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089 – Share the Writing Adventure with Guest DiAnn Mills

Share the Writing Adventure with Guest DiAnn Mills on Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungBeing a writer can be an amazing adventure if you go into it with the right heart and mindset. Best-selling, award-winning author and conference co-director DiAnn Mills shares about her amazing adventures—including encountering crocodiles, and no, that’s not a metaphor!—on her writing journey. And she reminds us our Guide is faithful and true, no matter what.

But first, a huge thank you to all our new patrons who joined in our February Patreon pledge drive, and to our continuing patrons! You help make this podcast possible. Your support and encouragement is a true blessing to us.

About DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure?

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. You can download a list of her published titles by clicking here. Learn more about DiAnn at her website DiAnnMills.com.

Thanks to our patrons on Patreon, we can provide an edited transcript of the show.

Karen: I could tell you a lot of things about DiAnn Mills, that she’s a best-selling award-winning author of more than fifty books, fiction and nonfiction. She’s a founding board member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and she’s a member of a number of other writers associations. She’s also the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, the Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Blue Ridge Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson. She’s a popular speaker and teacher. But here’s what I love: she’s been termed a coffee snob. She roasts her own coffee beans—I’m so jealous! She believes her grandkids are the smartest kids in the universe—now that’s a good grandma. And she’s a Texan, which should tell you a boatload about her. But I found these five fun facts about DiAnn on her website:

  1. She’s always dreamed of becoming a Hollywood actress but decided writing stories would be more fun than acting the part. I tend to agree with that.
  2. Her favorite place to write is on the treadmill but she refuses to be called a hamster.
  3. She is admittedly a picky eater. She prefers fresh veggies, fruits, whole grains, and dark chocolate—which is why she’s skinny as a rail. She’s building her own food pyramid.
  4. She once took an African safari by herself—and I absolutely love this—the sleeping lions didn’t bother her, neither did the charging elephant. But the crocodiles gave her nightmares. I think that’s understandable!
  5. The oldest piece of clothing she owns is her high school jacket—the one with a boot to show she was a majorette. And DiAnn, I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I was in the band from the fourth grade through six years of college, so go majorettes!

Erin: We’re delighted to have you here, DiAnn. Thank you for being with us.

DiAnn: Thank you for inviting me. This is exciting! This is fun! I’m looking forward to our chat and all were going to cover.

Erin: Well, we’re going to cover the first thing first. We ask this of everybody. What does the deep mean to you?

DiAnn: The deep to me means writing from that place that I know I cannot do it myself. It is the sweet ecstasy of intimacy with God. It is knowing that He purposed me for writing, and that He has given me a gift: a gift that I have to nurture and take care of, and continue to learn the craft and add more tools to my craftsman belt. And to just let the world know how exciting it is to be a part of God’s world. That’s with the deep means to me.

Erin: I love that.

Karen: I just read 5 million things that you were involved in and my big question is where do you find the time for all of this?

DiAnn: I have no idea. You’ve always heard you want something done, you ask a busy person. I always thought that was crazy, but I believe it’s true.

But I also believe that if God is in it, then the time will be there. And there are some things for me that are critical—other than the writing,  I’m talking about other than creating on paper and the editing and rewrites and all the things that go into writing a book—aside from that I have a deep passion to help other serious writers learn the craft and be what God intended. Not all of us have the same purpose in God’s eyes for writing. But for the serious writers, I want to see them move up the ladder. I want them to explore what they can be, their full potential.

So I have a deep passion for that, which leads to some of the mentoring I do, co-directing the writers conferences, teaching in other venues. It’s a part of that passion. Because when I felt a calling that yes I was supposed write, I felt it was also a balance that whatever I learn I should pass on to a writer who was serious. And you always hear me use the word serious because not everyone who says they want to be a writer is ready to make the sacrifice and go that extra mile.

Erin: Right. What I’m enjoying about this particular interview, we mentioned the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference—that’s on the east coast, I’m guessing—and we have recently talked with Kathy Ide about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference on the west coast so we are coast-to-coast here. DiAnn, tell us how in the world did you come to be the co-director of that conference?

DiAnn: I taught there for about 10 years, teaching, inspiring, having a great time. I met Edie Melson, my co-director, at one of those conferences. We were standing in the line for the cafeteria and she turned to me, and I didn’t know her. I said, “How was your morning?” And she burst into tears. She’d had a critique She didn’t quite understand, and she just really had a bad time. So I talked her down off the cliff.

The next year she came to me and said, “Oh, thank you for last year! You really encouraged me.”  I did not know who this woman was. She had lost 100 pounds, so I did not know her and finally had to admit that. And we’ve been fast friends ever since.

She worked for Al Gansky who was the director for a few years. She was his assistant. When he chose to retire, she called me and said, “We’re already sister friends. Let’s take it to the next level.”

One year I was just watching as she did things, and then the years after that we do this together. We both have our strengths, and we know what our challenges are, and we compliment each other very well. The funny part about Edie’s and my relationship is that we’re both very strong women.

Karen: Oh, no, not you, DiAnn…

DiAnn: Oh, yeah! Which was great because we can challenge each other, but it’s in a way that’s done out of love. We often say we fuss like sisters, and we love like sisters. It’s a God-orchestrated relationship that’s for sure. We’re very close. We were sister friends to begin with and then business partners.

We’re excited about the Blue Ridge Mountains Writers Conference, and then we have the boutique conferences underneath that, Mountainside Marketing, Mountainside Novelist Retreat, and in 2020 we’re going to add the fourth which will be a boutique conference for nonfiction. So we are excited about all that we can offer.

Karen: When she came to you, and she made this proposal, I’m guessing that you were already exceedingly busy. That you already had a lot of things that you were involved in. How did God let you know that this was something that you needed to say yes to?

DiAnn: Peace. Peace deep inside of me that this was part of my purpose, part of what He had in mind for me. I think that as Christian men and women, we often get that little catch when something isn’t exactly right. I’ve come to guard that as this is something that God is telling me I should or shouldn’t do, to be aware, to be cautioned. Things of that nature. And I just had peace that this was going to be wonderful. That this was going to be another grand adventure. And it has been.

Erin: I’m guessing though that it probably hasn’t been 100% smooth sailing. What are the challenges that you faced or things God has taught you through this?

DiAnn: I think because of my experiences long before getting into the writing business, of working with women, being in a leadership role—personalities. Everybody’s different, and learning to work with different personalities and understanding what they are and still loving on that person even though you may wonder, “Where did that come from?”

I think the biggest challenge is working with personalities and making sure that everyone is happy and satisfied, from the faculty—what they’re teaching, what they’re leading, what they’re speaking about—to my first time conferee who’s just so nervous, so scared, that he or she doesn’t know what to do.

I’m a people lover, and I love seeing people blossom and be excited, so that just helps every little challenge, every little thing that could possibly go wrong. And it does. Somebody’s flight is late, or somebody had to cancel all their classes at the last minute, and who can we get to fill in? Things of that nature are bound to happen and you just have to have plan B, and C and sometimes D in case those do happen.

But it’s a thrill and it’s a joy to work with people. I used to say that if I hadn’t been a writer, rather than being a Hollywood movie star, on the realistic side, I probably would have gone into psychology, because I love the way people behave and how incredibly different and wonderful and creative they can be.

Karen: It’s funny because I’ve known a lot of writers who’ve said that. I’ve said that—that if I hadn’t gone into the whole writing and editing world, I actually was looking at getting a Masters in psychology. But I think my working experience of heading up fiction for publishing houses and dealing with all the different authors, I actually think I might have a Masters in psychology as a result of that!

God plants those desires inside of us. It’s really fun because I’ve always known you to be a very positive, upbeat person. You seldom seem to be drawn down by things. How do you deal with it when you do feel discouraged? What helps you keep going when you find yourself wondering if this is all really worth it? Or do you even find yourself wondering that?

DiAnn: Oh, yeah, I do. It used to be that every Monday morning I’d walk into my husband’s office and say, “Can I sit on your lap? I think I quit.” And I still do that from time to time because it got to be a joke.

I think for me, because of being split between introversion and extroversion, the writer side of me—the melancholy, the seeing life a little quirky and sometimes upside down—can be discouraging and can be depressing. For me it’s music, and praise God I have a husband who not only is a whiz at the computer but he’s a musician, so the piano is there, and he’s awesome with that, and he’s also very understanding.

But starting every morning at 4:30 with the Word is the best thing I can do. And while I can grab my thesaurus, my Kindle, and whatever else that’s on my desk, my Bible is right there. It’s a combination of all those things.

Karen: We talk with writers a lot on this podcast about the importance of grounding your heart before you launch on this writing journey. Grounding your heart in the Word, and grounding your heart in understanding that if God has given you this task, that He will equip you. That He will supply everything you need, and like you say, it’s His purposes that are being worked out.

We tend to come into it with our own ideas and our own purposes, but His purposes are so much better. I bet that when you first started into all this, you had no idea that it would be this amazing thing that it’s become for you with co-directing these conferences and helping so many writers. I think it’s amazing, if we will simply ground ourselves in Him and then say yes when He tells us to, where He can take us!

DiAnn: Yes. It’s like being putty—mold me, form me, put me where you need me. And you’re right, I’ll be scared, but I know I won’t be alone.

It just never stops amazing me that when I’m in a pickle about not understanding something or I have a question, the person or the resource will just show up in my life. One instance is the book I’m working on right now. It’s about a virus being unleashed on an airplane. I just thought, “Oh that’s amazing. Who do I know who can help me?”

And I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I was talking to this woman who said to me, “You know, I have my doctorate in microbiology and immunology.” And I found out she was Albuquerque’s go to person for the media when they have virus outbreaks. And she says to me, “I’ve always thought what a great story it would be to have a virus unleashed somewhere.”

That’s just one of the many occasions that things like that have happened. I just have to laugh because God’s gonna make sure things are done, despite us.

Karen: Right! It’s amazing to me the way He operates. If we step back and look at this path that we’ve been on with Him, whether it’s about writing, whether it’s about our lives, if we really take a hard look at it you can see that He has been so present, and He has been so active in everything that we do. For us to worry about anything is such a waste of time and energy and spirit.

DiAnn: It is. Absolutely.

Erin: Let’s swing around to that safari thing Karen mentioned. I really want to hear the story of the crocodile. I feel like there are stories in there about God’s faithfulness.

DiAnn: Absolutely. At the time, I was working on a series of books—a fiction and two nonfiction about the lost boys of Sudan. The publisher had given me a grant and said, “If you want to go to southern Sudan, here’s something to help you get started.” So I went alone, and met wonderful people, and went a whole week without a shower.

Karen: I can’t fathom it. You’re always so perfectly put together.

DiAnn: Yes, it was bad. I was beginning to think, “Will I smell like this forever?” I met incredible courageous people who have nothing and would still tell you that Jesus is enough. That in itself warms my heart and soul to this day. But my husband had said, “If you go to all this trouble, before you come home, why don’t you take a safari?”

I thought, “Oh, wow. I will.” So, I did that alone, and I had a tent, and I had electricity, and I had a shower. We would set out early in the morning and see all kinds of incredible animals. I’m thinking about this big bull elephant with a broken tusk that started to charge the Jeep, and we just took off. All the lions just lazy and sleepy because of all the junk they did the night before kind of reminded me of teenage boys. Zebra and giraffes and it was just amazing.

But the crocodiles—we came to this area where wildebeests make this incredible journey down over the hills to the river. And I looked down there and there were so many crocodiles. It was incredible. Granted, they were down the hill. I had no intention of going down that hill. But I also didn’t know how fast they could come up the hill.

For some reason those prehistoric creatures scared me more than the lions, the charging bull elephant, or anything else that I saw there. Those crocodiles, those big eyes, thinking, “I can see you wherever you go and you would make a tasty meal.”

That’s my crocodile experience. I suppose I could do a whole set of devotions on that safari and some of that would be quite amusing. But I’ll be fine if I never see another crocodile face-to-face again.

Karen: Erin and I taught at the Florida Christian writers conference a couple years ago and the place where they housed us as faculty had a really nice little bridge and pond and water back out behind. So we went out there and we  thought it would be a good place to take some promo photos. So we’re taking photos and turned around and I’m like, “That’s an alligator. There’s another one in the water!” So I went over, and they’re signs everywhere: don’t try to get too close to the alligators. I didn’t try to get too close but I had a really nice zoom so I got some great pictures.

Erin:  I guarantee they move faster than we do. I have seen them move.

DiAnn: I grew up on Tarzan movies. I know how fast they move.

Erin: One thing I wanted to ask you about the Blue Ridge Writers Conference, for those who’ve never been there, describe a bit about what that conference is like.

DiAnn: We’re nestled in the Smoky Mountains at Ridge Crest Conference Center. The housing is hotel-like. There’s a cafeteria there. They have beautiful meeting rooms. We cater to every writer on every level.

If you go to the website and you look at classes you’ll see act one, two, and three as the level for the writer. Act one being the beginner, act two being the middle of the road, and three for the advanced writer. And that is for every type of writing out there, from someone looking to write a better blog to someone looking to write a nonfiction book, or a historical romance.

We want to make sure that every writer can come, and leave feeling satisfied and fulfilled. So we want levels, we want all of the classes that we can possibly get from faculty who have expertise in their area. We have opportunities to meet with agents and editors and professional writers, one-on-one appointments.

We have a genre night where everybody gets to dress-up. We have an awards night with a fabulous dessert afterwards. And the awards night is for the published and unpublished writers, so it’s just something for everyone, so everyone feels important.

We have great speakers. We have panel sessions. We have opportunities at lunch and dinner for the conferees to sit at a faculty table. We don’t want name tags that say faculty. All the name tags look the same. The one thing that’s different are those who are part of our volunteer prayer group. They have a little set of praying hands or something that shows conferees that they can stop that person and be prayed for.

Erin: Wonderful.

DiAnn: We have a bookstore. And this year we have our first post conference. We’re so excited about this. Our conference is from May 19 to May 23. It’s from a Sunday afternoon/evening until Thursday at noon. So our conferees can take a nap Thursday afternoon, because trust me they will need it, and then on Friday we’re having an all-day session with Donald Maass. That’s all on our website: blueridgeconference.com.

You can see the faculty, the classes, contest information. We have scholarships available. We want to be approachable. We want that Southern feel, you know: you’re home, just sit back and enjoy yourself, and take it all in—physically if you want to hike, spiritually with all of the great speakers and devotion times that we have. And then of course learning the craft, learning marketing, learning speaking. We have workshops. We have continuing classes.

Karen: It’s a real shame that you’re not passionate about this!

Erin: And that there’s nothing for anyone there! For listeners we will have a link in the show notes so you’ll be able to check it all out for yourself. You can scroll down in the app if you’re listening or go to our website and will see the link.

Karen: It’s been so great to have you here, DiAnn. Thank you so much for coming and spending this time with us. We appreciate it. We’re so delighted that God has led you in the ways that He has, and that you’re involved in all that you’re involved in. Continue following Him. I know that you will do that. Thanks for providing adventure for so many others who have been given this task to write. Thank you so much for being here.

DiAnn: Thank you. I’ve had a super wonderful and passionate time.

We want to hear from you!

Have you been to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference? What did you think?

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Are you ready for the writing adventure? Guest DiAnn Mills shares what a faithful guide God is!

Interested in DiAnn’s latest book or her book on the Sudan? Check out the links below.

Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills

Burden of Proof DiAnn Mills

Long Walk Home by DiAnn Mills

Long Walk Home DiAnn Mills

Thank you!

Special thanks to our March sponsor of the month, Becca Whitham! Look for her latest release The Kitchen Marriage, A Montana Brides Romance, Book 2! If you love romance, you’ll love her books!

Thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!

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088 – The Right GPS for Your Writing Journey

Right GPS for Writing Journey Karen Ball & Erin Taylor Young Write from the Deep PodcastMost of us have experienced using a GPS device. It’s great when it works right. But when it doesn’t, look out! You can end up lost for hours. Or in some very bad places. The news has covered stories where hikers were so focused on their GPS that they actually walked off a cliff! You need direction on your writing journey, but is that direction reliable? Come explore that question with us!

But first, an update on our pledge drive…

The month of February is our Patreon pledge drive. We’re so thankful for our patrons on Patreon and the platform Patreon provides so that creators like us can be paid. Creating each episode of the podcast takes more hours than most people realize, not to mention the costs of media hosting and this website. That’s time and money we can’t use to help support our families. Our goal with the pledge drive is to double our number of patrons from 10 to 20, and we’re not quite halfway there yet. If you’re a listener to the podcast, would you be willing to check it out and consider helping us reach our goal? We’d also love your help in spreading the word. We’re excited about the two new tiers we’ve added to broaden the content we give to patrons!

Thank you for listening to the podcast. You’re a blessing!

GPS – Friend or Foe?

When Karen and Erin were in Washington together, we drove to a lot of remote places to take photos. And we ended up using GPS fairly often. As a result we ended up lost fairly often! As we were driving in circles one day, we wondered why we submit to the authority of the GPS, especially when it’s proven itself to be unreliable. As we talked about it, we realized there were lessons there for us not just as we were driving or looking for some place, but in our writing journey as well.

Lesson 1 – The Detours are the journey

It’s okay if you’re not where you expected or wanted to be. It’s okay if you’re not where you think you should be. In those times when you feel lost, like you’re on the wrong path, remember that God knows where you need to be. And He will ensure you get there. When you feel as though you’re hopelessly confused or lost, take a moment. Breathe. And ask God, “Is this your doing?” He’ll let you know if it is. If it isn’t, He’ll get you back on the path you need to be.

With God in charge, you’ll always find your way. It’s just not always by the route you expect. And it’s not always as easy as you think it will be. In fact it’s never as easy as you think it will be. So don’t worry about finding your way to where you think you’re supposed to be. God’s destinations are far better than anything we can think of.

Lesson 2 – Open Your Eyes and Look Around

How much do we miss out on when we fail to open our eyes and look around? When we’re zeroed in on our GPS, trying to figure out if we’re where we’re supposed to be, it’s easy to blaze right past the little–or even the giant–signs pointing to our next turn.

In your writing journey, it’s easy to become overly focused on what everyone says you need to do or how you need to do it. To focus on doing everything the way “they” say you should. But often, the most effective and important thing you can do is take in all the suggestions and counsel, then look up. Look around you. Listen to what God is telling you. See what He’s showing you. And look inside, to feel His leading and guidance.

When we’re on a journey, it’s easy to get caught up in preconceived outcomes and expectations and miss the little delights God has for us along the way. The same is true for writing. If it’s all about fulfilling expectations, which may or may not be reasonable, you’re bound to be disappointed. But if it’s about enjoying what you have, and enjoying the time with God, it’s bound to be amazing.

Lesson 3 – Don’t assume meaning

On our first adventure to a remote area that would supposedly offer opportunities to photograph bald eagles, the GPS told us to look for a certain parking lot, which we never saw. Back and forth we went until we finally understood: The GPS’s “parking lot” was a flat section of rocks just large enough to pull our vehicle in!

In your writing career, there are lots of people out there who will help you, give you counsel. But as you listen, don’t assume you understand what you’re hearing. When things don’t seem to make sense, ask questions, ask for clarification. For example, was that person saying EVERYONE has to write using an outline, or that he does it and it works best for him? Be careful when you’re hearing things. Be discerning. The payoff is clarity moving forward.

Lesson 4 – Timing is everything

Our first visit to the eagle spot at the “parking lot” yielded one fly by. We were disappointed. Just before sunset, we decided to give the “parking lot” spot one last try. We parked, made our way over the rocks, and then just stood there, stunned. Eagles lined the banks of the river, roosted in the trees around us, and soared overhead. It was majestic!

Sometimes you’ll try something in your career, and it just doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Or, even worse, it totally bombs. You send a great proposal to an editor, and it’s rejected. You put out a book, but no one seems to like it. But the truth is, none of that means it was a failure. It may just mean it wasn’t the right time for it. Pray about it, and ask God if you should ditch it or, maybe, just set it on the shelf for another time. Then, if God nudges you to give it a try sometime down the road, do it. God sees everything and every time. You can trust His leading––and His timing.

Lesson 5 – God Leads in God’s way

Many of us are so used to our phone or car GPS giving us directions every two minutes we think that’s the normal way of leading. Or the only way. It isn’t. It’s the GPS’s way of leading. But we’re so accustomed to it that we get uncomfortable without it. We feel lost without the constant map we can consult or Siri’s words speaking every few minutes.

But God is not obligated to work that way. We need to listen for God in the way He speaks to us, and that can be different for everyone. He wants us to seek. Not to wait to be spoon-fed. Writers often struggle with direction–am I supposed to write? Am I hearing God right? Seek the answers from Him!

Yes, He has plans for you. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He does, but read on to verse 13 where it says, “You will seek me and FIND me when you seek me with all your heart.” We’re supposed to search hard, with all our might, and seek with humility, worship, reverence, and a willingness to submit.

There is one true GPS that will never lead you astray. Even if sometimes it feels like it. You’ll find out that the path you’re on is exactly where you’re supposed to be. That GPS is God telling you, “This is the way for you to go. This is what you need to do.” That’s the only one that will never be unreliable.

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever felt lost on your writing journey? What helped you find your way?

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Do you have the right GPS for your writing journey?

Stay Connected!

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.

THANK YOU

Special thanks to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!

And thanks to all our sponsors on Patreon. Sponsor of the Month returns next month with a new sponsor!

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087 – Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference with Guest Kathy Ide

Kathy Ide Write from the Deep Podcast Mount Hermon Christian Writers ConferenceEver felt as if God was giving you a task that’s waaay too big for you? Well, conference director Kathy Ide shares how she came to direct not just one writers’ conference, but two! And the lessons God taught her along the way will help you, too!

First, some special news!

We’re so thankful for our patrons on Patreon and the platform Patreon provides so that creators like us can be paid. Creating each episode of the podcast takes more hours than most people realize, not to mention the costs of media hosting and this website. That’s time and money we can’t use to help support our families. This month we’re doing a pledge drive. Our goal is to double our number of patrons from 10 to 20, and we’ve added two new tiers to broaden the content we give to patrons. If you’re a listener to the podcast, would you be willing to check it out and consider helping us meet our goal? We’d also love your help in spreading the word! 

Thank you for listening to the podcast. You’re a blessing!

About Kathy Ide

Kathy Ide is the author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the Capitalization Dictionary and editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. She’s been a professional freelance editor and writing mentor since 1998, working with Christian authors of all genres at all levels. She directs the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference and Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Having founded The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network, Christian Editor Connection, and PENCON, she is now co-owner of the Christian Editor Network LLC, parent company to those organizations as well as The PEN Institute.

Thanks to our patron support on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript!

Erin: Hey everyone! Welcome, welcome to the lovely deep. We’re excited because we have a guest with us. It’s Kathy Ide. I’ll let Karen tell you all about Kathy!

Karen: Well I don’t know that I can tell you all about Kathy, but I can tell you if you’ve been in Christian publishing for any amount of time, you’ve undoubtedly seen Kathy. You’ve undoubtedly met Kathy. She’s kind of done at all. She’s an editor, a writer, a mentor. She has books that have been published. She directs conferences. She founded the SoCal Christian Writers Conference down in Southern California. And she’s been the director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference since 2016, and she’s doing a phenomenal job.

One of the reasons that we wanted to ask our dear Kathy—the other thing you will find out about Kathy is that she has a sincere and loving heart that wants to help people and that’s evident in everything that she does—so one of the reasons that we asked her here for our podcast is because, number one, conference season is going to be starting for 2019, and we want to get you folks ready for that. Number two, we just want to hear what God has taught her in the midst of all these amazing things that she’s been involved in. So Kathy Ide, welcome.

Kathy: Thank you so much Karen and Erin. I love doing this kind of thing.

Erin: So Kathy, let’s put you on the spot. On this show we talk about the deep and everyone has a different concept of what that could mean, so what does the deep mean to you?

Kathy: I love what you shared with me when you asked me to do this, about there being two aspects of the deep. One being going deeper with God, and the other referring to the deep places in our lives that we experience.

I thought a lot about that ever since you shared that with me. I think we can go deeper with God in any season of our life. You know, we have these mountain top experiences where we go to a retreat center like Mount Hermon and we’re just on the mountain top having a great time with God. We’re going deeper with Him because we’re focused on Him. And then we have our everyday lives, and we can choose to spend time with God, get to know Him better, go deeper with Him. When we’re in the valleys, it’s harder sometimes to rely on ourselves, and therefore it’s harder sometimes to trust God even though that’s what we need to do when we can’t rely on ourselves.

Karen: Right.

Kathy: But then sometimes we get into places that are really, really deep. We feel like we’re at the bottom of the ocean with shackles and weights around our ankles. There’s nowhere to go, and we can’t even see God or hear Him because all we can see and hear is that ocean surrounding us.

In those deep places, sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s harder to really feel God’s presence. Yet that’s the time when God can come alongside us and surround us. If we put our focus on Him instead of on the deep that we’re in, He will be with us. He may not rescue us from those deep places, at least not immediately. I know with scuba divers in the ocean, maybe there’s an emergency—there’s a shark or a rip in your suit or whatever. You want to go straight to the top, but you can’t go straight to the top. You have to go gradually. And that’s what God usually does in those really deep places—help us gradually out of those deep places whether the circumstances change or not.

Karen: One of the things that we’ve often talked about on the podcast is the fact that we need to learn how to—as long as God asks it of us—how to dwell in the deep, and how to learn in the deep, and how to grow from those deep places. Because it’s in those deep places that we often are refined the most, and refined to become a far clearer reflection of our Suffering Savior. It’s not like Jesus hopped out of the deep as soon as He got into it. So we need to remember that. And we need to pray and determine if God is saying, “Yes you can be set free from this,” like you said, or if it’s a situation of, “I want you to dwell here for a while because there are things I have to teach you here.”

Kathy: Yes, absolutely. I think once you’ve been in those deep places, and God has helped you through them, you can then help others go through their deep places and help them turn their focus on God as well.

Karen: Do you guys remember a singing artist whose name was Twila Paris?

Kathy: Yes!

Karen: She was way back when. She had a wonderful song called “Wounded Healers,” and that’s what we become. We become wounded healers because we’ve had the wounding ourselves. We’ve been through it, and then we’re able to understand and to help heal others with…well, understanding. With compassion, rather than with black-and-white thinking.

Erin: I think one of the biggest parts of that is the trust we learn to develop. I like the metaphor of the scuba diver that you were using because if you do that straight up shot, that’s dangerous. That’s not good for you.

Kathy: Yes.

Erin: It’s so counterintuitive. Same with those places where we’re learning to trust God. I think that’s one of the ways we help people the most, though. Even if they’re going through something slightly different than we are, we can be like, “But I’ve been there, and I trusted. I trusted for a long, long, long time, and sometimes that’s just the way it goes.”

Karen: Speaking of trusting God, Kathy, talk to us about how you came to be the director for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Kathy: Well, that’s a funny story. I’d been writing and editing and attending conferences and teaching at conferences for several years. When I learned that Mount Hermon was looking for a new permanent director, my first thought was, “I’m really too busy for that.”

So I started telling all my friends who I thought might be good candidates, “Hey, Mount Hermon is looking for a new director for the writers conference. You should apply.”

And they all asked me, “What are the qualifications?” I didn’t know, but they asked if I could find out.

So I asked what the qualifications were and I was given a link to a webpage. I looked at that webpage and with everything I read I thought, “I’m reading my own bio here. But I don’t have time.”

So I told my friends, “Here are the requirements, here’s what they’re looking for. You should apply.”

Karen: Right, right. Here am I, Lord, send Aaron.

Kathy: Yes! God must have somebody in mind, but it couldn’t possibly be me because I don’t have the time. I had just launched the SoCal Christian Writers Conference. I was very busy with that on top of my editing business, on top of trying to write my own stuff. So I thought it couldn’t be me.

But God, as He often does, kept poking me and saying, “What if you’re my choice for that job?”

I said, “Well then I would have time for that job.”

And He said, “Don’t you think if you were my choice for that job, I could figure out your schedule?”

Erin: Wow.

Karen: Oh no, Lord, that would be too hard even for you!

Kathy: Yeah, too hard for the God of the universe to handle my schedule. It’s certainly too hard for me. But I thought okay. I almost did it as a challenge to God. I said, “Okay, I will fill out the online application, but that’s all I’m going to do. I’m not going to call anybody. I’m not going to tell anybody I’m applying. I’m just going to fill out the application. That way if you want to pull me out of the hat, you can pull my name because it’ll be there.”

Well, I wasn’t surprised when they called me for an interview because, after all, my bio.

Erin: Yes!

Kathy: But even in the interview I kind of took that very laid back, because I didn’t think this was going to be right for me. So I was casual. I was myself. I didn’t put on anything. I was just very off-the-cuff. And one of their first questions was, “We see on your bio that you’re busy with a lot of things. Are you sure you have time for this job?”

And I said, “No. I really don’t. But I’m pretty good at delegating, so if I had a big enough team I could probably do it.”  So I was almost self sabotaging the interview to the point where when I hung up I was just sure there was no way they were ever going to call me back.

But they did. And offered me the job. I quibbled about a few details, but even then we worked out all the details. And as soon as I said yes, my first thought was, “Oh my gosh what did I just do? Who is the new director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference? Me right?”

But as soon as I got over about three months of shock, I realized that because of the way it happened, this really was God’s choice. I really was who God wanted to be in this position. Then if that was the case, I didn’t have to worry about anything. He wouldn’t have chosen me if He knew I was going to wreck the conference. Unless of course He wanted to wreck the conference. But I don’t think He does.

Karen: Here’s the thing, and we tend to forget this. When you have something like this where you’ve got responsibility, and you’re going to be doing things that affect other people and other people’s careers, and you feel like you have to make sure you do everything right for everybody else, God is saying to you, “I have a gift for you in this. I have something for you to learn in this. I have something to refine you in this. I’ll help you take care of all these crazy details.”

Frankly, as I thought about everything you would need to track in order to direct the writers conference, I wanted to jump off a very tall building. I am not a detail person. Erin will tell you, “Karen is not a linear thinker.” You have to be a linear thinker to do that.

Still, in the midst of it all, the greatest gift that He has in it is it for you. To show you things about yourself to reveal things about Himself to you. And then you can rest in Him for all that other stuff. We forget that so often. We get so wrapped up in thinking, “Oh, now I have to ABCD.” But we really don’t. What you have to do when you accept those big challenges is to turn it back to Him, and put it on Him, and say, “Okay, Lord,  we are in it now.”

Kathy: Absolutely. I think when I took on this job I was aware of some of the scope of it. As I did the job, I found out there was a lot more involved then I ever thought there was. It’s a much bigger job than I even imagined, and I knew it would be big. But when God gives you something big to do, you have to rely on Him, because I know I can’t do this myself. Even though God has equipped me throughout the years that I’ve been doing all kinds of things in my life. I realized that a lot of things I learned over the years were things that I needed to have in my background in order to do this job. So He has equipped me, but He equips me on an every-single-day basis.

Karen: Right.

Kathy: He does the things that I can’t possibly do. I don’t know who He wants to be on faculty. I rely on Him to send me people and give me the right direction in the decisions. As our friend Steve Laube told me the first year I was director, “You know, you can’t wreck this. Don’t worry.” And he’s right. Because it’s not my conference, its God’s conference. He’s going to do things through me. I just have to show up for work.

Karen: What do you feel were the main lessons you got from taking on this challenge, now being a couple years out as you look back on it? What were the lessons or the gifts that God had for you?

Kathy: Oh, so many. As far as gifts, you know I’ve always loved Mount Hermon, and being kind of at the helm of it just feels so special. That alone is just a gift. I constantly feel like really? I’m not qualified for this. But God says I am, so because of Him, I am.

But as far as lessons, it’s just a deeper knowing that He is in charge of this. I’m not. A deeper knowing that He’s in charge of all the areas of my life.

I know especially when writers go to a writers conference, they think, “Oh, if I could just meet Karen Ball. If I could just connect with Erin Taylor Young, then they could make my publishing dreams come true.” And yes in a practical sense, the people you meet at the conference can be that next step in your writing journey. But we tend to focus so much on our plans for that. We’ve read the bios online, and we know who the right people are to meet. And then we can’t sit at that person’s table. We end up sitting at somebody else’s table because the first table was full. And then the “somebody else’s table” was exactly where God wanted you to be.

So I think just trusting that He knows what He’s doing. We have the faith that God knows what He’s doing, but trusting is putting one foot in front of the other and actually stepping out and doing the things that we say we have faith in Him to do.

So a lot of it is just realizing what a gift this is, realizing that even as difficult situations come up that I’ve needed to deal with over the past couple years, even in those, He has me there because He knows I will listen to what He has to say. And I need to do that. I need to listen so that I’m doing what He wants me to do and taking the steps He wants me to take, even when those steps are challenging.

Erin: I want to go back for a minute. You said something like how all of this went down you knew that it was God. That seems to have been a useful thing. I think a lot of writers out there have trouble discerning, “Is this really God?”

Were there other specific things that helped you know that this really was what God wanted you to do?

Kathy: it was partly because I wasn’t trying for it, because they came to me rather than me really working hard to get this. So sitting back and saying, “Okay, God, if this is really what you want, I need you to work out these particular circumstances that aren’t things that I could do. Or maybe they are things I can do but I’m choosing to see whether you do them for me.”

That’s a big part of it. But after I took the job, there were little things like, oh we needed to have these little things like tickets with a tear-off thing on the side. And I said, “Oh! I know how to do that!” Because I’d learned it in a job twenty years ago. So even the little things where you say, “Okay, I have stuff in my background that God put there because He knew I was going to be here,  and I know how to do this. Because God has prepared me.” And if I don’t know how to do something, God brings people into my life to help me figure it out.

Karen: It’s that whole Joseph thing: for such a time as this. You had no idea that all those things that happened to you would bring you to this place where you would accomplish this task that God had for you down the road. Had you known about that task that was down the road in those early days…again, really tall building!

Kathy: Yes!

Karen: It’s God’s mercy that He takes us a step at a time and teaches us His sufficiency and His provision in all of that with each new step that we take.

Erin: Let’s be really clear here. I’m going to guess that, while you were still feeling pretty confident that this was God’s will, I’m going to guess that it still wasn’t a completely easy task.

Kathy: Definitely not! I think that, going back to your question about lessons, I think that’s another one of the lessons. I’ve known for years that I need God every minute of every day. But He’s taking me one more step out onto the waters and saying, “Do you really trust Me?” He’s taking me to that place where I have to every day, with every decision I make, say, “Okay, God, I know you’re in charge.”

I’m still struggling with the time commitment thing because taking care of the SoCal Conference as well as Mount Hermon, that is a lot of time-consuming stuff, in addition to editing and writing and all the other things. So every day I just ask God, “What do you want me to do today?” Because that’s pretty much all He tells me. And even when He tells me, sometimes what I thought was supposed to happen that day doesn’t. But I can still be confident that if there are distractions or interruptions, as long as I’m responding to them the way I believe God wants me to, I don’t have to worry about those distractions either. Because whatever I thought I was going to get done that day will get done later or won’t get done, and it’s okay because God is in charge.

Karen: Yeah, my life philosophy has become: The detours are the journey.

Kathy: Yes.

Karen: I think we have a good idea of what you wish attendees who come to your conference knew and took to heart. The whole thing about how they can trust God’s agenda and just relax and enjoy. What would you like your faculty members to know and take to heart about being at Mount Hermon?

Kathy: Oh, that’s a good question. I think the faculty members have a lot of the same struggles with different specific details. But a lot of the same struggles as the conferees because as faculty, you’ve got all those added responsibilities. You’re going away from what you do on a regular day-to-day basis for God. You’re putting that aside for a week and trusting that nothing is going to blow up while you’re gone. That the family will be okay, that your jobs will be okay while you’re gone for a week.

What I encourage—and I’ve encouraged my fellow attendees even in my early days of Mount Hermon and still encourage attendees and faculty—find a time during your week at Mount Hermon when you can take an hour at least and get away from the main hub of the conference. Take a walk in the redwoods. Walk beside the streams and waterfalls and listen for God’s voice. Let this be a retreat for you, too.

If you just spend the whole week working, you will have missed one of the best benefits of Mount Hermon which is that retreat area feel. You can hear God’s voice so clearly at Mount Hermon. Not when you’re constantly on the go teaching, conducting appointments, that kind of stuff. Those are all important, obviously, or we wouldn’t have hired you to be on faculty, but find an hour or so in your schedule where you can get away and be alone with God whether it’s in your room or in the redwoods or wherever it is. Take that time to refresh because if your cup is full you can’t give what you’ve got in your cup to others.

Karen: Amen.

Erin: It occurs to me that not everyone knows what the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference is. Give us a brief fifteen-second version of what Mount Hermon even is.

Kathy: Oh, that’s tough in fifteen seconds!  Go to writers.mounthermon.org. That’s the really quick one. Mount Hermon is an opportunity for you to connect with the top people in the Christian publishing industry. To meet with them one-on-one to get their feedback on your writing journey as well as on your specific manuscript that you’re working on. And to hear from God, where He wants you to go next. It’s a place where you can make lifelong friendships. A place where you can make connections that you may not be able to make anywhere else. It will change your writing journey. It will change your life. It will inspire you and move you forward to the next step in the journey that God has for you.

Erin: I can totally seconds all of that. I feel like Mount Hermon was one of the most critical conferences that I went to as a new writer. One of my favorite things about Mount Hermon was, of course, the atmosphere. The redwoods. What I noticed specifically the last time I was there is that the whole place feels like it’s a place of prayer. It’s steeped in prayer. There’s no explanation other than that the Holy Spirit is so present.

The other thing I love about Mount Hermon is that aspect of networking and relationships. People like Steve Laube just sitting in the central lounge at 10 o’clock at night, just there to talk to you. I credit Mount Hermon with meeting Karen—the people I met there who put me and Karen together. That is one of the most wonderful things about writing conferences in general, but especially Mount Hermon because of all of the time that’s devoted to that kind of networking.

Kathy: Mount Hermon is a full-time year-round Christian conference center, so every employee, everyone who is on those grounds 24/7 prays for all of the events at the conference, for all of the people who come to the conference. For the writers conference we have a great prayer team who is very actively praying all year round for the faculty, for the attendees, for everything that happens. Going back to your question about how did I know that this was God’s will for me? A part of that was knowing that those people chose me because they had prayed about it.

Karen: Right.

Kathy: They pray about every decision they make about who to hire very deeply. And if they had prayed about it, and if they were choosing me, then I was the answer to their prayers as well as my own.

Karen: Kathy, it’s time for us to wrap up. Do you have one final word of wisdom that our listeners can utilize for today? Some application, some recommendation for them as the conference director, as a writer and editor, and all of those things?

Kathy: My favorite thing to share with writers especially, but this is true for anyone, is that if God has called you to write, He has a plan for what He’s called you to write. He knows how long it’s going to take for you to learn how to write and learn how to do it well and attend conferences and get the critique group and all the steps along the way. He even knows when life is going to get deep and you can’t write for a while. He knows all those.

But He also knows who He has in mind to read what He has called you to write. And when that person is going to need to read it. So all along your journey you don’t have to worry about, “Oh I have to get this done and I have to get this done by deadline.” Well you might have to get it done by deadline if you have a publisher, but you don’t have to worry about the timeline because God’s timeline may not be the same as yours. Probably isn’t. But His timeline will result in what He has called you to write landing in the hands of the people He knows are going to need to read it at exactly the right moment.

Karen: I love that. Well friends, as we finish up today, if you’re contemplating going to a writers conference in this new year, why not go check out Mount Hermon? I think you will see that it’s got a lot of wonderful things for you. Kathy, give us the date and website one more time.

Kathy: It’s writers.mounthermon.org. It’s always over Palm Sunday weekend, so you can know when that is. It’s always the weekend before Easter. This year the pre-conference is April 10-12, and the main conference is April 12-16. The pre-conference is a couple days before, when we have mentoring clinics, and the main conference starts Friday at dinner and goes through Tuesday at breakfast.

Erin: Terrific!

Karen: What can you get from a writers conference? You can get networking. You can get teaching. But more than anything else you can get fellowship from people who understand you and who are for you. This is one of the biggest differences between being a writer in the Christian market and a writer in the general market, and that’s that we’re for you. Everybody else is for you. There’s none of the competition, there’s none of the resentment. And if there is we can pray about it together!

Kathy: We’re all on the same team. If God wants your book to be published, I want to help you work that out. If God wants my book to be published, I don’t have to step on you in order to have that happen. Because we’re all working for the same boss.

Karen: Kathy, thank you so much for being with us and taking the time. We’re just delighted that God has lead you into this new adventure. And as we look at our own careers, at our own lives, we look forward to seeing where God has to take us next, too.

Kathy: I love that. Thank you so much, Karen and Erin. God bless you both.

We want to hear from you!

Have you been to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference? What was your favorite thing about it?

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Connect with Kathy at her website KathyIde.com. Be sure to check out her wonderfully helpful book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors.

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Special thanks to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!

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086 – Lessons for Your Writing Journey – from Alpacas!

Lessons for Your Writing Journey from AlpacasThere are wonderful lessons to be learned about God, about ourselves and our writing journey, from the world around us. Nature is a powerful teacher about God. And so are alpacas! Come discover what wisdom these wooly, wonderful creatures have for you to help you keep your writing career on track in the new year!

There was an interesting episode on the Ask Pastor John podcast the other day where they discussed including other types of reading and studying aside from the Bible to help you learn about God and grow in your relationship and service to Him. John Piper, a man who’s devoted his life to studying and preaching God’s Word said that yes, by all means, you should have these outside learning experiences. He pointed out that God’s Word even directs us to do so, and he referenced the verses like Proverbs 6:6 that says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (NIV)

Jesus says in Luke 12:27, “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (NIV)

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (NASB)

So we’re going to follow that vein today because Karen and Erin were recently in Seattle where we got to observe first hand some lessons from some of God’s very cool creatures: Alpacas.

Lesson 1)  Stick together!

Alpacas instinctively know there’s safety in numbers. They spent their time in close proximity to each other, hanging out together in a pack with the adults watching over the youngsters.

Writers aren’t like other people. We’re a different breed, and that’s okay. We need fellowship with our own kind. We need writing buddies, writing relationships. You can find writing buddies at church or online. Or you can check for local chapters of national organizations, connect at conferences, look on Facebook, or even start a group of your own.

Older writers need to take care of the younger writers for as long as they need it. Don’t get impatient with them for being young. Nurture them, help them. They have a lot to learn, but so did you when you started. Now, you have a lot to share.

Also realize mentoring relationships can happen in little chunks. It doesn’t have to be a big formal thing between two writers. You can give in small doses to many writers, and receive from many as well.

Lesson 2)  Don’t put off your own needs

When you need something, take care of yourself. No hesitation, no embarrassment, no apologies. Remember, we’re commanded to love others as we love ourselves. But if we treated people the way most of us treat ourselves, it wouldn’t be pretty. We need to be more like the alpacas. When they needed to relieve themselves, they did. When they wanted to brush themselves on a big brush they had in the shelter, they did––both by themselves and together. It was adorable to see them rubbing their long necks against it! With no worries, they just took care of business no matter who was standing there.

For us as writers, we have to take care of our health. To get rest, get sleep, and eat right. It’s the new year, so it’s a good time to develop new habits. Preserve unscheduled time in your life so on those days when you can’t get something done, you don’t end up creating a domino effect of missing deadlines. Consider what you can cut from your schedule to plan time for rest.

Most of us know what we need to do to take care of ourselves, but let us give you another reason why all of this is so important. Did you know that depression most often has a physical basis rather than an emotional one? A side effect of not taking care of yourself, not getting sleep, not having the right balance of nutrients and vitamins, not balancing our hormones, not getting exercise is depression!

Lesson 3)  Imitate the alpacas’ friendliness and curiosity

Every time we’d go outside, the alpacas would stop what they were doing and look at us with these cute smiling faces. Seriously, they really did smile. It cracked us up. Every time Erin went out there she’d say, “Hi, friendly alpacas!” It was a joy to be with them.

How does that apply to us? The writing business is about relationships––with readers, with editors, with agents, with other writers. Be warm. Be welcoming. Smile. People like to work with friendly, inviting people!

It was more than just the alpacas’ smiles though. They had this fun curiosity. It wasn’t like they hadn’t seen us many times on any given day, but they acted like it was some grand new experience each time.

As writers we have to have that same curiosity. We have something new to learn all the time from other writers, teachers, editors, and agents. We’ve seen multi-published, award-winning writers taking notes and learning from other people. Even if you think you’ve heard something before, there’s always another nuance you can pick up.

The alpacas’ curiosity didn’t seem to have fear. There are many things in the writing career that can cause fear if we let it. Karen has had too many appointments with terrified writers. If only they’d relax! Don’t go in with fear. Be friendly. Be curious. But not fearful. Nobody holds your writing career in their hands but God.

Lesson 4)  Maintain Wariness

Yes, the alpacas were friendly looking and friendly seeming. But they were also wary. They were cautious. They didn’t run right up to us and let us pet them. They watched, they weighed our actions. They didn’t blindly trust us.

This is true in writing as well. Maintain a sense of caution. Seeming experts may not be experts. Weigh their actions. Look at their fruit. Weigh carefully the advice you receive. Even from wonderful, experienced teachers. They all have different views and different methods. Use what works for you.

Lesson 5)  Alpacas don’t worry about their daily bread

The alpacas trusted that their food and water would be there when they needed it. Karen’s brother and sister-in-law had it all worked out so the alpacas were taken care of each day. We didn’t realize how much work was even required, but different people came on different days to do the various tasks. They raked straw, gave fresh food in buckets, gave fresh hay, and fresh water. On days when it was below freezing, Karen and Erin went out and broke up the ice in their water buckets so they could drink. The alpacas never worried, never stressed.

You also are being taken care of, and you can know it. As writers, as people, we’re prone to worry. But God takes care of our needs. He provides. Everything. He’s the source of our creativity. He creates divine appointments. He’s the One who’s gone before you. All you need to do is seek His guidance and be obedient, and you can move forward without worry.

Lesson 6)  God equipped them with a beautiful gift for others

As Karen was showing Erin around the house the first day, she pointed out the “wool room.” There was even a loom in there! It was like Little House on the Prairie, because yes, they shear the alpacas, and Karen’s sister-in-law spins the wool, and makes stuff from it. There’s bags and bags of wool in there. They could clothe themselves for a decade.

The alpacas don’t have to stress about their gift, about making stuff, about being used by God. He’s got that covered. In fact, if they don’t stress their coats grow better.

As writers, God’s gifted you with a story, with a gift to share with others. He’s supplied you with everything you need to follow this task He’s given you, and to do it with excellence. He’s given you the story, the heart, the desire. God is the One who supplies. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re good enough. That’s all God’s purview. He will equip you and guide you to the people and places to help you improve your craft. You just rest. Trust in Him as the provider of everything you need to provide your gift to the world around you.

Final thoughts

There’s so much we can see when we look at the world around us with a heart that’s open, and a heart that’s seeking to see God in everything around us! Let yourself realize God is present, God is at work. God is your source. You can rest in Him. And you can delight in the world that He’s created around you!

We want to hear from you!

What have you learned from observing the world around you?

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085 – Serving Your Reader

Serving Your Reader on the Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

Writers, what if your journey in the deep isn’t about you, but about your readers? What if it’s to teach you how to know and respond to their needs? Come join the conversation for insights and wisdom on serving your most important partner in the writing journey: your readers.

When we’re teaching writers about the publishing industry, and we start talking about marketing, there’s often this lightbulb moment writers have when they realize they need to think about what they’re writing from the reader’s point of view. They need to start asking what’s in this for the reader? Why would someone want to read this, let alone buy it?

And that’s when they start understanding that their writing isn’t about them. Well, let’s rephrase that. As writers, our writing is about us, it’s about changing us first. And sometimes it’s ONLY for us. We don’t need other readers to make our writing valid. But if we’re talking about writing for publication, or writing to share with others, then we have to make our writing for the reader. About their needs and desires. It’s about serving the readers.

We teach, we inspire, we entertain, we give hope.

This is our job as Christians, too. Ephesians 4:11-12 says:

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”  (NIV)

We’re His people, created for works of service, to build up the body.

Challenges We Face

Our society has shifted away from fostering long-term multidimensional relationships, where you grew up together, played baseball together, went to school together, went to the same church, saw each other at the hardware store or the town meeting. You knew everyone’s cousins, their brothers, and their uncle Bob who lived with them.

There were multiple levels of connection, and everyone looked out for each other. You didn’t keep score. It was just the right thing to do. It was a covenant: You took care of your neighbors, and they took care of you. And your neighbors were pretty much the whole town. Perhaps there are some small towns out there where this still exists, but they’re a dying breed.

Now we’ve largely shifted to short term, one-dimensional relationships. We don’t see people in multiple settings. Our work friends don’t necessarily know our church friends, and certainly don’t know our sisters, brothers, and cousins. We’re much less likely to know our next-door neighbors, let alone the whole block.

People are far more transient. You could help out your neighbors but then when you need something, they’re long gone. So we’ve lost that sense of long term benefit for our service. This doesn’t mean we’re bad people, it’s just that our norms have shifted, and our culture has shifted to a “what’s in it for me” culture.

The Amish can do a barn raising, and everyone shows up, because sooner or later, you or someone else in your family is going to need a barn. That time invested in your neighbor’s barn pays off. And it’s the cultural norm to help each other. We don’t do that anymore, or at least not on the same level. Culturally speaking, if we’ve grown up being servant minded, it’s mostly a residual left over from the old days.

But as Christians, we’re called to servanthood, to being Christlike. But we need to understand we’re going against culture here.

When we’re talking about how to serve your reader, we could give a bunch of things to do here, but that might tempt us to simply create a checklist. That’s not really what serving is about. Nor is it about investing as little effort as possible to enjoy the most benefits we can.

Let’s look deeper––at the heart. What does a servant’s heart look like?

A servant’s heart is motivated by love

Jesus tells us what God’s two greatest commandments are in Matthew 22:37-39.

“‘Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (NIV)

We need to serve others because we love them. What does that look like?

We need to respect our readers, to be for them. To want God’s best for them. To delight them, and to delight in them. To be kind in our interactions––even when responding to criticism. And to be patient, and like it says in 1 Corinthians 13: 5, to not be easily angered (and we know how hard that can be in this political climate) or rude.

We can’t view readers as a means to bestselling status, or a market we’re trying to peddle our products to. That’s not sincere service. Romans 12:9-11 says:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Our readers are people created in God’s image. Respect what they need in what you write. What can you do for them? You’re not writing to get something off your chest. That’s writing for therapy, which is fine, but it’s not writing for publication.

Check your heart on this issue
  • Ask God how you’re doing in this area of love and respect. Do you have a sincere love for your readers?
  • Do you respect them?
  • Ask Him to give you a heart for them. To grow your love for them.
  • Ask God to open your eyes to their needs. How does He want you to love them?
  • Pray for them, because this helps you connect with them.
A Servant’s Heart is Humble

We did a whole podcast on humility (EPISODE #56 – Is Your Humility True or False) so you can go back and listen to that for more in-depth discussion. But one of the things we quoted was from C.S. Lewis who said that “humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

So what is a humble heart in the context of serving? Philippians 2:3 says:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (ESV) 

Selfish ambition is a problem. We don’t serve to get something.

Humility is about not feeling “entitled” to anything. Entitlement is a struggle in the American culture these days. We feel like we “deserve” to be happy, “deserve” a good life, “deserve” to make a reasonable amount of money…and it goes on and on.

But a servant’s heart doesn’t concern itself with what we deserve. It’s not focused on tit for tat, on being repaid.

Proverbs 11:24-25 says:

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” (NIV)

When we’re focused on serving in humility without expecting repayment, that repayment still comes. But it’s God who pours into us. It’s God who refreshes us. When we understand that, we can serve freely, because God is the resource from which we serve. He provides to us, and we share with others.

Jesus is our model for serving with humility. He’s God, the maker of the universe, and yet He came to serve. In Matthew 20:26-28 He says:

“…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Serving with humility means we have the endgame in mind. God’s endgame. We all grow in the knowledge and grace of God. Remember what we said earlier, we’re created for works of service, to build up the body. And through that we all become better reflections of His glory.

Check You Heart on this issue
  • Ask God how you’re doing in this area of humility.
  • Are you serving to get something such as, say, validation from your readers?
  • Are you serving without a sense of entitlement, of “deserving” sales or accolades?
  • Ask God to grow your ability to serve without expectations.
A Servant’s Heart is Thankful

When we truly understand what God has done for us, how Christ purchased us with His blood, that makes a grateful heart well up in us. And that gratitude, that thankfulness, is what overflows into our acts of service.

Listen to the apostle Paul’s gratitude in 1 Timothy 1:12-14:

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’—and I am the worst of them all.” (NLT)

Paul lived this gratitude every day. Acts 16 shows a great example of this. Paul and Silas are in Philippi, preaching the gospel, and day after day there’s a slave girl who tells the future through a demon, following them shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.” (Acts 16:17)

Paul finds this so disruptive that he finally commands the demon to leave. When the slave girl’s owners realize they can’t make money from her telling fortunes anymore, they stir up a crowd and have Paul and Silas arrested. They’re stripped, severely beaten with rods, and tossed into jail, with their feet clamped in stocks.

What is their response? Anger? Resentment? No. Acts 16:25 says:

“Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening.” (NLT)

Did you catch that? The other prisoners are paying attention to their attitude. What are these servants of God going to do now that they’re bloody and beaten?

They’re going to praise God.

Then a massive earthquake shakes the whole jail, the chains fall off, and all the doors open. When the jailer sees that, he’s going to kill himself because he assumes all the prisoners escaped, which would mean he’d be put to death. But nobody escaped. Paul tells the jailor not to hurt himself and ends up getting taken to the jailer’s house where he and Silas preach the gospel, and the whole household gets saved.

That was a terrible ordeal for Paul and Silas. Let’s not gloss that over. But they know they’re only servants of Jesus, who suffered no less. Their thankful hearts made a difference in how that all went down.

Check your heart on this issue
  • Do you have a grateful heart for the good God has done in your life?
  • Does your service flow out of that thankfulness?
  • Or do you find yourself struggling with frustration or resentment when things don’t go your way? Or when you get a harsh review? Or when the sales don’t come?
  • Ask God to remind you of who you once were before Christ. Or think about what you would be without Christ and who you are now, with Christ, with His righteousness, with His purchase. You’re a forgiven, treasured, beloved child of the King.
A Servant’s Heart is Faithful

This is a long journey. We get tired. We get discouraged. Sometimes we’re tempted to give up. But God calls us to faithful service. Service that doesn’t give up, but that presses on. 1 Peter 4:10  says:

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (NIV)

As writers and servants, God has gifted us to administer His grace. Isn’t that wonderful? Our job is to be faithful to that task of administering that particular grace.

But that doesn’t mean you take giant leaps everyday. That doesn’t mean you never rest. This is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. It’s a journey of obedience we take one step at a time.

And It’s a commitment. When you sign a contract, you meet the deadline. When you tell your readers your book, or your blog post, or your contest giveaway, or whatever, will happen on a certain date, you follow through. You don’t disappear because you got interested in something else.

If God has given you this task of writing, you do it until He tells you to stop. So many writers seem to struggle with whether they heard God right: are they really supposed to be a writer? We did a whole podcast on that as well (EPISODE #58 – Did God Really Ask You to Write?).

There may be a long time between road signs, but that doesn’t mean you’ve gotten off the path. Faithfulness is doing your task until God gives you a different task, even if you don’t constantly hear Him say, “Keep going forward.”

Check Your Heart on This Issue
  • Ask God how you’re doing on being faithful.
  • Has He asked something specific of you that you haven’t done? That you’re dragging your feet on? Be obedient to His command.
  • Have you made a commitment to your readers that you haven’t followed through on? Follow through.
  • Have you been tempted to give up because this journey is longer, harder, or whatever, than you anticipated? Press on.
  • Ask God to show you how you have already been faithful, and be encouraged!
  • Ask God to spur you on to further faithful obedience.
One caveat about serving

We’re not saying that serving means you say YES to everything anyone ever asks you to do. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. You can’t let others set your agenda. Only God can do that!

Final Thoughts

We don’t write to “get” something. It’s to serve. God has given you a task to minister and serve others. When you keep your readers and their needs in mind, when you come into this writing task with the feeling of being humble and grateful, and serving your readers and serving God, friends, things will happen that will uplift you and encourage you far beyond anything you could want for yourself.

We want to hear from you!

How would you describe a servant’s heart? What do you find most challenging?

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Thank you!

Thanks so much to all our patrons who support this podcast on Patreon! We’re grateful to you!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!

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