Category Archives: On Writing

In Which I Speak of Buying Books & Saying Hello

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Golden Gardens Park, Seattle WA, end of summer jlc.

Dear Faithful (and new) Readers~Hello! You might remember back in January when I posted here about spending  my writing efforts in other arenas and that I would henceforth no longer be writing regularly in this space.
Well~things change and God nudges and it’s the first day of Autumn, always a marker for new beginnings. So I am writing to you anew. You may find more poetry here in the coming months as I’ve discovered a latent passion for both reading and writing it. You may also see topics a little more wide ranging than in the past; I look forward to sharing with you what comes to mind and pours out through my pen. Thank you for coming along.

In the meantime, let’s talk about books.

I know you’re as chagrined as I am that all things Halloween and Harvest are now overflowing at nearly every store you see. And alas, the holiday season isn’t far behind. (At my local Michael’s it’s already here. Sigh).

Thoughts of holiday gift-giving and receiving always bring to mind books I’d love to have or want to purchase. And I’m guessing you have many folks to consider as well when it comes to gifting, whether during the holidays or year round for birthdays and such. (Speaking of books about the holidays, I wrote one that I think you’ll find fun and helpful and encouraging–Living the Season Well-Reclaiming Christmas. You can purchase a copy from Indiebound, Books a Million and Barnes & Noble–all listed below). 

But here’s the thing about buying books. The behemoth that is Amazon has nearly swamped the world with its reach and taken the soul out of bookselling and buying. And while I enjoy the ease with which I can purchase everything from bubble bath, to my favorite music and new baby clothes for my granddaughter from my phone…. well, part of me just really wants to do the Christian thing and put the soul back into commerce and spend my money somewhere there’s an actual human.

Consider this my feeble attempt at holding back the tsunami that is ecommerce. (I live in Seattleland where Amazon is headquartered. This is no small feat.)

In the years that I have been attending writing conferences and workshops and retreats I’ve met some fine folks in person who actually are still in business as Christian booksellers and who could really use our money and support. (Two are listed below).

Continue reading

Welcome to my Brand Spanking New Space!

Hello to readers new and old! ((Old and young? Recent and longtime?? I never know how to say that)).

How was your Summer?! Mine was busy with lots of travel–to Southern California and Santa Fe–remarkable and rich! Home remodeling–yay, a new sliding door! Plus full and fun (exhausting) visits with our five grandkids. But so.worth.it. 

P_20180803_200103_vHDR_On

Santa Fe Sky, St. John’s College. Just God showing off.Since we last said hello around the end of July, my amazing Webgal Gretchen (whom I refer to as the Fairy Godmother), has been working behind the scenes to work her magic. I felt like all I did is dust off the furniture and move things around to make things more organized.  But s h e hung all the pictures.

Isn’t it gorgeous??

Why a New Look?

Glad you asked. As God has refined my presence and purpose here on the internet, I’ve discovered my gift to you, dear Reader, is to serve as a kind of virtual Bulletin Board where folks can find information, inspiration and encouragement. I’ll be sharing about everything from the particulars of writing and the journey of putting one’s work out in the world, to directing you to resources for illuminating poetry, new Christian voices and some helpful lists, too. (You’ll find a few up there under the ‘Lists’ tab right now).

After a visit last Spring to a Christian writer’s conference, I came back more committed than ever to also feature weekly essays about the work of two groups of people underrepresented (IMHO) in the blogosphere, Faith Writers Over 50 (The Sage Ones) and Christian Writers of Color. There will be interviews and book reviews for you to get to know these fine folks better. 

Weekly posts might also be ‘Listicles’–Articles in a List–like

  • 10 Things I Learned at the Writer’s Conference
  • 5 Travel Tips for Uber Novices
  • 5 Online Christian Communities to Visit
  • 5 Places on the Web for Women in the Word
  • 5 Non-Profits I Trust
  • 5 Female Pastors Who Write
  • 3 Blogs about Faith and Food
  • Five Female Faith Poets You Should Know
  • 20 Christian Poets of the Twentieth Century

You’ll find occasional poetry (mine) and a new book announcement at the end of the year.

Under Resources, you’ll find my Editing Services and soon-to-be-launched ‘Self Publishing 101’, a topic that has garnered interest among many writers. I’m also working on a Speaker page (if you’ve been part of a gathering where I had a chance to say a few words, I’d be so grateful if you could share your remarks in the Comments below. I’ll contact you if you don’t mind me using your thoughts later).

And, since I got a ‘big girl’ camera the first of June, I’ll be changing the photos from time to time at the ribbon across the top. Sunsets and flowers are favorite subjects. And the way light falls across a room. Or a floor.

I do hope you’ll subscribe for once-a-week posts from yours truly as I share the wonders of this wide world with you.  Simply enter your email in the “Sign up Here to Receive Exclusive Content” box and you’ll be on your way.

I also have the next edition of my newsletter waiting in the wings–for which you can sign up right HERE.

While things have been quiet-ish here, some of my poetry found its way into two fine publications–print and online.

‘Revelation’ is in the newest issue of iola magazine, ‘Bloom’. You can order it here (and get a free book!) There is much to love in this second edition and I’m honored to be a small part of this beautiful endeavor.

Iola-2

And, although a serious topic, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a poem I penned about the suicide of a lifelong friend at the end of May. Wrapping words around the world is the way I process things, so I wrote a poem. You can read “For D.” here at Barren Magazine online. It was one of the Editor’s Picks for the inaugural issue; that kinda blew me away. 

While I think launching this new website is a Very Big Deal, I realize in the grand scheme of things it isn’t likely to do much for world peace or global warming. I can’t solve the U. S. trade deficit or make sure that hungry children in this world will be fed. 

What I can do, however, is pick up the pen (or the keyboard) that’s in my hand and offer you a glimpse of God’s glory through the people and the world He’s made. We are surrounded by beauty and wonder and creativity if we only could see it; perhaps my job is to hand you a telescope and say, “hey, look at this!”

Actually, I think if we all just did our own little square (instead of the entire quilt, as the saying goes) we’d make a whole lotta difference right where we are.

seamless-1904178_1920

That’s all for now. In the grand scheme of things.

Just one more thing: If you know someone who’d enjoy my work, please share the love.  Buttons are right below. Bless you!

 

Preview of Coming Attractions~Soon(ish)

watch this space

Well, not this space exactly. Like space space. But this space–jodyleecollins dot com.

As many of you know (if you’re signed up for my newsletter) I am revamping my website and going on hiatus for the month of August, and by “August” I mean starting now.
Lots of spiffing up to do on the way to a whole new look. All of that takes brain power. And time.

To that end– a spanking new website–this in-between phase is like opening the door of a magic cupboard and stepping into something surprising on the other side. But first I have to open the door and take the first step. Then the next. And do super-exciting work like delete 192 miscellaneous ‘tags’ from my blog essays. And choose font sizes. And integrate email subscriber services. (I’m not even sure what that means.) Yep, glamourous and surprising, eh?

I’m also preparing to be gone for a week–July 29th-August 5th–to the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe, New Mexico, sponsored by Image Magazine at Seattle Pacific. This will be my first visit to “The Glen,” as it’s fondly called. The gathering is a 7-day immersion into the world of writing and talking and connecting with like-minded Christian poets, artists and writers from across the country. I am very much looking forward to this birthday gift to myself (August 10th; thanks for asking) and getting to meet British poet extraordinaire, Malcolm Guite.

I only have so many brain cells currently available for those endeavors, so I’m pressing the ‘pause’ button for about 6 weeks.

So What Can You Expect?

In addition to featuring faith writers of color via interviews–“5 Questions For…” and telling my readers about female faith writers over 50–The Sage Ones–the new website will include lots of ‘Listicles’–articles in a list form. 
Things like:
Three Non Profits I Know and Love
Five Writer Tools I Can’t be Without
10 Female Christian Poets You Should Know
5 Tips for Uber Novices

I’m super-practical about giving people tools to succeed in their gifts and calling. With that in mind, I’d like jodyleecollins.com to be a bulletin board of sorts, a place to Inform, Encourage and Inspire, as well as become a go-to resource for other Christian writers and bloggers.

God’s continuing to confirm His call and gifting and my life as an Cheerleader, Encourager and Connector. If you’re a writer, I want to help your work shine. There will be information and how-to’s like Self-Publishing 101, where to submit your work and how to write a query/pitch. What to consider when you’re launching a book….and more.

I will still have my current Editing Services page if you’d like to hire me to review your works in progress.

There will also be a new Speaker page featuring past topics and events and how and where people can contact me to share at their gatherings.

And, my Most Fun Idea yet, a Photography page. I enjoy snapping photos of sunsets, flowers, water and sky, what-have-you and while I post most of that over on Instagram I’d like to feature a landing page with slides and music. 
My uber-talented web gal Gretchen is helping with all the magic. We hope to be back online and in the blogosphere by September 1st.
See you then!
——-
P.S. You can sign up for my newsletter “Random Acts of Writing” right here.

How I Became a Twitter Convert and Kept My Salvation

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI am still basking in the afterglow of a rich and rewarding 5 days at the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College in Michigan. (Thank you, Grand Rapids, snow and all.) Since I have few available brain cells left for writing, I present to you a post from a n o t h e r wonderful writer’s conference four years ago. Enjoy~

——

I am exhausted and beyond tired. My brain is packed, my spirit is full to overflowing and my body has been existing on junk food since Friday.
It is so NOT FAIR that the day I have to drive home from the Faith and Culture Writers Conference is also the ‘Spring Forward’ part of Daylight Savings Time.

But it was totally worth it.

Like all good writers going to a conference on writing, I took a new journal to mark the occasion. A simple no line, blank page model, like an empty picture frame ready for a masterpiece to be placed inside. So much potential waiting for my pen.

When I decided to christen this journal several weeks ago, I actually didn’t know what I was going to use it for.  Clearly God did.  I had a quote glued to the inside cover:

CHANGE IS GOOD.  You go first.

Yes, I changed my mind about many things–my blog focus, my voice. And especially about Twitter, a virtual chat-o-sphere which I have been avoiding like the salad bar in an old diner.
It’s been around awhile but I wasn’t sure I could really trust it.

Lo and behold, Twitter is perfect for my random, abstract brain. And people are nice. And they listen to you. (Well, for maybe 60 seconds.) I became a believer.

There was also a powerful touch of the Holy Spirit and confirmation of the work I am doing through my writing.  So much encouragement and companionship and like-minded ness of writers and artists, who revealed all manner of God’s creativity in their own masterful ways.

From the platform, in workshops and in conversations I heard over and over again:

  • Write from a place of PASSION
  • Be authentic, don’t write from a place of safety
  • Take off your mask (everybody has one)
  • God will break through you when you’re broken
  • Go for quality of writing and connection with readers
  • Write out your God life in context of your daily life

Gracious, kind, young people listened to my silly questions.
New friends who I was able to meet in real life have become old friends overnight and many of my old ideas about being a writer and a Christian were radically readjusted.

Now I am more convinced than ever I can change the world.
As soon as I take a nap. 
p.s.  my twitter handle is @jodyo70. tweet. 

——

How to Save the World-Write a Letter

“Further, since being a writer involves the building of bridges between our own life experience and that of others, our job is to find the most significant points of connection between ourselves and our readers.”                                                                                                            -Luci Shaw, The Writer’s Notebook, essay in A Syllable of Water

P1200078

I remember as vividly as if it were yesterday how I felt in the days after September 11th. My daughter and I were in New York City that day and the next, staying with my nephew who had graciously hosted us in his Brooklyn apartment. After the world exploded, we set out for upstate NY, where my sister-in-law lived, with plans to camp out there until we could get on a flight back home to Seattle.
We overnighted along the way in a hotel where several pilots were staying. As shocked and traumatized as I was after the sky rained down ash and powder for 24 hours, I couldn’t imagine being a pilot and having to face the reality that my job was to get back into the cockpit of a jet and fly the next day. When we checked into our hotel, I boldly approached each one of them and thanked them for their bravery. They were being called to do one of the most unthinkable jobs on the planet. And they went anyway.

As my daughter and I traveled back to the West coast four days later through three different airports, flight attendants and pilots somberly passed us, their rolling bags trailing behind them, faces set like flint. Again I said ‘thank you’ as often as I could; some of the flight attendants also got a hug.
******
The country is reeling again from another tragedy, outraged at the carnage and loss of life at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. Many have taken their outrage and channeled it to finding a cause or pointing a finger—more gun control, revamping FBI practices, engaging in more stringent oversight of those mentally ill—each a just and worthwhile issue.
I am not going to argue the wisdom of those efforts, nor am I ignoring the energy and passion of the survivors at Marjory Stoneman who are marching next month. Everyone has a right to use their voice where and how they can.
For my small part, I sat down yesterday and did what writers do: I wrote a letter to my oldest grandson’s high school teacher. In it, I suggested a practice of checking in with students every Friday for a few minutes at the end of the day to see how they are doing. Not verbally, but via paper. (Glennon Doyle Melton recounted the idea via her article at rd dot com and I borrowed it from her.)
High school staff and teachers are the people on the front lines every day from New York to California, Montana to Florida and everywhere in between, who have to go back to work in their buildings after a richly deserved day off and face their jobs again.
They will show up and keep showing up and caring for kids and pouring out their lives day after day in classrooms all over America.
If you know a kid in high school, if you HAVE a kid in high school, if you know a High School teacher, can you take 10-15 minutes to write a note to that principal or teacher? Something like,
“Thank you for facing your job each day under unthinkable circumstances, for doing the difficult job of caring for kids,” or just plain, “thank you.” You can read my letter here and adapt it for your own. 
Or heck, print out this excerpt below (from Glennon Doyle, re: her son’s 5th grade teacher) and pass it along to the teacher or principal. You never know, it might save someone’s life. Or many someone’s lives before more children are lost to loneliness, emptiness and despair.
————–
“Every Friday afternoon, she asks her students to take out a piece of paper and write down the names of four children with whom they’d like to sit the following week. The children know that these requests may or may not be honored. She also asks the students to nominate one student who they believe has been an exceptional classroom citizen that week. All ballots are privately submitted to her.
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns.
Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who can’t think of anyone to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
As a teacher, parent, and lover of all children, I think this is the most brilliant Love Ninja strategy I have ever encountered. It’s like taking an X-ray of a classroom to see beneath the surface of things and into the hearts of students. It is like mining for gold—the gold being those children who need a little help, who need adults to step in and teach them how to make friends, how to ask others to play, how to join a group, or how to share their gifts. And it’s a bully deterrent because every teacher knows that bullying usually happens outside her eyeshot and that often kids being bullied are too intimidated to share. But, as she said, the truth comes out on those safe, private, little sheets of paper.
As Chase’s teacher explained this simple, ingenious idea, I stared at her with my mouth hanging open. “How long have you been using this system?” I said.
Ever since Columbine, she said. Every single Friday afternoon since Columbine. Good Lord.
This brilliant woman watched Columbine knowing that all violence begins with disconnection. All outward violence begins as inner loneliness. Who are our next mass shooters and how do we stop them? She watched that tragedy knowing that children who aren’t being noticed may eventually resort to being noticed by any means necessary.
And so she decided to start fighting violence early and often in the world within her reach. What Chase’s teacher is doing when she sits in her empty classroom studying those lists written with shaky 11-year-old hands is saving lives. I am convinced of it.” (read the entire essay here.)

——–

Build a bridge, be a connection, stand in the gap. Fill the gaps with love, and maybe a letter. 

On Writing & Connection–Elizabeth Goudge

“A book begins with falling in love. You lose your heart to a place, a house, an avenue of trees, or with a character who walks in and takes sudden and complete possession of you. Imagination glows, and there is the seed of your book.” -Elizabeth Goudge, The Joy of the Snow, 1974

Squeezed into the wooden container on my desk is a well-worn yellow file folder labeled simply, ‘Books.’  Inside are sticky notes on old journal paper, torn pieces from the corner of a calendar, typed out comments from my computer and the other jigsaw pieces of my writer’s random brain. This is the folder where I stash my “find this book!” titles. (Maybe you have notes like that?)

In 2007 I discovered a writer whose name continued to pop up in the work I was reading. After awhile, when one hears a particular person mentioned over and over again, when their writing is cited with glowing praise each time in those mentions, one considers, “well, perhaps I should look her up.”

That is how I found Elizabeth Goudge. Goudge was a British writer in the early 1900’s (1900-1984) whose astonishing descriptions and magical phrasing carries a strong message of faith throughout each and every one of her rich stories. I recently added to my Goudge collection with the arrival of eight (8!) paperback copies from a publisher in Great Britain–titles I’d been looking for high and low here in the States. I’m very grateful for online used book dealers.

In the recent delivery is a copy of  Goudge’s autobiography, The Joy of the Snow mentioned above, I have relished learning more about her life but find particularly encouraging her notes for writers. In the first chapter, ‘Storytelling’, she has this to say about inspiration:

…the great flood of light which poets and mystics pour into the world

has nothing in common with the glowworm sparks of the small fry;

except for the fact that something, or some being, must have lit it in the first place. (emphasis mine) p. 18

What I find most remarkable and deeply likable about Goudge’s storytelling is the way she embodies the Christian life without ever talking about Jesus. It is far easier, I think, to make surface declarations about faith and a relationship with Christ, spelling out for readers exactly what you mean. A truly great writer leaves a bit of illumination on the page, lighting the way for us to find the Truth buried like a treasure in between the lines.

Sacrifice, kindness, faithfulness and selflessness are just a few of the many biblical themes woven through the characters and story in Goudge’s work.

Her reactions to critics who questioned the ‘value’ of her work due to its religious (albeit often hidden) nature, she has this to say:

We all hold our faith with a certain amount of fear and trembling (even Blake wrote,

My hand trembles exceedingly upon the Rock of Ages”), and to find that others share our faith has a steadying influence, especially in these days when the Rock of Ages himself is for ever being prodded and sound to see if he is still there.

To those of us who think the tapping hammers would not sound so loudly if he was not there, the likemindedness is a very special joy. p. 21

If our faith in God were not based on truth, all those ‘tapping hammers’ on the Rock of Ages would indeed sound quite loudly as the echoes ring out because of the hollowness inside. (click to Tweet.)

But ours is not a hollow faith. And for those of us who write, that likemindedness with our readers, the gift of connection when we find a kindred spirit responding to our words–well, there’s nothing richer.

I imagine that is why I love my treasure trove of books by this inimitable author–her writing resounds like a glorious, pealing bell deep in my soul, with language like honey on my lips, deeply satisfying and soul-filling. Looking into the pages of each of Goudge’s stories brings a reflection of the face of my Jesus in all His many incarnations–child, vagabond, lost soul or king. Vicar, actress, schoolboy or penchant, mischievous little girls.

I take particular courage from her thoughts about writing,  especially as someone beginning later in life to channel this gift of co-creating. She had this to say about those who pick up their pen as more “mature” writers.

Words to a writer are the same as bricks to a builder. It is necessary to learn about their size and shape and how to put them in place. The imagination and vivid life of someone young, poured into a first book, or even a second or third, can sometimes shape the bricks into place by sheer instinct and good luck, but when the fire dies down a little, the building is not so easy.  The process of creation, however humble it may be, is always mysterious. -The Joy of the Snow, Coronet Publishing, p.21

Encouragement in our calling or craft is a gift whenever it comes, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Surrounding oneself with people who can speak into our lives, whether in person or in the pages of a book, is a wise investment of our time. Soul-deep connections and the confirmation that we’re on the right path are irreplaceable gifts.

Whether you’re a reader or a writer or both, my prayer is you, too, will find this gift at the right time. It may very likely be in the pages of a good book, where the author’s story is intertwined with your own.

For isn’t the Author of our lives always writing our story?

******

To list all of Elizabeth Goudge’s work would take up far too much space; here’s a link instead to quotes from her books on Goodreads. Enjoy!

By the way, I write a Quarterly Newsletter–“Random Acts of Writing-Miraculous & Mundane”. The sign up is here–no spam, just some inspiration and encouragement.