How God used the God Uses Ink conference to get me writing
In the mid-70's, after my marriage but before our first son was born, I saw the ad "I Fire Writers" from Norman Rohrer and took his Christian writing correspondence course (which is now part of the Jerry Jenkins' Christian Writers Guild program). I actually wrote one book and a good part of two others, along with a number of articles and short stories, but I had no idea what to do with my work and eventually put everything into file folders. I had no support system – didn't know a single person in Regina (or anywhere else for that matter) who was a writer. While my husband encouraged me, he had no more idea than I did regarding what I should do. Besides, I was busy as part of the leadership in a church plant, and soon we also had two sons.
In 1979, I attended the Decision School of Writing conference in Calgary. I came home inspired by people like Margaret Epp, Les Tarr, Leslie Keylcok, Phillip Yancey, and Maxine Hancock, but shortly after the confernece, our third son was born and we moved to Mississauga, so my writing had to be put back into file folders (now organized a la Maxine Hancock.
In Mississauga, I was again part of the leadership in a church plant, and busy raising my sons (the fourth came along in 1984), homeschooling… Les traveled quite a bit. Not much time to write, aside from the odd article when I got excited about something (okay, by excited I mean annoyed).
In 1985 we moved to Calgary (becasue of Les's job with IBM). We were there for 13 months total. While there, I entered a contest sponsored by Alberta Christian Writers (now Inscribe) with one of my "annoyed" articles called "My Friend Jonah." I placed third. Got a tiny trophy. Okay, so maybe I can write.
We moved to Markham in 1986. Got involved in church leadership. Still homeschooling. No time.
In the fall of 1988, a friend of mine from Mississauga, Brenda Lundy (then Grady), told me she had attended a conference for writers the previous year and was going again. Was I interested? Hmm. Was I? Should I even bother to try again? Busy as I was, I still longed to write, even if only to share some of my frustrations. So I registered for God Uses Ink at Ontario Bible College, and that November I went to the conference, asking God to show me if writing was part of his plan for my life.
The keynote speaker was Elizabeth Elliot. While her talks were interesting, I didn't really identify with her at all. Curious about her story, but what I wanted to write and my situation as an average Canadian without a huge story made us light years apart. I did benefit from Rick Hiebert's workshop on writing nonfiction for beginners and some of the other faculty.
But the biggest benefit for me was talking to another attendee, a lady whose name I wish I remembered. It began with an E, and she had rheumatoid arthritis. We commiserated with each other and she took me to the bookstore and showed me a copy of a Christian Writers Market Guide.That book became my key to the door of publishing. And I also felt, for the first time, that there was maybe some hope – that I wasn't alone in this world of writing.
Less that two months later, a couple of days before Christmas, I injured my right arm rolling out the dough for gingerbread houses. For the next year, I had difficulty opening a door or holding a fork. The only thing I could do was type on our new computer keyboard.
Realizing that God just might be telling me I needed to write, I got out my files and began pulling out the things I'd written through the years, and started working on them. Later that spring I mailed out two articles – "My Friend Jonah" to Confident Living Magazine (now defunct) and "A Show of Strength " to Teen Power magazine. Both were eventually accepted. I was a writer.
I attended God Uses Ink again in 1989, and the help I got from it led to more opportunities, including my first book – Best of Friends – coming out from Moody Press in 1991.
I haven't missed a single conference since, and in 2001, I became conference director. My immediate goal is to make sure that other Canadian writers have opportunities to grow in their craft and succeed in the world of publishing. But my long-term goal is to see a viable Christian publishing industry in Canada.
I blog on writing at www.writewithexcellence.com.