Oh, wow! What a conference!

Conferences are often the brunt of jokes. You know how it is — the annual conference in Vegas that’s little more than a vacation getaway where attendees take in all the entertainment and casino opportunities, and make it to one conference session just to legitimize the trip’s expense claim.

Not so for most writers’ conferences. Maybe the difference is because writing is very much a solitary pursuit and it takes effort to commit to a weekend of being constantly immersed in a crowd of five-to-six hundred people. We have to be convinced the opportunities to improve skills and mingle with so many people who understand our unique lifestyle are going to be worth the stress of putting our introverted selves ‘out there’.

This particular weekend was definitely worth it!

The Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) has become known as “the most comprehensive professional development conference of its kind in Canada”, unique in atmosphere and what it provides for writers of every experience level. Its reputation has mushroomed and registration sold out well before this year’s event.

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Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel Ballroom – location for meals, daily keynote addresses, and special events

Last weekend writers, agents, editors, publishers and screenwriters arrived en masse to learn, teach, listen, encourage …. a total of fifty-eight of them were presenting ninety different workshops over the three days (a choice of nine in every time slot), and participating in free pitch sessions and ‘blue pencil’ consultations. Yes, it gets mind-boggling, and we came away with information overload, but inspired beyond belief.

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Fraser Room – location for ‘pitch’ and ‘blue pencil’ sessions and the Saturday evening author book signing event

Those things all contributed to the conference’s many highlights, but it was the less obvious experiences that made it truly unique.

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Robert Dugoni and I at the book signing

  • a special atmosphere of camaraderie and inclusiveness that embraced novice writers and famous authors, newbies and industry professionals
  • evening conversations and mingling over drinks
  • warm smiles and words of encouragement
  • a New York bestselling author remembering my name from a previous year and stepping up for a photo.

 

  • tears over an unexpected award for DD Shari Green, and pride in her well-received first time workshop presentations
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Presentation to Shari Green from the Surrey Board of Trade

 

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    Shari leading one of her workshops
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“Mud, mud, glorious mud!”

  • singing along with Jack Whyte’s infamous annual rendition of the Hippopotamus Song

 

  • disbelief that it could already be the ninth year for Michael Slade’s ‘Shock Theatre’

 

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Oh, those tights!

 

 

 

 

  • k c dyer’s distinctive daily selection of colourful tights

 

 

 

 

 

  • and the sun shining at least intermittently throughout the weekend to showcase the beautiful autumn scenery and the mountains of our west coast venue.
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A bright morning view from our hotel room

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Early evening view — last rays of sun on the mountains

I have so many photos but this sampling gives you a taste of what made the weekend special. It’s always memorable, but every year seems more so than the last. If I were to have any criticism at all, it would be that it’s getting too big, but that’s just the claustrophobia in me fluttering its anxious hands in the air. The writer in me loved it all.

Next year will be the conference’s twenty-fifth anniversary. It’s going to be spectacular! You might want to mark October 20-22, 2017 on your calendar right now.

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Yes, it’s happened again!

I write fiction. So how is it that I only seem to publish non-fiction? Last year it was the history of Haney Presbyterian Church in Maple Ridge, BC. This year it’s a compilation of the sermons of one of Haney’s previous ministers, the Reverend Kris Davidson.

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AMEN & AMEN is a very personal project … something I’ve wanted to do ever since Kris’ untimely death in January 2005.

davidsonsOn the way home from a Christmas vacation with family in Alberta, a terrible accident took his life and that of his wife, Sheryl and their older daughter, Lauren. Despite her own serious health problems, twenty-two-month-old Katie survived.

“Upheld by the prayers of the Haney congregation and surrounded by the love and care of her grandparents, aunts and uncles, Katie recovered. That she will have no memory of the accident is undoubtedly a blessing. What is a tragedy, however, is that she will also have no memory of her parents and sister, or of her father’s significant ministry.”

When Kris’ parents donated his computer to the church and I discovered all his sermon files on it, the idea of somehow preserving his words for Katie took root. Eleven years later, after typing ‘amen and amen’ yet again — the words with which Kris frequently ended his sermons — I decided they would make the ideal title.

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The cover background photo is one I took during a special weekend at the Wilderness Lodge on the Sunshine Coast.

AMEN & AMEN contains thirty-nine of the forty sermons Kris preached in the nine months between his ordination and his death. (The last, from Christmas Sunday, remained in note form awaiting his attention after the vacation from which he never returned.) My desire is that its words will one day be a blessing to his daughter. I don’t plan to promote it, but in the next couple weeks it will become available to anyone else who might wish to order a copy. At that time I’ll update this post to include the link. (Links now added below.)

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The word of our God will stand forever.

(Isaiah 40:8b)

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AMEN & AMEN is available from:

Amazon. ca

Amazon.com

CreateSpace

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Written and Photographic Snapshots

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During my blogging absence over the past month I’ve taken an uncountable number of snapshots — hundreds of them — with my camera and iPhone.

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It makes me smile to remember a trip our family took in 1980 when, despite feeling significant guilt, I clicked through nineteen rolls of 35 mm film over the nine weeks’ journey. It was extravagant, but it was unlikely I would ever make that same trip again and I wanted to record every memory regardless of the cost.

Our first digital camera was a gift when my hubby retired in 2003. At first I was inhibited by the limitless opportunity of  amazing photographic freedom. It took a while to accept that I could depress my finger as often as I wanted and there would be no cost attached to any of my ‘mistakes’. One click recorded something; a different click deleted it; a third click printed it, but only if I desired an ‘hard copy’… and because I purchased photo paper in quantity, even that cost was negligible.

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I’ve been told the difference between an average photographer and a good one is in the number of discarded photos. Savvy photographers don’t display their mediocre shots. My laptop’s photo folder says it currently holds 6,874 pictures. On my desktop computer in the office there are 18,246 more, and that doesn’t account for the files saved on disks and memory cards. I don’t suppose a dozen of them are what I would call really good shots, but I keep all their files, just because I can. The only person besides me who likes to browse through them is my eight-year-old granddaughter and she doesn’t seem to care about quality. She likes revisiting the scenes, as do I.

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One advantage of keeping all of them is having a ready source of something to use in a blog post or add to the collages I like to create for inspiration while writing my novels.

Writers have various means of encouraging their creativity. Some have rituals they follow before settling into a writing session — maybe preparing a cup of tea, lighting a scented candle, turning on favourite music, or setting out a particular talisman.

One of my favourite go-to blogs is Writer Unboxed, and recently it ran a post about using a collage to create a snapshot of your novel. It turns out, I’m not the only one whose creativity gets a boost from visual stimulation. For each of my novels I’ve put together storyboards with photos, graphics and other items that reflect aspects of the plot. Some of the references might seem nebulous to someone unfamiliar with the developing story, but there is value to me in the artistic endeavour of assembling the collage. On the few occasions when I begin to bog down part way through the story, I stop writing and return to the collage, searching out new bits and building them into the existing collection until my enthusiasm for writing returns.

It’s almost as effective as taking a walk in the woods or beside the lake or seashore with my camera in hand.🙂

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If you’re a storyteller, what techniques do you have for maintaining your writing momentum? 

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“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

[Ecclesiastes 3:11a]

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Writing in Summer Solitude

Last spring author Debra Purdy Kong blogged about her need for solitude. She said, “scientific research has shown that creative people need solitude. An article in Quartz revealed what many of us writers have known for some time. Solitude has nothing to do with being bored or being lonely. In fact, it’s an essential component for any type of creativity.”

DSC09480The creative person’s desire for solitude isn’t limited to summer, but for many of us that’s the time we’re most likely to find some. School’s out. Organizations put their meetings on hiatus. Employees take their vacations. It’s the best time to escape … or, at least, that’s what we seem to think. Maybe we’re brainwashed to believe that, when we should really be looking for periods of solitude throughout the entire year — any time our well of inspiration is in need of replenishment.

A solitary stroll on an crisp fall morning or a snowy weekend evening might be all it takes to let fresh ideas break through what I call a cotton batten brain. A rainy day spent at the museum or art gallery does it for some, while others find refreshment pouring through shelves in a library or bookstore. Personally, I’d never turn down the opportunity to spend an hour in any season, sitting on a log at the beach or by the lake, emptying the mind to ready it for refilling.

My writerly sub-conscience needs that, but so too does my spirit. Solitude and stillness help me open myself to God and let peace and renewal seep in.

I saw this graphic on the (in)courage website recently with the words, “May you have the chance to be still, to hear His voice in the quiet spaces.” I’ve borrowed it to use here as a summertime reminder. I’ll be absent from the internet during portions of August as I focus on experiencing stillness and refreshment, and on redirecting my creative efforts. I hope you’ll make time to do the same.

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Making Excuses

I missed a week! Lost it entirely. Earlier in the week I looked ahead on the calendar and was sure today would be July 8. Then, during a recent family telephone conversation, the arrival of mid-July this weekend was mentioned. Oops!

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Perhaps I was preoccupied by the church’s steak barbecue that was happening here last Saturday evening. Fifty-three people had signed up for the annual event and, although a committee does the grocery shopping and food preparation, there were still gardens to spiffy up and housecleaning to do in preparation.

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I’ve mentioned our gardens before. Our two-plus acres are surrounded by woods, and much of our gardening takes the form of constantly pushing back the buttercups, ferns, salal and assorted cedar seedlings. It’s an ongoing battle to keep the wildness at bay.

It’s not that we haven’t attempted to civilize the gardens. Through the years we’ve dutifully added trees, shrubs and perennials that are known to prefer our shady, acidic soil. They prefer it so well they quickly overgrow the beds and mingle happily with the wildness. We’re resigned to the ‘au natural’ look.

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Distracting me from the gardening and housework has been the near culmination of another writing project I’ve been working on periodically for several years. I’ve been compiling and editing a book containing all the sermons of the late Reverend Kris Davidson. I took a hiatus to work on the church history, but since publishing that last year, I’ve turned my focus back to the book, which is finally done. At least, the compilation and editing parts are done. Now it’s been draft-printed and the line-by-line proofreading is underway. That is the slowest part of the whole job!

And that is essentially what kept me from realizing I’d missed posting anything last week. So here I am, making excuses. I’m afraid excuses don’t make the best of blog posts, but it’s this or nothing. Hey, I provided garden photos. That’s something, isn’t it?😉

 

Uncomfortable Visibility (or, An Introvert’s Woes)

With each passing year I am increasingly surprised at my endurance here. This morning WordPress reminded me today is this blog’s eighth anniversary. My 1,086 posts during those years average more than two-and-a-half posts a week.

My Bio warns that musings here may wander through my assorted realms of interest, and they certainly have, although most have ended up relating in some way to a writing theme, because writing was my initial reason for creating this internet residence. After writing devotionals and occasional magazine articles sporadically for years, I finally moved into fiction and needed a different audience — a new kind of visibility.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 9.10.56 PMI don’t have a huge following here — WordPress tells me the total is 667 — but I’ve appreciated the cyber friendships that have developed both here and on Facebook.  The visibility that I referred to in that first post eight years ago, has been relatively painless because of them.

Other writers might understand the reluctance with which I embarked on this online journey. I’ve discovered many, like me, are introverts. Like my backyard ursine visitors, we’d prefer to remain unnoticed … to view the world’s activity from a safe and somewhat unobtrusive distance.

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The very definition of visibility indicates why it isn’t a welcoming situation for us. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary explains it as…

  • the ability to see or be seen
  • the quality or state of being known to the public

But I’ve forced myself into other beyond-my-comfort-zone situations through the years, knowing that in order to achieve a particular goal, I had to overcome my hesitancy. When I think about some of those situations, I am encouraged  by the realization that I can do things I once believed weren’t possible.

  • establish a business that involved interacting with and being depended upon by hundreds of people
  • accept public accolades from an astronaut, and subsequently be interviewed by newspaper and magazine reporters about my role in his life
  • act as a consultant in the making of a major motion picture
  • be the theme speaker at a community youth convention

Life is all about growth. I may not have actually ‘enjoyed’ every growth opportunity, but I recognized the necessity of stretching to do a job; plus there were benefits. I gained satisfaction from getting involved in something new and from doing the job as well as I could.

So now I continue on my writing journey, blogging my way into another year while also working on assorted writing projects. My thanks to those of you who have stayed connected with me here and on Facebook. I truly appreciate your faithfulness and support.

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Honestly…I DO like birds

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I love birds; I really do. But the last couple years a pair of juncoes have decided they would like to nest in the hanging basket on the deck beside our patio door. I’m sorry, guys, but IT’S THE WRONG PLACE. I have significant time and money invested in that basket and I need to be able to water it daily, fertilize it weekly and regularly deadhead its blooms.

They don’t care. They also apparently don’t care that my hubby barbecues underneath it, that our table is frequently occupied under the umbrella beside it, or that there can be significant activity on the deck around it. For instance, a few weeks from now there will be about sixty people milling around during our annual church barbecue.

We tried surveyor’s tape, fluttering a discouragement. Then we tried hiding the basket out of sight.

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Now it’s temporarily covered by an old apron, barricading against their nest-building access during times when we aren’t around to guard it.

 

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They don’t seem interested in the tubs that sit on the deck — not that I’d want them there either — it’s just the hanging baskets that appeal. They fly in, burrow between the plants and excavate a hole into which they start importing their building material, leaving remnants on the deck underneath. The splats they leave on the window as they come and go aren’t desirable either.

It’s not as if there aren’t other nearby nesting places available to them. We live amidst trees. Lots of them. It’s a forest, for goodness sakes! There’s even a nesting box. But, no, they are persistent. Well, guess what. So am I. If I’m not, there will soon be eggs and babies, and at that point I wouldn’t have the heart to dislodge them. My basket will soon look pathetic as the heat dries it out and kills the plants. So for now I must be vigilant. Sorry, little juncoes, but GO AWAY.

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I tried to extricate a writing analogy from all this, but the only one that comes to mind is the need for persistence. In the goal for publication we first need to research the right places — appropriate agents or publishing houses — and then keep sending out queries until the ideal match is made.

Now if these juncoes would learn that lesson, too, we’d all be happy.

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JUNE 17 UPDATE:

It seems we managed to discourage their occupancy of our hanging baskets, only to redirect their efforts to the deck tubs. Sometime between dawn and 8:00 a.m. they managed to almost complete the construction of a nest in the centre of one tub. ::sigh:: Really, guys, this is taking persistence to a ridiculous level!

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