Tag Archives: Breathe Conference

A reading event at the Breathe Conference

Last spring I attended a wonderful conference for undergraduate writers. It was Taylor University’s Making Literature Conference. I went to numerous workshops in which undergraduate writing students read original essays, fiction, and poetry. I enjoyed being back in a college classroom, among students, and around a generally academic atmosphere.

I attended two workshops during that conference that featured multiple writers. They read short pieces aloud which were thematically related (e.g. “Mixed Prose: The Body”). The sessions were typically 50 minutes long and featured three different writers. After all the pieces were read, the writers then participated in a Q and A session with the audience.

I found these sessions to be enormously meaningful. Watching another writer overcome their nerves and step out on a ledge (as it were) was inspiring. I found myself rooting for the students to read their work well. And the Q and A sessions afterward were encouraging and insightful. As an attendee I walked away charged up to go do my own writing and to feel more confident about sharing it with others. I imagine that the presenters felt their own confidence get boosted as well.

writers conferenceI liked these sessions so much that I pitched two of them to the Breathe Conference planning committee–and they said yes!

If you’re attending the 2015 Breathe Christian Writers Conference, and if you’d like to have an opportunity to share your writing publicly, please read this post on the Breathe Blog and submit your work. The full details are included here. I would love to see you at one of these sessions.

If you are introverted the way many writers tend to be, it will be a challenge. However, I can assure you, it’s one worth taking. And don’t worry. You’ll be among friends.


On Planning a Writers Conference, part 2: Inspiration and Community

Last night I participated in a monthly meeting for the Breathe Conference planning committee. We meet throughout the year at a local book store. We drink coffee, work through an agenda, and hopefully manage to plan an annual writers conference that is both equipping and enriching.

But much more than just those pragmatics happen at each meeting. We encourage one another. We laugh. We have thoughtful discussions about writing and publishing that may or may not make it onto the Breathe platform, and without really trying – we reinforce one another’s identities as writers.

How do I know this happens? Because last night I came home full of writer juice (so to speak). Like a taught water balloon I was bursting with ideas. After putting my toddler to bed I sat down in wrote three pages of keep-able fiction. When I was finished I realized that the Breathe planning committee had filled my creative well. When I got home I just had to let it out.

Are you in a writers group? Or, do you have people around you who actively encourage your writing?

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Links for the Writer on the Breathe Conference blog

This image will make sense if you read the post on the Breathe blog.

This image will make sense if you read the post on the Breathe blog.

Lately I’ve been overseeing the blog for the Breathe Christian Writers Conference. It’s an annual writers conference I’ve been participating in for 4 or 5 years now. In today’s post I’ve gathered a handful of interesting links for writers. You can see it here:


Shameless promotion of my friend Susie Finkbeiner, and her book “Paint Chips”

I’m thrilled for my friend Susie Finkbeiner. Her first novel, “Paint Chips” releases digitally on Tuesday, January 15th. Today I got my first glimpse of her book trailer today. I plan to buy my copy on the 15th. I’ll post my thoughts here in weeks to come. The book will also release in print on April 15th. Please help support Susie by watching this trailer and consider purchasing the eBook next Tuesday.

(By the way, book marketing is a blast when you can support a friend. It’s hard for most writers to promote themselves. I get that. But bragging on your friends? That’s easy!)

Short Stories: Focus on the Beginning

During the Breathe Conference last Saturday I attended a workshop on writing Short Stories given by Dr. David Landrum, a local writer and English professor. Dr. Landrum focused his workshop on how short stories should begin. Here are a few of my notes from his talk:

Beginnings are very important.

  • The first paragraph is vital. The first sentence must be done correctly.
  • The second and third paragraphs make or break the rest of the story.
  • Set the scene.
  • Introduce the main character and reveal something about him or her almost immediately.
  • Don’t focus on “hooking” the reader or somehow shocking them in order to get them to read your story. Rather, focus on intriguing them. (He gave an example from a story he wrote in which his early drafts began with, “He was lying in a pool of blood.” He said that this was a terrible attempt to “hook” readers and he ultimately deleted that sentence.)
  • Avoid detailed descriptions in the opening of the story. Instead, just give the readers an impression of the character.
  • In early paragraphs try to appeal to readers’ emotions through the actions of the main character and very limited details.

After his workshop I just wanted to lock myself in a room somewhere and not come out until I’d revised every short story I’ve ever written. Have you ever been to a workshop or seminar that gets you really excited? Really charged up? This was one of those workshops for me. I was given clear, tangible ways to improve my old short stories, and I had a new paradigm for crafting new ones. How cool is that?

He also said that if we want to write good short stories we need to be sure to notice the things around us. He said that, “Most short stories are written about day-to-day life.” And he passed on a famous quote (maybe from Hemmingway?): “Write one story about each thing you know.”

Since his workshop I’ve been revising two of my older, unpublished stories. I’m very happy with the changes so far. I plan to submit one of them to this contest for Michigan writers, and another to a sci-fi magazine. Perhaps this one.

Write strong.


Writing Update: The Breathe Conference and other ways to be busy

I haven’t blogged in a few weeks. That’s not how I like it, but it’s been a busy few weeks! Here’s my writing update and a general update on other goings on that have kept me from the blog:

  • I’ve continued to work on the goblin project. I’ve not finished as much as I’ve liked, probably 500 to 800 words since my last update, but a little is better than nothing, right? ;-) I don’t know the exact word count as I’ve been writing it in a spiral bound notebook.
  • I’ve been writing in my journal more frequently. Like most people my journal writing comes and goes in waves. I’m in a wave of journal writing right now. I’ve just got a lot to say to myself, I guess. ;-) Seriously, I’ve found that writing in my journal does two great things for me: 1) it helps me process what I experience in a more complete way; 2) it provides creative kindling for later writing. Give it a try some time. Journal for a few months, then,  go back and read what you wrote on a day when you feel like you’ve got nothing to write. Your journal entries will spur on new ideas.
  • We just held the Breathe Christian Writers Conference. I’m a part of the Breathe Planning Committee. It’s an annual Christian Writers Conference held in west Michigan. I’ll be blogging more about it here in the coming weeks. I also wrote this post a few months back. This year I served as an MC and helped do some of the online marketing. It was fun, it was tiring, it was something I hope to do again. More to come on that…
  • I’ve been blogging frequently on the Breathe Christian Writers Conference Blog. Part of my role on the committee is to help maintain this blog. It’s been a lot of fun.
  • I’ve been blogging everyday for Zondervan on the Engaging Church Blog. Maintaining this blog is part of my role at work. If you are involved in church ministry – as a volunteer, or as paid staff – this blog is for you.
  • I attended the Catalyst Conference for Zondervan. You can see my IPhone Pics Report here.

Have you been writing? What’s your update?

The Most Important thing I’ve learned about Writing at the Breathe Conference

I’ve attended the annual Breathe Writers Conference for four years now (if memory serves), and have been part of the planning committee for the last two years. It’s been a huge blessing to be part of this group. Not every wannabe gets to hang out with other published writers and learn from their experience. This wannabe doesn’t take that for granted and is deeply thankful for the opportunity.

Over the years at Breathe I’ve learned a lot about the act of writing – too much to put into one blog post. So, today I’m going to focus on just one idea that I’ve heard repeated in various ways every year at Breathe:

The act of writing puts you in the place of needing encouragement.

Encouragement from others who believe in you and your writing are as much an everyday part of the writing life as a moleskin journal and a laptop computer. During the first Breathe conference I attended and at every one after I’ve heard published writers, some with many books to their credit, say things like: “Fear and uncertainty don’t go away after you get published,” or “Find a group of others that believe in what you’re doing and help each other out,” or “Even though I had a book finished I still wondered if I was really a writer, I needed some encouragement.”

This is not something I expected when I got into writing. Did you?

I don’t think we often put ourselves in places where we will regularly need to be encouraged – I know I don’t – but that’s what writing does. Think about the last few things you’ve added to your life that have nothing to do with writing. Things like: a new hobby, a new exercise routine, a new diet, a new way to organize your bills, joining a weekly moms group, or joining a weekly pickup basketball game, or whatever. I don’t think that many of these require a lot of encouragement. Perhaps the diet and exercise do, depending upon how stringent you are with them, but most of these are things we do because we can control them. And we like it that way, don’t we?

We can choose how much time and money to spend on a hobby.
We can choose whether or not we feel like going to the pickup game today.
We can choose if we want to stick with our new bill organization system or if we want to change it for something better.

I don’t often think to myself, “Boy, I’d like really like to put something into my life that will force me to be humble and to look for encouragement from others. Something that will be a daily task and often create feelings of inadequacy.” Do you think that? Be honest. I don’t think that way. In so many words I think things like, “Boy, I’d really like to put something into my life that’s really fun and cool because I like to have fun and be cool.” (That’s about as deep as the river runs sometimes…)

But writing is different. “Writing is a lonely business.” We’ve all heard that before and I’ve learned that it’s true. While some days it can be a pretty euphoric creative experience, other days it can feel like you’re just typing and typing away at something that no one will ever read but you.

It is an art dependent on other people (readers), yet it is most often produced in a solitary state.

It’s also a tough way to make a living. (I’d guess that 95-99% of the authors I work with at Zondervan have a “day job” and do not make their living writing. But that’s a topic for another post.)

But there is an upside to all of this…

Being in a humble place, a place in which we’re forced to seek the encouragement and reassurance of other people, is a place in which we can experience incredible growth as a writer. When we swallow our pride and share our uncertainties we are setting ourselves up for greater success. It seems counter-intuitive, but maybe that’s exactly why it works.

If I’d never joined a writers group I wouldn’t be a writer today. If it wasn’t for their constant emails, calls, conversations, pats on the back, “atta boys,” and “you can do its” I wouldn’t be working on the second draft of a novel right now. If they hadn’t cajoled me into joining them in the 3-Day Novel contest back in 2008 I wouldn’t have three novellas drafted. Seriously, there’s no way I would’ve done all that on my own.

If it wasn’t for the gentle advice of a friend I would’ve never taken the copy editing course at the University of Wisconsin.

If it wasn’t for my wife’s constant support I wouldn’t be getting up early to write, or staying up late to write, or attending writers meetings, or planning the Breathe Conference, or skipping our favorite TV show so I can go write in the other room, or any of the other thousand ways she has said in so many words and actions, “You can do this. You are a writer.”

If my writers group had never encouraged me to start a blog you wouldn’t be reading this right now.

So what does all this mean? 

I’ve read a bunch of books on writing (as I’m sure most of you have too). They talk a lot about style, form, the need to know your grammar inside and out, and how to write for a specific audience. All of that is great, but none of the books I’ve read truly unpack the idea that built into the writing life is a need for encouragement. It’s intrinsic to the act of writing. Writers need it to live. It’s marrow in our bones and oxygen in our lungs.

I didn’t really start to understand this until the first Breathe Conference I attended a few years back. Since then it’s a been a lesson that’s been re-affirmed numerous times along the way. I’ve heard the same thing from different sources: writers need encouragers. Writers need groups to bounce ideas off of. Writers need spouses and families who support their work. Writers need editors that believe in them and want to help them grow. Writers need other writers to be straight with them. Writers need to know that what they are doing is valuable.

That’s the most important thing I’ve learned about writing at the Breathe Conference.

Write strong, friends.