April McGowan

On Writing: Writing Conferences

Writing Conferences

Type-TypeOnce people discover I’m an author, they inevitably ask how I got published. I think everyone is hoping for a rags to riches story. When I start talking about the hard work of writing, their reactions vary between eyes glazing over, eyes filling with sympathy, or eyes filling with fear.

It’s those fear-filled eyes I want to address today. Those are the eyes of a secret writer: Someone who wishes they could be published one day, but sees little hope in the dream so they don’t dare hope. I used to have those eyes.

Some eighteen years ago, I began writing my first novel. I’d written a lot of short stories and loads of fan fiction (if you don’t know what that is, no worries. Those who do will nod. It’s a conversation for another time). But a novel was this seemingly insurmountable mountain. Many years and many drafts later, I had what I considered to be a brilliant piece of work and didn’t have a clue what to do with it. So I began searching on the internet for ways to contact publishers. Little did I know you needed an agent to do that, and in order to get an agent you had to be published. Talk about frustrating! And then, one publishing company took pity on me and wrote suggesting I find a local writer’s conference.

Writing conferences were an unknown to me. As I’d written an inspirational fiction novel, I figured I should find a Christian conference to attend. So I searched for OREGON CHRISTIAN WRITERS and low and behold, a group with that very name existed!

Do you know what I did? I said a quick prayer and wrote directly to them. Sue Miholer, of Oregon Christian Writers, wrote me right back and told me about their summer conference and suggested I attend.

And that, dear friends, is how I began this writing-toward-publication-life. Now my first novel wasn’t published. Neither was the next one (although I had publishers ask to read it, so I knew I was on the right track). BUT the third one was. You know that novel as Jasmine. I wouldn’t have ever been published, however, if I hadn’t honed my craft, studied the market, networked with other authors, found beta readers, joined a critique group, practiced pitching to professionals, and approached agents and publishers in person (the only place you can do that is at conferences!). ALL of those previous things were offered to me through my local writer’s conference.

My favorite writer’s conference, Oregon Christian Writers, is now registering for their 4 day summer coaching conference. So if you’ve ever dreamed of telling a story, writing articles, and being in print, now’s your chance to get serious about that dream.

Oregon Christian Writers

Summer Conference Post Card jpeg

Come join us as we encourage one another in pursuing the dream God has planted in our hearts. Click here to register: http://oregonchristianwriters.org/sc2016-vision-voice/ .

I hope to see you there!

 

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The Ocean and God’s Sovereignty

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The Ocean and God’s Sovereignty

The ocean is my place. I grew up on it. As long as the day was clear, I could see the gray-blue expanse from my town. The bay resided only a fifteen minute bike ride away. I would often drive to the rockier beaches and spend the day hiking with my dog. I always felt closest to God at the beach. His character is embedded in the power, the depth, the provision and beauty. Even now that we live 1 1/2 hours from the coast, I can still feel the pull. Once in a while, on a blustery day, I imagine the oceanic aromas blowing in from the coast and up through our Oregon valley. I’m often homesick for it, so when a dear friend gave me the gift of a day at the ocean, I felt doubly blessed. There are moments we can experience that directly point to the Lord. I had one such experience that day.

The day held hope. I don’t know another way to say it. It was supposed to rain, but it didn’t. It should have been very cold; it was breezy but tolerable. I hadn’t been feeling well, but felt pretty good that morning. After we arrived and set up our things on the sand and took in the sights, I went for a walk. I wanted to sojourn with God at my place. I headed down the shore, walking alongside the crashing surf, and soaking up the sounds of the lovely white hushing noise of multiple waves breaking upon one another.

This was it. My time. I began to pray. As I listed my joys and sorrows, a side-rolling wave came toward me and I avoided it, moving higher. Then another. So beautiful was His handiwork! I moved further up and continued to praise God. Then another wave came at me, inexplicably, from the front and the side at the same time, forcing me on a different path once again. And just like that, I was praising the Father who created this expanse and simultaneously grumbling at being forced from the course I’d started out on.

My conflicting thoughts brought me up short. If I claimed God’s sovereignty in all things–and I most certainly do–then who am I to complain when His wave cuts me off and ushers me, my hopes, my family, even my illness in a new direction? Tears of conviction filled my eyes. From that point on, in my humbled state, I began looking for the shift of those waves and enjoying the path, wondering where it’d take me rather than fighting it.

How’s your week? Have the waves cut you off from where you’d intended to be? I’m praying that the Lord reveals His new path for you soon.

Until next time, many blessings.

April

Psalm 95: 3-5 For the Lord is a great God,and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also.The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. (read more here)

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Get Up

Cheer!Hurrah! You Go! Get up! You can do it!

It’s so important to surround yourself with people who not only hold you accountable (lots of folks love to do that!) but who make you feel like you’re better after being with them.

Everyone needs cheerleaders in life. Not the phony kind who just say positive, surfacey things and make you feel sticky like a candy-cane that’s been slobbered on by a dog and then dropped on a cat.

No. ((shiver))

Rather, real friends who know what you’ve been through, what you’re capable of, and (more importantly sometimes) what you’re not capable of. Those that cheer you on to get up. Those that hold you up when you’re worn. The ones that not only hand you tissues when you’re sad, but pass the popcorn when you’re celebrating (well…for me it’s popcorn, for you, it might be something else!).

Last Saturday I got to hang out at Oregon Christian Writers and even got to co-teach a workshop on encouraging writers their publishing journey. It was such fun–I love encouraging others to write. It got me thinking about how important being encouraged  really is. The Bible says in 1Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

In my novel, Macy, she’s got some new friends who encourage her in times of biggest need. They walk through some of her toughest moments when she falls and help her get up again. And again.

In my life, I’ve had a lot of encouragers. The Lord seems to bring them to me when I need it the most. An unexpected text, a card in the mail, a good friend coming by with a coffee just to sit and listen.

Who encourages you in your life? Who helps you get up when you don’t think you can anymore? A friend, a parent? Most importantly, do you encourage others?

I’d love to hear about the cheerleaders in your life, the ones that stood by your side and told you to get up, to keep going. You don’t have to use their names, but I’d love it if you left me a comment below.

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Surrender

Throw in the towelLife can take us by surprise, can’t it? Oftentimes those surprises are hard, rather than sweet celebrations. You only have to open your email or your Facebook to see someone going through a hard time. We all know people suffering–maybe you are suffering.

Our culture preaches preparedness. From natural disasters to retirement, you’ve got to have a plan. You’ve got to stay on top of things–you’ve got to stay in control. Have that escape route ready, that insurance policy up to date. Keep going, never say die, never surrender, never throw in the towel. You’ve got this!

While it’s irresponsible not to do our best to be prepared for the unforeseen–I shouldn’t get comfortable with my own preparedness, the illusion that I’m in control. Because even when I’ve got my helmet on, my shelves stocked with food, my legal papers all in order, I can still be blindsided by events. The death of a loved one, a devastating injury, a new illness–the unexpected can literally take our breath away. So, what do we do then?

There’s no easy answer to that. Even as I type, names of people going through the unimaginable race through my mind. All I can say is God knows what you’re facing and, if you are His, He is with you. In my own experiences, the more I try to hold onto plans and ideas of what life is supposed to look like, the more I end up feeling embittered, frustrated and depressed. I lose hope. After all, wasn’t I ready for what life threw at me? Obviously not. Conversely, the more I pray for the Lord’s will in my life, the more I give up my scramble to control, the more peace I have, the more satisfied I am with life. One definition of surrender is to give oneself up, to yield or submit to another. We just finished reading a book the other day, and there’s a quote at the end that’s really stuck with me:

“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become – because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. . .It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” ~C.S Lewis, Mere Christianity

A verse from the Bible shares the mystery I’ve come back to many times is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Are you suffering? You are not alone. I’m not saying, “There are people the world over who are suffering, buck-up camper.” No, I mean, “Take heart, YOU are not alone. He is with you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8 The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

 

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Listen: Who We Are In Christ

file0001131422230Last week I was honored to give the talk at my church’s women’s luncheon entitled Who We Are In Christ. I had many people tell me they were sorry they couldn’t come, and others ask if I could send them a copy. I thought about posting the text of my speech here on my blog, but speeches don’t read the same as they sound. As a result, I got to thinking about doing a recording for my blog. My sweet husband helped me record it and below is the result. You can listen online through my blog (just hit play) or you can download it. It’s just about twelve minutes long.

Now, this was primarily written to women, but my husband feels that it translates well to men, too. However, I didn’t change it to that end. So, if you are male, please don’t think I forgot about you:) You just weren’t the FIRST intended audience.

If you’ve ever been disappointed in life, if you’ve ever had to let go of a dream or the vision you had of yourself, then take a few minutes out of your day to listen.

After you listen, leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks!

If you’d like to save this to your computer, right click on the link below and select ‘Save As…”

Download Audio

Biblical texts mentioned in my talk:

Colossians 2: 9-12

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

John 15:5-8

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

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