Monday, December 7, 2009

Christian Writers of the West

On Saturday, I attended the Christian Writers of the West meeting that took place at a local Marie Callenders restaurant, at the prompting of my online friend, Michelle Sutton. At first glance, I felt a bit intimidated - mainly because there were more than a dozen women in the room and only little ol' me and Michelle's son as far as the male population was concerned. But I soon overcame the intimidation when I settled within myself that we were all writers. It didn't matter our gender or our age...writing was in our blood. Writing was the one thing, if anything other than God, that could unite us.

The meeting was something new for me to do. Being a self-published author, I am always trying to find new ways to network, to meet new people, to explore different avenues my writing could be discovered through. There were two different guest authors there, Amanda Cabot who writes historical fiction, and Tosca Lee who writes speculative fiction (my favorite genre). As much as I enjoyed listening to both authors, I will undoubtedly admit that I favored Tosca Lee simply because she writes closer to the genre I write for.

When she arrived at the meeting, Tosca took a seat next to me at the table. I was at first humbled that a well established author was sitting next to me. I know it may seem silly, but I felt nervous to be near someone who had followed the rabbit hole down into the Wonderland of publishing and could confidently say she was a 'successful' author. This reminded of an experience I had about a month ago. There is a fan of my writing who attends my church, and I went to the local Costco with him and his family one day and I heard him say that it was so awesome that he was grocery shopping with his favorite author. It's always humbling to hear something like that, but it makes me wonder where that type of respect comes from. Is it from my writing? Are the words that I craft so incredibly good that they simply melt people's hearts into nothingness until all that's left is utter adoration for the very author who wrote them? Or is there something more at work here? Is there something hidden behind the words? Something in me, as a writer, as a human, that propels this type of respect, this type of awe?

You can ask my wife. Whenever we have company over, I dominate the conversation, not because I am controlling, but because I love to tell stories. It's in my blood, in the very makeup of my DNA. If something happened on our trip to the grocery store, I will craft the event into a full blown tale, an experience so to say, sometimes with sound effects, sometimes with props. But it's what I do. It's the gift I was given. And if I chose to blow it off as nothing - or worse yet - credit it to my own talent, I would be slapping God in the face. The very God who gave me this gift, who wired me this way.

As I sat at this meeting and listened to Tosca speak about her origins, her process of storytelling, her passion for writing, I realized that I have that same respect for her as my friends may have for me. Why? Because storytelling is a gift. And when it is used right, to bring to light morals and ethics, to tell the lost tales of heroes and villains, to paint a metaphorical and allegorical painting of the decay and/or redemption of our society, it can affect an entire civilization, heck an entire species. The power of words is a power that cannot be equaled by any weapon fashioned by man. Writing is power. My friend put it best the other day when he said that it frightens him the power I have as a writer. Maybe he's right.

One thing that Tosca said in the meeting that really stood out to me was when she mentioned how we as writers need to write as if nobody was going to read what we wrote. We need to be truthful to ourselves, to be honest with our writing and not hold back. Those words have never been so true to me. When I began writing Black Earth: End of the Innocence, I came across some scenes that really stretched me as a writer. I was afraid at first of being controversial, of offending the normal church populace, of making my friend's eyebrows tilt upward in surprise and possibly disgust. But then I made a vow to be true to myself as a writer. To write what the character is wanting me to write, to write what God is wanting me to write. That doesn't mean that I just decide to write certain things to shock or offend others. I simply write...and those that read will pull from it what they will.

I hope to return to the CWOW group when they have their next meeting in January. It was a blessing to meet some new writers and to grab a copy of Tosca's Havah, which I plan on starting today.

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