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 MiteyEditing.com, 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.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Local Catholic writers interviewed on KATH 910 AM

Although we didn’t have our regular meeting during May, on May 11 Dave Palmer, general manager of local Catholic radio station KATH 910 AM interviewed several members of the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group during a live broadcast from Sacred Heart Books and Gifts in far north Dallas.

Dave Palmer (right) interviews writer and artist Lewinna Solwing (left)
at Sacred Heart Books and Gifts May 11.

In fact, Dave himself was the first writer to be interviewed (by Nikki White, manager of the book store). He recently published St. Thomas Aquinas for Everyone: 30 Quick and Fun Lessons, Activities and Outdoor Adventures Based on the Summa Theologica, a wonderful book that makes the Angelic Doctor’s wisdom accessible even to young children. This is just the first of eight volumes Dave has planned, which will cover the entire Summa.

Members of the “second Tuesday” group had the opportunity to critique a late draft of Dave’s manuscript at one of our regular meetings several months ago. I was immediately captivated not only by the concept for the book, but also the simple yet effective way that the author presents Thomas’s wisdom. Read more about this book in Nancy Ward’s review on her blog. It really is a book that every Catholic can enjoy and profit from.

Among those interviewed was DFW CWG member Lewinna Solwing, a local writer who is also the artist responsible for the artwork that adorns the cover of St Thomas Aquinas for Everyone. Only a small portion of the drawing is featured on the book, but you can see the entire picture on her web site

Other local writers interviewed included Nancy Ward and Lisa Nicholas. The discussion covered a wide range of topics, including book marketing. You can listen to a recording of the one hour discussion here.

This month we’re returning to our usual meeting time, this Tuesday, June 14, 11:30 a.m. at Half Price Books in Dallas. All are invited to come, get to know other local writers, share your work, get some critiques. Here are the details of time and place. We hope to see you there!

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.

Friday, May 6, 2016

5 Things to Do Get Out of a Writing Rut

No meeting May 2016  Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group

Has your writing gotten stale? Are you having trouble moving ahead with a project you are working on – or wish you were working on? Maybe you need a little help getting out of your rut. Here are some techniques to refresh yourself and your writing.

5 Ways to Get Out of Your Writing Rut

  1. Journal. If you’re suffering from writer’s block, it’s probably because of some anxiety or dilemma about what you are writing. Spend some time writing about what you think is causing the problem, and brainstorming ways past the problem. I do this when I’m planning a new scene or trying to bring a character to life – I just write about what I want to achieve, or why I’m having trouble achieving it, and often find that a solution comes to me quickly. This kind of journal writing is low-risk (no one but you will see it), and often frees the mind to explore possible solutions without anxiety. And it gets you writing. Block gone!
  2. Read. Sometimes writers just run out of ideas. But ideas aren't something we manufacture out of thin air -- they come from our creative mind applying itself to a given task. One often neglected way to stimulate our creative mind is to feed it some good reading material. Read just for your own entertainment and amusement – a great way to stimulate your writer’s imagination. Or, if you find you are making writing progress, but find your writing flat, clumsy, or uninspired, try reading a book or article on the craft of writing, and use the advice to polish your current work-in-progress. Sometimes we spend so much time writing we forget that great writers are always great readers first.
  3. Imitate. Not only is imitation the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s also a great way to learn from other writers. Pick something by a writer whose work you admire and try to imitate it as closely as you can. Do you like their fun, punchy style? Try it! Do you admire their moving examples? See if you can come up with some of your own. Maybe you like the way a favorite writer gets right to the point. Try revising something of your own to be similarly direct. Great writers and other artists have honed their skills by deliberate imitation for thousands of years, and you can, too.
  4. Ramble. Working smart is better than just working hard. Smart writers remember that creativity often happens when we are not trying to force ourselves to write. So take a ramble – not in your writing but in the great outdoors. Go outside, pick a pleasant path, and just walk at a leisurely pace, enjoying the scenery and letting your thoughts run free. This is my favorite way of getting out of a writing rut. I always return to my keyboard not only refreshed but refocused, as if my unconscious was working on my writing problem while the rest of me was enjoying a pleasant perambulation. Other physical activities, such as crocheting or mowing the lawn, can also allow your mind and your body to un-kink, leaving you refreshed and restored.
  5. Sleep. While we’re on the subject of letting our unconscious mind help us out, I’ve got to mention my favorite one, sleeping on it. When I'm having trouble getting my thoughts straight – or coming up with ideas– right before I go to sleep at night, I just remind myself of what I want to tackle in my writing project the next day and, almost always, I wake the next morning with a fresh idea that I can’t wait to get to work on. Sometimes I keep my Kindle tablet beside the bed so that I can jot ideas down before I even get out of bed. In fact, most of my best ideas and solutions to the most tedious problems spring to mind right after a good night’s sleep. I bet it will work for you, too.
As it happens, there will be no meeting of the DFW Catholic Writers Group in May – the fourth Tuesday meets at the University of Dallas have finished with the end of the spring term, and the usual second Tuesday meeting at Half Price Books will not take place this month.

So why not use the extra time to refresh your self? Then come to our next “second Tuesday” meeting, June 14, at Half Price Books and show us what you’ve been working on. We look forward to seeing you then. Here are the details of time and place. We hope to see you there!

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.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Catholic writers encourage and learn from one another

There will be two meetings of the D/FW Catholic Writers Group this month: our usual second Tuesday lunchtime meeting at the usual time and place, Tuesday, March 8. However, since our “fourth Tuesday” evening meeting would fall during Holy Week, a busy time for us all, we've decided to push it back to the fifth Tuesday the following week, March 29. It will take place as usual in room 42 of Haggarty Science Center on the University of Dallas campus, 7-9 p.m. Here are the details of time and place.

Our meetings serve several purposes. First, they give us a chance to get out of our “writer’s cave” and connect with other writers. Writing is naturally a solitary endeavor, and can be a lonely one without the support and encouragement of others who understand our trials and challenges. Family and friends may be supportive, but they often don’t understand “why it’s taking your so long” to finish honing your work. Other writers will understand that, and may be able to offer you strategies from their own experience that will keep you going when you get discouraged.

Another important purpose of our meetings is to provide peer critique. When you spend hours, days, weeks working on a writing project, you may get so close to your project that you have trouble seeing it with fresh eyes. If you bring copies of a current work-in-progress to a meeting, you can get valuable input from other writers who can bring a fresh perspective on how your work appeals to readers, and offer suggestions on how to improve. I’ve heard that some critique groups can be quite brutal in their “honesty,” but I’ve never found critique sessions in our group to be anything but charitable and helpful. So if you are looking for kindly, but honest, feedback on your writing, the DFW Catholic Writers Group is a good place to get it.

And we are, of course, not just any writers group, but a group of Catholics, who are motivated by a desire to dedicate our talents to God and to infuse our writing – whether it is intended for a religious audience or not – with a Christian vision. When we help and encourage each other, we act out of a sincere desire to help each member communicate their own vision clearly and effectively through the written word.

I can tell you that I come away from every meeting reinvigorated and eager to get back to my own writing projects.  I think the same will be true for you if you join us. And remember, you have two opportunities this month: Tuesday, March 8, at lunchtime in Dallas, and March 29 in the evening at the University of Dallas in Irving.  I hope we see you there!

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, February 22, 2016

It's Not Too Late! Sign up now for the Catholic Writers Guild Conference Online

Three and a half years ago, just as I was about to try to launch a career as a commercial writer and editor, I had the good fortune to attend the 2012 Catholic Writers Conference. By some miracle, it was being held practically in my own backyard, in Arlington, Texas. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the experience changed my life forever – not least because it sparked the founding of the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group, which I’ve been an active part of ever since. It may be a long time before I have the opportunity to attend the annual conference of the Catholic Writers Guild (normally, it alternates annually between New Jersey and Chicago), but I hope very much to be able to take part in this year’s online conference – and you can, too.

Two things have helped me persevere in my efforts as a writer: the education I’ve gleaned from expert writers and editors, and the fellowship I’ve enjoyed through our local Catholic writers group and the Catholic Writers Guild Facebook group.  The upcoming online conference (March 4-6, 2016) will offer a combination of both, with a new webinar format that will make the online conference more engaging and interactive than ever. Check out this recent article on Aleteia to find out more about what makes the Catholic Writers Guild, and our online conference, special.

Here are some of the things you can look forward to:
  • A greater emphasis on how our faith informs our writing. We have speakers who will discuss writing as a Calling, literature as evangelization, and even how genre fiction like horror and science fiction can still reflect our Catholic values.
  • Practical advice and tips you can put to work immediately. From managing your time to reconstructing your plot, developing great characters to building your social media presence, our experienced and well-published presenters share their best practices.
  • Webinar format that incorporates audio and visuals. This year, our presenters come live to your screen. It’s easy – if you can handle Skype or Facetime, you can do this! (Don’t worry, there’s still chat available for talking or “passing notes.”)
  • Networking. One of the comments in the past has been there’s not time to just get to know fellow attendees. This year, there’s time in between each session, we have open chat time, plus an open chat room on the conference website.
  • Recordings! Did you have to run after a toddler and miss part of a lecture? We’ve got your back. We’ll have recordings of each session available for you free!
  • Pitch Sessions. They’re back! We’re recruiting publishers of Catholic and secular media to hear pitches from authors with manuscripts ready to submit! Check out the growing list.
Get all the details here. The cost is just $25 for Guild members, and $40 for anyone else.

Meanwhile, writers in the Dallas/Fort Worth area will have another opportunity to get together for critique and mutual encouragement this Tuesday evening, 23 February, at the University of Dallas. Join us!  Here are the details of time and place. Hope we see you there!

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, January 25, 2016

How are those writing resolutions holding up?



Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, did any of those resolutions include goals for your writing? Perhaps, like me, you already have particular projects in hand, and you have resolved to see them finished before the year is out. Or maybe you simply decided that this will be the year you finally get serious about writing. Either way, if you’re like me, you find that it’s already nearly the end of January and you have done little to follow through on your resolutions.

If that’s the case, don’t lose heart. The year is still young, and there's plenty of time to make some headway. If you need some encouragement – or accountability – try finding a writing partner or a stable writing group to help you maintain your resolve and make progress toward your writing goals. The Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group is here to help you, offering camaraderie, encouragement, and charitable critique. Our next meeting is Tuesday, January 26, at 7:00 p.m., at the University of Dallas.  Join us, and get the help and encouragement you need to follow through on your writing resolutions. Find details of our meeting time and place here. I hope we see you there!

If you don’t live in the area but still need a little guidance or encouragement, check out some of our popular blog posts, in the sidebar to the left.

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Year, New Meeting Time?


In the three years or so since our writers’ group was first founded, we’ve seen many people come and go, with a few faithful stalwarts who faithfully attend meetings. Some come with a vague but insistent feeling that there is something God is calling them to do, perhaps through writing. Others have projects in hand and seek some encouragement, advice, or companionship as they bring their writing projects to fruition. Many are beginners in the writing life, trying to develop habits that will help them follow through on their inspirations. We have tried to make writers of all levels of experience feel welcome and supported.

At present, we are reconsidering our meeting time (and place) for our regular, monthly meetings. Lunchtime on a Tuesday is perhaps not the most convenient time for busy people, for whom writing is not their main activity. So at this week’s “second Tuesday” meeting, January 12 (usual time, usual place), we’ll be discussing whether it would be better to meet on a weekday evening or a Saturday morning, rather than at lunchtime on a work day. If you want to get in on the discussion, please attend or – if unable to attend – contact Nancy Ward and let her know what time would suit your schedule best. Do you live in Tarrant County and find it difficult to get to Dallas for a meeting? Let us know. We can’t please everyone, but we’d like to accommodate as many potential members as possible.

For those of you who are “with us in spirit,” even if you are unable to attend meetings, keep in touch. 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.)

Update

After welcoming two new members at the January 12 meeting, and discussing feedback from those present and those on our email list, we have decided to leave our meeting schedule as it is for the time being.  Remember that our meetings are free and open to anyone who wishes to attend. If you would really like to connect with Catholic writers in the Metroplex area but find it impossible to attend either of our monthly meetings, please let us know.