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Bringing Out Holiness and a Giveaway

Bringing out holiness. Perhaps we artists would prefer to describe the concept as “drawing out holiness.” What does it mean to “bring–or draw–out holiness”? And how on earth could our writing affect holiness? Guest blogger, J.G. Spires, invites us to consider this concept.

What is “bringing out”?

First of all, this “bringing out” concept does not refer to an innate goodness that we tease out or encourage others to reveal from inside themselves. If we humans had innate goodness, we would not need God to be our Savior. The reality is we are sinful and we need Christ Jesus. When we set our faith and hope in what Christ Jesus has done and who He is, God declares us righteous and makes us holy based on Christ’s work and identity. Then we Christians experience continual growth as, little by little, the Holy Spirit conforms us to think, act, and desire as Jesus thinks, acts, and desires.

Becoming like Christ

Becoming like Christ, we grow in holiness as God changes our hearts and purges us of sin–a process that is painful and often feels slow or stagnant. But it is one God has promised will be successful because He is the One making us holy as He is holy.

What does the process of growing in holiness have to do with writing? Here is where “bringing out holiness” comes into play for us writers.

Writing, good or bad, stirs us. I remember reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry as a child. I remember my indignation at one character’s insistence that the protagonist, an African American girl named Cassie, call a white girl her own age “Mizz.”I remember wishing Cassie were treated with the dignity she deserved as a human being. I loved Cassie. I hurt when she hurt. I learned from her discoveries. Mildred Taylor never knew I would read about Cassie, yet her writing evoked from me a righteous anger that to this day impacts how I regard those of other races and ethnic backgrounds. Her book stirred me to think of people unlike me and empathize with others. Such is the power of writing: it opens readers to thoughts and emotions beyond their own experiences.

Application to Christian writers

By cracking open minds and hearts through our works, we writers bring out holiness in others. We are called to steward our abilities and lead others in feeling holy emotions, such as righteous anger at injustice, compassion for sufferers, and desire to seek others’ good. We also lead others in thinking holy thoughts as we describe scenes, characters, and events in a manner that guides and develops readers’imagination and logic.

Drawing out holiness by leading others in thinking and feeling does not mean avoiding issues, evil, or ugliness. Thorns do not dim the beauty of a rose. In fact, the thorns, the surrounding ugliness, illuminate that beauty. Depicting the ugliness of life in a manner that exalts goodness is how we writers can bring out holiness in our readers.

Through our works, we lead others in considering what is good and what is ugly in life. We stir in readers thoughts and emotions that can foster their growth as Christians or, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, bring them to the point of becoming Christians. We bring out holiness as we describe a rainbow in a waterfall, a twinkle in a grandmother’s eye, a cat’s soft purr, a woven pattern on a pillow, or a sigh after a hard day at work. We bring out holiness in readers by creating a space in which they think about, experience, and desire goodness so that in their hearts, they worship the God who is good.

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How about you? Have you ever considered “bringing out holiness” in your writing? How can you do that in the future? Leave a comment, subscribe to the Write2Ignite newsletter (link on the right), or share this post on social media, and you will earn one, two, or three chances to win the historical novel, Enya’s Son. Make sure you leave your email address with what you did so you can be given credit. Contest ends July 28th and will be announced on Monday’s blog–so enter soon!

 

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Julia Klukow (pen name J.G. Spires) grew up in Orlando, Florida, where Disney and designs to outrun alligators fueled her imagination. Because she loves stories, she studied English, earning her BA at North Greenville University before moving north to study for a Master of Art in Religion at Westminster Theological Seminary. She hopes the truth of Jesus Christ comes out in each piece she writes as she pursues teaching and creative writing as a means of communicating the gospel. You can find online Julia on her blog

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Write2Ignite Team Videographers!

 

When this picture was taken of the Write2Ignite team at the 2018 conference, little did they know that within a year many of them would become “experts” at taking and posting videos online. Here’s a sampling of some of the recent videos our team created about writing and the conference. View one or view them all! As new videographers, we would appreciate your feedback–and of course, we hope to see you at Write2Ignite 2019!

 

Deborah DiCiantis on the Teen/Tween Fiction Contest

Click here for more information on the contest.

Diane Buie talks about how to get the most out of your 15 minute meeting time at a writer’s conference.

Brenda Covert shares the benefit of getting a critique.

Cathy Biggerstaff with “Bring a Friend” discount.

Here’s the link to the Bring a Friend discount. Cathy is given you an EXTRA big discount. Each friend will receive $15.00 off the regular price-which brings your registration down to $109.00. Since we think going to a writer’s conference with a friend is such a good idea, we’re giving this discount throughout the registration period.

Carol Baldwin with 5 Writing Tips.

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Writing, Service, and Witness

Biblical witness is relational and demonstrable. John’s gospel (1:6 -7) states that John the Baptist was “sent from God . . . to bear witness of the Light [Jesus], that all through him might believe.” Verses 14-18 name Jesus Christ the primary witness [the “Word became flesh”] who “declared” God, bringing access to “grace and truth.”

In Luke chapter 15, witness leads to searching, pursuit, sacrifice, and salvation. Service is a key component of this witness. The one that is lost becomes a higher priority than the 99.

Relentless love requires exertion. For example, an adult sheep weighs 110 to 120 pounds. The shepherd whose one sheep goes astray is not carrying a small lamb on his shoulders. Romans 5:8 (“while we were yet sinners”) similarly shows the difficulty of serving sacrificially: our status before salvation (enemies of God) required crucifixion. However, anguish changes to rejoicing when the one is saved and enters the family of God as an adopted child (in Luke 15, the son, having renounced his family connection, returns in the role of a suitor seeking acceptance in the role of a servant). The Father, celebrating and giving gifts, continues to serve the once-errant child.

Servant witness is other-directed. David’s claim in Psalm 40:9-10 (NKJV) demonstrates service as effort that can be witnessed by others: “I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness/In the great assembly. Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,/O Lord, You Yourself know./I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;/I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;/I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth/From the great assembly.” Proclaiming God’s goodness can be a joyous act, yet in this psalm David is emerging from difficult and painful times when he “waited patiently,” in a “horrible pit . . . miry clay . . .” Instead of quiet, restorative meditation, his service here requires public action, not in a small, intimate gathering but the greater community – perhaps including some who had not supported him in preceding trials (v. 13-14). It may also include public confession of sin, to which he alludes in v. 6 and 11-12.

I John 2:12-14 conveys the relational and generational nature of servant witness in familial terms. Notice the call to all ages – “little children,”  “fathers,” “young men,” “children,” “fathers (i.e., parents), and “young men” (i.e., young adults). Moreover, John explicitly connects these reminders to his role as a writer. “I write to you . . . ,” “I wrote to you, . . . ,“ “I have written to you . . . .” Changing tenses show the constant nature of his writing service to the believing community.

Some of us exercise these functions in blog or social media posts, in Sunday School lessons, devotionals, Bible stories, or articles. Do we also continually encourage, instruct, remind, and exhort in fictional stories? In plays or screenplays? In sidebars or nonfiction pieces about plants, animals, technology or history? Without explicit preaching or teaching in every work, does our writing serve (bear witness) through truthful, thought-provoking and memorable content?-

Witness leads to forgiveness, restoration, strengthening; it reunites divided minds, friendships, families, communities. God Himself bears witness through His Word, works, and Spirit – and believers participate in the witness of service as we seek to be like Him. He models the writer’s servant witness of priority and purpose.

The lost one does not deserve to be found, but God deserves worship. Our obedience in seeking others after we have been found and restored becomes a means of giving Him glory. How often have you read a vivid, striking story that stops you in your tracks – – or profound, memorable words that resonate with your spirit’s need for comfort or insight?

May our writing in every genre bring this witness of service to readers.

Deborah S. DeCiantis

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 Debbie DeCiantis first connected with Write2Ignite Conference when she was called on to act as liaison between North Greenvile University and Write2Ignite in 2009. She accepted the role of acting director in 2016 and the role of director in 2017. Retired after more than 30 years of teaching on both college and K-12 levels, Debbie currently does freelance editing and critique writing. She enjoys living in the country and spending time with her husband, four adult children, six grandchildren, and too many dogs.

This and future discussions of biblical witness will be found in Author Resources.

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My Wonderful, Terrifying Journey @ Write2Ignite 2018

Today’s guest blogger, Celeste Hawkins, shares her first experience attending a Write2Ignite Conference.

As I opened the doors to check into my first writers’ conference, I held a print-out of my book draft in one arm and the parking-line-yellow purse that makes me feel more optimistic in the other. I pulled it closer to my side as I searched the crowd of faces.

I spotted her and let out the breath I’d been holding in, then sifted my way off to the quiet side of the chattering writers, editors, and publishers. Everyone seemed to be pulling out their schedules and looking over the first session options:

  • Tessa Emily Hall – “Common Mistakes Newbie Writers Make in Their Manuscripts”
  • Kim Peterson – “Is My Manuscript Ready for an Agent?”
  • Jean Matthew Hall – “Children’s Book Categories”
  • Lori Hatcher – “The Day I Wanted to Quit: Tackling the Mind Games That Discourage and Defeat Writers”

When I reached my friend, Leah and I hugged and caught up on life since we’d last seen each other at a birthday party over the summer. That’s when we’d discovered we were both working on our first books.

We looked at our schedules. It felt like trying to order ice cream: you know you can pick any one and be happy, but you kind of wish you could have all of them.

Finally, we agreed Kim Peterson’s was perfect for us. And for the next 45 minutes, Kim shared the top reasons manuscripts got trashed when she worked at the Leslie Stobbe Literary Agency.

I took three pages of notes.

Later, Leah and I sat together again at our first keynote with Jenny Cote, award-winning author of the popular children’s fantasy series The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz and Epic Order of the Seven.

As she took the stage, I noticed her springy blonde hair that matched her personality inch for inch. She presented like the Energizer Bunny, clicking through slide after slide of quirky quotes and reviewing the pros and cons of each option in the publishing world in detail — in a talk she’d titled “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Deadlines.”

It’s the question every writer must grapple with: do you want to call the shots, or let someone else? I’d been grappling with that myself.

Instinctively, I began to reflect on the answer I’d reached. Originally, I’d considered co-publishing my book. Next, I’d staunchly decided on self-publishing. As Jenny went on, the realization sank in like a rock to the bottom of a lake: I’d defaulted to those options because, deep down, I didn’t believe a “real publisher” would ever publish my book.

The familiar fear remained as I drove off at the end of that first day, curving around the dark rural back roads to home.

But the next day, I couldn’t help feeling renewed hope as I walked into a session with my former classmate Daniel Blackaby, who had published eight books since I saw him last in Shakespearean Tragedies.

If he did it, why can’t I?

The chairs were filled, and we had to bring in more from next door to seat the group consisting of teenagers up to 60-somethings. Daniel encouraged us to write even when we didn’t feel inspired. He gave us silly prompts and the results were side-hurting laughs at soon-to-be stories by creative writers.

  • You’re the coach of a basketball team that’s about to lose. Write the worst pep talk ever.
  • You just woke up, looked in the mirror, and screamed. Write what you saw.
  • Write a back-of-the-book description for this picture. (It was an old-timey ship, a long tentacle rising up out of the surrounding tempestuous waves.)

After the session, Daniel and I talked for a minute about our current projects. To my surprise, he even offered to read my book and provide feedback.

I’ll never forget the next session with Jenny.

She took us step by step through her writing process — from jotting down initial concepts on an idea page, outlining, and planning out chapters to finding a critique team, knowing when to stop editing, and even soliciting endorsements for your book cover.

She reminded us that we do everything first for God and the results are ultimately up to Him.

“My book will get rejected by publishers. But if I give God 100 percent of the steps, then when my book gets rejected, they’ve rejected God’s plan,” I scribbled down in big letters.

The words entered my soul as if they’d been meant only for me.

I rehearsed those words as I waited at the large conference table, pulling out my binder and re-reading the title on the front.

Then he came in, the quiet man with the blue eyes and a tie. I stood, and we introduced ourselves.

“Hey, I’m Celeste,” I said, sure to give what one of our family friends used to call “the famous Hawkins handshake” — the one I’d practiced as a girl when people greeted us at church doors. “Good to meet you, Dr. Lowry.”

“You can call me Sam,” he said in his brilliant Irish accent.

I asked him why he first became interested in books, figuring that’s the only reason anyone becomes a publisher. He recounted how his father had built him a wooden shelf by hand. After that, he felt a sense of responsibility to fill it up with books. He couldn’t stop reading.

The conversation turned to me. I told him about my background as a writer, gave him the elevator pitch for my book, and slid over the three-ring binder containing my manuscript. My heart quickened as I felt powerless to keep it safe and un-rejected any longer.

“It’s short,” he said about the word count, listed on the cover page.

“Yeah,” I said, then gulped.

I studied his every reaction, as he began to thumb through the pages, flipping forward then backward.

“Oh, I’m glad you have questions. You need that,” he added, pointing to the end of a chapter.

I nodded.

“Hmm,” he continued.

Was that the good kind of “hmm” or the bad kind of “hmm”? I stretched my shoulders back, willing every muscle to stay calm.

We sat in a silence that felt like eternity.

Finally, he spoke.

“Well, it’s definitely a good book.” He looked up with a smile.

My heart exploded like fireworks and surprise birthday parties. It was one of the best strings of words I’ve ever heard, lined up together like that.

“Send me the manuscript,” he continued.

Did he really just say that? What is happening? My mind raced. Should I say something now?

“Okay. Of course,” I managed to answer, gathering my things and probably saying “thank you” a dozen times as his next appointment walked in and I left, bounding up the stairs to find someone to tell.

Even now, I hardly believe it. I shared my book with a publisher. Then, he actually read it. Then, he wrote back saying that they’d be pleased to publish it. Now I’ve signed a book contract with Ambassador International. And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll be on the other side of the Write2Ignite Conference table at North Greenville University autographing my first book.

[This article first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of 1892, the alumni magazine of North Greenville University.]

Celeste Hawkins lived in the same red-shuttered house in North Carolina until she was 22. After studying English education, Celeste started her career in writing and editing. Her work has appeared online at USA Today 10Best.com, as well as in print in edible UPCOUNTRY and 1892 Magazine, among others. She also created the popular travel website Travelers Rest Here. Set to release within this decade (hopefully), Always Been Loved is her first book, a deeply personal discovery of God’s out-of-this-world love for us. Celeste also enjoys sharing amazing stories of what happens when we pray, listen for God’s voice, and then obey at StillGodSpeaks.com.

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The Power of the Parable

Ryan Hendrick’s guest post introduces the Bible’s use of parable and its impact. He follows this discussion with his original example.

 

A parable intrigues me because its brevity often conceals its power until it blindsides its audience. In this sense, parable is as unexpected as the boy who slays a giant with a stone and the little girl who smiles up at you with all the sweetness in the world before taking your wallet. How does a small and seemingly innocuous story reach its end and open the heart to truth for some while further exposing the blindness of others?

We see this technique used par excellence in the Old Testament when Nathan chose parable to convict David of his wickedness with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12). Merely telling David his sin would have caused him to raise the drawbridge, fill the moat, and bolster his walls. But story was the Trojan horse that could infiltrate David’s sinful defenses to cast light on his darkness and bring him back to the Lord. Veggie Tales adapted this story with rubber duckies thousands of years later, and the impact is still effective.

Anyone who has read the New Testament knows Jesus’ love for parables. He used them for whatever purpose he required in the moment: to encourage, equip, condemn, or inform. Parables were one of Christ’s favorite vehicles for conveying truth, demonstrating to rich and poor, healthy and sick, old and young, how potent a good story can be when it’s stuck in our heads.

Why Parables?

I enjoy writing in parable for several reasons.

First, Christ loved parables, so growing in this technique gives me a better understanding of my Savior, why he loved it, and how the Bible uses parables to communicate truth.

Second, my mind is wired for it. It’s how I make sense of the world, my joy and my pain. For years, I used to think of isolated scenes and wonder if I could place them in a movie or a novel someday. Now, I realize the scenes don’t need extended narrative if their power is in their conciseness. 

Third, parables are an intellectual sandbox for me. I can play with the use of dialogue in one, staccato sentence structure in another, heady prose in the next, and discover the image to use for that neat title that popped into my head.

Fourth, I don’t see many others writing them. Pastors use them in sermons on occasion (illustrations in “modern speak”), but the genre mostly remains untapped. The ones that inspired me were Kierkegaard’s “The King and the Maiden” and Dostoevsky’s chapter entitled “The Grand Inquisitor” in The Brothers Karamazov.

Finally, parables seem more relevant in the age of social media, where attention spans are decreasing and every story is the length of a parable. My hope is that people will have a greater chance of hearing and internalizing truth if the story is short enough and gripping enough to finish before they change the channel.

Letting Go of Mr. Happiness

“It’s time to let Mr. Happiness go, my love.”

The child’s trembling hands stroked the stuffed rabbit’s head. Her fingers traced well-worn contours, down one ear, then up the other. Old, discolored and ragged, the rabbit sagged in the refuge of her arms, comfortable and familiar.

“But why, Daddy?”

“Because I have something better for you.”

“I want to keep Mr. Happiness.”

“I know, my love. But if you don’t let go of Mr. Happiness I can’t give you the next thing.”

“Can I have it now?”

“Not yet, my love.”

“Why not?”

“Because your hands aren’t big enough to hold it yet.”

“But why can’t I keep Mr. Happiness?”

“Because your hands are too big to hold onto him any longer.”

To obey her father or to keep Mr. Happiness? She knew she couldn’t do both. Wells of sadness formed as the war for her heart battled in her eyes. She gazed lovingly at her old companion.

“Do you trust me, my love?”

Slowly she extended her arms, her eyes fixed on Mr. Happiness. Her father reached, and for a moment it seemed she would seize the rabbit back to her chest and run. But her brave arms held their resolve. As he gently pulled Mr. Happiness from her hands, she let go and wept. And her father wept with her.

Copyright Ryan Hendrick March 8, 2019

Ryan is the 5thand 6thGrade Pastor at Brookwood Church. He’s written curriculum, dramas, workbooks and, of course, sermons in his time there. Recently he’s started writing parables in his free time. When he isn’t writing, he’s laughing, drinking coffee or running the occasional Spartan Race.

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10 Questions about the fantasy genre and YA literature:

 While not every publisher accepts fantasy manuscripts, strong interest in this genre exists among children, teens, and young adults well beyond college age. This interview is the first in a series to explore fantasys appeal to younger readers, and to look at connections between this genre and Christian faith. Q: Before we start, how do you define YA literature? A: Literature written specifically to appeal to an audience from teens to young adult, up to 30 or beyond. Single [YA fans] can often be older, still in early stages of developing their adult career, delaying marriage, etc. Whether a person fits into the “YA lit” audience may be somewhat self-defined. There’s no age limit for enjoying YA lit.

  1. Q: What draws young adults beyond college age who continue to be fans and love to read fantasy? A: Fantasy explores a number of timeless themes. It allows the imaginative reader to engage with the impossible, experiencing things beyond mundane life. Additionally, not all fantasy is primarily for YA audiences. Young adults can enjoy and appreciate stories from Ursula K. Leguin (1929-2018) or Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), but they’re often not as simplistic as garden-variety fantasy. And as stories get older, they become less accessible to younger readers, but remain beloved to the adults who grew up with them.

The Dune series (Frank Herbert) is also fantasy (though often considered ‘science fiction’) but is not YA lit. YAs may read it, but many of its themes are oblique rather than obvious. In an early scene of the first book, protagonist Paul Atrides, then a young child, is subjected to a test that would certainly be considered cruel. His grandmother, a high-ranking member of an ancient, mystical, and politically powerful order causes him to undergo intense pain (the Gom Jabbar “Test of Humanity”). This is a scene I have considered multiple times since I first read it, and it remains compelling.

  1. Q: Besides Harry Potter, what are well-known YA fantasy series?

A: I sometimes hesitate to label something YA, because the term to some suggests simplicity and lack of rigor, but quite a number of excellent authors have written for younger audiences. A primary example is C. S. Lewis, who explicitly wrote The Chronicles of Narnia as a children’s series, while many of his other works are intended for adults. His space trilogy offers an intriguing escalation of complexity. Out of the Silent Planet might be considered a YA entry, as on its surface it is a tale of adventure in a fantastical setting. Perelandra, following the same protagonist to a second solar destination, is more a vehicle for philosophical and theological reflection than an adventure. As for That Hideous Strength, I still need to go back and re-read it (probably several times) because it was well over my head as a young adult.

Stephen Lawhead’s early stories are unquestionably YA, though his later novels grow in complexity as he grows as an author. J.R.R. Tolkien (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings) is often considered YA, though the generational gap makes his writing less accessible to younger readers. Frank Peretti writes both kids’ stories (The Cooper Kids Adventure Series) and books for YA or adult readers (e.g., This Present Darkness).

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and The Sword of Truth by Terry Goodkind also fit under the YA heading, as do Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and subsequent works.

[A search for dragons and fantasy produces another long list of fantasy authors named by fans. A search for Christian fantasy series yields this list on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/4258.Best_Christian_Fantasy_books ].

Q: What about todays popular series (turned film or TV show), like Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games? A: Game of Thrones, the first book in the series A Song of Ice and Fire (George R. R. Martin), may be more adult than YA. I have only read the first several chapters of the first book, but from the outset it delves into complex themes and difficult situations. The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) aims at younger audiences, particularly considering the age of the main characters.

  1. Q: What features do young adults (through 30-somethings) appreciate most in the fantasy genre? A: For me, it’s two things: impossible things being possible and an alternate existence.

Q: Do these elements connect to Christianity? A: Many people who don’t believe in God still want to believe in the supernatural; this is one reason fantasy is broadly popular. People are dissatisfied with limitations in their actual lives and want to go beyond those. From wishing they could accomplish certain things to being seriously depressed and imagining other roles or abilities, they gravitate to the theme of wanting to be the hero.

Q: Is this a link to current interest in superhero stories? A: It can be, but there’s also just the idea of regular people performing heroic acts. One example is 300, the graphic novel turned movie loosely based on an ancient Greek historical event. No one in that tale has supernatural powers, but that feat performed well over two thousand years ago will likely continue to be celebrated for a long time.

  1. Q: What elements would discerning fans dislike in a YA fantasy book or series? A: A hero that can literally do no wrong. Some authors fall into the trap of creating impossibly good heroes, often to the point of writing “Mary Sue” characters. [Mary Sue or Marty Stu – a character inserted into the story that doesnt necessarily fit, an idealized (unrealistically perfect) figure, sometimes a self insert representing the authors opinions. https://www.writerswrite.com/fiction/characters/mary-sue/ ].

Another problem is significant, unexplained change in how characters behave from one book to another. A turn-off for me occurs when Terry Goodkind’s original protagonist, Richard Rahl, suddenly appears at the end of Pillars of Creation. That story had intrigued me right up until the end, as the first in the series that didn’t follow the original cast of characters. Then Richard Rahl showed up, saving the day, and speaking with words that, to me, did not sound like his own. Goodkind seemed to be using Rahl as a puppet, compromising the character’s integrity to make a point. This was particularly frustrating because the preceding book in The Sword of Truth series (Faith of the Fallen) was, in my opinion, his best to that point.

  1. Q: Of the most popular fantasy writers since 2000, which are most compatible with Christian worldview values? General themes that are common in much secular fantasy may include a “moral universe” (though not necessarily biblical), clear right and wrong, a creator, and an evil one. The Wheel of Time series features types for God and Satan (“The Creator” and “The Dark One”), and appears to suggest that there are clear standards for right and wrong, but some moral standards vary widely from culture to culture.
  1. Q: Give brief examples of fantasy content illustrating what todays readers find most significant in this type of story. A: The hero’s journey is always a big thing. Otherwise, someone who is marginalized suddenly becoming important, gaining a larger role in society, etc. Readers often see themselves in stories they read, and I’d argue that this phenomenon is more common in fantasy than in some genres.
  1. Q: How do todays fans see themselves and their experiences in fantasy novels or short stories? A: Most people are (or feel) marginalized in one way or another, disenfranchised literally or metaphorically. Characters in a story may not be intentionally limited by another party; their lack of influence may simply be a fact of their circumstances –e.g., growing up on a farm. But regardless of the reason someone lacks agency, people often want to move beyond their current situation.

Readers want to feel they are part of the journey – fighting against evil, whether supernatural in origin or just the result of people being people. They might not directly imprint on the main character (“this character is me”), but can imagine themselves as part of the situation (“this is somewhere I’d like to be, and something I’d enjoy doing”).

  1. Q: What do you see as the future of the genre? Is it trending in a particular direction in terms of content, types of settings and stories, themes, etc.? A: I honestly have no idea what the trend will turn out to be, but I wouldn’t mind if werewolves, vampires, and zombies were forgotten for a couple of decades. That said, I would like to see more genuinely new, creative entries rather than continual “remakes,” or resurrecting old series. The fantasy genre, to me, is all about going somewhere new and different. I can enjoy a particular destination for three books or a dozen, but when I pick up a new author, I want to experience something different enough that I see it as its own world. I am more convinced now than I once was that stories should have definite ends. Plenty of serial works (from TV shows, to book and movie series, to webcomics) have gone from stupendously amazing to “jumping the shark”[refers to criticism of the sitcom Happy Days.
  1. Q: What classic fantasy books are, in your opinion, the best models for fantasy writers?

A: None of them and all of them – don’t follow one particular novel. Read multiple, diverse things and see what grows out of that. Someone writing about 1950s America can go to a library or archive to view film footage or read books and newspapers in order to research the setting. When you write fantasy, you can’t research your setting in the same way; instead, you have to create the world. Research by a fantasy/sci fi writer is twofold. One component is the work you do creating a fictional fantasy world. The other part is reading existing stories (not only novels). In my experience, I get many more ideas when I’m actively reading than when I’m not.

When it comes to creating your world, as when you’re writing the actual stories, try to do a little work every day. Add things to your world that you’re not going to use – this creates flavor, a living, breathing world for the characters to inhabit. And you might find yourself using some of it anyway. Some authors will start the world-building process by drawing a map; others by creating characters.  Of course, not every story needs a map, but every story does need believable characters. Seek authenticity in how characters react to situations.

[ #Write2IgniteConference2019 will feature Worldbuilding workshops by Edie Melson and Daniel Blackaby! https://write2ignite.com/category/2019-conference-updates/

  1. Q: What caveats or suggestions, if any, would you give to parents of tweens and teens who are drawn to reading and/or writing fantasy literature?

A: Read some of it yourself. Talk with them about it, not to lecture, but to initiate discussion. Say things like “I thought this was interesting,” or “I didn’t quite get this.” Ask them questions, and be genuine. Parents who try to prevent their children from being exposed to something specific can’t afford any gaps in their defense; if kids want to make an end run around you, in most families, they’ll eventually succeed. I would not personally suggest restricting kids to reading only Christian literature. There are plenty of excellent Christian authors, but if your only criterion is “author and publisher must be Christian,” quality varies. Some publishers focus on iterations of the same tale, requiring that every story hit certain bullet points: a common example is “someone not saved gets saved.” While a story that fits a formula can be good, restricting oneself to only stories that fit a certain formula can stunt a reader’s growth.

An avid reader as a child, Paul DeCiantis grew up on The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. The latter cemented his interest in the fantasy genre and helped form his preference for book series over stand-alone entries. Other favorite series include Stephen R. Lawhead (The Pendragon Cycle; The Song of Albion), Robert Jordan (The Wheel of Time), and Frank Herbert (Dune). He has been writing off and on since finishing high school. He finds his pre-graduation writing embarrassing, but greatly enjoys the creative bursts involved in world-building and hopes to finish some of his current projects. Professionally, Paul has worked in Information Technology doing some form of Technical Support, including four years in the U.S. Army. He earned a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies (North Greenville University 2009), with concentrations in Linguistics and Literature. He believes knowledge of literature is an expansion of language, as simple references to commonly-known tales can conjure up whole worlds of information in the hearer’s mind. (Consider phrases like “strong as Hercules” and “Cinderella story.”)

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Do You Live With Expectations or Expectancy?

Expectations or Expectancy

Have you recently experienced frustration? Plans didn’t go your way?

Maybe that meeting with your dream agent didn’t go well. Or the pub committee declined your project, despite enthusiastic championing by the acquisitions editor. Maybe you planned a full day of writing while the kids were in school, only to have your third-grader come down with a stomach virus.

That seems to be happening more lately. I’m irritated by circumstances that interfere with my plans and expectations. But what if the cause of the irritation is not external at all? What if I’m the cause of my own frustration?

Someone once said “the level of your frustration is directly related to the level of your expectations.”

Read that again.

Ouch.

So the real cause of my own grief is most likely…me.

Unrealistic expectations. Expectations grounded in reality as I want it to be, rather than the way it is.

Ancient Israel had a similar problem. Their expectations of the coming Messiah were based on cherry-picked prophecies. The sad result was that they didn’t recognize Him when He did come. They were so busy looking for a victorious military leader that they missed the Suffering Servant who came to redeem humanity.

So what’s the answer?

I believe the answer for a Christian is to live expectantly. And that includes Christian writers.

To live expectantly is to live in eager anticipation for how God will work in our life, without setting specific expectations or demands on what that will look like. Living expectantly allows us to recognize where the Holy Spirit might be moving in areas we would not normally look for Him. And it communicates that we are satisfied with whatever the Lord does, allows, or gives—without comparing it to our own agenda or shopping list.

Those who live expectantly have the privilege of living out a truth understood by martyred missionary Jim Elliot: “God always gives His best to those who leave the choice with him.”

Remember Theodor Geisel? Does his name ring a bell? If you write for children, it should. But you might know him by his pen name: Dr. Seuss. If you’re not familiar with his first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, you’re most certainly familiar with his other books, including The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham.

Dr. Seuss also fell victim to expectations. During one interview, he was asked how long he expected The Cat in the Hat to take to write. His answer? “I figured I could knock it off in a week or so.” How long did it actually take to write? “A year and a half.”

So you see, we’re all vulnerable to unfulfilled expectations, even the great Dr. Seuss!

Will you join me? Together, let’s put aside our expectations and live in daily expectancy for how God will show Himself active in our life, including our writing life. And as He does, share your experiences with others to increase their own sense of expectancy.