Say That Again, Please

speaker2Writers should be speakers, and vice versa.

Speakers (at least, those without speech writers) should first develop their ideas in clear, concise, written prose, before foisting them upon captive audiences. This seems obvious. But it may not be so obvious to writers that they should also be speakers. In fact, writing seems to demand quite a different set of skills, a different environment, and different motivations than speaking. Those are the three reasons writers should also be speakers!

Writing Skills / Speaking Skills

A writer is willing to edit, rewrite, tweak and cut to get just the write combination of words. A speaker must think on her feet. A writer must be willing to spend many, many hours alone with her thoughts, and a speaker must be willing to expose her thoughts very publicly. A writer has files of resources to draw on, and access to the internet for bibliographic data, fact checking, and other reference work. A speaker must either forgo the security of all that background support, or carry enough ‘proof’ in her head to satisfy questioners on the spot. A writer can move forward along a track of thought systematically, but a speaker has to deal with tangents and rabbit tracks, as she places her ideas into the turbulence of conversation and engagement.

Develop those speaker skills, and your writing will improve as you get immediate feedback on your ideas, answer questions about your assertions, see blank faces, hear your words said aloud (clanking like cymbals, or resonating with passion?).  Your confidence and awareness of the connectedness of ideas will enrich your written work. Your speaking may be in small, friendly settings, or larger, more challenging venues – start small, work up. Offer yourself as a book group leader, discussion facilitator, quick book digest presenter, or podcast guest. Offer a Bible meditation, or other spiritual thought-starter for a prayer group. Ask friends directly to let you formally present the gist of your latest book and then discuss it together. Cultivate conversations. Grow, improve, deepen, by uttering your work frequently.

Writing Environment / Speaking Environment

How lovely is the easy chair where you curl up in jammies to scratch out new material in the early morning, chipped tea cup at hand, dawn in window view, kitty curled up on your toes. How awfully different the platform, dais, or lectern where you stand in more formal (and certainly more uncomfortable) attire, hit-and-miss sound system interfering with your message, eyes registering every bored face, internet user, and discreet tip-toe-out-er. But despising the speaking environment is no excuse. You still need to utter those thoughts to remind yourself they are gifts, given by God to be shared.

Develop a detachment about where your words are said, and you’ll find they flow more freely when you try to write in uncongenial environments. Practice using your countenance, your voice, your passion to improve even the worst speaking environment, and your writing voice will improve dramatically. Learn to forgive non-listening listeners, and you’ll more easily forgive all the non-reading readers and the non-reviewing reviewers!

Writing  Motivation / Speaking Motivation

Often, I write just to get the idea out of my mental space, or to clear all the notes from a file into a coherent document. Sometimes, the work itself – a poem, perhaps – is the motivation for spending time writing, and the pleasure of a a finished work is its own reward. I write to accomplish a deadline, fulfill an obligation, answer a question, beg for help. Some of these same motives will push me to speak of my ideas to others. Even to publish a work, we may only need the motivation, “to make it available, if anyone wants it” (hence, most blogging, self-published work, poetry). We will not see those who read, and the transaction is free of any demand for a response. When speaking face-to-face with actual people, however, we usually are motivated by a desire to teach, to help, to give to them from whatever resources we have. This is a much more personal transaction, even – and, maybe, especially – when we speak for a large group, because we feel more vulnerable, exposed, and aware of audience response.

Writers will write better if they get in touch with this deeper motivation, and learn to handle the personal exposure that speaking face-to-face entails. Our culture is so full of anonymous transactions, broadcast communications, and parallel-path interactions, that speaking affords invaluable practice in vulnerable self-donation. Also, each time you develop your ideas for a new audience, tailoring it to their needs and interests a bit, you rehearse and give new life to those ideas. They must come down into the real world as living words in order to continue to have life on the printed page. Words were meant to be uttered, and the written word is not a sufficient substitute for words shared on the wings of sound.

Look for, create, and accept opportunities to speak about whatever it is you are writing, and you’ll be glad you did!

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing, Encouragement for Writers | 4 Comments

The Message of the Cross

Judy Landrieu Klein
September 17, 2014

I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to articulate both in my own mind and on paper the message of the cross.  A difficult endeavor.  (Just ask my poor husband, Mark, who’s had to hash this subject out with me multiple times:)  It wasn’t until I knelt at Mass on the Feast of The Exaltation of the Holy Cross that I heard the Lord speak directly to me on the subject.

“What is the message of the cross, Lord?” I asked in prayer as I knelt meditating on the life-sized, very real looking corpus hanging on the cross above the altar.

“Take courage, I have overcome the world!”  I heard the Lord speak so clearly that my eyes welled with tears.  I took out my notebook and quickly wrote it down so I would not forget.  Please Lord, help me to remember.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus has overcome the world, especially when we bump up against the reality of suffering regularly in life.  Clearly, Jesus’ “overcoming” of the world clearly did not mean that He eradicated sin and its temporal consequences—suffering and death—from this planet.  In fact, immediately before Jesus said to His disciples that He has overcome the world, He spoke the words that every human being knows are all too true: “In the world you will have trouble” (John 17:33).

If Jesus didn’t eliminate the troubles of this world, particularly the dreaded human experiences of suffering and death, then how did He overcome the world?  He did so by giving those difficult earthly realities—and this is the message of the cross—an entirely new meaning.  In and through the cross, suffering, which the world views as an enemy to be avoided at all costs, becomes a pathway to holiness, hope, and deep intimacy with God.  Death, which is seen as the ultimate curse and loss, is transformed into the threshold of eternal life and the door to ecstatic communion with God.  The most confounding human troubles, which appear to be worthy only of avoidance, become the very means by which we are able to conquer the world and overcome its sting.  The world’s understanding of these hard realities is turned on its head.  Christ has overcome the world. That is the message of the cross.

Our human tendency is to shun the cross—and I’ve done plenty of that.  Yet Jesus tells us to deny ourselves that urge, and to take up our cross and follow Him (Mt. 16:24).  Taking up the cross doesn’t mean that we run around looking for trouble or asking for more of it.  That’s unnecessary.  Each day has enough trouble of its own (Mt. 6:34).  It does mean that when the cross presents itself in our lives, we ask God for the grace turn toward it and embrace it with courage; that is, with heart.  We trust God’s grace to strengthen us unto endurance, and with each new challenge to give us more strength, so that, one day—maybe today—we may run this race with ease.

I am learning through many personal crucifixions that the posture of acceptance of the cross creates an opening for God to enter in.  Such an open stance in the teeth of suffering enables God’s peace, hope and joy to penetrate the human heart, right in the midst of the pain.  That is the mystery and the glory of the cross.  And it’s how we continually learn to overcome the world and all of its sorrows.

At this moment in time, I am witnessing three young families incarnate the embrace of deep suffering, and their lives speak volumes about the message of the cross.  The parents of three little boys, with a fourth baby on the way, standing strong in faith in the face extensive surgery for testicular cancer.  The mother and father of five young children, blazing a trail of hope amidst beastly breast cancer treatment.  And the parents of a two-year-old baby, whose daughter has been ravaged by aggressive brain cancer, offering their precious child back to God in love under the crushing medical indictment: “there is no cure.”  I marvel as I ponder their pain and read the words of their e-mail update: “God created Madison. If He wills to cure her, that would be wonderful…If He wills to take her beautiful soul to heaven, that would be wonderful as well.”  Wow. Now that’s the message of the cross in living color.  A heavenly perspective seen only with the eyes faith, made possible only through the reality of grace.  Foolishness to the world, but the power of God to those who are being saved.

*****

Judy Landrieu Klein is a mother, grandmother, author, inspirational speaker, theologian, widow—and now newlywed (and not necessarily in that order:). Her blog, Holy Hope, can be found on her website at MemorareMinistries.com, as can her most recent book, Miracle Man.

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Crumpled

The other day my favorite meditation publication had a piece from Sister Wendy Beckett.   If you don’t know her, Sister Beckett is a consecrated virgin and contemplative hermit who lives under the protection of the Carmelites in England.  She is also a stunningly insightful art expert.   At this point in time she is quite elderly. When I recently saw a photo of her the thing that struck immediately was that she is very little, very frail and almost crumpled into a little ball as she “resides” in her wheel chair. The writing was from a book published in 2013 and was just as astute as all of her art critiques.

It’s funny, but when you see her all you can think of is pity.  I have to fight that urge when I see pictures of Stephan Hawking or think about some of our most powerful in our constellation of the Communion of Saints.   Alphonsus Liguori spent the better part of his life so crippled from arthritis that he had a running sore on his chest where his chin constantly rubbed.  St. Gregory the Great suffered constantly from gout and gastric distress spending days in bed.  His assessment of the situation was summed up this way: “My pain is sometimes alleviated and sometimes intense; but never so alleviated as to leave me, nor ever so intense as to kill me. Hence I am daily dying, but never die.”

          To the eye, each of these people appears as a crumpled up individual, worthy of the “generosity” of our pity.  Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to pity others and instead take advantage of what they have to offer us that pity could never provide. If you think about pity, it can be a smug way to avoid becoming involved in an exchange that we might find disturbing and perhaps learn from.   Read Sister Wendy’s art critiques, you will learn more about history, culture, politics and the minds of Caravaggio,  Michelangelo, Picasso and others than you ever thought possible.  Read Hawking’s work on quantum physics……bet you can’t.  Delve into Liguori and Gregory; both declared Doctors of the Church and game changers as far as Catholicism is concerned. In over two-thousand years only thirty-five Doctors have been named.

Next time you run into a “crumpled up” individual that you are tempted to pity, stop a minute and reconsider.  Give that homeless person an eye to eye greeting. Offer them some dignity. Stop and take a little time with that elderly person.  Ask that disabled kid how their day is going.  No time for any of that? You’re too important?  Maybe you’re the one who is “crumpled up” in places no one can see?

Jesus has asked you to enter into his redemptive love, in the way of his own choosing, and I have no doubt at all that every part of it–pain, fear, disgust, shrinking–will expose your heart’s depth to him as never before.  (Sister Wendy Beckett, Magnificat September 2014)

 

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Monday’s Writing Tips – Karen Kelly Boyce

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“A writer without interest or sympathy for the foibles of his fellow man is not conceivable as a writer.” – Joseph Conrad

We have been developing our character for the last two weeks. We have created an appearance – whether she is tall or short, whether he is bald or bearded. Last week we gave our character personality. We decided whether he is honest or whether she is a coward. How the character looks and how they think should be coming clearer to you. You should be able to picture him or her, and now imagine them moving and acting. The question is: Where are they moving and who are they moving around? The environment of your character flavors who he is as much as your environment defines you and the people in your life. In the novel My Father’s House which I am currently writing, I have a character who is a want-to-be detective. He has very real and unique characteristics that lend to the plot. However, much to my surprise as I started to write the story, his wife and pet became a much more important part of his character then I expected.  The introduction of these two characters – his wife Millie and her dog Spritz – lend humor to my investigator  Puddin’ Pat. He has a contentious relationship with his wife Millie’s small dog. It highlights the disrespect that Puddin’ finds in each aspect of his life. It is all about your character! He makes the story. My detective’s relationship with his wife and her dog made him well-rounded and added to his backstory. It is important to give your character a setting, family, job, ambitions, dreams, and history. Create a complete character. You may be surprised what pops up in your story. Here are some things to think about.

Where does your character live? Is he an American and if so, what part of the country does he come from? Was he raised in this area or transplanted there? What time period did he grow up in? Does his region or time period affect his dialogue or way of speech? Can we tell where he is from without you specifically telling us? Is she a street-wise city person or a farmer? Are they from the west coast or the mid-west?  Did they grow up in a ghetto or a mansion? If they are not American, what country are they from? How does the history and culture of that upbringing make them different? If you are a sci-fi writer, what planet or galaxy are they from. How did the world they come from affect them?

What are your character’s relationships like? Is your character married, or single? Why are they single? Are they divorced, divorced several times? Think of Jesse Stone in the famous detective series. His relationship with his ex-wife flavors all his current relationships. Hence, he turns to his dog and the bottle for comfort. How about your character ? Are they looking for a partner? Are they afraid of a serious relationship? Are they straight or gay? Are they struggling to get over a lost love, or a dead spouse? How about parents? siblings? are they close or distant? Do they have children? If so, sons or daughters? What are their relationships with their children. Are they natural children, adopted, or step-children? How about friends? Do they have a lot of friends or maybe they have no friends? Why? Do they have a best friend? Do they spend a lot of time with family and friends? Do they turn to their family and friends for advice or comfort. Or are they more likely to turn to co-workers for companionship? Your character’s relationships or lack of relationships with others can give your reader a real sense of who they are.

Does your character have a pet? If so, what kind of pet? Is it a dog? What kind of dog? A Labrador retriever gives a completely different picture of your character than a pit bull. Or perhaps your character has an unnatural fear of dogs, how can this play into the story? Is you character a cat person? Or are they allergic to cats? Does your character spend hours playing with his aquarium, or does he love to ride horses on the weekends. A person’s relationship with the other creatures who share this planet can say a lot about who he is.

Does your character have a unique passion? Does he spend every free moment attending the opera or hard rock concerts. How might this play into your plot? Does he frequent hot dog stands like Matlock or go out for gourmet meals every chance he gets? Or perhaps your character longs for the ethnic foods of his past. There is a whole genre called ‘Southern fiction’ that pulls from the culture, food, and interests of the south. What are the regional passions that you are familiar with. Perhaps you can spark a new kind of regional fiction with your character.

We can go on and on about how to create your character’s backstory. Was he loved as a child or abused and neglected? Was he an only child or the baby of ten other children? Did he have a traumatic experience that he never got over. Think of the people you know. Everything that happens to a person changes them. Don’t cheat your reader. Make a complete profile of your character. You may not use all the facts but you need them. When you understand your character completely you will be able to present him to your readers and make them care about him.

“So we all know the cliché characters: the Irish cop, the prostitute with a heart of gold, the writer with a drinking problem, and so forth. Clichés often exist for a reason, of course, and sometimes it’s okay to use a tried and true character. But not always. Populate your stories with only stock characters and there won’t be any reason to read your tales over anyone else’s.” -  Claire Hart

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: September 14, 2014

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

John 3:13-17
No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of man; as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.

The power of prayer and the power of people praying

SEPTEMBER INTENTION PRAYER 

Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Amen

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

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Committee Coordinator’s Report for September, 2014

Guild elections will compete for attention with national elections in November, 2104. Please consider nominating yourself or another member for the offices of President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and Committee Coordinator. Several officers may retire after the current term. Send your nominations to president@catholicwritersguild.com.

Stuart Lynn Sexton wins the “Volunteer of the Month Award” for joining both the Public Relations Committee and the Committee Coordination Committee. Thank you Stuart, for sharing your talents and time. If you have an urge to volunteer, leave your contact information in the comment section below.

Dennis P. Mc Geehan reports that Zenit has asked the Guild to limit its monthly recommendations to the Zenit News Service, to book reviews that have appeared on the CWG blog. Contact submissions @ catholicwritersguild.com with your draft blog posts.

The Catholic Fiction Critique Group continues to grow in membership and chapters reviewed. The participants seem to find their activities beneficial, but not burdensome. Want to join? Then leave your contact information in the comment section below.

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A Defense of Catholic Commercial Fiction by Maggie Zapp

If_Catholics_aren’t_too_good_to_be

I have the good fortune to be surrounded by educated people. People who love reading literature that is so heavy I shiver at the thought of slogging through it.  Don’t get me wrong, I did my fair share of heavy reading and there were many times where I enjoyed it and found it moving. But for many people, myself included now, literature is a form of enjoyable escapism. And if reading is a serious chore, it’s hardly enjoyable.

Recently one of my friends, an unpublished writer who has publishable work (I know from having read it) recently admitted that he hasn’t pursued publication because he’s convinced his writing is not good enough.

I have dealt with this, I dare to say, peculiarly Catholic misconception for years. There exists a temptation to capitulate to pressure or shaming. That if we are going to write, it is not enough to write what we love. We must write something heavy, something ground-breaking and earth-shattering. It needs to be so deep the reader risks drowning in it, the concepts so immense and excellent that its worthy of being called a masterpiece of classical literature right from the get-go.

Otherwise, it’s not even worth publishing. It’s not good enough.

Not good enough for who? It seems like there is a certain amount of snobbery involved with this assumption that Catholics should only write “serious” literature. “Let’s leave the commercial fiction to those who don’t know any better.”

No. If Catholics aren’t too good to be reading commercial fiction (and they’re not), than Catholic writers shouldn’t be too good to write it. We shouldn’t be afraid to fulfill a need. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up at how we don’t stack up to Tolkien or Dickens (not that Dickens was Catholic). The truth is, there isn’t enough fair to good moral literature out there – not to mention the masterpiece that we stress ourselves out to produce.

Catholic readers of commercial fiction – and there are many – will just be relieved to find goodstories where they don’t have to worry about blasphemy, sketchy scenes that pop up out of nowhere, or gore.

For every Waugh, DeWohl, Benson, and Undset, there are countless other Catholics who wrote. Their impact, while unmemorable, nevertheless subtly influenced the minds of thousands of Catholics at the time. Why do we discredit them by saying that the only thing worthy of artistic endeavor is a masterpiece? What about all the stages in between? It is tantamount to expecting every portrait painter be a Michelangelo or throw down the paints altogether.

What is so shameful about commercial fiction? Granted, much commercial fiction can be dangerous. But commercial fiction sells because it does its first job well. It tells a good story.

That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily wrong – or, the more common misconception of many Catholic non-writers, that it’s easy.

It might not be a deep story. It might not be a complicated story. But it’s like watching a movie that you know will give you a few good hours of entertainment and that’s about it. You aren’t watching it for depth and soul-moving impact. You’re watching it for a simple pleasure.  And so long as it’s moral, then it is perfectly acceptable to Catholic morality.

How much the better if it is from a Catholic context? Let’s not save the commercial fiction for the non-Catholics, because Catholics are reading it anyway. Let’s create a niche in commercial fiction, put a dent in it that has “Catholic” stamped all over it.

Why do Catholic writers need to write for a serious audience? Write what you love for readers like you and don’t be ashamed to embrace who you’re writing to. For that matter, it’s like being able to embrace yourself.

Catholics aren’t looking to read The Odyssey for their reading pleasure. They’re so hard up for literature, that after going through the classics (and sometimes not even that), they are skirting “the danger zone” of reading material in the search for a book to read.

Of course, any good priest would tell you that it’s entertainment. There’s no excuse for skirting danger. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the allure is there. People want to be entertained. They want a good story. And even if your work isn’t the next Brother’s Karamazovor Heart of Darkness, it doesn’t matter.

Do the best you can, make it professional, and get it out there.

https://www.canva.com/design/DAA5MoL6opI/Pjzt6sNqN2qX2nRYOC682Q/view

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Writers Retreat Opportunity

Catholic Writers Retreat image 2Director: Msgr. Joseph Marino

All Catholics who enjoy writing (professionally or leisurely) are invited to immerse themselves in God’s presence, away from the distractions and demands of the world, to grow spiritually and freely write at our beautiful retreat grounds.

Includes prayer time, Mass, Exposition, Benediction, personal reflection, inspiring talks about writers of the New Testament, and conferences from experienced Catholic writers, including Sue Brinkmann (author & award winning journalist for Women of Grace®), Matt Pinto (president of Ascension Press), Matt Gambino (director and general manager of CatholicPhilly.com), and Brian Gail (Catholic speaker and author).

Details:
Hosted in St. Joseph’s Hall at Malvern Retreat House.
Arrival at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, September 29.
Departure after lunch on Friday, October 3.

Cost: $450 (Five days, four nights)
Amount due with registration.
Includes overnight accommodations plus four breakfast meals, four lunches, and four dinners.

Click here to learn our Refund Policy.

To Register: Call our Main Office at 610-644-0400 or click here to register online.

Click here to e-mail Malvern Retreat House with any questions you may have.

For those of you who are lucky enough to have access to the Malvern area of Pennsylvania this wonderful retreat might be just what you are looking for to refresh your writer’s chops.

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Fathers, Daughters and St. Therese

Connie presents her father with family tree, Christmas 2012

An interview with Connie Rossini, author of Trusting God with St. Therese.

Connie gives practical advice for overcoming fears and frustrations that hamper our relationship with God. I asked her about her father-daughter relationship as compared to that of Louis Martin and his daughter St. Therese of Lisieux.

Nancy: Therese was blessed with parents who were “more worthy of heaven than of earth.” Therese had a special relationship with her father, who called her, “my Queen.” She formed her image of God from her father who never denied her love, affection and care. How did your father-daughter relationship compare to this?

Connie: In some ways, my relationship with my father when I was growing up was miles apart from the relationship between Therese and Louis. I am very quiet and reserved. As a child, I was also timid. My dad, in contrast, was outgoing and frank. He was also the primary disciplinarian. My mom often said, “Wait till your dad gets home!” I grew nervous around him. I avoided talking to him about any serious subjects.

In my book, I tell how my dad left me home alone when I was about five. When he returned about an hour later, he didn’t show any sympathy for my fears. So that didn’t help my relationship with him or God.

Nancy: In Trusting God, you convey many lessons about God Therese learned from her father. One of my favorites is

By rejecting the notion that she had to do lots of good works in order to earn God’s friendship, Therese became free to trust in God’s goodness, rather than her own. His faithfulness did not depend on hers. She could trust him as her all-loving Father. Would Louis withhold his love from his girls unless they did great things for him? Of course not! Then neither would God.

She did not have to work wonders in order to please God. She simply had to love him. Her confidence in him was childlike. She left more childish attitudes behind.

What is your favorite lesson about God that you learned from your father?

Connie: You might think that my dad only gave me negative experiences when it came to trust. He was a great model of trusting God in some areas of his life. When I was ten, my parents felt that God was calling them to join a Catholic charismatic community or form a new one. They were thinking about moving from southeastern Washington to Seattle. But after some prayer and talking with others, my dad believed God was calling us to move to Minneapolis instead. And my parents obeyed without hesitation.

My dad believed God was working in his life as he did in the life of Abraham–whom I also wrote about. Like Abraham, my dad said yes to a move before he knew the destination. I love that example.

Nancy: When your father returned home such a different man after the accident affected his memory, did your view of him change significantly? Did it change how you saw God?

Connie: At first the accident had a very negative impact on our relationship. I was seventeen and apt to be hypercritical of my parents. My dad initially had total memory loss, then permanent problems with short-term memory. I lost respect for him. Instead of being compassionate, I was angry.

On the other hand, he became more relaxed and understanding. Over time—a matter of several years—I began to see that my view of God, as always being exacting and looking to punish our sins, might be flawed. I began to long for another view of God, a more loving relationship with him.

Nancy: Therese tells a story to Fr. Belliere about how she perceives the love of Jesus toward his disobedient children.

“I would like to try to make you understand by means of a very simple comparison how much Jesus loves even imperfect souls who confide in Him: I picture a father who has two children, mischievous and disobedient, and when he comes to punish them, he sees one of them who trembles and gets away from him in terror, having, however, in the bottom of his heart the feeling that he deserves to be punished; and his brother, on the contrary, throws himself into his father’s arms, saying that he is sorry for having caused him any trouble, that he loves him, and to prove it he will be good from now on, and if this child asked his father to punish him with a kiss, I do not believe that the heart of the happy father could resist the filial confidence of his child, whose sincerity and love he knows. He realizes, however, that more than once his son will fall into the same faults, but he is prepared to pardon him always, if his son always takes him by the heart.”

This practical story impressed me greatly. How did it change your image of God the Father and increase your trust in him?

Connie: This was the passage that started me on the road to true trust. I read in other saints’ writings that we should remain calm when we sin, but I had never understood that on an emotional level. I began to look at my sins from God’s perspective. Since I am a parent, I could relate to the father’s response in Therese’s story. My youngest son, who is three, loves to give kisses. About a year ago when I first started disciplining him, he would respond a lot like the son in the story. When I reprimanded him, he would immediately throw his arms around my neck and say, “I’m sorry, Mom.” Then he would kiss me all over my face. What parent could be harsh after that? I realized God would react the same way to my expressions of childlike trust and love.

Connie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of the free e-book Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Prairie Catholic of the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for SpiritualDirection.com. Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.

Trusting God with St. Therese is available as an e-book and paperback at Amazon.com. The paperback is also available at BarnesandNoble.com.

(© 2014 Nancy H C Ward)

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Monday’s Writing Tips by Karen Kelly Boyce

 

lrosarykeyboardThe moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn’t thought about. At that moment he’s alive and you leave it to him.” – Graham Greene

Last week we started the process of creating a character. Hopefully, this is a character that you can use for your next book or short story. We started by creating our character’s appearance. This week we will delve into the personality traits of our character. Every person is unique and your character should be also. You may ask when you will  know enough about your character to write his story? The answer is when your character becomes so real to you that they take over the story and change or tweak  your original plot. When they become real in your mind, you are probably finished. After all, if your character doesn’t seem real to you, why should they seem real to the reader?

Now here are some questions that will help you meet your character. You may not use all the information that you learn about your creation. You may just emphasize one or two personality traits in your work. But first you have to meet him.

Is your character controlling, dominating, or a bully? Or is he easygoing, or even a doormat?  Is he generous or cheap? Is he generous to his children, but cheap with his co-workers? Does he wish luck to all or is he covetous?  Is he critical or supportive? Does he have an inflated ego or is he humble? Does he talk non-stop or is he a listener. Does she belittle people or praise them? Is she harsh or kind? Is she self-centered and ambitious, or always thinking of others? Is she a gossiper or someone who can be trusted? Is she a leader or a follower?

Is your character stubborn or pliable? Is he opinionated or open-minded? Is he a believer? If so, what faith do they follow? Are they Catholic, Christian, Muslim, or  Hindu?  Or are they just spiritual? Are they a hardened atheist or a troubled agnostic?  Is she neat or messy? Organized or always losing things? How about honesty? Is he an outright thief, or just an opportunist? Would they steal a tip off a table or rob a bank? What are her principles? Are they firm or do they change with the times? Does she follow her virtues or follow the mob? Is she a taker or a giver? Would he lend anyone money? Would he forgive a debt? Does he lie? White lies? Is she overly emotional or very calm? Does she have a temper or is she peaceful? Is he moody? Does he make others uneasy? How about speech? Do they speak like an English professor or a truck driver? Is your character a genus or slow? Are they a savant? Is he lazy or always full of energy?

Remember – your character – whether the villain or the hero – should be a mix of good and bad characteristics. He may be honest but cheap, or she my be a gossiper who spends her time feeding the poor. A character, like the people you know in real life, must be multi-layered to interest the reader. Remember the detective Colombo. His appearance was in direct opposition to his mind. He was rumpled, wrinkled, and messy. However, his mind was sharp and orderly. Flat one-dimensional characters may be all-right for children’s books, but I think even children deserve flavorful characters.

Are you getting a better picture of your character? How would this character behave in different situations? Now that we have uncovered your character’s appearance and personality you may feel that we are done. We are not. Your character needs a profile – a job, family, home etc. That’s for next week!

If this all seems like too much work – remember that once your character takes over the plot, you will just have to follow. Here’s a quote from a great novelist:

“It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.” – William Faulkner

 

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