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Broadcasting with Purpose and Intent

Before I interned at South Carolina Public Radio, “intimate” and “people-oriented” were the last words I’d use to describe the broadcasting organization. My picture of public radio included stuffed shirts, pressed pants, and dull voices. All news reports were robotic, lacking the warm relatable touch humans can bring to stories.

Now, I’ve been wrong many times in my life before, but it’s rare I’m quite this wrong.

Public radio’s foundation is built on the community that serves as its audience. The reporters, programmers, and crew who toil day after day chasing the news dedicate themselves to providing their audience content that is informative, objective, and engaging. It takes an undeniable human touch to achieve such a goal. Through producing stories alongside the team at South Carolina Public Radio and receiving mentorship from News Director John Gasque, I learned how much work goes into ensuring the public radio broadcasts are transparent and relevant.

Interning at South Carolina Public Radio gave me a behind-the-scenes look at some of the daily challenges journalists face. Besides finding story concepts, it’s crucial that reporters’ stories be inclusive and nuanced. Failing to address the impact a story might have on often-neglected communities is inexcusable. Public broadcasting is a state- and donor-funded initiative intended to inform the public and be a source they can trust. Anything less would compromise the purpose of its existence.

Besides providing an appreciation for the importance of public broadcasting, working at South Carolina Public Radio gave me practical experience. First was a thorough explanation of the standards South Carolina Public Radio abides by. I learned the best ways to capture high-quality audio as well as take pictures with an HD [high-definition] camera. I found out what kind of human interest stories resonate with a  South Carolina audience and received tips on scripting said stories in a way that engaged them.

People have criticized internships for failing to provide opportunities to learn and instead supplying interns with an endless amount of busy work, but I was granted the opposite experience as an ETV Endowment intern. My supervisor made it clear that he treated all his interns like employees. I would be subject to the same standards as every other employee in the building. That precedent kept me focused on my work and helped me realize how interested the employees of South Carolina Public Radio were in giving me the best possible learning experience.

This internship gave me a new perspective on life in general. God calls those who believe in Him to be authentic. He asks them to be mindful and caring of others. South Carolina Public Radio aspires for integrity and compassion in daily reporting. In an age where journalism, and specifically news media, are constantly scrutinized, public radio perseveres in factually reporting the news to its audience, while being aware of the perspectives of their listeners. This balance is incredibly difficult to maintain, but my experience helped me realize how important it is. In an incredibly uncertain and chaotic world, public broadcasting’s mission to inform the public with purpose and intent is an imitable and admirable goal.

Connor Boulet’s favorite spot in the world is behind a microphone in a padded studio, warming up his vocal cords for an early afternoon broadcast. A broadcast media student at North Greenville University, Connor’s dream is to engage an audience through electrifying music and open conversation. In a world shifting towards new media, Connor recognizes the role radio plays in many people’s lives and wants with all his heart to be a part of that impact.

 

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What Write2Ignite Conferences Taught Me

My first attendance at a W2I Conference was in March of 2017.  I landed a scholarship which helped me enjoy the whole weekend. 

I brought a notebook of questions that God answered in every workshop I attended.  I still have that notebook with notes.  Reflecting on that wonderful weekend, I wonder, should I have been so surprised by how God showed up? I mean, as believers, we know God’s Word is truth and we can recount those scriptures that read, “Seek God’s Kingdom first and all these things will be added unto you.”  God does help us have the desires in our hearts as we live for Him.  The first thing I gleaned from this conference was a personal renewing of a desire to write about godly things for children and their families. 

CONNECTIONS

The second thing I learned about writing, and freelance writing in particular, is that people you meet at conferences can help change your life. Asking a question about poetry led me to meet with Brenda Covert during our one-on-one time.  Brenda introduced me to Union Gospel Press and she urged me to apply with them as they were open to new authors.  Months after submitting my application, I was offered an assignment.  They asked me to write devotions for singles.  So, I did.  Yes, this was a “paid and published” opportunity for me, a small step into a much larger world of writing and publishing.

RESOURCES

A third benefit is learning about various links, resources, and publications where I can continue to pursue writing projects. Currently, I have no assignments with a publisher, but I have been busy this summer entering writing contests and submitting poetry and short stories to magazines. I have been able to re-ignite my personal blog, and I have had some critiques done on a YA fantasy novel I ‘ve been writing for most of my life.  So my writing journey continues even to today.  Who knows what God may have for me around this corner of my life?

Diane Buie's pubs
Some of the magazines Diane Buie has been published in.

Diane Buie celebrated when she saw her articles in print. These included devotionals for children and pre schoolers; beginning with ages PreK up to  4th and 5th grades.  A few of the submissions to Union Gospel Press were Bible related games or activities to enhance faith development.


What about you: How have writing conferences impacted your writing or creativity?  How did attending this year’s W2I Conference in September change your life?  

 

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The Value of a Writing Community

So you think you can sit alone in your room or your local coffee shop and hammer out a book on your laptop and call it done? Nope. You need a community of writers, and here’s why.

Accountability

Writing is hard. And because it’s hard, it’s easy to let it slide, especially if you’re the only one who knows you’re supposed to be writing. But if you’re part of a writing group or you post your writing goals on social media, you’ve suddenly got a lot more people breathing down your neck—I mean encouraging you to finish what you start. A goal no one knows about can be ignored and forgotten, but when you’ve got a community who won’t let you forget, that goal becomes a lot more concrete—and more likely to be accomplished.

Connections

Writing is usually a solitary action, but publishing—even self-publishing—takes a village. Building a writing community now helps so much with that. You need beta readers? Authors will gladly volunteer. Need an editor or a cover artist? Your writer friends can tell you how they found theirs or connect you to someone they know. Need help marketing? They’ll promote your work like crazy. Some might even interview you for their blogs or have you write a guest post for them. I once complimented a writer friend on her marketing plan, and she gave it to me to study and adapt. Gave. For free. Never underestimate the value of a writer connection.

Writing alone has its thrilling moments, but it can also be lonely and frustrating. Having a community to get you through the good times and the hard times can be invaluable. You can commiserate with each other’s frustrations and celebrate each other’s successes. You can be inspired by others and inspire them in turn. You can cheer each other on until you accomplish your dreams.

How to Build Your Writing Community

Now that you know why a writing community is so important, how do you build one? You might try joining a local writing group; a library or university in your area might have some suggestions. You can make even more writer friends online. Facebook is a great place to connect with writing groups. You can also curate your Twitter feed to be author-friendly by following lots of authors and engaging with hashtags like #amwriting, #WIPjoy, #AuthorConfession, #StorySocial, and many more (be sure to see how other authors are using those hashtags first so you can learn how and when to include them in your tweets). There’s also National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, when you can join together with other authors to hammer out a draft of a novel in one month—the official website, nanowrimo.org, provides lots of resources and forums where you can connect with others. Finally, you can make great connections in person you might never make otherwise by attending a writing conference like Write2Ignite, Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference, or Realm Makers.

Writing is a solitary act, but it’s not one you have to do alone (nor should you). Building a community is one of the most important steps you can take towards writing success

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Award-winning author Jonathan King is a full time Library Assistant at North Greenville University. His literary experience ranges from editing The Mountain Laurel, NGU’s student literary publication, to writing short stories and plays, including two flash fiction pieces published by Splickety Havok. His short play Therapy received a Certificate of Merit from Columbia Scholastic Press Association, and another short play, Cuckoo in the Nest, received an honorable mention in the 2015 Writer’s Digest Writing competition. Jonathan loves peanut butter, superheroes, and anything combining the two.

 

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5 Things Journalism School Taught Me About Writing

Photo from Pexels

I graduated in May of 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and immediately transitioned into a career in marketing. I’m still learning the ropes of copywriting, but many of the principles I learned in journalism school apply to both copywriting and creative writing. I’d love to share some of those things with you.

Interviewing Strangers

One of the first skills I learned in journalism school was how to conduct interviews. In class, my professor had us practice interviewing each other before she sent us to the nearby computer lab to talk to other students — to strangers.

Approaching unsuspecting, and potentially unwilling, strangers was terrifying at first, but over time, the action became easier. By my sophomore year, I was excited to interview strangers.

I’m glad I learned to talk to people and ask good questions early on in my education because so much of the program was based on that discipline. Without interviewing skills, many of my news stories would have been lackluster because people are the heart of a story.

My senior year, I wrote a news story about Main Street Lynchburg, Va., receiving new water lines and electrical systems — not the most interesting story in the world.

But when I added quotes from a quirky barista known as “Coco” and an elderly camera shop owner who thinks the project is “experimenting with other people’s livelihoods,” the story took on a new dimension. 

Whether you’re writing a newspaper article or a work of fiction, talking to others will breathe life into your story.

Simplicity is the Key to Good Writing

Most news is written at an eighth-grade reading level. Journalists intentionally write at a lower reading level so news can be accessible to readers. When writing, journalists use simple sentences and words to get their points across. 

Similarly, in copywriting, we use plain English. When writing to a diverse audience, it is best to write plainly and simply because your readers may have different levels of education. (Am I the only one who read magazine ads as a kid?)

While fiction writers have a more specific audience, I still believe simple writing is the best writing because it doesn’t distract the reader from the story.

Transitions are Hard

Copies of the Liberty Champion displayed on my dorm room wall circa 2017

Both transitions in writing and transitions in life are difficult. 

Traditionally, journalists had to write as simple and short as possible to fit their stories into just a few column inches of the paper. That doesn’t matter as much now with the internet being the primary vehicle for news, but there still isn’t much room for transitions in journalistic writing. 

Academic writing is different than journalistic writing. It’s fluffier and lengthier and more formulaic. Every paragraph is supposed to be bookended with an introduction and a conclusion, and every section is bookended with introductory and conclusive paragraphs. And on it goes. 

Journalistic writing doesn’t have the time for paragraphs dedicated solely to transitioning from one thought to the next, so I learned snappy words to transition quickly from one subject to the next without giving my readers whiplash.

Similarly, I learned that transitions in life are difficult. (See how I used the word “similarly” to transition my thoughts?) 

Transitioning from being a high school student with an interest in creative writing to a journalism student dedicated to fact-based writing was difficult. At first, I felt like my creativity was being stifled because of the blandness of journalism compared to the freedom of creative writing.

But as my education progressed, the blandness transformed into a challenge, and I learned to write true stories creatively.

Again, I’m going through a transition from a journalism student to a copywriting professional. My creativity often runs dry because the copy I write is predetermined by my clients. I don’t get to choose my projects or conduct the research myself — it’s all provided. 

Yet I’m learning to incorporate creativity into direct mail pieces and monthly offer emails. And I’m beginning to realize that creativity is not unrestrained. It’s a tool I can apply to everything I write, whether it is client-provided content or a short story from my heart.

Writing is Easy. Editing is Hard.

I never had a hard time sitting down to write my first draft. After completing my research, transcribing my interviews, and framing an outline, the first draft flowed onto the page in a few minutes. 

Going back and editing is the hard part. Now, I don’t mean checking for grammatical errors. I mean cutting out unnecessary words and sentences, rearranging the flow of the story, and sometimes going back to the drawing board.

Usually, my first drafts ran long — around 1,200 words. At my college newspaper, we had a limit of 750 words per article so everything would fit into our 16-page paper. 

That meant I had to cut out about 450 words every week. That’s a big chunk of text (and work)!

The hard part of editing my own writing is admitting to myself that the first draft isn’t perfect. Over time I learned that a first draft isn’t supposed to be perfect!

Once I accept that my writing isn’t perfect the first time around, I can usually effectively cut out a few hundred words. Before submitting my work, I wait a day and reread the piece with “fresh eyes.”

Don’t Waste your Mistakes

You’re going to make mistakes at some point in your writing career, and that’s okay. Whether it’s misspelling a name or overlooking a grammatical error, know that you can learn from your mistakes.

During my time with the school’s newspaper, I made my fair share of mistakes. So I kept a document of my common mistakes on my computer. That way, I could refer back to it when writing my stories. 

I also worked as a copy editor for the school’s newspaper for two years, and during that time, I made some embarrassing mistakes (like overlooking a misspelling on the front page). Making a checklist of things to look for when reviewing your work (or others’ work) is a great way to cut down on mistakes and improve your writing and editing skills.

What have you learned on your writing journey? I’d love to hear about the lessons you’ve learned in the comments below!

 

About Emily

Photo by Jim Smith

EmilyBabbitt is a promotional writer for Liberty University Marketing and specializes in residential undergraduate enrollment. She has done extensive research on Generation Z and has written for school-aged audiences in her work as a promotional writer and through contract work with Growing Leaders, Inc. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, taking photos, and cooking. You can learn more about her work by visiting her website, EmilyMarlene.com, or connecting with her on LinkedIn.

 

Emily will be blogging for Write2Ignite on the first Thursday of every month. Her next post will be published on Nov. 7.

 

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How to Get an Agent

Have you considered obtaining a literary agent? It can be time consuming and frustrating. The Christian Writers Institute is bundling several of their courses into one and offering a significant discount to help you on your way. NOTE: the discount ends October 31, so there’s no time to waste!

This program comes with the following courses:

  1. Mistakes New Writers Make by Kathy Ide – Explore the biggest mistakes writers make and how you can avoid them.
  2. The Ten Enemies of Good Writing by Rene Gutteridge – The better your writing, the easier it is to find an agent.
  3. The 10 Ks of a Good Book or How You Can Make 10k on Your Next One! by Steve Laube – Steve talks about what makes a good book. This talk is also a special glimpse into the mind of agents. Find out what they are really thinking.
  4. Do I Need an Agent? by Steve Laube – Find out what an agent does and why you need one for your career.
  5. The Publishing Process by Len Goss – Learn the process of turning a manuscript into a book.
  6. The Elements of an Effective Book Proposal by Steve Laube – Create a book proposal that gets noticed! A complete audio presentation. Plus BONUS materials including book proposal templates and examples.
  7. How to Sell Everything You Write by Bob Hostetler – Learn Bob’s special approach that ensures he sells everything he writes.
  8. Redeeming Rejection by Steve Laube – Perhaps the most powerful talk in this whole course. How you handle rejection defines your character as an author.
  9. The Power Book Proposal by David Horton – Engage an editor with a powerful book proposal for both nonfiction and fiction.
  10. How to Use The Christian Writers Market Guide by Bob Hostetler – This is a key tool for finding an agent.

This bundle is an entire writers’ conference worth of lectures. But unlike many writers’ conferences, it doesn’t cost $500. It’s normally $85, but for couple of weeks, you can get it 70% off! That brings down the price to $25.50. Use coupon code “oct2019” at checkout or click this link to activate the coupon code.

Please contact the Institute directly with any questions.

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Want to NaNoWriMo With Me?

Writing a novel is like running a marathon. You have a HUGE goal and you prepare and persevere in order to complete the race. NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a “website, a community, a wildly ambitious writing event — and so much more!” And it happens in November. So, if you’ve been playing around with an idea for a book, there is no better time to start than NOW!

The goal is to write 50,000 words starting November 1. It doesn’t matter how incomplete your plot, characterization, dialogue, setting, conflicts are. It doesn’t matter if you use lovely language and deep POV. All that matters is getting your words on the page.

The last time I did NaNoWriMo was in 2008, when my friend,Joyce Hostetter encouraged me to try it with her. I didn’t think I was ready (I wasn’t) but something happened. I wrote a first draft of HALF-TRUTHS! It was raw and not close to what I ended up submitting a month ago, but it was a first stab at writing the story that had been brewing in my mind for months. I had something to work with–a tangible result of writing as much as I could for one month. (And yes, I took off for Thanksgiving and didn’t write on Sundays.)

Fast forward eleven years and I’m now working on my second novel. I realized I could take the month of October and actually prepare for NaNoWriMo so that I’m not starting out cold. I’m busy populating a new workspace in OneStopforWriters by character building and developing a plot timeline. When November 1 rolls around, I’ll be prepared!

Here are some blogs and websites that will help you get started:

  1. NaNoWriMo offers a number of helps on the site. Create an account for free, then check out the writer resources and pep talks. You can find buddies to help keep you accountable and encourage you on your marathon.
  2. OneStopForWriters is a resource that I’ve mentioned on the W2I Facebook page. You wouldn’t believe the depth of resources that are available to you as a writer on this one site. Every thesaurus that the authors have written, plus brainstorming worksheets that are all linked together. Try it for 2 weeks for free, or use it just for the month of November for only $9.00. You’ll be hooked. As I am brainstorming my characters, I’m creating the plot for my book. It’s exciting, stimulating, and helpful!
  3. Helena George has posted an excellent blog about ways to approach NaNoWriMo. Look at her next few blogs for other ways to prepare.
  4. Fiction University has a post on beginnings,  one on middles, one on getting ready, and one on fast drafting.
  5. Author Accelerator offers courses to help writers. Sign up for their email notifications and you’ll get lots of information.

Whether you prepare or you don’t, this is a great way to set a goal for yourself and get writing! Let me know in the comments if you plan to take the challenge. You and I will become NaNoWriMo buddies, and we can write about our achievements in a December blog!

Remember, you don’t have to reach the 50K mark to be a winner. You are creating the clay that you will then spend months (or like me, years) to mold and shape into a novel.

What are you waiting for?

Carol Baldwin is the Write2Ignite blogmeister. She co-publishes TALKING STORY, a free newsletter, with Joyce Hostetter, and her first novel, HALF-TRUTHS, is on submission. When she’s not writing, blogging, or giving away books, she’s probably reading, sewing with one of her grandchildren, or trying to tame her unruly hair.

And if she is a little MIA in the month of November…you’ll know why.

 

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The Blessings of Fall

Jean Matthew Hall founded Write2Ignite in 2008. For ten years she and I have encouraged one another in our writing and publishing pursuits. I was delighted when she received a contract for four picture books with Little Lamb Books; one for each season. The first  one, God’s Blessings of Fall in the Bountiful Blessings Series just came out in September; here’s a sneak peak into it with some of Jean’s words and some of Olya Badulina’s illustrations.

Sounds!

One of the first things I noticed about God’s Blessings of Fall are the sounds which Jean included. “A squirrel steps lightly, slightly on crisp leaves. Crackle. Crunch. He snatches fallen acorns nuts, and stuffs them into his chubby cheeks. His little nose twitches. His bushy tail swishes. His tiny feet leap and scamper to the top of the tallest tree.” Besides the onomatopoeia of the sounds of the leaves, do you hear the alliteration of chubby cheeks and tallest tree? How about the internal rhyme of lightly and slightly; twitches and swishes? Every spread includes one or more types of poetic language that will tickle the reader’s tongue and will keep a young reader’s attention.

Smells!

Not only are the sounds of fall represented, but also the smells, tastes, and textures. “Piles of leaves red, gold, and orange huddle around the roots of trees, then take to the sky! The rusty, dusty smell of musty leaves floats over fences and fields. Ah-choo!”  

Sights!

This sensory book includes some of the visual details one would expect in a book about fall such as geese flying in a V and owls hooting in a tree. But, there is also the unexpected prowling raccoon and spider hanging from dry cornstalks.

Tastes!

“Baskets sit piled high with apples ready for baking breaks and pies. Yellow apples, green ones with a sour thing, blushed ones that crunch with every bite. Some are shiny, red, and sweet. All so good to eat!”

Textures!

“Pumpkins rest at a cozy farmstand. Some fat and smooth as your skin. Some bumpy and warty, some tall and thin.”

This beautiful picture book will be a addition to your child’s or grandchild’s library; or as a classroom resource in a church library or Sunday School. For as the book concludes:

 

 

Look for two more books (probably winter and spring) next year. You’ll be sure to hear about both of them right here!