Thursday, February 26, 2009


Our writers' group met — full house this time, with only one person unable to attend. We all had news to share about our lives and writing, and everyone was attentive and enthusiastic. What a blessing! They listened to my recent revelations and, without exception, positively vibrated with patience as Stephanie asked,  May we tell you what we think you should write first? I said yes, and all four of them burst out with "the How-To!" Happy with this confirmation, I am settled down to the work, finally untroubled by where to start each day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Serial, anyone?

Okay, I've identified four different books I could write about HopeArts: a history, a how-to, a motivational text, and a collection of essays. I have no interest in writing motivational books, as such, so one down. I'd love to write the remaining three. In what order?

The how-to would be the easiest to finish because I have already written big chunks of it over the course of the last 10 years. And the rest is less, shall we say, taxing than the writing for the other two books. Practicality is my forte. 

I probably ought to work on the history first, though, because every day new information supplants old memories. Do I have enough resource material to pull it off? Hmmm. Plus I'd need to interview some Hopites and others in Austin who have been working on arts ministries in their churches. Could be very time-consuming.

Now if I "followed my heart" I'd go straight to the essays. And probably not finish the book for 10 years, if at all. I love thinking about the hard stuff, and I even love writing it, but I hate putting it out into the world because it's never completely as right as it needs to be. How does Eugene Petersen do it? Do it so well and meet deadlines, I mean. Has he thought of some mistake or had some new insight that gnaws at him when he sees a copy of The Message? He is rather known for his humility, so I'm sure that's a key to peace of mind, but how does one balance humility and the desire for excellence? Oh — what's that? I'm hearing the voices of therapy past, and rather than share them with the world, I think I'll leave this topic for now.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I have been struggling for the past six months with narrowing down the content for the book I am writing about the Hope Chapel arts ministry. You should see my Book folder — six outline and to-do files; Curio documents with six, seven, eight "idea spaces" for each of nine proposed chapters; a folder of Arts Council meeting minutes; plus assorted sidetrack files that seem important but don't fit anywhere specific yet.

So last night I attended the monthly meeting of the Writers' League of Texas, where the topic for panel discussion was "first drafts." Much good info about process (including a recommendation for April Kihlstrom's Book in a Week workshop). And a reiteration of the advice tht's been smacking me in the face for the past few months — it's all about the story! I first came across this notion in regard to nonfiction several years ago in Frederick Buechner's Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale. Last night's tips about storyboarding even nonfiction works got me and my friend Jane talking about how to translate the fiction writer's method to a nonfiction book that I so want to be compelling.

Back to my Book folder with fresh eyes, I am rethinking genre — do I want to tell this story as an action-adventure or a fairy tale or a romantic comedy? How might my content fit into a three-act structure? Who are my characters, what do they struggle with, how have they grown at the end of the story?

And, of course, the other best advice, from panelist David Clambrone who has written both technical books (as I have) and fiction — start where your interest is, write that part first, and then see where it leads you. That hackneyed "follow your heart" thing again; my initial reaction is "I am already doing what I want to do. Talk to the hand." But I am hearing it anew today as a reminder to keep honing my interest further and further whenever I get bogged down. 

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Looking for the Lizard by Kate Van Dyke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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