Saturday, November 11, 2006

A Writer's Surrender

In a recent release, The Nativity Story: Contemplating Mary's Journey of Faith, contributing writer Sister Marie Paul Curley reflects on the similarity between Mary's "Journey of Surrender" and that which most writers experience.

As a writer, I have repeatedly felt invited to surrender -- and yet felt that surrender was impossible.... Although I increasingly valued the time and ability to write I was being given, I also became increasingly anxious about anything to do with it. I asked myself: What will people think of my work? Is my writing process too slow? Am I writing honestly and deeply enough? The list could go on. At one point, my anxiety so paralyzed me that one paragraph could take hours to write. Living in such a heightened state of anxiety was too painful; I started thinking about giving up writing entirely. Concerned friends repeatedly offered me the simple advice that I was trying too hard and simply needed to "let it go." In theory, I saw the value of letting go, but in real life I was too anxious to loosen my grip....

Recently, however, I received an unexpected insight: the "letting go" my friends encouraged wasn't really enough.... Letting go means abandoning my writing to free fall without a safety net. Surrendering, instead, means entrusting my writing to Another.... In its essence, surrender to God is not about passivity at all; it is about trust (p.37).

The author goes on to compare how Mary's "yes" is one we all get to make. Each time we sit at the keyboard and wait desperately for those first glimmers of inspiration.


When those streams of thought flow like molasses in January.


When I'm editing someone else's work, caught in a snarl and dreading the painful process of smoothing it out.


May all your "yesses" bring forth the Light of Christ. (Thanks be to God.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

How to Break Into "The Business"

Dear Heidi: I have fairly extensive freelance/editorial experience. However, I have felt that God has been calling me to write more Catholic/Christian articles. Do you have any tips forbreaking in to this niche? If so, I'd love to hear them.

Dear Kate:

I've had people ask me this question before, and frankly I'm always at a loss about what to tell them. My "career path" was a bit unconventional -- starting with a serious car accident that marked the beginning of a spiritual conversion, to Bible school at a missionary training center and several short-term stints overseas, two years interning at a Christian book publishing house that was attached to the missionary training center, more schooling in California (International Studies and Communications)... Then a very dark year that culminated in my conversion to Catholicism. From there, a "hand of God" appointment to Servant Publications (a woman in my RCIA class was a media consultant, and recommended me for the job), where I was for seven years. During that time I edited Johnnette's book and met most of the people as authors who are now helping me in other areas of my career.

Here are a couple of thoughts that might help you, however.

1. Networking is everything. Never turn down an opportunity to meet and greet those in the industry -- writer's conferences, other conferences and church events. Look for ways to contribute to these functions, so you have a leg up on those who are merely attending as far as getting some "face time" with speakers. For you, it might be putting together an article for Canticle, and interviewing them on the spot. This means always being prepared -- business cards, tape recorder, etc.

2. Do what you need to in order to build your "brand." Keep building your writer's vitae even if you have to work for free at first -- contribute articles to and Build your own blog and/or website and become an "expert" on some area that people will want to read. For me, it was adoptive parenting.

3. Build your skills.
If you need more theological training to give you the credentials and insights you need to write, get it. Study the Chicago Manual of Style, and learn your proofreader's marks. When you meet editors at the conferences, etc., ask them if they need freelance proofreaders and editors, and hand them your card. It goes a lot farther than a cold resume. Then follow up with a note and a tear sheet from one of your articles, so they know that you do in fact have some writing background.

4. Last, but most importantly, pray. Ask God how He wants you to use your talents, and be sensitive to doors that are opening around you. Remember, too, that there are seasons of life -- and you won't be able to be as active with your writing when you don't have time to write. Seems obvious, but it took me a while to catch on to this. When the children are very young, concentrate on capturing the memories in your journal. The magazine articles will come later. Trust me.

I don't know if this is what you are looking for, but I hope it give you some insight.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Gee... This road looks awfully familiar..."

Another lifetime ago (Fall of 1982), I started out as a freshmen at NJIT as a computer science major. I had scored nearly 100 points higher on my math SAT's than my verbal (go figure), and so my father suggested that I might do well in this field. And, since I didn't have any idea what else to do with my life, I launched my less-than-stellar college career, flunking out after a single semester. Primarily because I chose to spend most of it partying rather than studying -- and with a guy-to-girl ratio of 12:1, there were endless opportunities to do just that.

When my parents realized how little I'd applied myself, they wisely suggested that I take some time off to define my goals -- and a week later, I was in a car accident that kept me flat on my back until the following summer. When I was able to walk again, I decided to become a missionary, and entered a four-year Bible school program in Minneapolis. After completing this program, I worked for two years as a "post-grad" and got my first taste of publishing, then moved to California where I completed my first "real" (accredited) degree in International Studies and Communications. Shortly thereafter, I became Catholic.

A few years later, one of the women in my RCIA group (a media consultant) clued me in to an editor position open at Servant Publications in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was hired, worked there for eight years -- and decided to return to school, this time to get my Masters in theology from a Catholic institution.

Last year, I decided to take a hiatus to concentrate on some freelance assignments, and it became clear through these assignments that my skills needed a little updating. So now I'm taking some online classes... in computers. As one of the Great Ones once observed, "God writes straight with crooked lines."

So the next time you feel as though you are stranded out in the desert, and that God could not POSSIBLY be the one responsible for the particular tangent you are taking at present, take heart. God redeems not only people, but all of creation -- including time. Nothing is wasted. Nothing takes Him by surprise. Even our worst "mistakes" shine like gold in the Master Jeweler's hands. Be patient. Just wait. Every good story takes a few twists and turns before the final page.