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.

The People-Side of Writing Conferences

by Jeanne Takenaka, @JeanneTakenaka

The first time I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers conference, I was scared, excited, nibbling my fingernails, and not sure what to expect.

Friends further along the writing road settled my nerves so I could enjoy the conference.

A few things to remember as we prepare to attend writing conferences:

Meeting Agents and Editors:

  • Reality check: Though we have opportunities to pitch our stories and meet agents and editors, they rarely make an offer during that fifteen-minute appointment.
  • Should we still bother pitching our stories? Yes! These meetings offer opportunities to interact with professionals we may one day work with. And for them to get to know us.
  • Don’t get so worked up over offering the perfect pitch that we become a big ball of shakes. Instead, pray before appointments.
  • Remember agents and editors are people too. Don’t begin the appointment by launching into our pitches. They like it when writers introduce themselves and relate on a human level.

My first pitch was to an editor. I was scared. So, I owned it. I said something like, “Hi. My name is Jeanne Takenaka. For better or for worse, you’re my first-ever pitch.”

The editor chuckled and we discussed my story. She read my first chapter and gave encouraging feedback.

Meeting Other Writers:

  • Conferences are great places to make and deepen connections with writers. Though we’re the only ones who can write our stories, we don’t walk out this writing journey in complete solitude. Connecting with other writers opens opportunities to help and cheer each other forward.
  • We’re not in competition with each other. Sometimes, writing friends will receive amazing feedback after pitching appointments. Even if we don’t get that coveted request—if we can celebrate with those who do, rather than envy them? This deepens relationships.
  • God knows the timing for each of our journeys. If we cling to this perspective and trust His plan celebrating our friends’ success becomes a little easier. And, when we’re disappointed in how a pitch appointment goes (and it happens to all of us), it’s okay to work through those emotions. Talking with a trusted friend or mentor renews our perspective and helps us move beyond discouragement.

Chocolate helps too.

  • Don’t be afraid to talk with well-known authors. I’m a closet fan-girl of certain authors. I never want to draw their attention to me. Though I may have wanted a photo with them, I was never bold enough to ask. Reminiscing over the past few conferences, I wish I’d been brave enough to talk with my favorites. To ask for a picture. Most well-established authors are gracious, and they’re happy to spend a few minutes talking with those who enjoy their books.

After attending five ACFW conferences, most of my nerves have subsided. The anticipation of connecting with writing friends takes center stage in my heart. If you’re coming to ACFW this year, I would love to say hello to you. Come find me.

What about you? What’s one thing that makes you nervous about attending writing conferences? For writing conference aficionados, will you share one piece of advice?

~*~

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.

How entering a writing contest can change your life

Could entering a writing contest change your life?

It changed mine, more than I could ever imagine.

It all stared in Far East Russia in the middle of January.  Otherwise known as SIBERIA.  That’s right, and in the middle of winter, it has all the charm of a mausoleum. Our missionary family lived in a three-room flat on the ninth floor of a cookie-cutter apartment building that, to the untrained eye, resembled a recently shelled building in Chechnya. We had no running water during the day, no telephone line and the icy wind froze the windows shut, sheeting them with curlicues of frost.

Four children terrorized our 900 square foot flat, drag racing their tricycles down the hall, scattering their land-mine Legos and scribbling their names upon the walls like gulag prisoners. My husband too eagerly escaped to plant a church an hour from our city while I stayed to patrol the borders.

Honestly, I felt like one of the captives.

At night, the wind howled against the panes and, locked in the now quiet house with the slumbering rabble-rousers…I wrote. I penned story after story of romance, adventure and suspense. My first was an epic tale of survival against a backdrop of war in 1940s Russia. The second, a story of a missionary fleeing a serial killer. Again, set in Russia.

I may have been channeling some inner angst.

The third story I set in idyllic northern Minnesota, in a town I vacationed in as a child. I dreamed up a tale of second chances about a bookstore owner meeting the author of her dreams.

So, more channeling, perhaps but this is where the light speared through the darkness. One night, while surfing my spotty internet, I found a contest for unpublished authors, the grand prize being a one-line mention in a magazine.

What if?

I entered…and won. Suddenly, everything changed.

No, the children didn’t stop their pursuit of destruction; the water didn’t gush forth from the rock (faucet), the wind didn’t cease its incessant howling….But, I began to believe that maybe I wasn’t just writing to whittle away the dark nights.

  1. Winning a Contest gave me VISION. I realized that if I worked hard, I could possibly, someday, get published…
  2. Entering a Contest gave me SKILLS.With my contest entry came feedback. I analyzed it over and over and began to apply the suggestions. It made me a better writer.
  3. Entering the Contest required me to take my writing SERIOUSLY.No longer a hobby, I suddenly wanted to play this game, to win. I carved out time, invested in writing books and set my mind toward the goal.

I rewrote that story and, a year later, sold it to Tyndale. You know it (hopefully!) as Happily Ever After, my first novel. Amazingly, I’ve sold 45 more novels since then. (That still takes my breath away.)

Those dark nights, wrapped in a blanket, tapping on my keyboard in the darkness fueled a desire in me to help other writers who feel trapped – maybe by discouragement or perhaps confusion as to how to improve their craft. That’s why I started My Book Therapy – first as a blog, then as a community, then as a writing coaching service. We launched or Frasier Contest for unpublished writers 6 years ago.

This year’s Frasier Contest opens on Wednesday, January 21, 2015.  (Check out LAST YEAR’s finalists and Winner here.)  Find out more about the Frasier Contest HERE. 

My vision for the Frasier zeroed in on craft more than genre. Writers must have solid writing skills for their stories to stand out in a cluttered world, so we threw out the categories, creating a contest geared at the skills of delivering a great story.

More than that, however, we focused on the need to capture a reader in the first few sentences, even the first scene. To, in short, hook them with amazing prose.

And, because writers need that shot of vision, our contest does not require a finished manuscript to enterSometimes you just need to know if you have it, if your story works and the direction to know where to go from here.

Vision, Skills, a Serious Focus – these are the benefits of entering a writing contest like the Frasier, and so many others out there, from the ACFW First Impressions and the Genesis, to RWA/FHL’s Touched by Love and so many more.

Are you an aspiring novelist? Add “entering contests” into your game plan for 2015.

Who knows, it just might set you free.

You CAN write something Brilliant!

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Susie May