Monday, February 13, 2017

Evening meetings at the University of Dallas

It's easy to lose creative steam during the grey, gloppy days of a Texas winter. But I always find my writer's enthusiasm recharged when I attend one of our evening meetings at the University of Dallas. That's because many of the writers at these meetings are UD undergraduates, whose enthusiasm and creativity are infectious. You can find out for yourself if you attend our next meeting this Tuesday, February 14.

In the absence of Dr. Bernadette Waterman-Ward (on sabbatical this year), the meetings are run by the officers of a new, official student chapter of our group, which meets not once but twice per month. During the spring 2017 semester, meetings will take place on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month from 7 to 9 p.m. (excepting the second Tuesday of March, which falls during spring break). Find the details here. Non-students are, as always, welcome at these meetings.

If you would like to stay up-to-date on all the doings of the UD group, email Ana Henriquez and ask to be added to the mailing list. And don't forget that we also meet on the first Tuesday of each month at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts in far north Dallas. Notify Nancy Ward if you'd like to be added to our mailing list.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017: Write One Day at a Time

Happy New Year from Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group

The approach to New Year's Day sees a lot of people writing -- lists of resolutions for the new year, that is. Maybe your list includes resolutions to maintain a writing routine this year, or to get that book finished or that article published, etc. Me? I've given up on New Year's Resolutions — not because I don't want to change my life for the better, but for the opposite reason.

You see, I've figured out that grand resolutions are a recipe for failure. I actually get a lot more done by setting short-term goals that will inch me toward my larger goals. So I set daily and weekly goals — very specific ones — and I keep track of my progress so that I'm accountable to myself, if no one else. Since I began this practice a year or so ago, I find that I really am more successful than I was when I aimed at larger, more distant targets.

Goals You Can Reach -- Every Day

I was first inspired to do this by Pope St. John XXIII's "Daily Decalogue," which outlines ten goals toward personal reform that each of us can try "just for today." Although each of the ten intentions is modest, none of them is beyond anyone's grasp, which is kind of the point. There will certainly be days when we don't accomplish all of them, but at least we will have failed "just for today." Tomorrow is a new day, with a new opportunity to try again.

Since I have many writing aspirations for this new year, the Year of Our Lord 2017, I thought I would adapt some of the items in the Daily Decalogue to help me achieve my writing goals. Maybe they will help you, too.

New Day's Resolutions for Writers

  1. Just for today, I will write something — anything — that will help me progress toward my writing goal. I will not seek to write my grand opus all at once.
  2. Just for today, I will spend 10 minutes planning the next phase of my writing project, secure in the knowledge that plans can be adapted to changing circumstances in my life.
  3. Just for today, I will do some reading that will help me grow in my craft as a writer — whether that is an article about the craft, or a book or short story that will feed my writer's imagination and soothe my soul.
  4. Just for today, I will let myself write freely, without letting my inner critic hobble my imagination and enthusiasm. Tomorrow I can revise, but today I simply write.
  5. Just for today, I will firmly believe that my writing can enlighten, encourage, or instruct readers who will benefit from my efforts. My writing may not change the world, but I will be better for having written, and my readers will be better for reading my work.

That's enough to start with, don't you think? For some, it may even seem too much. If that's the case, pick just one or two of these New Day's Resolutions, and stick to it — just for today. If you fail, tomorrow you can try again. If you keep trying — just for a day! — eventually you'll realize that you have a new and productive writing habit.

Another way to create a writing habit is to meet regularly with other writers for mutual support and encouragement. If you live in the greater Dallas area, why not join us for one of our First Tuesday meetings? This Tuesday, Jan. 3, we'll be meeting at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts in far north Dallas, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. (find details here). We would love to have you join us!

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Do You Have a Writing Vocation?

Do you find you really want to write more, but have trouble finding the time? Perhaps that is because you still think of writing as an avocation, a hobby, rather than a vocation, a true calling.

Those who feel they may have a religious vocation enter deliberately and prayerfully into a period of testing that vocation. As aspirants, they begin to acquire the habits that will allow them to persevere in that vocation. Shouldn't those who feel they may have a writing vocation do the same?

Test Your Writing Vocation

Let's take this analogy a little farther: one thing that makes it possible to persevere in the religious life is an acknowledgment that one's time must be structured, so that it will be well-spent. Traditionally, for instance, monastic life has always depended on a well structured horarium, a daily schedule that makes time for work and prayer, as well as recreation.

In this article from the Catholic Writers Guild blog, Charlotte Ostermann touches on two ways in which making better use of our time can help us to succeed in our vocations as writers:
None of us has enough time, but we might improve considerably our approach to the time we do have. I suggest we consider time ‘as Catholics,’ ‘as professionals,’ and ‘as artists’ to make the most of time

Catholic Time

As Catholics, we should have regular recourse to refreshment in ‘time out of time.’ I can’t say enough about the role of Sabbath-keeping, Liturgy, and holy leisure in the life of a Catholic artist. Essential, critical, pivotaland largely ignored. (See Souls at Rest for more on this.)

Professional Time

To see yourself as a professional writer – whether or not you make money at it – is to place your creativity and passion within the helpful boundaries of discipline, time management and deadlines. This may feel like a cramping of your style, but these constraints can actually free you to accomplish much more.
As we reach the end of one calendar year and contemplate making resolutions to do better in the next, why not resolve to make a more serious effort to test (or to live) your vocation as a writer? One way you can do that is to plan to attend the meetings of a local writers group, and always to arrive with something freshly written that you can share with the group. Just allowing that small constraint on your time can help you turn your writing hobby into a habit, one that can support and strengthen your vocation as a writer.

If you live and write in the greater Dallas area, why not join us at our next meeting, this Tuesday, December 6. Here are the details of time and place.

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Discovery Draft: Permission to make a mess

Permission to suck, John GreenIt's time for our "first Tuesday" meetings — midday at Sacred Heart Books & Gifts in far north Dallas, evening at the University of Dallas in Irving, November 1 at the usual times. Why not bring a sample of something you're working on for peer critique? Don't worry about bringing something that's already polished — you don't need to impress us. In fact, you'll get much more benefit if, instead of bringing a polished draft you bring a discovery draft.

"Get it out of my head!"

What's a discovery draft, you say? It's that first crummy draft — the one you really don't want to show anyone — that get your ideas out onto the page, even if it's a bit artless at this point. It's the draft that helps you discover what you really want to say, the one that you feel free to slash mercilessly and rearrange freely until it starts to look like the idea you had in your mind when you first started. Don't worry if it starts out a mess — there's a lot of satisfaction to be gained by cleaning up that mess, putting things in order, pruning out whatever is not helping, adding in anything you might need to make things clearer.

Permission to make a mess

I suspect a lot of people who say they suffer from writer's block are really suffering from premature perfectionism. If you're one of those people, try giving yourself permission to write a messy first draft — or even two or three — that just let you get the ideas out of your head onto the page. Turn off your internal editor while you write, and let your draft "cool down" overnight before you give it another thought. Then, the next day — or the next week, let your internal editor look it over and decide what can stay and what needs to go. A couple of rounds of drafting and editing will probably help you bring your ideas into focus — and then you can tweak and polish it until it's "ready for prime time."

If you need some "fresh eyes" on something you're working on, you will always find friendly, constructive criticism at meetings of the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group. 

Can't make this week's meetings? Remember that there is also a "third Tuesday" evening meeting at the University of Dallas. Here are the details of time and place. Hope we see you soon!

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Monday, October 3, 2016

New Editing Service for Indie Catholic Authors

Recent visitors to this blog may have noticed one small, unobtrusive addition to the navigation bar above: “Need an Editor?” Clicking the link will take you directly to, a new editing service especially for new and indie Catholic writers.

MItey Editing, affordable editing for indie Catholic authors

A uniquely affordable editing service

What makes this editing service unique? First, it is available only to Catholic authors who write works (fiction or non-fiction) that are in some way motivated and illuminated by the Catholic faith. Second, writers may negotiate to arrive at a fee that they can afford. The editor will do everything she can to make quality editing available to those who really want it. If you would like to know more, fill out the query form on the Mitey Editing website.

Who is your “Mitey Editor”?

Well, that’s me, Lisa Nicholas, the editor of this blog. The idea to offer editing (and book coaching, and a variety of related services that indie authors often need) grew directly out of my long-time membership in the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group, and in the Catholic Writers Guild. In fact, as I state in this blog post on the Mitey Editing blog, “Polish Before You Publish,” my decision to launch this service is inspired by the same purpose embraced by the Catholic Writers Guild, to support “the rebirth in Catholic arts and letters” by offering independent Catholic writers quality, professional editing services at exceptionally low rates.

Join the DFW Catholic Writers Group this Tuesday

If you’re not yet ready for an editor but could use some encouragement and peer-critique from other Catholic writers, and if you live in the Dallas area, why not join us at one of our “first Tuesday” meetings? There are two times and places to choose from, midday in Plano and in the evening at the University of Dallas in Irving, this Tuesday, October 4. There are no formal requirements for membership – just show up! And don’t forget to bring several copies of anything that you want to share or have critiqued. (Here are the details of time and place.)

If you don’t live in the DFW Metroplex, you might like to join the Catholic Writers Guild, which has a lively Facebook group, an annual writers' conference, and local chapters around the country.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Twice-monthly meetings at the University of Dallas begin this Tuesday

The Fall schedule of DFW Catholic Writers meetings at the University of Dallas has been confirmed. This semester the group will meet twice a month, on the evenings of the first and third Tuesdays of the month.

That means that this Tuesday, September 20, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m., any Catholic writer in the area is welcome and invited to gather with other writers to share, discuss, and critique works-in-progress. There are a number of eager young student novelists from the UD population who meet along with writers from the wider community, so there is always a lively discussion. Those who wish to get feedback on their writing should bring 6-8 copies of a sample of approximately 1,000 words or less.

Will you join us? Find details on the meeting time and place here.

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

New meeting place, New day ... New members?

There are lots of new things in store for the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group.

Sacred Heart Books & Gifts, 1st Tuesday meetingsNew meeting day and location

First, our lunchtime meetings are moving to a new day and place. From now on, we'll meet at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts in far north Dallas, on the first Tuesday of each month (from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.) Bring your lunch if you wish. Sacred Heart has moved to a new, larger space (just two doors down from their former space), where they now have a community room suitable for our meetings. (Click here for a map.) We've enjoyed meeting the past three years at Half Price Books, but we are happy now to accept the hospitality of the premiere Dallas Catholic bookstore.

New status for University of Dallas meetings

Second, evening meetings at the University of Dallas will resume, now that a new academic term has begun. Dr. Bernadette Waterman-Ward, writer and UD faculty member who acted as convener for the UD meetings, is on sabbatical in Wyoming this year, however, so the group has been officially listed as a student group on campus so that it can reserve a meeting space without a faculty sponsor (non-students are still very welcome). We are not yet sure exactly where and when we will meet, but expect to be able to announce the new time and place very soon.

New members — will you be one?

Finally, we are hoping to see some new faces at our meetings this fall — or maybe some we just haven't seen in a while. We encourage active writers and aspiring writers alike to attend. If you would like to get some peer critiques from a work in progress, bring half a dozen copies to share. Even if you don't have a sample to share, you can help other writers by giving them feedback on their work. Most importantly, you can give and receive encouragement. Writing is a solitary endeavor, but it needn't be a lonely one. We all benefit from the help and encouragement of our peers.

So put our lunchtime meetings on your calendar for the first Tuesday of each month. Come and visit Sacred Heart Books and Gifts in their new digs, and maybe plan to spend a little extra time checking out their inventory, or pick out a space on their shelves where you would like to see your book someday.

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.