, from concept through substantive, fact-checking, copy-editing, and proof-reading.

WEN: Publishing the two Hot Apple Cider books is being done for higher purposes. N.J. and I both invested much of the past decade in founding and building The Word Guild and directing the Write! Canada writers’ conferences, and working on these books is being done with the same vision, the same passion and philosophy. Our goals are to bring glory to the God we serve, to help readers who need to read these books, to strengthen the Canadian Christian writing and publishing community, to develop members of The Word Guild to become better writers, and to raise the bar of professionalism.

So we were willing to invest vastly more time and energy into the editing process than any other “commercial” publisher would, whether secular or Christian. From a strictly business or financial viewpoint, publishers can no longer afford the intensive editing and mentoring of promising writers that we were willing to do. So the Hot Apple Cider books are unique projects, which the publishers Les and N. J. Lindquist who own That’s Life! Communications were willing to do. 

NJL: As to how we work, I tend to lean more toward the bigger picture things such as concept editing, substantive editing and general flow, while Wendy is much better at seeing inconsistencies, fact checking, grammar, and details in general.

WEN: We both did all the levels of editing, from developmental down to copy editing, on all the pieces. But we each came at the pieces from different viewpoints, experiences and skill sets, so we each would spot different things. It’s a prime example of the teamwork The Word Guild has been trying to exemplify since its inception 10 years ago. And it proves the old adage, two heads are better than one.

NJL: Wendy and I each read and discussed each piece, then we each did first edits on about half. I did the poetry and short stories and some of the non-fiction while Wendy stuck to first edits on non-fiction. Then we switched and each did a second edit of the one the other had done first edit on. Then each piece went to the writer, who could agree or disagree, add or delete as suggested, and so forth. Then we did the process a second time, and then a third time, each time getting more detailed and hopefully having fewer and fewer things to change or correct. This went on until all three of us were satisfied (Wendy, me, and the writer).

WEN: Some pieces went through three “back and forths” with the writer to get to the final version, others went through seven or eight.

Janet: I’m not sure where you found time to write, but you each contributed a piece for the anthology as well. Was it difficult editing one another’s work without that second, impartial editor?

[For NJ’s and Wendy’s answers to this and more, read the rest of the interview.]

Friday Friends: Author Sandra Orchard

Sandra Orchard is a Canadian author whose debut novel, Deep Cover, releases in early September from Love Inspired Suspense.

Janet: Welcome, Sandra, and thanks for taking time to join us. Was it only last year you were a finalist in American Christian Fiction Writers’ Genesis contest for unpublished novels?

Sandra: That was actually in 2008. It led to a number of requests by editors, but no sale. 

Janet: It’s a pretty prestigious contest. Well done! And congratulations on your first novel! Tell us a bit about Deep Cover.

Sandra: Maintaining his cover cost undercover cop Rick Gray the woman he loved. Sweet Ginny Bryson never really knew Rick–he never gave her the chance. Not then, and not now, when he’s back with a new alias to gather evidence against Ginny’s uncle. The man’s crimes led to Rick’s partner’s death, and Rick wants justice to be served. But his investigation is stirring up trouble, and Ginny is in the middle of it. Someone wants Ginny to pay the price for what her uncle has done. But how can Rick protect her without blowing his cover, jeopardizing his assignment…and risking both their lives?

Janet: Where did the story idea come from?

Sandra: I wanted to explore the complexities of trying to make a relationship work while living a dual life, compounded by the dangers the undercover life poses to real relationships, as well as to explore the question: Is it possible to be a man of honour and live a life of lies? The Bible says, do not lie. Undercover cops play a vital role in bringing criminals to justice yet they’re faced with the need to lie day in and day out. How does a believer reconcile the two? The original title for the story was Shades of Gray, because Ginny is a black and white kind of person, while Rick lives in shades of gray. But if he’s going to win the girl, he has to realize that there’s no room for shades of gray in his heart.

Janet: The cover’s very attractive—looks like an ocean shoreline. What’s the setting?

Sandra: The series takes place in a fictional town called Miller’s Bay on the shores of Lake Erie in the heart of the Niagara Region of Ontario Canada. The view of the lake is used a number of times in the story to deepen the emotions of the characters. I love the mix of ominous looking clouds and rough waters, with rays of light reaching down. And if you look closely, you’ll see a dove. The dove is a recurring symbol in the book of God watching over them.

Janet: I see the dove now, and I’ll be watching for it when I read Deep Cover. The next title in your Undercover Cops series is Shades of Truth, due out in March 2012. Are you already hard at work on that?

Sandra: I handed in revisions on that manuscript June 1st and am now hard at work on revisions to the third book in the series. That one’s tentatively called Dose of Deception, and it will release later in 2012.

Janet: Good, more books to come…. The Novels page on your website gives sneak peeks at your upcoming Undercover Cops novels, but it also lists two unpublished manuscripts: Escape to Terror won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier (unpublished) award, and Murder by Marigolds which is looking for a publisher. They’re all intriguing, and I hope we’ll get the chance to read them some day.

I’m impressed by the endorsements you’ve received from respected writers in the Christian fiction field. What’s the path to publication been like for you?

Sandra: Writing is an emotional rollercoaster ride, from the thrills of editor requests and contest wins to the disappointment of rejections and criticisms from readers. But God always gave me just enough encouragement to persevere. I have met so many wonderful people, made dear friends, learned tons about writing, people, and life. While in the throes of wondering if I’d ever sell a manuscript, I longed for validation for the tremendous time and effort I was pouring into my novels. But I am so glad that God made me wait for that first coveted contract. I still have much to learn, but I am far better equipped to meet the challenges of writing to a deadline now than I would’ve been if I’d sold my first manuscript.

Janet: That encourages me as I continue waiting for a publisher. God’s timing is everything, and there’s definitely lots to learn. Back to Deep Cover, what do you want readers to take away when they’ve finished the book?

Sandra: Everyone is in a different place physically, emotionally and spiritually and what each of us get from any book we read will be as different as we each are. What drew me to inspirational fiction was the hope I felt in seeing characters grapple with a lot of the same kind of issues I was facing in my life and experience victory. Some stories cause me to rethink how I look at things, or give me hope that circumstances will improve, and some prompt me to make changes in my life, while some are simply a few hours of pleasant escape. I would be thrilled to know that in some small way my readers are touched by the experiences of Rick and Ginny.

Janet: Are you a writer who likes to immerse herself in details of the setting while incubating the story idea?

Sandra: Setting is one of the most difficult things for me to write so I probably don’t do this enough. But I did go sit by the lake to watch and listen and inhale the scents, while brainstorming metaphors that related the setting to the characters emotions. Restaurants are another great place where I find myself absorbing story ideas. People do a lot of quirky things in restaurants. <grin>

Janet: In your research, what’s the weirdest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?

Sandra: I’m not sure it qualifies as weird, but while doing research for my murder mysteries I discovered a lot of cool ways to kill people that are difficult to trace. Hee, hee, hee.

Janet: I’ll try to stay on your good side! Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Sandra: Hebrews 10:35-36 “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

Janet: Definitely a good verse for perseverance! What do you like best about the writing life?

Sandra: I don’t have to drive to work.

Janet: What do you like least?

Sandra: The criticisms.

Janet: What do your family think of your writing?

Sandra: They are incredibly supportive. My youngest daughter (18) is a writer, too, already published in magazine articles and short stories. She’s a wonderful critiquer. My eldest daughter helps me with my website. And my son and hubby don’t complain about the dust bunnies or late dinners when I get caught up writing a scene. In fact, when my hubby is home during the day, he’ll always make me lunch, and when I’m really caught up in writing, he’ll offer to order a pizza for supper. <grin>

Janet: Writers are told to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?

Sandra: I got a Kindle last year for Christmas and I love to read books on it. At 44 my eyes aren’t reading the small print in books as well as they used to. Every week I download the latest “free” offerings that appeal to me so I’ve found myself reading a much wider variety of novels than I used to. I do love the fast pace of Love Inspired Suspense, and am thoroughly enjoying the historical line. Generally, I like to read novels that have a little more going on than just a straight romance.

Janet: What are you listening to?

Sandra: I can’t write with music playing in the background so I don’t listen to much. The one exception is a Robert Alexander CD I picked up called Happiness. It has easy-to-listen-to piano solos that I don’t associate with any lyrics so they don’t distract me. I find them very soothing.

Janet: What do you like to do to get away from it all?

Sandra: I love to go to the lake. There’s something about the smell of the air and the sound of the waves lapping on the shore that soothes the soul.

Janet: What’s the most surprising/ zany thing you’ve ever done?

Sandra: At university, my roommate and I snuck into the room of one of the men in the same dorm as my now-husband and magic-markered tops on a poster he had on the wall of women riding bikes topless. He was so not impressed!

Janet: Not “deep cover” but cover of a sort! Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Sandra. May the LORD continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.


I caught up with Sandra for a chat at Write! Canada this June. Thank you to Ray Wiseman for taking our photo. Stop by Sandra Orchard’s website to learn more about the author. You can also find Sandra at her blog, Conversations About Characters, or on Facebook.

A Writer’s Angst

I have two unpublished novel manuscripts that I’m about to revise yet again. With most of the publishers who handle Christian fiction based in the US, it’s hard for a Canadian or other nationality of writer to get accepted. (And do we really fit into a market largely aimed at a culture that’s at least subtly different from our own? But that’s another story or post… or rant.)

After a critique session at Write! Canada, one of the faculty graciously offered a phone-coaching session to help me see the bigger picture for my fiction. Where do I fit? What’s my target audience? My purpose? My message?

As we talked last week, some of that came together, but afterward I felt totally frustrated and out of my depth, ready to chuck it all and just write for fun. I’m not a big-picture person, my brain isn’t wired that way. How am I supposed to come up with this stuff?

Wait a minute, this was the same discouragement I’d carried with me to Write! Canada this year—where God set me straight to seek Him first instead of the work. Where I repented and thanked Him and renewed my joy.

No way am I going back there again. Instead, I prayed.

My thoughts flashed to Moses’ “Must we bring you water out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10b, NIV*) where he struck the rock and blew it big time.

Moses-style frustration has been my problem before. This time, seeing the connection broke the pattern and helped me get back on the path.

God knows the target audience for my fiction, if there is one. I don’t have to supply it, I just need to ask Him. He knows the best genre for me too, and He can help me recognize any signposts He has for me along the way. It’s not about me, and it’s not up to me alone.

Note to self: Stop trying to do God’s job.

Seek Him first.

Places of Renewal

I’ll be in the middle of the Write! Canada conference when these words are posted (well, okay, I’ll be sleeping—I set the post time early in the morning).

There may or may not be time for me to check on the blog and reply to any comments. Some of the people who might ordinarily comment will be at the conference too, and what a treat it will be to spend time with them.

I love this conference. It’s a great opportunity for developing my abilities as a writer, and for making professional connections. That is, after all, what it’s about and why I invest the time and money to attend.

Want to know what I love even more about it? The sense of homecoming, to people familiar and unknown who somehow “get” me. We’re each unique, but they get not only my faith but my writerly quirks. And I get theirs.

We belong, and to me that’s a rare feeling.

My favourite memories of Write! Canada’s past are of impromptu moments: sometimes professional, sometimes personal. God moments.

Where do you go for renewal?

Friday Friends: Author Benjamin T. Collier

I first met Canadian author Benjamin T. Collier at Write! Canada a few years back. Since we’re both members of The Word Guild, I’ve been able to keep up with his writing progress, and I was glad to hear that his first novella, The Kingdom, released in spring 2011.

Janet: Welcome, Benjamin, and thanks for taking time to join us. Novellas are sort of that middle ground between short stories and novels, correct? The Kingdom is fantasy, something I’m reading more of these days. Would you tell  us a bit about the story?

Benjamin: I’m very happy to chat with you. Thanks for the invite.

Yes, the story was simple enough to fit in under a hundred pages, and I felt that adding more just to make it novel length would’ve only served to bulk it up and slow it down. But it was definitely too long for a two-page short story. I was fortunate to find a publisher that does books of this length.

The story begins with a once-glorious kingdom that now lies in the hands of a corrupt steward. And it is up to Princess Nevaeh to restore the kingdom to glory. It starts off in a very fairytale setting and then quickly heads off in a different direction. I hope to keep the reader on their toes.

Janet: The cover art is beautiful. Where did the story idea come from?

Benjamin: I grew up with movies like Beauty and the Beast and Shrek, films that take the known formula of fairytale stories and turn them on their head in ways that speak to people’s hearts. And although the messages in those stories hit very near to my heart, they all fell short of hitting my soul. The Kingdom was written as my attempt to write a story that spoke what was really on my heart. Though in this case it’s written for mature readers.

Janet: One of the extra challenges to writing fantasy and other forms of speculative fiction is the need to invent new worlds and people. Tell us a bit about that.

Benjamin: I’ve written full length fantasy novels before, and I do enjoy the process of inventing new people and cultures and figuring out how they work. But with The Kingdom being a novella I didn’t have as much time to introduce the reader to the peoples and cultures of Allandor and the surrounding regions, I only had time for the peoples and cultures who were relevant to the story, and other aspects of the world are only mentioned in passing.

I think one of the strengths of fantasy writers like J.R.R. Tolkien and Robert Jordan is having their characters casually mention this or that person, place, or event, without going into detail over it. It makes the world more intriguing to the reader and gives it a sense of age and history that pulls them in. I hope to emulate that skill.

Janet: Emulating the masters is a good way to go. Do you have a favourite character in the story?

Benjamin: I think I would have to say Ruth, the wyvern. Just because I’m an animal lover. 🙂 I tend to gravitate toward the characters who are most different, even if they’re so different as to be another species.

My second favourite is probably Roy. He’s a particularly fun character to write, whether it’s his dialogue, behaviour, or even the personality that the narrative takes on when it’s from his perspective.

Janet: I’m looking forward to reading about them. What one key thing do you want readers to take away when they’re done?

Benjamin: As with most of my writing, my hope is for people to come away with a different perspective on the way that God works and the love that He has for them.

Janet: Any thoughts of a sequel? What projects do you have on the go now?

Benjamin: I’ve considered a sequel. 🙂 But nothing’s been determined yet. Before The Kingdom I also wrote two sci-fi/fantasy novels that I want to go back to and revise now that my writing craft is more developed. But probably the next thing I’ll work on is updating and editing my autobiography (about my life with autism) and get that ready for publishing.

Janet: You certainly have plenty of project ideas. What got you started writing?

Benjamin: I’ve always been a storyteller, but up until the age of five I was non-verbal, and could only communicate through drawing pictures. I’ve always been a big fan of movies and video games, and as a kid I drew a lot of pictures about various video game and movie characters.

For me, writing creatively started as me jotting down notes and background information about the characters I drew. These eventually turned into full-fledged short stories, until one day I decided to take my latest idea and see if I could actually write it down as a novel. That’s when I realized the career path that God was taking me down.

Janet: That’s an interesting way to get here. What do your family think of your writing?

Benjamin: I think they were surprised at first. Books weren’t my first love. But after years of seriously pursuing this as a career my friends and family have seen over time how different parts of my life and personality all come together in this one journey. Now they’re very excited for me. My mother in particular gets excited every time she sees my name on the book cover.

Janet: It is exciting to see someone discover and pursue what they’re designed for! What do you like best about the writing life?

Benjamin: The hours. 🙂

Writing creatively is something I’ve been able to do for my own enjoyment for years. But if there’s a way that my writing can be shared with others, and that they can be blessed through it as well as I am, then it’s great confirmation that I’m doing what God made me for.

Janet: What do you like least?

Benjamin: Deadlines. I don’t know if it’s an autism thing or just me, but time limits and I don’t get along. I manage my deadlines well enough, but they’re one of the more stressful aspects of the business for me.

Janet: Some people thrive on deadlines, but I agree with you. They’re stressful. Writers are told to read widely and voraciously. I think that’s one of the perks of the deal. What are you reading these days?

Benjamin: I’m almost finished my second read through the Lord of the Rings trilogy (I’m in the appendix right now – which is several chapters in itself). I read it years ago but I was given The Silmarillion for Christmas and I wanted to get the world fresh in my mind before I read it.

Janet: Love Lord of the Rings, although somehow I’ve never read The Silmarillion. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

Benjamin: I think the song that’s meant the most to me over the years has been “Trust Me (This Is Love)” by Amanda Marshall. It’s a song that’s come up often on the radio as I’ve been going through a bad time, and it brings me comfort. 

Janet: Thanks for sharing the song. I hadn’t heard it in a while. The chorus is so encouraging, and isn’t it funny how God will bring a song along just when we need it? What do you like to do to get away from it all?

Benjamin: Video games are my most common pastime. In particular I am attracted to games with deep customization options and tools for creativity. My main game lately has been Little Big Planet 2. Occasionally on my blog I’ll have a post that’s just about what I’ve been up to in that one game alone.

Janet: What’s the most surprising or zany thing you’ve ever done?

Benjamin: That might be the skit that some friends and I did at a youth retreat. They went to a wrestling match and I had a fight with my sweater – which I lost. Later on the sweater tossed me through a door into someone’s house and I started savagely beating it with a random boot prop and got my revenge. I still have that sweater, but it was never the same after that.

Janet: I’m giggling—thanks for that image! Thanks so much for taking time to let us get to know you a bit, Benjamin. May the LORD continue to bless you and make you a blessing to others—in every area of your life.

Readers, you may enjoy a photo of the author at rest. (Scroll down to see the photo caption.)


I’m hoping to pick up an autographed copy of The Kingdom at Write! Canada. The print book is available through the standard online and retail outlets (may have to be ordered into your local bookstore), and the e-book is available in Kindle format and through Books on Board. Visit Benjamin T. Collier’s blog to learn more about the author and his book.  Chapters.ca Amazon.ca

Write! Canada 2011

Are you a Christian who feels called to write?  Or one who writes as an offering to the Lord? Or who writes just for the love of it–or because you can’t not write?

Write! Canada 2011 will be held June 16-18 in Guelph, Ontario.

I look forward to attending Write! Canada each June. The year I missed, I was ridiculously homesick for my writing friends I’ve made through the conference.

Why go to Write! Canada? The link will take you to a list of good reasons and to some background on Canada’s largest writers’ conference for Christians.

For me, Write! Canada provides professional development, spiritual renewal, and a chance to make new friends and visit older ones. I don’t have to be a pro at this; I just go and listen and learn. Actually, I wish I’d started attending sooner. Beginners can learn so much at a conference, and find the encouragement they need to persevere.

I’m a shy introvert, and I don’t enjoy large gatherings of strangers. I attended the first time because the Lord prodded me quite clearly from a number of sources, including an email from a stranger-soon-to-become-friend, Mary Waind of Beech Croft Tales.

Another stranger-to-become-friend, Elma Schemenauer of Elma’s Almanac, picked me up at the airport.

Way out of my comfort zone, I arrived at the beautiful Guelph Bible Conference Centre for the conference and immediately felt like I belonged.

That’s not something that happens often. But everyone was excited, accepting, eager and welcoming. We were all on some great adventure together, and there was room for me.

Visit the Write! Canada website and check out the various pages listed across the top menu. There’s room for you too!

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

No matter how busy you are, and especially if you’re busy and stressed… find five minutes today to watch this video trailer for Ann Voskamp’s new book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are. You will feel better. 

How does one live life well? In the book trailer, Ann Voskamp makes it sound so simple… yet so hard… but attainable. Doesn’t it stir something in you?

The book has just released in the US and won’t be available in Canada until February 1, although apparently the electronic version was available in time for Christmas. Reader response has been huge, and I think it’s because the premise touches a need so deep in our hearts that most of us don’t even recognize it until someone like Ann Voskamp articulates it.

You can read an excerpt of One Thousand Gifts, and refresh your spirit with a visit the community at A Holy Experience. To read more about how a quiet Canadian writer attracted such a large international following, see Emily Wierenga’s article about Ann Voskamp in ChristianWeek.

I had the privilege of attending a blogging workshop Ann taught at Write! Canada in 2010. We came to learn how her A Holy Experience blog gained so much attention, in hopes that we could do the same. Instead, she challenged us to write what God gives us–gives each of us–and to be faithful in delivering that message with excellence, as an act of worship, even if it only reaches one person. None of us went away disappointed. Her words and the example of her attitude inspired us, and a number of new blogs were born that day.

This is a woman with a gentle, authentic spirit and a true heart, and in One Thousand Gifts she’s sharing a message that can make a difference in our lives.  The book is on my must-read list for this year. I’ve already put my name on the list at my local Christian store.

One Thousand Gifts is a Bloom (in)courage book club selection, and the club is offering a limited quantity of free copies to those who need them, plus the opportunity for others to act as sponsors for these books. You need to live in the US to be eligible for a physical book, but Zondervan has made e-books available for international participants. As a bonus feature for all participants, beginning February 6 there will be weekly videos with Ann Voskamp discussing the various chapters of the book.

You can learn more about the book at the Zondervan site, and read Violet Nesdoly’s review of One Thousand Gifts at Blogcritics. And consider accepting Ann’s invitation to “Come join the community taking the dare to LIVE FULLY” at A Holy Experience.

Writing Contests

The Word Guild sponsors contests for published and unpublished Canadian writers who are Christian.

Unpublished? Check out the God Uses Ink contest, which could win you free registration to the 2011 Write! Canada conference (well worth attending!). This year’s topic is “Changing the World with Words,” and the submission deadline is January 14, 2011. That gives you plenty of time to write, rewrite, and polish!

Published? In articles, short stories, book-length, blogs, etc? Check out The Word Guild Awards page for details on categories, submission process etc. Submission deadlines: first round: postmarked no later than November 15, 2010 (any work published between January 1 and September 30, 2010) and second round:  postmarked no later than January 15, 2011 (for work published October through December, 2010).