Writing is my first love. But travel is a close second.
Amalfi Coast, Italy, 2014

Blog Posts About Writing

Calvin Festival 2016

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The Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, which I consider the best thing since Icarus got wings, happens every other year. This April the Festival rolls around again. And Calvin just announced some of their speakers. These include poet Christian Wiman, whom I have talked about here  in the past, as well as Sarah Bessey, also reviewed on his site. Upon reading the 2016 lineup of speakers, one of my well-read friends asked me, “omGGG! Do you know how gigantic of a deal Zadie Smith is???” (I didn’t.) There’s also Nadia Bolz-Weber, author of Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint. You can listen now to her NPR interview titled “Lutheran Minister Preaches a Gospel of Love to Junkies, Drag Queens, and Outsiders.” And returning is poet Scott Cairns, whom I talked about in the past. Love. The Festival features so many more.

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The Beauty of Books

By | Arts, Beauty, Books, Writing | No Comments

Why does our society still value books so highly? Why do we love and respect them so? We know why. Tweets and Vines have their place, but a book is a slower and deeper thing. Every book is an invitation to spend meaningful time alone with the person behind it—a storyteller you love, a mind you admire, a member of your family. Once you pick up that book, you have that person’s full attention, for as long as you choose to spend in his or her company. In our distracted world, that’s worth a great deal. —Joel Segel, Publishers Weekly,

“Enduring Value,” Jan 30, 2015…

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How to Write a Book Proposal

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Unknown-2Your novel is ready to go. Your nonfiction book is fleshed out. Now what?

My agent, Chip MacGregor, has a brand new book releasing to help writers who are trying to create the best book proposal possible. Step by Step Pitches and Proposals: A Workbook for Writers is the new book from Chip and longtime editor Holly Lorenz.

This book uses clear, detailed explanations, work-sheets, and annotated examples to walk readers step-by-step through the following: industry terminology, querying, pitching, creating a proposal, and formatting the whole thing. You’ll find helpful information about what to say, who and when to query, and how to find contacts. Suggestions on how to create a pitch are offered, along with sample pitches, as well as advice from a speaking professional on how to deal with a face-to-face pitch.

Inside, you’ll find detailed instructions for building professional, industry-standard proposals, both fiction and nonfiction, using plenty …

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And the Pulitzer Goes to…

By | Arts, Books, Writing | No Comments

Fiction, Anthony Doerr’s  All the Light We Cannot See (Scribner)

Non-fiction, Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (Holt)

Biography, David I. Kertzer’s The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe (Random House)

Poetry, Gregory Pardlo’s Digest (Four Way Books)

History, Elizabeth A. Fenn’s Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People (Hill and Wang)…

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5 Lessons I’ve Learned about Writing

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1. Have something worth saying. In his book Culture Care, artist Makoto Fujimura tells a story he confesses may be legendary about a Yale student taking Hebrew from the great Old Testament scholar Brevard Childs. The student, discontent with his grades, asked the scholar how he could raise them. Childs’s answer: “Become a deeper person.”

Peggy Noonan writer of seven books on politics, religion, and culture, and weekly columnist for The Wall Street Journal, was at one time the speech writer for the man considered The Great Communicator. In her book Simply Speaking, she says that what moves people in a speech is the logic. The words “Tear down this wall, Mr. Gorbachev” are not all that poetic when taken at face value. But they express something that resonates in the human heart. In the words of Robert Frost, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

In the …

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What I’m Reading

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I have a bunch of stuff on my nightstand right now.

My Bright Abyss, by Christian Wiman feeds my need for wedding art with deep thinking.  Check out Christian Wiman’s interview with Mako Fujimura. Some of his comments around minute 15 intersect with other reading I’m doing that reminds me of how  believers wrestle with doubt but don’t talk much about it.

I just finished reading select chapters in Spiritual Traditions for the Contemporary Church. It’s on my reading list because I’m headed to Orvieto, Italy, later this month for a study program on Medieval Christianity. The program, sponsored by Fuller, includes a focus on some of the key women of that era such as Catherine of Siena and Clare of Assissi. The book introduces some spiritual practices common in the church before believers had a choice between “Catholic” and “Protestant.” In other words, we can embrace some shared history.…

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Good Reads

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As I prep to attend
the biennial Calvin Festival of Faith and Writing, I have enjoyed reading some
terrific books. Lately I’ve focused on those by the keynote speakers.
American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang
Gene Luen Yang’s book, American Born Chinese, was a finalist
for the 2006 National Book Award. And I have to tell you—it’s freaking
brilliant. Picture a graphic novel, or a comic book thick enough to become a
book, and you get the format. Yang’s plot involves three separate story lines
that ultimately tie together. The first is a contemporary retelling of the Kung
Fu-practicing Monkey King and his journey west. The Monkey King is unhappy with himself as a
monkey and continually tries to become something different, but Tze-Yo-Tzuh, the creator, helps him embrace his true form. The second story follows an
American-born Chinese boy who moves to a suburb and rejects his
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Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing

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Every other year, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hosts the Festival of Faith and Writing. It is fantastico! Def my favorite conference. And we’re coming up on another one, April 10-12, 2014. Online registration will open later this month. The early registration rate–in effect through January 31, 2014—is $185. After that, the regular registration rate of $200 takes effect. The student registration rate is $85.
Okay, on to the good stuff. Today I received lots of news about books and authors along with Festival announcements:  
–The list of featured speakers, recommended reading, book club resources, and lots more is now available on the Festival of Faith and Writing’s web site.
–Recent additions to the speaker list include New York Times columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg, journalist Jeff Chu, novelist Suzanne Woods Fisher, poet Sean Hill, pop-culture writer Donna Bowman, novelist Okey Ndibe, young adult author Swati Avasthi, and fiction/nonfiction
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Recap: Festival of Faith & Writing

By | Writing | One Comment

Every other
year in Grand Rapids the Festival of Faith and Writing comes to Calvin College. (That’s Calvin as in John, not Klein or the cartoon
character.) I’ve wanted to attend for more than a decade, and this year it
finally happened. My writer
friends Diane McDougall (roommate) and Heather Goodman, with whom I took a press junket to
Israel, are here, as well as my former teaching assistant, Kelli Sallman. 

Because I
teach a class on Wednesday nights, I missed the Thursday morning events,
which included a keynote by Gary Schmidt. But when I went to board my flight Thursday,
I found I was on the same plane with my friend Mary DeMuth. So she’s here too.
Before going
to the Calvin Campus, I had arranged to visit my publisher at Kregel
headquarters here. Since they’ve sold 200,000+ copies of Glahn/Cutrer
books, I figured it was high time I
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Book Recommendation for Fiction Writers

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Lots of people feel they have the GAM (Great American Novel) inside of them. Even people who don’t live in America.

If you’re one of those people, I hope you’ll write that book. And to get you started I recommend a resource: Fiction Writing for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson. (If you’re one of my writing students, you know Randy as “the snowflake guy.” If you’re not one of my students, no, Randy’s not flaky. He’s just got this snowflake metaphor that works for novel-writing.)

Randy is a wonderful teacher of fiction-writing. He has the best newsletter out there on the subject. And he’s taken some of his great content from seminars and blog posts and experience and stuffed it all into one resource. You can read the book in print or download it to your e-reader. And no, he did not pay me to say this. He did not

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On Writing Fiction

By | Writing | One Comment

Rather than give you a summary of what William Dean Howells had to say about fiction, I’ll share with you some favorite quotes from his work, Criticism and Fiction:

Moods and tastes and fashions change; people fancy now this and now that; but what is unpretentious and what is true is always beautiful and good.

The mass of common men have been afraid to apply their own simplicity, naturalness, and honesty to the appreciation of the beautiful. They have always cast about for the instruction of some one who professed to know better, and who browbeat wholesome common-sense into the self-distrust that ends in sophistication…. They have been taught to compare what they see and what they read, not with the things that they have observed and known, but with the things that some other artist or writer has done. Especially if they have themselves the artistic impulse in …

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