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.


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.


7 Facts You Might Not Know about Angela Hunt

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

You might know a few facts about author Angela Hunt.

You might know she is a Christy-Award winner and has sold over four million books worldwide.

Maybe you purchased the much-loved book The Tale of Three Trees for your children.

Maybe you stayed up too late reading one of her 130 books.

7 Facts About Angela Hunt

Tweet7 Facts You Might Not Know About Angela Hunt


But here are seven facts you might not be aware of:

  1. Angela has appeared with her dog on Live with Regis and Kelly. A few years ago, Angela and her husband were invited to bring one of their mastiffs, proclaimed the “second-largest canine in America,” on an all-expenses-paid trip to Manhattan for a TV appearance. The trip was complete with VIP air travel and a tour of New York City in a stretch limo. (At the airport afterward, the dog gave out pawtographs.)

Angela's dog

  1. Angela spends one day a month photographing dogs and cats at her local animal shelter. In 2012 she began taking photos of rescue animals to help find them homes, discovered she loved making her “models” look their best, and the following year launched Angela Hunt Photography, a family-centered boutique photography studio. She used to be at the shelter once a week, but now she’s also using her skills at a hospital where she takes pictures of folks with terminal babies as a way to help families through the grieving process.
  1. In fifth grade Angela learned how to flirt when she read Gone with the Wind. She says books have always shaped her life.

TweetBooks taught author Angela Hunt everything she needed to know . . . even how to flirt.

  1. For most of the past decade, Dr. Hunt has been doing postgraduate studies. She completed her Master of Biblical Studies in Theology degree in 2006, her doctorate in 2008, and was accepted into a Th.D. program in 2009.
  1. Angela’s novel The Note was made into a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie that first aired in December 2007. Since then it has received the Hallmark Channel’s third-highest all-time rating.
  1. About the only thing that doesn’t interest Angela is the subject of sports. In addition to having a fascination for animals, she’s also interested in medicine, psychology, unexplained phenomena, and “nearly everything else.”
  1. Angela appreciates her readers so much that she’s available to chat with them during free 15-minute conference calls via phone or Skype. To take advantage of this opportunity, all you have to do is belong to a reading group or book club and contact her with your requested date and time. Then invite beginning writers, readers, and fiction fans to your group, put on a pot of coffee, and settle in for a time of unscripted, honest conversation.

Writing Lesson from the FrontWhat could be better than a personal conference call? Seeing Angela in person at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, May 15–16, 2015. As keynote speaker, she will inspire you to use your God-given writing gifts, and she will share valuable tips and strategies from her popular how-to series, Writing Lessons from the Front.

Angela Hunt

Angela Hunt writes for readers who expect the unexpected.

Readers of the series rave about how Angela’s advice has helped them get published. Three of the titles in her nine-part series are Evoking Emotion, The Fiction Writer’s Book of Checklists, and Track Down the Weasel Words. One reviewer sums up a fourth book, The Plot Skeleton, as “a wealth of practicality that lends itself towards instant application.” Another credits the method for the sale of her first novel. Calling Angela “a writing genius,” still another writer finds that the book Point of View helps writers understand the secret power behind POV and how it can aid with suspense, characterization, and voice.

Now, at an information-packed two-day conference, you can soak up inspirational and practical teaching from one of today’s most accomplished Christian fiction writers.

As soon as registration opens, you’ll want to sign up for the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal!


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 also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference near Seattle. Her latest book is 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.

Editors Read Book Proposals, Not Manuscripts

Anita Aurit shares her  2013 NCWA Renewal conference experience.


If you think that a book proposal is simply an elongated elevator pitch, I urge you to run, not walk, to your laptop and order W. Terry Whalin’s CD from the recent Northwest Christian Writer’s Renewal, “Editors Read Book Proposals, Not Manuscripts” (click here to order conference CDs).


Terry Whalin 2

The theme of the workshop could be stated as, “The writer as active marketing partner.” This is not good news for some authors as they bemoan the fact that they can barely carve out time to write. Adding marketing to their “to do list” overwhelms them.  I would suggest that we turn that thinking around. If we’re not vested enough in our work to find ways to promote it, how can we expect any publisher to expend time, money and effort in promoting it? Who better to craft the original marketing plan for our piece than the creator of the product?

TweetWho better to craft the original marketing plan than the creator of the product?

The workshop prompted new thinking about the proposal process. Rather than viewing proposals as venues to highlight our brilliant storytelling, we learned that proposals are an invitation into the publisher’s office, pitching not only a brilliant story but a brilliant way to move people to buy that story.

TweetAn excellent book proposal is an invitation into the publisher’s officer.

Terry provided many specific tips that can keep our proposals out of the reject pile and on an editor’s desk. He stirred our thinking and challenged us to form ideas to create specific marketing plans for our own work, including sustaining a marketing momentum. His workshop stressed the importance of high profile endorsements and how to make it easier to get them.  Ideas for special sales and sales outside the bookstores which can give an author a leg up were presented. The importance of a “must have” title was a key component. Each step presented came in a clear and logical fashion, along with links and referrals for more assistance after the conference.

Also included in the seminar were insights into the questions editors ask when they receive a new manuscript, the main reasons book ideas are rejected and a checklist for authors to use to ensure their proposal is polished, shiny and glittery enough to attract the attention of book editors.

This seminar helped me understand the complete process for creating an outstanding book proposal and that gave me great confidence.  I will never face a proposal with the same amount of fear and trepidation again. Twenty-first century writers have an amazing opportunity to take an active part in the creation of their careers by promoting and marketing their own material. I can’t think of a more enthusiastic marketing representative for my work than myself, can you?

~Anita Aurit pic~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anita Aurit has published in a myriad of venues including devotionals (in magazine and book compilations), travel articles, short humor, blogs, websites, scripts and even an article in a sports publication (a woman’s guide to the fantasy football draft).

Her writing passion is fiction and she is currently working on a series of novels about women in the shadows of the pages of Scripture.  A frequent speaker and teacher for women’s groups and events, Anita has also founded and managed a number of businesses including an internet pet radio station where she created, produced and hosted her own show called “The Scoop” (logo was a litter box and scooper). Anita is married to an internet software engineer and both are self-professed geeks.

 ​When she’s not at her computer or a podium, Anita loves spending time with her family (two and four legged), reading, crafting, cross-country skiing and kayaking in her home in Northern Idaho. Click here to visit Anita’s website.

2013 Workshops Revisited: “Three Methods for Powerful Storytelling” by Dennis Brooke

Missed a workshop at the conference? Lost your handouts? We’re here to help!

At NCWA’s Renewal Conference, Dennis Brooke presented “Three Methods for Powerful Storytelling.”

Click here for Speaker notes.

Click here to see the slide show.

Click here to order CDs from the conference.

If you have questions or need further clarification, please contact Dennis:


Dennis Brooke picDennis Brooke writes about Almost True Stories of Life at He’s been a member of NCWA since 2007 and currently serves as President.

2013 Workshops Revisited: “Character Dynamics: Bring ‘Em to Life” by Ocieana Fleiss

Missed a workshop at the conference? Lost your handouts? We’re here to help!

ocienna fleissAt NCWA’s Renewal Conference, Ocieanna presented the workshop: “Character Dynamics: Bring ‘Em to Life.”

Click here for the “Character Dynamics” handout.

Click here to order CDs from the conference.


Ocieanna Fleiss co-wrote two historical novels, Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana, and Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington. A freelance editor for more than 10 years, she also enjoys giving light-hearted advice to fiction writers in the Northwest Christian Author. Click here to visit her website.

2013 Workshops Revisited: Iron Sharpens Iron by Kat Albrecht & Sarah Moser

Missed a workshop at the conference? Lost your handouts? We’re here to help!
Iron Sharpens IronAt NCWA’s recent Renewal Conference,  Kat Albrecht and Sarah Moser conducted the workshop: “Iron Sharpens Iron–Finding the Critique Partner With the Right Stuff.”

Click here for Handout 1 – “What I Want in a Critque Partner.”

Click here for Handout 2 – “What I Don’t Want in a Critique Partner.”

Click here to order CDs from the conference.


Kat Albrecht_ (1)Kat Albrecht is a police detective-turned-pet detective and founder of Missing Pet Partnership, a national nonprofit organization. In 2005, Kat launched the first-ever pet detective academy to train pet detectives from around the world. Kat is a professional speaker who uses her unique story to inspire teens and women to seek God’s presence.  The author of two books, The Lost Pet Chronicles, and Dog Detectives: Train Your Dog to Find Lost Pets, she is currently crafting a YA mystery with the help of Sarah Moser, her critique partner. Click here for Kat’s website. She has been an NCWA member since 2010.


Sarah Gunning Moser Headshot # 2, March 2011Sarah Gunning Moser writes nonfiction articles, personal essays, and maintains a blog on the English language and teaching. Her current WIP include a cozy mystery set in Seattle and a high school English curriculum. An Endorsed Trainer for the internationally-known Spell to Write and Read program, Sarah specializes in reading instruction and remediation for grades K-12. Sarah trains adults to teach English in the historic, scientific way originally taught in the United States, and is a professional speaker and seminar leader whose dream is to see America’s former literacy level restored. Click here for Sarah’s website. She has been an NCWA member since 2010.

2013 Workshops Revisited: “Do’s and Don’ts of Writing for Children” and “Begin and End With a Bang” by Jesse Florea

Missed a workshop at the conference? Lost your handouts? We’re here to help!
Jesse FloreaAt NCWA’s recent Renewal Conference, Jesse Florea conducted two workshops.
Click here for the handout to “Do’s and Don’ts of Writing for Children.”
Click here for the handout to “Begin and End With a Bang.”

Click here to order CDs from the conference.


Jesse Florea has worked at Focus on the Family for more than 19 years. For the past 16, he’s been the editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse (for boys and girls ages 8 to 12) and is currently the editorial director for youth publications where he oversees Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr. magazines. He co-hosts the biweekly “Official Adventures in Odyssey podcast” that often exceeds 1 million downloads and is regularly the No. 1 ranked podcast for children and families on iTunes.