Giving Up Control: The art of mentoring

By Richard CrespoIMG_3405 Richard Crespo2

Many years ago I read an article about mentoring called, “Coaching Without a Paddle.” The author used the analogy of floating in a canoe without a paddle to describe the mentoring process of not being able to control the outcome.

As a new convert, the Apostle Paul was mentored by a more experienced believer, Barnabas, in Acts. They preached and taught together, celebrating successes but also enduring persecution. Barnabas helped shape Paul into a leader by ministering with him. Just as Barnabas could not dictate how people would respond to Paul, when we mentor or coach writers we cannot govern the results.

A good mentor gives up control and helps students develop by giving them the paddle. The mentor’s role is to share his experience in canoeing, teach students how to read the water’s surface and flow, and how to anticipate waterfalls and other dangers. The students, however, are the ones paddling the canoe.

Canoeing 800px-Over-beaver-dam WikipediaIn training writers or publishing colleagues, your role as a mentor is similar. You can teach how to string words into a narrative, like learning to paddle a canoe. But to coach writers is more than equipping them to paddle in a straight line. It is a matter of spending time on the river together, sharing experiences, and coaching them through rough waters.

Keep Barnabas’s example before you when coaching writers or employees. Look for opportunities to canoe together. Don’t let them stop in mid-stream—help them finish the journey. A good mentor not only helps others learn skills, but also enables them to develop latent gifts, apply skills and become leaders. You will be raising up leaders for His Kingdom.

>>Learn more about coaching writers in our upcoming webinar, “How to Nurture Local Writers,” September 16, with award-winning author and publisher Lawrence Darmani. Register online now.

Richard Crespo is professor of community and global health at Marshall University in West Virginia. He is a board member of MAI and trains publishing leaders around the world in how to mentor writers and colleagues.

Photo above courtesy Jeffrey M. Dean, Wikipedia

Memoir Writing: A four-step process

By Sheridan Voysey103.2 Open House Finale 2010

St Augustine’s Confessions. Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago. A good memoir can change the world. There’s probably a story in your life that could change the world too – even if it’s just for one person. How do you unearth that story? How do you write a book others will want to read?

Here is a basic outline:
Take the raw materials of your life, and

          sift them

                    lift them

                              craft them

1. Take the Raw Materials of your Life…

‘Panning for Gold’ is an apt metaphor for memoir writing. Just like the precious metal, the ‘gold’ in your story is hidden in the raw materials of your life. It’s scattered in little flecks through life’s dust and dirt – the events, conversations and emotions of each day. It’s found like veins running through the hard stone moments of loss and tears and broken dreams.

What are these raw materials?

  • The People in your life
  • The Places you’ve been
  • The Emotions you’ve experienced
  • The Revelations you’ve had along the way

Where are they found?

Try looking in these ‘pits and streams’ for your gold:

  • Your senses
  • Your memories
  • Your records, journals, photo albums
  • Your family’s tales

The gold will be found in the ground beneath your feet.

Start with the raw materials of your life.

800px-Gold_panning_at_Bonanza_Creek2. Sift them

When the gold is found it’s sifted from the raw materials. The sediment is washed away, the rock is thrown aside. Not everything in your story needs to be written. You have to sift the gold from the dirt. How? Ask two questions:


Who are you (really) writing for?

There are many good reasons to write your memoir or autobiography:

  1. For meaning
  2. For healing
  3. For pleasure
  4. For posterity
  5. For publishing

Who is being written for in reasons 1, 2 and 3? You. What about reason 4? You, or perhaps your family or community. Only in reason 5 are you writing for others. This is important when considering the next question:

What is most valuable to them?

What will be most helpful for your reader to read? What will be gold (not dirt, or even copper) to them? If you’re writing for others, keep in mind that readers of memoir are looking for at least four things:

  • Insight
  • Inspiration
  • Entertainment
  • Hope

3. Lift them

The gold is discovered through sifting, then it is lifted out of the ground. If your story is going to bring riches to others, it will need to be lifted out and up, to transcend you and become a story about your reader. This is key if you’re writing to publish. American writer Beth Kephart puts it like this:

Memoir at its very best… makes its interest in readers explicit, offering not just a series of life events, but a deliberate suggestion of what it is to be a human being—to experience confusion, despair, hope, joy, and all that happens in between. True memoir is a singular life transformed into a signifying life.

Three transitions to make

  • From small story to big theme
  • From particulars to universals
  • From events to discoveries

Ultimately you’re not sharing your story so much as revealing your discoveries – even if that is one discovery revealed on the very last page.

4. Craft them

A nugget of gold is ugly in its raw form. Flecks of gold need to be melted together to become something useful. Gather your gold and employ all your skills to craft it into something beautiful for your readers. There are entire books on writing memoir; in the podcast I extrapolate on just a few key areas:

Master the craft of storytelling

  • Immerse yourself in good work
  • Remember the character arc
  • Details, Dialogue, Delayed Resolution

 Tell the truth

  • Be brave, be vulnerable
  • Avoid undue exaggeration, or romanticising events
  • But don’t write out of anger or self-pity

Balance light and shade

  • Map each chapter emotionally

Get critical feedback

  • Difficult to receive but necessary for success

***
We sleep and dream. We wake. We work. We remember and forget. We have fun and are depressed. And into the thick of it, or out of the thick of it, at moments of even the most humdrum of our days, God speaks.

Frederick Buechner, The Sacred Journey

>>Listen to the complete audio podcast on memoir writing.

Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His latest book Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings was recently shortlisted for the 2014 ECPA Christian Book of the Year award. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and subscribe to his newsletter for more articles, interviews and podcasts. www.sheridanvoysey.com

Photo of gold panning: Wikipedia

How do people learn?

Martin_ManserWe are pleased to offer you this exclusive interview with Martin Manser, author of the new book, Effective Training in a Week

Q: Tell us about the different learning styles you’ve encountered when training writers or others. 
The main different learning styles I’ve encountered when training 
are the following: 
Visual – those who like to see information in the written word, pictures, videos or diagrams to take it in well 
Auditory – those who learn by listening to information 
Kinaesthetic – those who learn by actively doing things, e.g., by role play or team games 

It can be very useful for you to discern where your own personal preference lies: I am more visual and auditory rather than kinaesthetic. The aim is to challenge your assumption that the way other people learn is the same way that you learn. To be an effective trainer, you  need to be alert to the styles of those you want to train. 

You can discern others’ learning styles from how they respond. These words are indicators, for example: 
Visual: see, look, picture, focus 
Auditory: hear (“I hear what you’re saying”), buzz, rings a bell 
Kinaesthetic: feel, concrete, get to grips with, contact 

Q: Why is it important to weigh learning styles when training your colleagues? 
People learn in different ways. We tend to think that they all learn in the same way that we do. Our way is often simply word-based.

I was leading a course a few months ago and I noticed that I didn’t seem to be making any headway with one particular participant. I happened to draw a diagram on the flip chart, and the participant responded well. So I started thinking in terms of communicating well to this participant that I should draw stick men or other simple drawings. This worked; the participant found flowcharts very helpful, for example. 

When I am producing a PowerPoint, I make sure that the words are brief but also I select a picture to accompany my words. I am amazed how few trainers do this. When we look at the television news, very often a picture is behind the newscaster. It takes a long time to find a suitable picture, but as we know, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” The picture will probably be remembered more than e.g., alliteration with words. 

Q: How do you alter your training during a course upon discovering different learning styles? 
It is important that during the training you focus not on yourself but on your participants. The temptation is to think that you must get through your material, but that is not your aim. Your aim is for your participants to learn.

For example, I was leading a course a few years ago and my wife was present. She was much more aware of the participants than I was, and she said to me at mid-morning break, “Do something!” In other words, I needed to change my style of teaching so 
that the participants would learn effectively. Someone has said that you need to change your style every 20 minutes. 

I led a course last week and two of the participants came alive during the role-play. We were acting out negotiation and one was acting as a general manager. He had been very quiet up to that point, and suddenly I was amazed that he could speak so well. 

Q: Is there an ideal style of training? 
There is no ideal style of training. You need to adapt to those who you are training. I work on the basis that people will remember more what they say and do themselves than what I say. 

So if I want to teach the need for planning, I could give the participants six points on the importance of planning, but that would not sink in with them. So often I prefer to ask them to work in pairs and then I might choose one participant to come up to the front and to 
write down answers on the flip chart. I can then fill out what they are saying with further points and good and bad examples from my own experience. I round things off by going through my points on a PowerPoint which lists points and has illustrations. We can then 
proceed to do a group exercise on e.g., planning a project to reinforce the points taught by taking an actual case study/example. 

I may get through less material but I think the teaching is more effective as the participants actually learn well. In your preparation, consider a variety of ways of teaching and training. Your participants are not aware that you choose one exercise or one way of teaching in preference to another. 

Effective TrainingMartin Manser will be leading a webinar for MAI on January 13 on the topic, “Communication and Business Skills for Publishers.”

Check out Martin’s new book, Effective Training in a Week (Hodder Education; McGraw Hill). He has compiled or edited over 200 reference books on the English language, Bible reference and business skills. Martin is an English-language specialist and teaches English to business colleagues. He is an MAI-Europe Trustee.

Authors: Promote Your Book on a Low Budget

Author Jennifer Karina of Kenya shares tips on how she’s learned to spread the Jennie karina headshotmessages in her books. Learn more from Jennifer in our upcoming webinar with Pusonnam Yiri of Nigeria, “Author Promotion on a Low Budget,” August 19. Register online now. 

Think of book promotion as storytelling. The story you are telling is why you wrote your book, how it can help the readers, and how the world will benefit from your book. Ensure that it is well priced, written and edited.

If you can develop a positive attitude about book promotion, people will pick up on it and tune in immediately. I have taken advantage of every opportunity to tell my story and promote my own book. When I introduce myself, I always let people know I am the author of Marriage Built to Last. Churches and bookshops have been willing to let me sit for a day, meet and greet their customers, and talk about my book. This has been powerful. Customers were happy to have an autographed copy as we engaged with them.

Effective promotion stems from the author’s passion. What is your message? Do you own it, believe it and most importantly live it? Whatever your topic you have to model the principles that you share. My message is clear–it’s about building a marriage that lasts. I personally have been married for 36 years and have adult children who are now married. I’m enjoying my 5 grandchildren. When I speak on the topic, I am an authority because I have lived it and exceptionally well.

Learn more from Jennifer in our upcoming webinar with Pusonnam Yiri of Nigeria, “Author Promotion on a Low Budget,” August 19. Register online now.
Check out the schedule of other upcoming webinars.

Dare I? Of course, I don’t!

By Joan CampbellBack cover Joan Campbell

Fear has many facets, and recently I discovered an unexpected one, which has taken a sneaky hold of my life. I’m not quite sure how to shake it, but naming it may be a good start, so here goes.

Not too long ago, I was reading an article on the psychology of procrastination. I should have been writing a blog, re-writing some edits, or collating my short-story collection, but no— I was reading articles about procrastination. It’s something I’ve been struggling with the last few weeks. I don’t feel like writing blogs. I don’t feel like composing tweets. I don’t feel like…well you get the picture!

Procrastination, the article asserts, is rooted in fear. This fear has two sides. Firstly, there is the fear of failure. Before we start something, we think of all the things that could go wrong. We want to do things so perfectly, that the thought of trying and failing makes us too anxious to start. I could relate to this, but it wasn’t a big surprise to me.

However, the second fear the article mentions, was very surprising. It was the fear of success. “For some the fear of success is a real trauma. If they succeed, they may feel exposed and people may expect more from them in the future, leading them to wonder: what if I can’t always deliver?”

It all made sense. My stretch of writer’s block follows from a small, but significant breakthrough in the publishing process. Being slightly closer to my dream of finding a publisher sent me into—what I now understand was—a slight tail spin. How strange that something I want with all my heart is also something I fear.

Once again, I am like Peter walking on the waves. All is wonderful until I think, “I shouldn’t be here—this isn’t going to end well.” Instead of looking at the One who made the wave walking possible, I start to look at the waves. Faith gives way to fear. Success ends in sinking. And I hear Jesus whispering, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Madeleine L’Engle talks about the courage we require. To create. To love. To live.

“In moments of decision, we are to try to make what seems to be the most loving, the most creative decision. We are not to play safe, to draw back out of fear. We are to…fall through the window, journey through the looking glass, return to the imaginative courage of the child. Dare I? Of course I don’t. But I’m going to anyhow because I have no choice.” (L’Engle, Walking on Water)

So, I named it, and you may have noticed that you are reading the first blog in close to a month, which means I might just be shaking it too! No more procrastination. No more holding back. I am moving ahead, fear or no fear!

What is holding you back?

Encounters CoverJoan Campbell lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, with her husband and two teenage daughters. Her first book, Encounters, is due to be released later this year. She is currently writing a young adult fantasy trilogy and devotionals for various publications, including Scripture Union and The Upper Room. She is a trainer for MAI in South Africa.