Archive for the 'work' Category

How Do I Learn to Write?

By Kathy NickersonMay 9th, 2018work, writingNo Comments

Welcome to The Wednesday Writer edition of my blog. I’ll attempt to answer some of the questions readers ask about the writing process in general and writing for publication, specifically. 

I might own a pair of scissors, and I might like to snip away at things, but that does not make me a hairstylist. Every career or pursuit requires training, study, and practice. This is a phenomenal era in which to find those things as a writer. Here are a few simple ways:

Read Magazines – Your local library probably has copies of things like The Writer, Writers Digest, or one of the many other magazines for writers. If you subscribe, you can clip and keep articles that pertain to your genre. Of course, you can get digital versions, as well.

Read Books – Reading for pleasure helps develop your own voice and style. You might start out copying your favorite author, but you will grow. Reading helps tune your ear for writing. Also, buy good books on the craft of writing. Anything by Writers Digest Books will be an excellent resource for your personal writing library. Consider it investing in your education and in the career of another writer.

Watch Movies – Careful, this can be a cop-out to avoid writing. However, movies can also help you learn to write good dialogue and can teach you story structure.

Read Blogs – The number of good blogs for writers is almost endless. Every year, Writers Digest lists the Top One-Hundred. The archives on some of these sites are a treasury. Plus you can start to develop an online circle of relationships as you comment and ask questions.

Join a Writing Group – When I couldn’t find one in our rural area, I created one. It didn’t take much work to discover a dozen or so other people with an interest in writing. In our few years together, we have seen some wonderful growth. One of our members went from never finishing a project to being published in one magazine so frequently they asked him to work as an editor. Now, we submit to him! Check local libraries, college campuses, social media sites, or writing magazines and reference books for groups.

Take a Course – This doesn’t have to be a college class. Lots of online classes are excellent and affordable. I’ve taken several.

Attend a Writers Conference – I do this every year. Writing is a solitary experience much of the time. Meeting real editors, agents, and other authors is worth the price of admission. Plus, you will learn more than your brain can hold.

This list is not exhaustive, of course. It is only a small beginning, but I expect it shall lead to great things. Please let me know when it does so for you. Happy writing.

 

Resources: (Just a few of my favorites)

Magazines: The Writer, Writers Digest

Books: 

Just Write, (plus, everything else by James Scott Bell)

The Irresistible Novel, by Jeff Gerke

Deer on a Bicycle, by Patrick F. McManus

Writers Market

Christian Writers Market

Blogs

Books&Such Literary Agency

Steve Laube Literary Agency

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Sally Apokedak, Agent

Courses

Anything at Udemy.com by Sally Apokedak

Anything at Udemy.com by Jeff Gerke

The Jerry Jenkins Christian Writers Guild

Guideposts “How to Tell a Story”

Conferences 

Heart of America Christian Writers Conference, Kansas City, usually in October

Omaha Wordsowers, usually in April

Called to Write, Pittsburg, KS, usually in the spring

Realm Makers, this year in St. Louis, but it travels every year.

 

 

 

 

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Why I Write

By Kathy NickersonMay 2nd, 2018mercy, work, writing2 Comments

Welcome to Writer Wednesday.

 

One of the basic questions professionals like to ask newbies is this: So, why do you write? The answers are as unique as the folks replying. But, here are three of the most common reasons.

I write because I want to be rich. Nobody actually says this, of course. We know that wouldn’t be polite. Anyone who writes, though, has a little seed buried deep inside that expects our book could be the one to win the publishing lottery. We hear the dismal statistics of how few books actually make a profit. We know scads of authors who still have day jobs. Yet, we keep writing with a best-seller ticket in our mind.

In case you are wondering, writing for riches is not a good idea. Could it happen? Of course. But, if it doesn’t (and it probably won’t) you risk giving up in despair. And maybe you were just one idea away from the most important book of your life. (Which probably won’t make your rich, either.)

So, if you probably won’t get rich, should you quit? Absolutely not. Adjust your perspective. If you are intent on making a living as a writer, check out advice from people like author Jeff Goins. If you want to let your art grow and breathe without the burden of supporting you, find a job that leaves you enough strength at the end of the day to write around the edges of your life. Or, you might even find a willing patron who will support you while you write. (Spouses and parents can be excellent at this.)

I write because I want to be famous. Again, we probably don’t say this, but it creeps in. I entered a writing contest where a Hallmark Movie executive served as judge. Once my story broke through the first round, I started listing in my mind which agents I knew who could handle the TV movie rights for me. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

Wanting to be liked, noticed, accepted, admired, and loved is part of our humanity. We just need to remember where it got us back in the Garden of Eden. Think of the best book you’ve read this year. Do you know the author’s name? How about a movie you loved. Know the screenwriter? Beauty is fleeting and so is fame, to misquote the scriptures. So, let’s look for something more rewarding and eternal through our art. Like friendships.

I write because I have something to say. Ahhhh, there it is. If you don’t have something to say, just doodle on your notepad. Don’t try to become an author. But, if you have something to say that will help the world, start saying it. Maybe your thing is about building a healthy family. Or about how to train your dog. Or about how the Civil War impacted commerce and what we can learn from that today. Maybe your message is how to plant a garden and live a sustainable lifestyle in the zombie apocalypse. We need to know!

Every writer has something brewing in their soul. It may come out in a variety of stories and forms, but it will always emerge. When an editor read my second novel, Rose Hill Cottage, she said, “I love how you write about community.”

I said, “What? This book is about a widow looking for solitude.” Then, I realized I had written community all around her in the secondary characters. I couldn’t escape from my message, and neither could the grieving Nora.

So, why do you write? Have you sorted that out yet? If not, start asking yourself some basic questions, and it will become clear.

(If you figure out the getting rich part, please let me know.)

(Just kidding.)

(Sort of.)

 

Resources: Jeff Goins on writing

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So, You Want to be a Writer

By Kathy NickersonApril 18th, 2018work, writingNo Comments

Welcome to a new column featured on my blog. The Wednesday Writer answers some of the questions readers ask about the writing process in general and writing for publication, specifically. 

 

The first time I walked into a bookstore to buy a Writers’ Market, I hung around in the back corner for twenty minutes before I found the courage to approach the check out counter. When the clerk asked if I was a writer, I felt like an identity thief. I stammered “Yes” for the first time in my life. I’d been scribbling for more than ten years, but I hadn’t told anyone besides my mother and my husband.

“Wonderful,” she said. “Come back when you publish your first novel and we’ll hold a book signing.”

It would be another five years before I actually published anything. A fun article for Mother Earth News called, “How to Barter with Your Local Doctor.” (They never published the piece, but I got the check. And my doctor-husband kept getting zucchini and sweet corn in trade.)

My first novel came out more than thirty years later. Don’t despair! Your path may be much smoother and faster than mine. When I started writing, Inspirational Women’s Fiction didn’t even exist. We didn’t have bonnet fiction in those days. (Stories set in the Amish community, which sell in the billions now.) Christian fiction in general was a brand new genre, and few publishers accepted manuscripts. In those days, I wrote first-person essays and spiritual growth articles for magazines like Christian Herald. And, I held the other stories close to my heart, hoping for a day when the world might want to hear from Jonas ben Jesse, the shepherd boy at the stable. (That one has not been published yet, in case you wondered.)

I did go back to the original bookstore when Thirty Days to Glory came out. They had become a gift shop and didn’t do book signings anymore, according to a younger clerk. But, I haven’t given up. People sign books in all kinds of places these days, and that one is still on my list.

So, if You Want to be a Writer, this column might be a good place to start. Next week, we will talk about why we write. In the meantime, be brave. Tell somebody.

Resources: The Writers’ Market 

 

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Another Monday Morning

By Kathy NickersonSeptember 26th, 2016mercy, work1 Comment

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My mother is famous for reminding those of us who have day jobs that Monday is “a day the Lord has made” and we should rejoice and be glad in it.

Last Monday, it was extra hard to remember.

That day started like every Monday. A little bleary. Slightly full. Yet holding the promise of a fairly decent week ahead. Then, the thirteenth patient of the day in our clinic was my mama. And before the day ended, I was attempting to sleep in a chair by her hospital bed.

I will spare you the unpleasant details that followed. They took my siblings and I on journeys we never expected to take, making decisions we never wanted to make, and ended in an intensive care unit with our mother on a respirator. The one thing she had told us never to allow.

“It’s temporary,” we assured her. “You can get well,” we promised. Then we turned away and shook our heads at one another.

I was pretty sure our promises were empty.

But, I underestimated my mother. And the army of people praying for her. Plus the miracles of modern medicine and the hand of God upon her life.

Today is Monday again. And our mother is taking her second walk around the hospital hallways this morning. She is learning leg exercises from the therapist and forcing herself to take one-more-bite of whatever the kitchen offers so she can gain her strength and go home.

All this only proves that we never know what a Monday will bring. Or any other day, for that matter. And that is why, Dear Reader, it is so important to embrace my mother’s words. Today really is a day the Lord has made. It may be our best. Or it may be our last, at least on this side of the veil.

So, let’s rejoice. And love. And give thanks. And not waste our time on anything less.

 

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How to Choose an Administrative Assistant

By Kathy NickersonApril 27th, 2016Friendship, mercy, work1 Comment

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  1. Grow her up in your own household so she knows exactly how you think and will answer the telephone with your attitude, tone of voice, and ultimate plan to make the world a nicer place.
  2. If this fails because your own daughters have the irrational idea they should live their own lives, seek out some of their friends.
  3. The longer you have known these friends, the better. Start interviewing childhood companions who may have shared such things as matching haircuts, favorite teachers, and a high tolerance for Little Mermaid songs.
  4. Be willing to recruit from a distance. You never know when a friend from Chicago might decide to move to the middle of the Missouri cornfields just to chase your claims and save your life.
  5. Once these Administrative Assistants have been secured, do not take for granted your good fortune. Treat them fairly; reward them for good work; buy them flowers and chocolate; remind them often that they are highly valued.
  6. And, if you forget to do that because they are, after all, like your own daughters, then at least send them an e-card on National Administrative Assistants Day and write something nice about them on your blog.

Thanks, Heather & Leslie! You help me breathe.

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Sometimes You Improvise

By Kathy NickersonApril 11th, 2015Friendship, happy endings, mercy, work, writing4 Comments

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The windows in my gorgeous new office space are tall. As in, high off the ground, not tall as in long and elegant. I’m not sure where we missed this in the design. I don’t remember a measurement anywhere that said, “the windowsill shall be 48″ from the floor.” But they go well with the tall ceilings. And they let in gorgeous light! And, they give lots of privacy in patient rooms.

What they don’t give, is a nice view in our offices. So, my doctor husband fixed that with a stand-up desk worthy of John Wayne. It is strong and tough and handsome, just like my husband. He is doing a standing desk more for the health benefits than for the lake view, so I decided to do the same thing. (Mostly for the view.) He does have a stool for those afternoons when one must sit for a while.

Trouble is, I have a perfectly wonderful writing desk that has never been adequately used due to space limitations. I worried over this for a while, until I came up with the brilliant idea you see pictured here.

Now, if you are like my good friend, Dave, you are probably worried that this look doesn’t fit in our elegant, new office building. But don’t worry, this is just a test pattern. Our contractor pointed out that the legs to my desk can actually be removed and replaced with tall ones!

Dave is so relieved.

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And, I care what he thinks. Dave is one of those faithful friends who is so important in life that he makes a brief appearance in all my novels. He’s a doctor in Thirty Days to Glory, which explains his deep interest in our current move. I gave him an even better career in Rose Hill Cottage. But you’ll have to wait until next summer to read about it. I’m finishing up the edits at my stand-up desk with a perfect view of the lake!

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What to Do When Systems Fail

By Kathy NickersonApril 8th, 2015Friendship, Marriage, mercy, work5 Comments

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Many motivational speakers/writers/salespeople will tell you systems are the secret to success. And, I love that. I have a system for just about everything in life including the order in which I wash my body in the shower. (Too much information?) What’s more, I learned that particular system from a novel! (Cheaper by the Dozen)

But, sometimes, systems fail us. Right now, our clinic is in the disorienting transition of a physical move. Nothing blows a system faster than realizing half your tools are in a box somewhere. The distraction that comes from this massive move – how many trash cans do we need for six exam rooms and four offices, and did I order all of them at the best price? – has rattled all my systems. Did I put on moisturizer before I brushed my teeth? Have I written my newspaper column for this week? Did anyone feed the dog?

So, what do we do when our systems fail us? We hang on, of course. To Jesus, first of all. He is still our Rock and our Peace. Stopping in the middle of the chaos to whisper a prayer or sing a bit of a song can quiet every storm.

And we hang onto one another. People are more important than any system in the world. When your system or your world fails, try these fixes: Rock a baby. Hug a friend. Kiss your husband. Call your mother.

Times like this will pass. But relationships with God and with one another are eternal. They will sustain us long after our silly little systems have crumbled into dust. I’m going to go kiss my husband now. Then I need to order more thrash cans.

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A Small Thing Can Make a Difference

By Kathy NickersonMarch 24th, 2015Marriage, work4 Comments

One family

This is one of the walls the amazing Eliza and crew designed in our church during our recent missions conference. The theme was One Family, so, of course, we hung portraits of our family from around the world.

The couple in the top left corner is among our heros of the faith, and I’ll tell you why.

John and Grace spent decades on the Ivory Coast translating the Bible. When they came back to the states, they opened their home and their hearts to scores of hurting people at their retreat center called Shiloh. The stories of their sacrifices are legendary, yet they counted it all as reasonable service. Grace went home to glory a few years ago. We helped John celebrate his 100th birthday during the conference, just after he took the microphone to testify of God’s goodness.

None of those heroic works are the things we remember when we see this portrait, though. Instead, we all see a different picture. A snapshot, really. We saw it every time they came to visit, and it never failed to move us and to remind us of what really matters.

It is the picture of John and Grace walking down the hallway at the end of a long day. And they are holding hands. Just like they always.

When the years had taken their toll, and the bodies could no longer offer much in the way of labor or service, that one simple act of devotion inspired us.

To reach out.

To hold on.

To love.

 

 

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Some Financial Advice Experts Won’t Tell You

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 26th, 2015Friendship, Marriage, Money, work6 Comments

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One of my friends, who shall remain nameless in this post, gave me this wonderful financial advice years ago:

We take all the bills each payday, toss them down the staircase, and whatever lands right-side-up, we pay. Everything else has to wait.

I  think she was joking. Maybe. But it does feel like a good option some days, doesn’t it? If your family budget is like ours, it occasionally runs out of money before month. I know Dave Ramsey would be disappointed in my lack of financial planning when that happens. But seriously, life doesn’t always follow the flow-chart.

I know if we had adopted the plan and set aside six-months of living expenses years ago, then six-weeks of no-income-after-surgery this year would not have led to the Staircase Method of Budgeting. But, alas.

This week, we were shopping for a desk for my husband’s new office. He has been waiting thirteen years for an actual office in his medical practice. He deserves a desk. We not only found one we liked, but the sales person turned out to be the grown-up child of friends we haven’t seen in ages. Hugs ensued.

Since the office budget is in worse shape than the family budget, we didn’t actually buy that day. Instead we walked away saying to each other, “We should probably shop around to see if we can save a few dollars.”

At supper I suddenly said, “No way. I’m not shopping around. You love that desk, and we love that girl. I want to buy from her and give her the commission. Maybe we could save a few dollars down the road, but people are more important than money.”

My husband grinned at me and said, “That philosophy is probably one of our financial problems.”

He is right. I could suddenly see that pattern through our whole lives. Sometimes those decisions were foolish, like putting Christmas on a credit card. And sometimes they were compassionate, like writing off the bad debt of a struggling family with sick children. I waited for him to explain to me how we needed to change our attitude. Instead, he said. “Go buy the desk.”

It may not be the smartest decision according to the spreadsheet. But it is the best decision concerning relationships. And those we take to Heaven.

So that is my financial advice, Dear Reader: Whenever possible, people before money. (And stay away from the staircase.)

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If You are Waiting for an Oscar

By Kathy NickersonFebruary 21st, 2015mercy, The Bible, work, writing7 Comments

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We writers tend to measure our worth by our audience. How many Facebook followers we have. How many books we sold. How many speaking engagements we have lined up. And, of course, the answer is always, “Never enough.” We are always waiting for the Big Break that will change our statistics.

I used to think that creatives were the only people who thought this way. Writers, painters, musicians. But I imagine accountants wonder sometimes why Wall Street hasn’t noticed the great spread sheet they created. I expect every person who is endeavoring to do something in the world wonders, ever so secretly, why they have not been given an Oscar for their performance.

Here is one of the reasons: We aren’t there yet. Some of us will never get anything like an Oscar. But we will have points of arrival. Points where we say, “Wow, I think I was born to do this.”

And sometimes the waiting feels aimless. We start to feel like the Children of Israel wandering in the desert, going around in circles when we know the Promised Land is just north of us a little ways!

But do you know what the Bible commentator Matthew Henry says about that? (Thanks for pointing this out, Julian)He said God needed to build a relationship with the Israelites before He could take them into their destiny. And, He had to use the desert, because it was the only prayer closet big enough for that many people.

What a perspective! I’m looking around at some things in my life and saying, “Wait a minute. This isn’t a desert. It’s a prayer closet! God is about to get some things done if I will just cooperate a little.”

Who needs an Oscar when you have that?

Okay, I’d still like an Oscar for a screenplay. But you get the point. Now, back to the prayer closet of life.

 

 

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