Waking the Dragon

Last month Jenny Young attended “My Story for His Glory,” a Christian writer My Story for his glory groupworkshop and retreat in South Africa. Led by fiction author and MAI trainer Joan Campbell and author Mandy Hackland, the week-end retreat was attended by 13 writers. They chose between two tracks: fiction and devotional writing. Jenny, who works in a secondary school science lab, questioned signing up for the workshop after years of doubting a call to write. Here are excerpts from her blog post, “Waking the Dragon,” following the retreat:

I thought writing was my dream. I was wrong. After spending about 5 years writing two novels and a children’s book, sending emails to hundreds of agents and publishers, giving the books to friends to read, even I had to realize that I was not a writer. At least not a fiction writer.

Jenny YoungIt was like I had a tiny dragon in my hand who could breathe the fire of a message. He had wings that could take the written word far and wide but after years of trying hard and repeated failure, his puff just got weaker and weaker. Finally his fire was no more than green smoke rings and then died out altogether. Eventually he just gave up, folded his wings and went to sleep. I put him in my pocket and forgot about him.

Why did I sign up for a workshop and retreat called  “My Story for His Glory”?   I am not quite sure but it became increasingly obvious that my God wanted me there.

After lunch we split into two groups, devotional writing and fiction. Because I felt such a failure at fiction, I attended that stream. We had to write a voice journal, where you just give your character a voice, as if he/she is speaking, perhaps being interviewed. At one stage I was in tears because of my character’s passion. I thought to myself, “Maybe I can do this!”

In our worship service…I realized that writing wasn’t my dream. It was my ministry. God called me to write. I was anointed with everybody else to write for the Lord.

So, in a way, the weekend woke my dragon and rekindled his fire—only, it isn’t my dragon. It belongs to God. The gift is His and He will send it where He wants to use it.

What next? I don’t know. Do I rewrite my fiction novels? Write and publish more children’s books? Write a blog? Write devotions?

Only God can lead me and that will be one baby step at a time. Writing this post is one little step. I will get a notebook. I will write 5 lines a week. The rest is up to the Dragon Master.

Saddest Little Sugar Bowl Jenny YoungJenny just launched a blog. Her book, The Saddest Little Sugar Bowl in the World, teaches children—particularly those who are ‘different’—the value of their individuality. She finally self-published it, making it available as a free download.

 

 

Workshop participant, Val Michelsen (84), has been inspired to carry on writing her autobiography. Read her account of the workshop.

Join us in praying for Jenny, Val and other South African writers as they follow God’s call. Pray also for trainers Joan and Mandy as they seek to encourage these writers.

“Thank you to MAI for nurturing and equipping writers in Africa,” Joan wrote us. Read “Courageous Voices,” Joan’s account of coordinating and leading this workshop.

 

Rewriting Is Rewarding

LawrenceBy Lawrence Darmani

It took me a long time to write the devotional article I had been assigned. When I submitted it, I was sure I had done my best, but my publishers pointed out several weaknesses and asked if I would rewrite it.

In my writing life, I’ve discovered several secrets about rewriting:
(1) Never think what I’ve written is without blemish or that it is so divine it cannot be improved;
(2) After every rewrite, my manuscript gets sharper, easier to read and communicates better;
(3) The process of rewriting teaches me patience, humility and consideration for the reader who deserves the best; and
(4) Every rewritten manuscript stands a better chance of getting published.

Reminding myself of these time-tested lessons, I lost no time in looking over my devotional article and making the revisions, taking into account the editor’s suggestions. When I saw the article in print, it was indeed a stronger devotional piece with a more solid message for the reader. Grateful to the editor for pointing out the weaknesses, I toughened myself for another opportunity when rewriting may become necessary.

Of course, to be asked to rewrite a manuscript is not altogether palatable. It wasn’t easy when God told Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke” (Exodus 34:1). Chiseling out two stone tablets must have taken days to accomplish, but Moses obeyed, knowing that unless what had been written before was rewritten, he would lose the precious Word of God for himself and for the people he had been called to lead.

The “rewriting” process for Moses gave him great privileges: “the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him” (v. 5); the Lord passed in front of him (v. 6); he learned great attributes of God (vs. 6-9); the Lord made a new covenant with him (v. 10) and he received great divine instructions for God’s people.

If rewriting does not appeal to you, remember God himself requires that this be done. If it is tough, remember Moses chiseled out stone tablets. Not only that: God asked him to do the rewriting himself. “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” (Exodus 34:22).

Those who detest rewriting risk having their manuscript rejected.

Thank you, Lord, for helping me to see the relevance of having to rewrite and hone my manuscripts. Take away every form of reluctance and laziness and help me to work hard at my manuscripts in order to better them. Amen.

Meet award-winning author Lawrence Darmani and take his workshops at 141124LittWorldPosLittWorld 2015. He is an entrepreneurial publisher, author and managing editor of Step Publishers in Ghana. Lawrence is also managing editor of Step and Surprise magazines for young people.

>Improve your rewriting. Register now for our free webinar on Tuesday, July 16, “Is Less More? The discipline of self-editing” with veteran editor Alice Crider of the US.

Humility, the Mark of An Excellent Leader

ramon rochaBy Ramon Rocha

As leaders, pride can get into our heads especially when we achieve victories and successes in our projects. Accolades can fuel our fire of self-sufficiency, of not needing help from God. An excellent leader is one who has a servant attitude and is humble and teachable.

Listening and openness to comments, advice, correction and even criticism requires humility. Pride is subtle. It’s okay to rejoice and celebrate, but we have to remember to defer to the Lord, who is a jealous God.

How do you handle criticism? Ask yourself, “Is there truth to the criticism?” Examine the validity of the comment. If it is correct, even to the slightest degree, ask forgiveness if you’ve made a mistake. Change your ways. Humbly admit errors, do what is required and then move on.

If the criticism is not true, then either correct the rumor or simply dismiss the critical comment with a clear conscience and submit the issue to God.

“We spend so much time and expend so much energy trying to gain a sense of worth from others…ultimately, only God’s opinion of us matters,” wrote theologian Stanley J. Grenz.

Excellent leaders intentionally train people to take over someday. Does your company have a conscious program to develop talents and equip those who will lead after you’re gone? Succession planning is an exercise in developing humility and our rightful place in God’s economy. If you feel invincible and irreplaceable, wake yourself up before God cuts you off.

I remember sending nearly every manager of OMF Literature to trainings either locally or overseas. When David C Cook was offering 10-day courses in Colorado Springs, I sent delegates to learn in editorial, finance, sales and marketing. We sent multiple staff to the two LittWorld international publishing conferences in the Philippines. We also invited board members or their qualified colleagues to lead in-house trainings.

Another measure of humility and teachability is a willingness to be surrounded by people smarter than you. The marketing guy whom I hired back in 2001 is now the CEO of OMF Literature in Manila. When I saw how smart he was emceeing an event for us with Philip Yancy, I told our marketing manager to offer him a job. This microbiology major is now the CEO! He is now taking the company to greater heights, growing from strength to strength.

With humility comes the realization that the company or the department you are heading is not yours. It is the Lord’s. We leaders are accountable to the Real Owner. In fact, we have to report regularly to him on how the company is doing, how are we managing the cash, the inventory, how are we leading and managing the staff, yes, even knowing what’s happening with our respective staff member’s families.

Jesus is our primary example of humility and servant-leadership. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2 that our union with Christ should be reflected in our general attitude and in how we relate with others. Basically, we must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Ramon Rocha is the director of publisher development at MAI. This post is an excerpt from his talk, “Seven Marks of an Excellent Leader in Christian Publishing,” given at MAI’s European Forum, England, April 8, 2015.

Come to LittWorld 2015, the only international Christian publishing conference of141124LittWorldPos its kind. Join us in Singapore this November 1 to 6, alongside more than 200 professionals from Asia, Africa, Europe, North and Latin America and the Middle East. All Christian writers, editors, graphic designers, publishers and booksellers are welcome. Gain intensive training on strategic publishing-related topics. Learn more now.

LittWorld leads to published book

By Yahya Djuanda, Indonesia

The LittWorld 2012 conference in Kenya had a really big impact on me, especially on my writing goals. I also learned much from other participants about how committed they are in writing with Christian values.

I met four people who really reignited my writing passion. They were from d1_014 indonesian greeting AfricanMongolia, China, Egypt and India. Their countries are similar to mine, Indonesia, where Christianity is a minority religion. They live their writing careers as a small light sparkling in the darkness of the country. They write a lot and help people without using Christian jargon. They are very inspiring to me. After Kenya, I continued to email with them.

Back in Indonesia, the conference experiences and inspirations slowly but surely made me stronger and more confident in my writing goals. I must be a light for my country through my writing. During my service as an editor at Berkat Christian magazine, I started to write a general book about fathering and a husband’s calling and responsibility. By “general book” I mean not an explicitly Christian book.

Why am I writing the book? Today in Indonesia there are some 220,000 legal divorces per year as noted in the Religion Office, or about 700 per day! These happen for various reasons, mostly disharmony, followed by economic reasons and domestic violence, and divorce occurs among young couples with low education.

My wife, a Sunday school teacher, also mentioned how many of her kids’ parents have problems. She was visiting kids’ houses to get to know the families deeper, and often found that the parents had problems in their marriage, such as living separately, not talking to each other, and domestic violence, but they were still in a legal marriage. In most of the families’ cases, the cause was the husband.

These cases will negatively impact soul development, mental strength and the religious lives of the kids. It will affect the kids’ personalities and characters, and impact his/her own future family. I heard a call in my heart to write about the issue.

I was a participant of a book writing camp in November (4 days and 3 nights, a year after the Kenya meeting), and during the camp I wrote the wholeYahya-book-cover-An draft of my first book. The camp was supervised by Edy Zaqeus, a Catholic best-selling author, ghost writer and writer coach.

My book title is: Andakah suami keren itu? (Are You A Cool Husband?). The book is about a husband’s calling and his responsibility as the head of family. The draft is finished, endorsements are there, and the quotes and jokes are in place.

We congratulate Yahya! After he wrote this article, one of Indonesia’s large general publishing houses released his book in October 2014. It’s now available on Amazon.

141124LittWorldPosHave you considered attending LittWorld 2015? Join us in Singapore, November 1 to 6. Don’t miss our triennial conference for Christian writers, editors and publishing staff from around the world. Invest in your publishing ministry and the readers you serve. You will gain fresh skills, vision and networks and become part of the global LittWorld “family.” Register today.

Time Management, Life Balance and Avoiding Burnout

SooInn Tan 2015By Soo-Inn Tan, Malaysia/Singapore

In his book Working the Angles, Eugene Peterson points out the following:

The Deuteronomy reason for Sabbath-keeping is that our ancestors in Egypt went four hundred years without a vacation (Deuteronomy 5:15). Never a day off. The consequence: they were no longer considered persons but slaves. Hands. Work units. Not persons created in the image of God but equipment for making bricks and building pyramids.

Keeping the Sabbath was therefore both blessing and sign. (See Deuteronomy 5: 12-15.) The people of God kept one day in seven free of their usual productive activity because they needed it. The fact that they could keep it was also a sign that they were no longer slaves. They were no longer under the cruel rule of Pharaoh and Egypt. They were now free, free under God.

As a people under the care of a loving God, they could afford to work when it was time to work, rest when it was time to rest. Sabbath-keeping was an eloquent statement of their status as God’s people and the reality of the sovereign, benevolent nature of God.

When I look at the frenzied hectic lifestyles of most Christians today, we seem to resemble slaves more than free people. We may no longer be in bondage to Pharaoh, but we are still slaves, slaves to fear, pride, greed, materialism, consumerism, etc. Like those who do not know God, we too push ourselves to work long hours, doing with as little rest as possible.

Christians in vocational ministry are no different. In fact because they are conscious that they are doing “God’s work” they are even less inclined to keep the divine work-Sabbath rhythm. As a result many of our best people burn out or become susceptible to all sorts of spiritual and emotional collapse.

I invite you to attend my webinar on Wednesday, April 22, at 8 a.m. CST, when we will address this problem head on–first by acknowledging the frantic pace of modern life, and then by looking at some key biblical and practical ways we can structure our lives so that we can continue to work hard healthily.

Register online now for MAI’s free webinar with Pastor Soo-Inn Tan, “Time Management, Life Balance, and Avoiding Burnout”

Soo-Inn Tan of Malaysia/Singapore is a founding director of Graceworks, a training and publishing consultancy committed to promoting spiritual friendship in church and society. Soo-Inn is committed to connecting the Word of God to the struggles of daily life through teaching, mentoring and writing.