Amy Letinsky: Critical Thinker, Crazy about Metaphor

By Elizabeth Griffin

Those who attend Northwest Christian Writers Association meetings regularly know that longtime member Amy Letinsky is a critical thinker, crazy about metaphor, and an avid reader and writer.

A college professor for the past fifteen years, Amy will share her expertise with us at the 2017 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal:

A Writing Workshop: At last! The chance to write at a writers conference! With fresh inspiration received from the conference’s keynote addresses and other workshop leaders, come prepared to flourish your pen or fire up your laptop and take part in guided writing exercises led by a college writing instructor.  (All levels)

How to Read Well to Write Well: Train your Brain for Great Writing: Are Christian writers equipped to pull meaning from a text, or are we becoming lazy-brained? Can we keep up with the intellectual depth that C.S. Lewis championed? Learning to read critically is vital for analyzing writing models, not only for our own understanding, but also to enable us to give our critique partners better feedback. In this class, you’ll learn to recognize classic logic fallacies so you can shine the light of God’s truth on them. Included: hands-on evaluation of different texts and web sources. (All levels)

Q&A with Amy Letinsky

I connected with Amy recently, and she agreed to answer the following questions so we can learn more about her:

Q: What roles have you played in NCWA?

A: Several years ago I let then-president Dennis Brooke talk me into taking on the secretary role at NCWA, and it was a great learning experience. Then I coordinated public relations. And I’ve had several opportunities to teach Write Start and Christian Writer’s Coach segments and lead round tables at the monthly meetings. I’ve also led round tables at the conference a few times.

Q: Who are your favorite writers—the ones you believe we all must read and the ones who have influenced you most?

A: Yikes, that’s like asking me who is my favorite child.

John Milton’s Paradise Lost has been, next to the Bible, the most influential book on my life. Milton’s brilliance in all his writing has greatly contributed to my worldview, challenged me to be a deeper thinker, and encouraged me to boldly involve Christ in every aspect of my writing. Yes, he wrote in the  seventeenth century, but his writing is still very relevant, beautiful, and worthwhile for every reader to approach.

John Bunyan is another favorite for the Christian reader. I’ve had the privilege of teaching Pilgrims Progress a few times, and it’s always been an extremely enriching experience. It’s far less intimidating than Paradise Lost, but it was written in the same time period. Bunyan is the opposite of Milton in many ways. Whereas Milton was highly educated and upper class, Bunyan was very poor, with limited education. Both men fought in the same war for puritan ideals, and both went to prison for their beliefs. Bunyan inspires me for what Jesus can do with so little, and Milton inspires me with what Jesus can do with so much. Bunyan’s suffering comes across in his work like no other writer I’ve encountered.

I think Marilynne Robinson is woefully under-read by Christians. She’s won the Pulitzer Prize and regularly teaches at the most prestigious writing program in the country (the Iowa Writers Workshop). She writes about spiritual issues and is a devout Christian. Many consider her to be our greatest living American writer (I concur). Gilead is her masterpiece. Her prose reads like poetry.

Q: What intrigues you most about metaphor?

A: I’m a metaphor buff. I collect them, study them, and wish that I could be better at writing them. Metaphor, to me, is the core of language itself. Every word we speak is metaphoric, in that it stands in for something else. When I say the word “baby,” the word itself isn’t a baby; the word refers to or stands in for the crying, diaper-wetting, adorable little mess of cute. Some words carry more metaphorical weight than others. They become powerful symbols. Words like “freedom” and “rights” carry meanings that, interpreted differently, can start wars or end them.

As Christians, we serve a God who uses many beautiful metaphors to describe himself and his kingdom. Jesus employed metaphors in his parables. He is the Good Shepherd, and we are his sheep. He is the Gate. He is the Rock. The greatest teacher chose metaphor as a primary way of communicating truth to his followers. To me, that’s the greatest reason of all to pay attention to metaphor.

Q: What do you enjoy most about teaching?

A: I teach in a lot of different capacities: Sunday school, Girl Scouts; I teach writing to professionals and at NCWA meetings and at Champlain College in the Continuing Professional Studies department.

I enjoy teaching all of these levels, but my passion is teaching grownups to read and write. For me, it’s a high calling to train people to think critically and express themselves effectively. I can think of very few life skills that can make such a big difference in people’s lives. Reading is so much more than sounding out the words on a page. When reading at a high level of critical depth, you avoid falling victim to fake news and scammers, you can discern truth vs lies, you can make connections between ideas to see the big picture, and you can find answers to difficult questions.

When I speak to professional writers, the audience already recognizes the importance of writing. But in my college courses I spend much of my time convincing students that writing is important, that good writing is within their grasp, and that it’s worthwhile to invest time and energy into becoming better at it. So much of their lives involve writing, and yet they don’t realize that their inter-office emails and reports count as writing. I also enjoy teaching students the ethics of writing, and the obligation they have to share information and persuade in an honest way for their particular audience: to speak truth in love.

Q: What are the most important things a writer can do to improve his or her craft?

A: “Keep writing.” That’s the advice that Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner, gave me when he came to speak at the college where I was teaching at the time. At first, I felt like he was kind of brushing me off. But I’ve come to realize that it’s the best advice for becoming a better writer.

Marilynne Robinson, whom I’ve mentioned above, had very different advice for me. She said, “Feel the difference between what you’ve experienced and what you’re writing and fill in that difference.” I’m still untangling what that means.

As far as practical advice, I advocate reading a lot. To be a good writer is to be a good reader and vise versa. Read good stuff. Read stuff that challenges you, has won awards, and that may not fit with your worldview. Remember: Garbage in, garbage out; Quality in, quality out.

Okay, I’m a writing instructor, so here’s another tip: Write in your books. Mark them up as much as possible. Use a pencil or pen, and argue in the margins. Begin your essay at the end of the paragraph, continuing the line of thought. Circle key points. Fully engage with the text to learn it and apply it in your writing.

Q: How do you balance your career with being a wife and mother?

A: Not well. As my kids are getting older, I’m getting better at it, but it probably has to do more with them getting older than me figuring it out.

I have a strong sense of calling to my career as an instructor and my role as a stay-at-home mom. These two things love to compete with each other. But I have a supportive husband who helps watch the kids, so I can work. My husband is a physician, so he understands the time and mental commitment required for in-depth study. I think he also enjoys how fired up I get about my teaching and writing.

Really, it’s God’s grace that I’ve managed to keep working, stay married, and take care of the kids. I’m not exactly sure how I’ve managed it, but God keeps making it possible. He’s perfectly timed my huge writing projects to when I can get more help with the kids. And God gave me kids that generally sleep well, which is a huge help.

Register today to attend Amy’s workshops at this year’s Renewal.

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Elizabeth Griffin has worked as a writer and editor for a monthly lifestyle newspaper elizabeth_griffin2for the past decade. She has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, in addition to the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories about inspirational people. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 15 years. Her current passions are writing for an international network of church planters and her blog Follow the Dots.

Pilgrim Shares Thoughts about the Successful Writing Journey

Dennis Brooke memeBy Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

What does your writing journey have in common with a 500-mile pilgrimage?

This spring, former NCWA president Dennis Brooke, along with his wife Laurie, set out to walk the entire length of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (the Way of St. James), a network of routes across Europe that leads to the town of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Since the Middle Ages, Christians have made the pilgrimage to visit the tomb of St. James the Apostle.

While in León, Spain, just as the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference was about to get underway, Dennis recorded a 3½ minute video to share with us key similarities he notes between being a successful writer and preparing for a Camino de Santiago trek.

Dennis is the author of the speculative novel The Last Apostle. While on pilgrimage, he’s finding plenty of opportunities to research his next novel, Thomas the Brave. You can connect with Dennis and Laurie at www.WorldRovers.com.

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and is coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym. Their latest coauthored book, Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects, will be released in August by Bold Vision Books.

Personal Loss Led Melissa K. Norris to Being Published

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal

A decade ago, Melissa K. Norris suffered a medical emergency and deep personal loss. During recovery, she read Francine Rivers’ novel, The Scarlet Thread. That book changed Melissa’s life.

“I realized how far I’d drifted from God,” she says now. “I had been trying to break into the secular market with my writing. But then and there, I vowed that any books flowing from my hand would be dedicated to Jesus. I wanted to write something that would help turn someone back to God when they lost their way.”

MelissaKNorrisPinableThe manuscript she subsequently wrote landed her an agent. Her debut book, The Made-from-Scratch Life: Simple Ways to Create a Natural Home, will be released February 2016 by Harvest House Publishers.

“Every hardship has taught me something I wouldn’t have learned if life had kept flowing along without any bumps,” she says. “God has used many more incidences to draw me closer to him. The one thing I know for certain is that no matter what horrible thing happens in life, he has the power to transform it into something good. And he does.”

At the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Melissa will lead a WriteCoach Lab and also co-teach a workshop:

BYOD- Deciphering Pinterest1) BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): Deciphering Pinterest (WriteCoach Lab, Friday, May 15) – Would you like to learn how to use Pinterest to promote your writing? Could you benefit from some guidance in converting to a Pinterest business account, creating a branded bio, verifying your website, or taking advantage of Pinterest Goodies? Bring all your questions, along with your own device—laptop, netbook, tablet, smartphone, etc.—for on-the-spot answers from Pinterest guru Melissa K. Norris.

Driving Traffic to Your Website2) Driving Traffic to Your Website (Workshop, Saturday, May 16, with Janalyn Voigt) – Many writers have great blogs, awesome books, and beautiful websites—but no visitors. Melissa and Janalyn will share how they get thousands of visitors to their websites every month and will demonstrate logical steps, not just to build traffic, but also to engage visitors so they return. Learn why you should have an e-mail list and which service is recommended. They’ll discuss blogging as content marketing, how to boost a site in search engines, the role of social media in attracting website visitors, and their best tips on how most effectively to build website traffic. They’ll discuss what worked and what didn’t in their own attempts. Attendees will also be able to obtain discounted access to their Mailchimp tutorial.

Melissa is an author, newspaper columnist, radio-show host, blogger, homesteader, and contributor to the New Pioneer magazine, Self-Reliance Illustrated, and Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS (God’s Natural, Organic, Whole Foods, Grown Locally, In Season).

Growing up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, Melissa now enjoys her own little house in the big woods where she lives with her husband and two children in the Cascade Mountains. Her books and articles are inspired by her family’s small herd of beef cattle, her amateur barrel-racing days, and her forays into quilting and canning—“without always reading the directions first,” she cheerfully admits.

To learn from Melissa’s wisdom about the Internet, pioneering, and watching God turn tragedy into triumph, sign up today for the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal.

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DianaSavageDiana Savage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she is also director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. Her latest book is 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.

25 Ways to Procrastinate on Your Writing

Have you ever planned to write diligently, only to get swallowed up by the Procrastination Monster? Maybe you decided to finish an article, chapter, or blog post,  but found yourself in a whirlwind of other important activities.

Procrastination pm

  1. Facebook
  2. Clean the toilet
  3. Text friends
  4. More Facebook
  5. Shop on eBay
  6. More Facebook
  7. Shop for shoes at Macys.com
  8. More Facebook
  9. Walk the dog or cat. Or if you don’t have one, buy one. Or a turtle or slug
  10. Chat with Twitter friends about the weather. Rain, rain, rain
  11. More Facebook (or Fakebook, as my pastor says)
  12. Clean your belly button. Lots of fuzz these days
  13. Practice selfies. Again and again. And…again
  14. Text your mother to say how much you love her. Add a few ideas for birthday or Christmas gifts
  15. Make a banana split. If you don’t have the ingredients, go to the furthest store in the next city for ingredients. Take a cooler though.
  16. Call a friend and tell her how you don’t have enough time to write and wonder how people crank out books every year.
  17. Make plans to TP the houses of any writers you know who meet the criteria for number 16.
  18. More Facebook
  19. Text a friend from NCWA and ask her to go to coffee
  20. Meet the above friend at the Mother Ship (Starbucks) and complain about how you don’t have time to write.
  21. Play with your new phone or tablet or other device.
  22. Wash your bed skirt. Or if you don’t have one, shop for one – even if you’re a guy and hate bed skirts.
  23. Take pictures with your new device, while texting your writer friends about how you have so little time to write.
  24. Just a wee bit more Facebook. You may miss an hour of that one person you met twenty years ago at a candle party but didn’t like because she ate all the chocolate.
  25. Go online to find a Facebook Anonymous 12-step group for people addicted to Facebook.
Tweet25 Ways to Procrastinate on Your Writing

Cherrie Herrin-Michehl pic

 

Cherrie Herrin-Michehl is a licensed mental health therapist practicing in Woodinville, WA. Her ebook “Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit” was published June 2014. The book is a collage of humor, faith, and psychology.

 

Dear Fellow Procrastinating Writers:

As Cherrie illustrates, a sense of humor comes in handy when you struggle with procrastination!

However, more often, I’ve found reasons to feel stressed, frustrated, and guilty about my procrastinating. I’ve even called myself some mean names. Wasteful, foolish, disorganized, chaotic . . . . it hasn’t been pretty.

I’ve prayed about it a lot. I recently heard Holy Spirit whisper this to me:

“You are a faithful person. You want to be faith-full and you are. So, you can stop identifying yourself as a procrastinating person. That is not your true identity. It is a bad habit that you can break out of by remembering who you really are . . . who I say you are . . . and then choosing to live true to your real identity. I say you are faithful and peaceful and grateful.”

That’s how, with God’s help, I’m beginning to realize that I DO have what it takes to stop procrastinating by choosing to change the way I think about myself. I now realize my mistake in judging myself harshly by my performance instead of living out each day in agreement with God’s perspective about who I am.

By God’s grace-enablement, the gift of supernatural capability and endowment from the Holy Spirit to all believers,

I believe I am –

FAITHFUL  – A faithful person desires and is able to be stay true to that which has been committed to them. Ephesians 1:1 (NIV)

PEACEFUL –  A peaceful person is a peacemaker. A peacemaker opposes chaos, disorder, and disunity. A peacemaker brings order, harmony, and peace to their relationships, home, finances, work, environment, and belongings.  Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
James 3:18 (NIV)

GRATEFUL – A grateful person appreciates and takes care of what they have been given, whether it’s tangible or intangible. They acknowledge their blessings and the Blesser and they live with a deeper-than-average awareness of His good Presence with them and in them.  Psalm 100:4 (NIV)   Psalm 107:22 (NIV)

Simply put, the take-away is this:

TweetYou may procrastinate, but that is not who you are.

TweetYou are not your bad habits, your bad choices, your bad experiences, nor your mistakes.

TweetYou are who God says you are. Period.  I Samuel 16:7

 

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1

Oh, amen!

Who does God say you are?

 

JJeanie pmeanie Killion, a blogger & pre-published author, shares from the overflow of her journey with Jesus. She’s found Him faithful through many “dangers, toils, and snares.”  With her writing, Jeanie strives to help others draw close to God’s throne and access the Joy of His Presence, the Peace that passes understanding, and the Hope we have in knowing Him.