Deep Woods Writing Camp Review

by Jennifer Chastain

When I saw the email for the Deep Woods Writing Camp back in July, I immediately knew that I wanted to attend. I mean, a whole week of writing, writing workshops and a chance to recharge my writing batteries.

As I traveled first by airplane and then by vehicle to reach the North Shore of Lake Superior, I thought, “what am I doing here?” I was so out of my comfort zone. Here I am, traveling off to parts unknown with people I don’t know. What was I thinking? Okay, so, needless to say, I had a lot of self-doubts and was second guessing my decision to attend.

But as we drove on the darkened highway, we shared our personal writing journeys along with the stories we wanted to work on. I realized we’re not so different after all. Yes, some were further along in their writing than others, but that’s okay. And our stories were all unique, just like each attendee. It was a great time to connect with others from different areas of the country as well as make lasting friendships. It amazes me how God brought us all together.

When I first signed up, I had my whole week planned out. I was going to sit down, plot my stories (notice the plural – LOL) in record time and knock out thirty thousand words. And not to mention learn from one of the best writers of contemporary Christian romance.

On Sunday morning, we met for breakfast and then a short time of devotions, led by Susie. This was the pattern for each morning.

But what I appreciated most was that not only did we pray together, Susie specifically prayed for each one. It was a sweet time of fellowship, of sharing our burdens and giving praise to the One who gave us this burning desire to write.

Susie brought home the point that we’re not in this writing journey alone. God is with us and we need to consecrate our writing to the Lord. And as I sat and meditated on this truth, I realized I hadn’t been doing this. Yes, I believe God called me to write, but I was trying to do this in my own power.

Around ten a.m., we had classes on scene building, overwriting or wordsmithing. The classes were optional, there was no pressure to attend. If we didn’t want to sit in, we did research or worked on our works-in-progress (WIPs).

Some of us went hiking to Devil’s Kettle, others walked through the woods alone and a group attended the local high school football game with the deep blue shore of Lake Superior in the background.

The afternoons were reserved for writing and one-on-one time with Susie. Everyone had time to meet with her, to hone their stories or even plot new stories. Susie poured herself into each person this week.

In my case, we tore apart my story, reworked my plot and story equation (SEQ). This made my story stronger. After a session like that, I felt limp, overworked. But I was encouraged. Why? Because the possibilities for my story were endless!

In the evenings, we watched a movie and then analyzed it according to the SEQ. Or a group gathered around the firepit, with blankets on their laps, gazing at the stars in the velvety night sky, and talked.

Friday morning and early afternoon was reserved for one-on-one time with Susie. She read scenes and first chapters, making suggestions for improvement. Oh my, she could see to the heart of a scene! That afternoon, we walked through the charming town of Grand Marais, shopped, took selfies. And, for those of you familiar with the Deep Haven books, we ate doughnuts at World’s Best Doughnuts!

Friday was bittersweet. Our last day and then off to our respective homes. The bond that we formed was the result of not only writing. But of the oneness of spirit in Christ. But more than anything, I came away not only excited about my story but refreshed in my spirit.

If you have the chance to attend, Deep Woods Writing Camp, I suggest you jump on it. You won’t regret it!

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A graduate of  Tennessee Temple University with a degree in Communication Arts, Jennifer Chastain writes contemporary fiction, recently completing her first novel. Married more than twenty years, she and her husband make their home in the beautiful state of North Carolina with their rescued black cat.

 

5 Tips to Defeat Fear—Avenger-Style

by Jeanne Takenaka, @jeannetakenaka

My boys are Avengers junkies. They love these movies of fearless heroes who fight crimes of global proportions and defeat overly powerful aliens. They dream of being that kind of fearless.

Sometimes I wish I was an Avenger in my writing life. Able to push through the fears I face, no matter how overwhelming they appear.

We’re regular humans who struggle with our individual fears. Maybe it’s fear of an agent’s rejection or a publishing house’s pass on our book. Or not being able to finish the book—to get that story of our hearts onto the page. Maybe it’s a fear of success.

Overcoming them demands hard work and a

5 Tips to Defeat Fear-Avenger Style

determination that we will not be defeated.

How do we work through our fears?

  1. Set our minds on the goal. The Avengers knew the stakes and the cost of failure. They determined to do the work. We must remember the vision God gave us for our writing journey. We need to make up our minds that we will push through the fear.
  2. Continue working toward the goal. Even with setbacks, the Avengers kept searching for answers and planning. For us, no matter where we are on our writing journey, we take one step forward at a time, no matter what our thoughts tell us.
  3. Gather our team. When the battle was fiercest, the Avengers teamed together and “had each others’ backs.” We need to surround ourselves with safe-place people who will encourage, speak truth to, and help us regain perspective.
  4. Set daily goals and work to meet them. The Avengers calculated the aspects of the threat and created a plan to conquer. We know the adage of how to eat an elephant. The same is true with our writing journey. We plan daily goals and work to accomplish them. Be realistic. Be determined.
  5. Above all, keep our hearts seeking after Jesus. As we are intentional in our relationship with Him, He strengthens us to face our fears.

Even the Avenger heroes faced their own fears. Each dealt with something from his or her past. Each had to answer the question: Would they allow their past fears to dictate their present actions?

We know the answer to the question for each Avenger was, “No.”

When aliens struck, they circled around and worked as a team. Their goal of saving the human race may have been a slightly higher-stake goal than most of ours.

Maybe God plans to use our words to save a heart, a relationship, or even a life. No one will ever read those words if we allow fear to have the final word.

As we walk forward on our writing paths, we answer the same question . . . will we allow our past, our fears rule our present? Let our answer be a resounding, “No.”

What about you? What tips would you add to my list about facing our fears? What’s a verse or quote that helps you face your fears?

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Jeanne Takenaka writes contemporary fiction that touches the heart. She won My Book Therapy’s Frasier award in 2014 after finaling in the contest in 2013. She was a Genesis 2015 finalist in the romance category, and she finaled in the Launching a Star Contest and the Phoenix Rattler in 2012. An active member of RWA, ACFW and My Book Therapy, Jeanne blogs about life and relationships at http://jeannetakenaka.wordpress.com. A graduate with an M.A. in education, she resides in Colorado with her husband and two exuberant boys who hope to one day have a dog of their own.

Writing Retreats – Are They Worth It?

by Alena Tauriainen, writing as Alena Wendall @alenawendall

My first writing retreat was a huge step of faith. I knew nothing about writing. I didn’t even know what a panster was or POV. I’m telling you I was the true definition of a newbie writer.

I found my favorite author Susan May Warren and looked her up. She had a writing retreat,  Storycrafter’s Retreat, scheduled that October (before she moved it to an online course). During that weekend, she taught story crafting in such a simple way that the mountain before me now seemed scalable.

Not only did I learn a ton about story crafting, something unexpected came from that retreat–friendships. There were only about a dozen of us at that first retreat, but we are still friends 7+ years later. In fact, some are my very best friends today. We room together at different conferences, became craft partners, email each other and text almost daily. So, yes, I believe writing retreats are worth the time, money and effort.

Observations of a Retreat Coordinator

Fast forward a few years and I’ve since become the Retreats Coordinator for MBT. I’ve noticed a couple of things over the past eight years of conferences. If you are considering attending a retreat/conference, can I offer some advice?

Prepare. People that prepare for the conference, get the most out of it. Your time is precious and so are your resources. Plan on giving it your all. Some retreats like the Deep Thinkers Retreat require prep work. Make the time to complete it and give it your best.

Take The Advice. If you are spending time and resources to attend a conference presented by a veteran author that you respect, then take their advice. I’ve seen many people refuse—not wanting to change the manuscript, etc. only to come back the next year and admit they should have listened after hearing from an editor or agent.

Minimize Distractions. When you attend a retreat, you’ve entered an atmosphere intended to maximize your learning. That phone that keeps going off or the text messages that keep beeping in, can cause broken focus. Life happens, trust me I know. But if you ask to only be called in an emergency, it will help.

Buy The Recordings. My Book Therapy sends you the recordings of the Deep Thinkers Retreat at no additional charge. But if you attend a retreat that offers them at a cost, they are typically worth it to reinforce the classes taught.

Hide. Schedule an extra day away before you return to the real world. Take the time to review your notes, type them up etc. Plan how you are going to implement what you’ve learned. If not, encapsulate your notes and plans on the airplane ride back home. This helps me put into action the things I learned.

I can honestly say, I’m agented and working on my third manuscript because of the skills I’ve learned from My Book Therapy and the retreats I’ve attended.

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Writing as Alena Wendall, Alena Tauriainen pens contemporary Christian romance novels that always end with a happily ever after. By day, she partners with her lifelong mate Clyde, to run the family HVAC business. She manages both business and family life with four lovable but crazy kids. She is the Retreats Coordinator for My Book Therapy. She is represented by Rachelle Gardner with Books & Such Literary Management. Visit her at alenawendall.com.  

The Starting Point for your Character’s Inner Journey

I am up north at the writing cabin this week, getting ready for next week’s Deep Woods Writing Camp.

It’s gorgeous here, quiet and last night I was able to catch up on one of my television indulgences, Blue Bloods. In the season premier, wise police commish Frank Reagan sat at the dinner table and talked about the loss of one of the main characters in a freak accident (I’m not telling you who). He said, essentially, that we sit for a while at the table, sharing the journey with our fellow hungerers, and it’s during this ‘meal’ we make an impact. When we leave, our empty chair is noticed, and not easily filled.

We sit among the hungry.

The book business can be overwhelming. I do a lot of “sample downloading” before a trip, then read through the samples to find the books I’m going to relax with on the plane, or on a boat, waiting to dive, or even early in the morning, on the beach. I’m picky with my time, my content…I want a book that will entertain, help me escape and leave me feeling nourished. The books that linger with me are those that leave me strangely healed, at least for the moment.

Healed. It’s not like I walk around with gaping wounds, but like everyone, I have little lies, painful emotional nicks and scratches and when I read a book filled with truth, whether it’s a romance, or general fiction, or suspense, I feel as if I’ve been fed. Someone at the table has offered me a morsel of nourishment on the journey.

Why are we here? More importantly, why do we write?

We sit among the hungry.

I attended a women’s retreat last weekend, and the speaker pointed out Matthew 9:36. When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Harassed. Helpless.

Hungry.

Hungry for grace. Hungry for forgiveness. Hungry for Hope. Hungry for love.

What have you hungered for? What has nourished you?

Grace? Hope? Redemption?

If you’ve hungered for grace—write a story about grace. If you ached for second chances—write a story of redemption. If you are hungry for hope…you get the picture.

Because if you hunger for it, so do others.

(and by the way, giving your character a hunger is the starting point for understanding his/her inner journey!)

Your job in this world, and especially as a novelist, is to pass the potatoes–to nourish those at your table with the nourishment you’ve been given.

Your seat at the table matters. Your story matters.

Go, write something brilliant.

Susie May

P.S. We are all about going deep in a novel, to understanding not just the plot and characters, but the life-changing themes a novelist layers into their work. If you want to learn how to write books that change lives, then you’re a good fit for our annual Deep Thinker’s Retreat in Florida, Feb 23-27. We just opened registration. Payment plans available. Click HERE for more details.