Follow-Up: A Key to Effective Training

Lawrence Darmani, MAI regional trainer for Africa, has a passion for equipping writers through workshops, mentoring and seminars.  This blog post is the last of a series in which he shares ideas and tips from his long experience as a trainer. 

As a results-oriented person, I wish I could measure every training session and see writers applying the knowledge gained to their writings.  I pray regularly that participants who have spent time, money and energy to attend these MAI workshops will not abandon their skills, but will find enough encouragement in our mentoring to keep up their writings.

Follow-up is key in our training activities.  I like to write encouraging letters to participants after every workshop, with one message: Please make time to write, don’t be discouraged by negative forces such as rejection slips or mental blocks, and remember that the Lord has called you to write. Follow-up letters, like Paul’s epistles, are helpful in reviving workshop participants’ enthusiasm to write.

A stronger follow-up approach is my workshop assignments. My desire for results often leads me to create a workshop project. The practical nature of writing demands that we balance workshop lectures with serious workshop writing. I like to involve participants in producing a piece of writing during the workshop and at home afterward.

For example, Stories from Ibadan was a Nigeria workshop writing assignment that led to the publication of that anthology of personal experience narratives.  Another example is the Uganda workshop, where participants wrote expository articles on their country’s national anthem, soon to be published. A more recent illustration was a joint project at the writer workshop in South Africa, where participants began writing fiction to compile for publication.  These writing projects lead to post-workshop activities that ensure a self-propelled follow-up.

Sometimes, it is necessary to return to a country to conduct a follow-up workshop, either as a follow-up of the previous one or to provide new direction for the group. That is why an intern can return to an organization for another on-the-job training period.  Whichever way follow-up is done, it is an important part of the training process.

How have you followed up with writers?

Lawrence Darmani

Read Lawrence’s full remarks on writer training here.

Subscribe to LittWorld Online.

Kenyans create meditations for the world

By Meaghan Zang, MAI intern

“Mary was sick and her condition seemed hopeless,” wrote Joseph Alum of Kenya in a recent devotional published in The Upper Room.  The woman was wracked by tuberculosis, seemingly beyond recovery, but God answered prayer for her healing.

Joseph’s moving story — reaching readers in 100 countries and 45 language editions — would have remained untold without the training he received at a Nairobi writer workshop organized by Philip Polo of Africa Upper Room Ministries.

When Philip first began working for The Upper Room as a distributor, he noticed the lack of international writers in the devotional. A few years later, as editor of the devotional’s Kiswahili edition, he thought, “It could d3_327-african-man-at-window-writingmake a difference to encourage readers of our meditations to share their faith stories by writing about what God did in their everyday lives.”

So, Philip began conducting monthly devotional writing workshops in Kenya. At the workshops, he discovers and trains new writers like Joseph Alum.

The transition from reader to published writer, however, is not always easy.  Polo’s writing workshops instill new writers with the necessary skills and confidence. “Some first-time writers feel that they are not as good as the writers of the meditations they have read,” he said. “Also, not many people are willing to write meditations about their experiences; they would rather just verbalize them.” Training for devotional writing is essential to encourage faith-sharing and drive fear from novice writers, he says.

During a typical session, participants begin by sharing their faith stories aloud.  Then, they write a short meditation and exchange them for review and improvement. While the workshops currently focus on meditations, Polo plans to produce a quarterly Christian journal with these writers.

Polo says the training sessions are valuable for readers, writers and potential writers. They “widen the scope of international writers who can become a blessing to the global audience of readers of The Upper Room devotional guides.”

The Upper Room, a ministry of the United Methodist Church, has published daily devotional guides since 1935. Writers worldwide are invited to submit meditations. Guidelines are available online. 

By Meaghan Zang, MAI intern

Photos by Eric Gitonga

‘Practice What You Preach’ as a Writer Trainer

Lawrence Darmani, MAI regional trainer for Africa, has a passion for equipping writers through workshops, mentoring and seminars.  This blog post is one of a continuing series in which he shares ideas and tips from his long experience as a trainer. 

My writing experience included some key disciplines that had worked for me, skills acquired on-the-job, such as:  make time to write, always re-write to improve the first draft, and work on an article or story idea until it is sharp, clear and interesting to write. Because I had taught myself never to be discouraged if my manuscript was rejected by a publisher, editor or individual, I told the participants [of my seminars] to cultivate the same attitude. I remember emphasizing the principle that the more you write the more you learn how to write, a rule I learned not from a book but from personal experience.

Recently, I was browsing the internet when I stumbled across a writer’s blog with a link to the Mount Herman writer conference. I was stunned to find my name in her blog. The writer was in the session I taught.  In the blog, she cited an analogy I gave about writing that addressed a key struggle in her writing life.

The blogger recalled the analogy in which I compared ideas for writing to the situation where women in my hometown go out every day to fetch water from a shallow well. By late afternoon, the well dries up.  However, the next day, enough water is always collected in the shallow well to serve those women who go out to fetch some. The point I made at the workshop was:  writers must write daily (or regularly) in order to come up with fresh ideas for their stories.  When a mental block hits, don’t worry: take a break, return tomorrow to your writing, and new ideas will gather like water in a shallow well.

What are your struggles as a writer?  How do you combat mental blocks and gather new ideas?

Lawrence Darmani

Read Lawrence’s full remarks on writer training here.

Subscribe to LittWorld Online and receive notification of new posts in your inbox.

Practical Tips for Effective Writer Trainers

Lawrence Darmani, MAI regional trainer for Africa, has a passion for equipping writers through workshops, mentoring and seminars.  This blog post is one of a continuing series in which he shares ideas and tips from his long experience as a trainer. 

  • Be passionate.

I’ve often caught myself interrupting my regular work in order to answer writers’ questions. Passion must be responsible for this. Passion unlocks doors, breaks barriers, and keeps us doing what we really believe in. 

  • Make the time.  

I’ve found training to be time-consuming, and time is a resource effective trainers should be willing to offer those they train.

  • Share what you know. 

Share what you’ve learned in your own practice and by what you’ve learned from others.  The more we share what we know, the more confident we become in sharing it.

  • Impart encouragement. 

Every writer trainer’s indispensable tool is the disposition of encouragement. The writers I’ve interacted with in my training rounds over the years have singled out “encouragement” as the leading benefit they’ve derived from my interaction with them.

  • Make time to prepare. 

I’ve benefited from writer training in a number of ways.  Preparing for a training helps me to learn from the masters. The saying is true that proper preparation enhances delivery performance. I prepare for lectures as though I’m learning good stuff to apply to my own works.

  • Educate yourself.

Writing is one thing, and understanding what constitutes effective writing is quite another.  Writing is a discipline, like subjects such as English and Mathematics, and there are certain rules governing it.  Therefore, the trainer should regularly upgrade his or her knowledge in the hows and whys of the writing process.  The field abounds with scores of learning and teaching materials on the subject of writing, and it is a useful exercise for us trainers to regularly acquire such technical knowledge.

What are your tips for writer trainers?

Lawrence Darmani, MAI’s Africa regional trainer

Read Lawrence’s full remarks on writer training here.

Remember, you can subscribe to receive blog updates in your inbox.

The Importance of Prayer in Writer Training

Darmani prayer imageFacing every training session, whether locally or abroad, I’m always aware of that weight of responsibility. I feel like the sower in the Lord Jesus’ parable going out to sow the seed.  Will some fall by the roadside and be forgotten?  Will some fall among rocky grounds so that despite the principles of writing imparted, understanding fails and the seed does not germinate?  What about the many cares and concerns that plague writers?  Things such as making time to write in the midst of busyness, writing and not finding an editor or publisher, rejection slips, and financial challenges. How will I communicate my thoughts in such a way that the writers will be properly equipped? So I pray a lot for the participants and their writing life.

Prayer for Clear Communication

Even accent (in the case of travelling abroad) can be a barrier to effective communication, so I ask the Lord for the grace to be effective in my communication.

Prayer for Humility

I’m aware of going to meet people I’ve never met before, so I pray to be humble enough to listen and befriend participants, to respect and appreciate those who spent time and energy and other resources to come to the workshop.  What you don’t want to do is enter into an argument with a participant over a disagreeable statement or differences in opinion, and humility is one antidote to such a dismal situation. Moreover, some of the participants may be highly knowledgeable and much experienced.  At a South Africa writing workshop in Pietermaritzburg, a couple of the participants were college professors, and one of them had written many books! I try to remember always that as a trainer, I’m only a facilitator, never a Mr. Know-All.

Prayer for safety and protection

One time, a co-trainer and I on a West-African training assignment narrowly missed a coup d’état and riots that erupted and threw the whole country into chaos. Every time I enter a country, I pray for that country’s well-being and progress.

I dedicate every writer training session to the Lord. It is His ministry, and we are only servants. One may sow and another may water, but God gives the growth.

Lawrence Darmani

What are other ways to support writer trainers in prayer?  How do you pray for writer trainers, writers and publishers?

Lawrence’s full remarks on writer training may be found here.

Click here to subscribe and get new posts in your inbox!