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.

February NCWA Meeting Highlights

Tony MarinoTony Marino challenged NCWA with “So You Wrote a Book – Now What?”

He said there are three things we could do:

1) Hope someone sells your book for you.

2) Try to market your book yourself.

3) Do nothing and Panic!

Throughout his presentations, Tony gave NCWA lots of straightforward tips and solutions to help promote our writing.

(photo courtesy of Karen Robbins)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tony Marino is a husband and father and is the founder of Christian Discipleship Ministries International, Christian Times Online, and Trinity Web Works. He is the founder and Executive Producer of the Alive In Christ Radio Network. 

He has represented acclaimed authors Mark Victor Hansen, Jack Canfield, James Robison, Dr. James Dobson, Ted Nicholas, Jerry Jenkins, Luis Palau, Beth Moore, and Joyce Meyer.

 Tony proudly and honorably served in the U.S. Navy and is a Summa Cum Laude graduate from Colorado Technical University and an inductee into the Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society for Business, Management, and Administration. He has actively and passionately served the body of Christ for over 15 years as a worldwide evangelist, teacher, discipler, author, Christian music artist, international business and marketing consultant, and as an international Christian radio program host and Executive Producer. www.trinitywebworks.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amy Letinsky picIn the “Write Start,” Amy Letinsky shared her expertise regarding logical fallacies: Red Herring, Hasty Generalization, Non Sequitur, Faulty Cause and Effect, False Analogy, Oversimplification, Either/Or Reasoning, Begging the Question and Straw Man. Click here for Amy’s website.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michelle Hollomon presented the devotional about social anxiety disorder and systematic desensitization in order to Michelle Hollomon picface difficult situations little by little. Click here for Michelle’s website.

5 Causes of Writer’s Block and How to Cure Them All

by Amy Letinsky

There’s a serious condition plaguing writers: writer’s block.  I’ve discovered five common causes, and  by diagnosing your typical cause, you can choose a treatment and find a cure.

5 causes of writer's block

 

Cause #1: ANXIETY

The pressure gets to you, and you freeze.

Treatments:

1. Don’t wait until the last minute.

2. Pray / Give Jesus your burden

3. Drink Chamomile Tea (instead of anxiety inducing coffee, the writer’s typical choice)

4. Free Write. Put the pen to paper, and let go for a few minutes.

5. Write in a different format for awhile.  The genre might be stressing you out.  Try writing a letter about your topic.

6.  Have a discussion about the topic.  Call a friend to chat about your topic for awhile.

Cause #2: UNFOCUSED

You can’t keep your mind on the task before you.  Your thoughts are a jumble.

Treatments:

1. Get rid of distractions (pets, Facebook, children…just while you’re writing)

2. Make new distractions.  Some people like to work in a busy, loud environment, like a coffee shop.  Others like noise canceling headphones.

3. Try a new location

4. Outline

5. Mind Map/Cluster.  Learn more about this organization method here.

Cause #3: PERFECTIONISM

Negative thoughts take control.  You worry about not writing well enough.

Treatments:

1. Silence the inner critic.

2. Arm yourself with inspiring Bible verses.

3. Stop fearing man. Perfectionism is rooted in our fear of how others are going to perceive us, and the only solution to this is #4.

4. Cultivate the Fear of the Lord.  Edward T. Welch explains this in his amazing book, When People are Big and God is Small.

5. Write Dark.  Literally turn off the lights or the screen.  Don’t let those imperfect words distract you.

Cause #4:  INTIMIDATION

You’re overwhelmed by the enormity of the task at hand.

Treatments:

1. Write a checklist / Break it into smaller tasks

2. Make small, regular goals

3. Start in the middle.  That first sentence is always a doozie.  Start in elsewhere.  Do the first sentence last.

Cause #5: EXHAUSTION

You’re sick of your topic and are falling asleep at the keyboard.

Treatments:

1. Take a nap. Don’t do this all the time, or you’ll never write.

2. Remember your first love (Rev 2:4).  Of course, it’s Jesus. But also, go back to why you started writing, why you chose this project.

3. Sabbath.  When’s the last time you truly sabbathed?  Sabbath from not just writing but from all work. I highly recommend The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan.

4.  Read something inspiring. Go to your writing heroes and let them inspire you to greatness.

Tweet5 Causes of Writer’s Block and How to Cure Them All

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amy Letinsky picAmy Letinsky has been a writing instructor for over six years.  She currently teaches college writing and literature courses online.  Her writing courses focus on the use of research in writing and the nonfiction essay.  Read more from Amy at her blog: amyletinsky.wordpress.com.

NaNoWriMo is Coming!

Amy Letinsky shares her adventure into the fast paced NaNoWriMo.

A couple years ago, I became a novelist over the course of one month.

Each year, in November, hundreds of thousands of wannabe novelists, like myself, set a goal to write a 50,000 word novel during the month.  It’s called NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), and it’s a great excuse to write that book you’ve always wanted to write.

I sat down each day with my word count goal and kept writing until I reached that goal, sometimes over if I was in a groove (I made a dorky Excel file to track my progress, which I’ll gladly share with anyone who wants it).  And at the end of the month, I had my novel’s first draft written.

Let’s not discuss the quality of that first draft, nor the amount of editing that I’ve done on it since.  Instead, let’s focus on the sense of accomplishment I got at the end of that month, uploading my manuscript to the website and becoming verified as a bone-fide novelist.

It’s that time of year again, when the enthusiastic novelists commit to a solid month of writing.  You too can join the fun by setting up your own NaNoWriMo account at the site.  You’ll get your own website to log your process and show all your friends.

And if you join, let us cheer you on! Post a link to your NaNoWriMo page here in the comments, join a  NaNoWriMo discussion on our LinkedIn page, or network with other NCWA NaNoWriMo writers on our Facebook page.  We’re excited to see your progress and help you reach your novel writing goal!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Amy Letinsky writes a little of everything, mostly for her blog  and for her online classes, where she teaches English composition and literature to college students across the country.