Category Archives: Your Writers Group community

Your Writers Group Resolution, 2007

Can you believe all there is to think about as we start another year? So much to evaluate and reevaluate–and there’s never time for it all.

One of my resolutions for 2007 is to make sure that every new thought that glides across your screen here begins with a question: Does this affirm the greater purpose of what writers do? I’ve missed that goal at times, and I’ve allowed many things to get in the way. So first off, I’d like to start with an apology, for not leading more consistently from my heart for writers. The changes I’ve seen in the industry over the past year convince me Christian writers are escaping the stigma of substandard work and moving forward. Yet frustration and fatigue have clouded my judgment, and I’ve offended needlessly–when I intended to offend with purpose.

Thanks to some wise counsel, I’m learning to express truth and beauty with love, and it isn’t such a struggle to say what I mean when it’s simply coming from that simple goal.

Certainly, the Internet breeds misinterpretation, and a little controversy doesn’t derail the larger work going on. But I do hope those who’ve taken offense will accept my apologies for besmirching the difficult work they do. It is not my intent to undermine sincere efforts or pure hearts.

It is my intent, however, to divide us where truth and lies become indistinguishable. It’s been difficult to clarify this purposeful division for everyone because there are assumptions, reputations, and great advances made (pun intended) on the pretense of "not rocking the boat."

I’m writing this post tonight to reestablish the purpose of Your Writers Group–it’s been misunderstood by many. What’s frustrated me is that it’s almost as though my words are misunderstood intentionally by a clan of usual suspects who come off looking very regal as they drag through the mud our sincere concern for the negative image Christian writers are given. If I’m demonized because Christian writers are disrespected by the larger market, that’s fine. But some very well-respected folks in CBA assume it’s blindness to their feelings that keeps me from changing this message. On the contrary, it would be blindness to ignore the truth and the passion that convinces me to continue encouraging Christian writers to press on.

Yes, it bothers me that we can’t all agree. But everyone sees things differently and if my detractors think I’m divisive and harsh or high and mighty, I know my heart. And if I’ve come off harshly, I do apologize. Yet sometimes harshness is read into my words where I’ve intended only love, and that’s when I realize it’s a spirit problem. Let she who has ears to hear tell me I’m being too harsh in saying that Christian writers don’t always live up to their own high standards, and I will choke down my words and take down the blog.

The fact is we all need encouragement in this fight to balance commercial viability with high quality inspiration, and I can’t abandon the truth to make myself or anyone else happy. If that sounds laughably pious, I’m an easy target. It isn’t intended that way. Simply, my naive goal is to love my fellow writers and friends who work to produce their very best every day, and not bow to compromise under the great pressures that face us in this industry of Christian book selling. Where we are without love, we become useless.

Yet where we are without biblical insight, we become substandard. Truth and love must be balanced as the two hands that lift us to success in this life. Just as acquisitions editors are often challenged to balance commercial viability with inspired content, no truly successful book endeavor can be complete without both. The goal of both is to interweave those goals: commercial and inspired, truth and love. They don’t take turns and alternate; they become one and the same.

This is the ideal, whether we accept it or not, whether we always state it clearly or not. It’s falsehoods and illogic that convince us otherwise. For our purposes here, I want to add beauty into the mix, but don’t be confused: it’s still truth that carries beauty forward and allows it its power. But love, as the apostle Paul says, is the greatest of all, and all the truth in the world can’t save us from the fact that we are nothing without it. Truth may make life livable, but it’s love that makes it worth living. There can never be enough.

So as we move forward with our discussion of the challenges facing CBA and Christian writers, let’s remember that we’re all on the same side, each of us trying to create something better from the clay we’ve been given. And some may forget and compromise in the face of the pressure, but we don’t judge them, lest we be judged. Instead, let’s build up and focus our energies on learning to balance truth and love in everything we do.

And maybe, in the process, we’ll find some of the balance we’re seeking in the rest of life.

Contest Winner!

Please congratulate J. Mark Bertrand on his enlightening and intriguing connections between the two articles posted Dec. 8th.

We’ll see what happens in our editorial discussion.

For all those who took part, thank you for your thoughts. I’ll be working with Mark to include some of his thoughts here soon. For now, go on over and get yourself acquainted with his blog.

Without Love…

Welcome back to the discussion.

We’ve been dissecting this idea of “books for God.” As publishing professionals and hopefuls, we need to know what makes our books Christian. What makes them “godly?” Is it worth discussing how “books for God” might be different from “Christian books” or books for Christians?

Your Writers Group has an intentionally broad focus to encourage ideas for discussion, discovery, and community built around God’s role in our books. And since I’m the moderator here, my idea is to unite us in this cause and keep focused on this most important goal. Often, I have my own troubles doing that, so the rules are obviously fairly lax.

And we all have biases. We try to subvert those for the greater purpose, but sometimes, we forget to remember that. I forget to remember that. In my brain. Where the thinking doesn’t always happen. The problem is that this seemingly-relaxed group seems like a crowded, sweaty dressing room at times. You try on ideas and take opinions on how they fit. Some of the threads don’t always groove…

“Hey, that blouse is crap on you, Nancy-boy!”

Dissent is to be expected, I think. Really, the whirled-wide web is more like a busy bus station. And so much is out of context, it’s often more like crashing some high school reunion to sing some Van Morrison favorites with the band. I’m trying to use the technology accordingly, to be smart. There’s a reason we don’t take our shirts off in front of the class, right Brenda?

But Christians, we represent God. And we don’t do the repping very well. Luckily, there are a lot of us, but we need to all be following our own unique calling, being true to how we hear it. Diverse. There are many representations. Many we need to see. May never see otherwise.

Yesterday, I was leaving for work and my 3-year-old daughter runs to the garage door to tell me goodbye. I’d already given her a kiss and hug, but you know 3-year-old girls. I gave her the kiss-the-hand-and-blow-it thing as I was pulling out. She did it back and then raises her arms in a mock hug, tilting her head, really playing it up. And it hits me funny how sincere she is about it. I never showed her that; she just added it herself. Thought she’d like a distance hug to go with the kisses. And it looks like a really good hug and I suddenly don’t want to go to work even more than before.

I get things wrong sometimes. I’ve argued here that God’s not amused by our amusing ourselves and ignoring our world. Maybe I argue too forcefully, too sweepingly, at times. I don’t think we can escape reality—either in real life or in books—because it mocks grace, ignoring the truth of what Jesus came to save us from. But that doesn’t mean we need all novels to be philosophical, metaphorical, literary. What I’d like to see is more people striving to make more God-focused reading and writing choices. That’s how we’ll balance the limitations of our industry. God’s way.

To better represent God, we need more invention and less convention. We need more honesty, and maybe an understanding that some feelings will get hurt. And we need to work at delivering honesty in love, so they won’t stay hurt.

We also need to be aware of how our discussion sounds, much like derision, to the experienced authors, the working professionals who are out there exposed. We need to seek the big open middle ground. I’m a firm believer that the first step in effecting change is realizing who you’re talking to. We need to be constantly growing in our understanding of the nuances of this subject of books for God. We were all called in different ways. And not all of us will represent God the same way. We need all kinds of writers who can reach all kinds of readers.

I send you a 3-year-old’s hug tonight. We need more hugs. Straight from her heart to yours. If we’re talking about the value of words, we need to value open dialogue and listening more than speaking. The smaller voices over the louder. The simpler, purer, less complicated values of the little people. We need their guidance from God. Without it, there’s nothing any of us can do.

Community Update

I’ve got far too much work to do on this lovely Monday, so excuse the brief post. But I wanted to mention a few things coming up you’ll want to be sure not to miss.

The first is a Carnival of Christian Writers happening right now through the diligent work of Gina Conroy and Michelle Pendergrass. Stop by and sample some of the great conversations going on around our little corner of the blogosphere.

Second, I posted an announcement a while back about Relief Journal partnering with the much-anticipated arrival of Ankeny Briefcase. And now your patience has finally paid off: Relief debuts in November. Jules Quincy Stephens conducted some excellent interviews with the editors over at The Master’s Artist: here, here, and here. Bravo to Kim, Ben, Heather, Mark, and Karen for their hard work. For those of you wondering who Relief is for, Kim gives a good sound-bite summary here:

"Because there are many that want to know exactly what to expect when they pick up a Christian book, Christian publishers face a lot of pressure to keep their books ‘safe for the whole family,’ to keep from offending any of their readers. They can’t necessarily afford to publish authenticity because conservative Christians boycott the books. So while there are many that hope for more from Christian lit, they often shop the shelves of secular bookstores rather than hope for the proverbial diamond in the rough in the Christian section. It is this audience that we are trying to target with Relief. Since we are willing to offend some, I envision Relief using this freedom to allow Christians to write for mature adults rather than gearing everything they write towards being safe for children. And if that means we make little or no money, well, that’s fine with us. We’re not in it for the money."

For my part, no official endorsement of the journal is either expressed or implied (at least until my foreword in the premiere issue gets me canned). But personally, Kim’s statement leaves me imagining a new favorite literary excursion away from our hard industry realities…"relief" indeed.

Happy reading, folks.