Category Archives: Writing

Hopes and Dreams

Time to take stock. I launched this blog in June 2012, and my Facebook personal page and community page, Full Pitcher Christian Women, on Christmas Day 2012. What have I learned? Why do it?

I have a big dream—to reach Christian women around the globe with messages of insight and encouragement. I have no illusions that my efforts are unique or special—there are thousands of sites such as mine—but I always did like singing in a choir.

What I’ve learned:

  • You readers are shy with Likes, Comments, and Shares. I get that in this crazy cyber age of assaults on our privacy. However, let me give you what assurances I can. Before I approve a comment on my blog I edit out last names unless you tell me you want traffic to your blog or url, so there isn’t a cyber trail to you that I’m aware of. On Facebook my understanding is that if you lock down your privacy settings, no one can get past your FB front door, even if they see your name on a Comment. Please correct me if I’m wrong. So, if you’re comfortable, Like, Comment, and Share away.
  • You like photos. So do I. Feel free to share and plaster my copyrighted photos all over the place in any free application.
  • You like short articles or snippets. This seems especially true on Facebook where the News Feed goes by so fast and there’s so much to read. And, the universal lament, so little time.
  • You really are friends. I admit to being a cyber grinch at heart, skeptical of cyber relationships. But I’ve learned they are what they are, and they are something of value. That’s YOU.
  • Some of you readers are men. That’s great too. Though Full Pitcher Christian Women is intended for women, men are welcome to have a look. After all, it’s not a bad thing to have men learn more about our thoughts, our hearts, our needs. My blog is more gender neutral and guy-friendly.

Why do this social media thing?

  • It’s a ministry to you. Plain and simple: if you don’t benefit from it, there’s no point. Any feedback you have for me on what works, what doesn’t work, would be appreciated. If you want to keep it private, Message me.
  • It exercises my writing muscles. This is the part for me—writers write, and social media is a great platform for writing.  I’ve written a novel for Christian women that I’ll be letting you know about in the next few months, as soon as I find out how it fared in this year’s contest at The Christian Writers Guild.

You’ll notice that “you” appears many times in these taking-stock thoughts. You are why I do this. You are the key to spreading the word. So thank YOU.

A Word’s Worth

Maybe it’s time for a revolt. Our language has gotten revolting!

To wit, here’s a video pertaining to same. It reminds me of Professor Higgins’s lament in “My Fair Lady”:

Oh, why can’t the English learn to set 
A good example to people whose 
English is painful to your ears? 
The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears. 
There even are places where English completely
disappears. In America, they haven’t used it for years! 

So, hang on—this guy talks fast! And enjoy.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbSSQe6vsSw?rel=0&w=640&h=360]

On Becoming a Stephen King Fan

Before you take me too literally, let me qualify that—I’m becoming a fan of Stephen King the writer. Prior to a couple weeks ago I’d never read a word King wrote; I don’t like being terrified. Ever since Miss Gultch turned into the Wicked Witch of the North before my very young eyes, I’ve preferred to keep my distance from scary. I screamed out loud in the theater when the alien appeared in the TV reflection in “Signs”.

However, some of the top Christian writers recommend “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, (with a warning about the language), for learning about writing and being a writer from one of the most prolific and successful contemporary American writers. So I read it. I was stunned. The guy can really write! And the language is really bad!

It’s fascinating to read the autobiographical part of the book that tells about King’s formative years as a writer. Of course, since I’m a psychotherapist, I was also reading for psychological and personality development. When your babysitter locks you in the closet and generally abuses you, no wonder you write scary things. And oh so much more that explains who Stephen King is.

What emerges in the book is a vivid picture of King and his approach to writing. I’m inspired. He didn’t get where he is fooling around at writing. He also doesn’t fool around at life. He’s a devoted husband of one wife, father, and grandfather. I looked at a video clip of an interview with King and his wife five months after King’s near-fatal accident June ’99. They seem to be the people he writes they are: genuine and loving.

Currently I’m reading a collection of short stories by King. I’m reading with one eye to learning about plot development. He sure makes things happen: things the reader believes, even if they’re unbelievable.

Will I read any of King’s three inch thick horror stories? Probably not—I have enough trouble sleeping.

http://www.amazon.com/On-Writing-ebook/dp/B000FC0SIM/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1369065290&sr=8-1&keywords=on+writing+stephen+king
http://www.amazon.com/On-Writing-ebook/dp/B000FC0SIM/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1369065290&sr=8-1&keywords=on+writing+stephen+king

Writing Contest Results

The five-month wait is over. I now have my score and critique in hand—the results of having entered my first writing contest. It’s been quite an experience so far. If you’re an aspiring writer, I highly recommend putting your work out there for judgement. Sounds ominous, but it’s a great way to improve in our craft.

I entered Operation First Novel, a contest sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. In the cover letter accompanying my critique, Jerry Jenkins encouraged entrants. He reminded us that many writers never get this far, actually completing a manuscript, and he spurred us to “press on”, (Philippians 3:12).

Having read that, holding my breath, I turned to my score and critique. I had mistakenly thought the score was based on 100 points, so you can guess my reaction when I saw my score that was actually based on 70 points. A 30 point difference in expectation caused a moment of angst before I caught my error.

Overall, I didn’t do too badly. I’ve participated in countless auditions and contests, so this is a familiar place—though I’ve never had to wait five months for results! (I’m of the school of thought some days that says instant gratification isn’t fast enough.)

My judge wrote helpful comments and suggestions for each of the seven criteria. The judge also had plenty of positive feedback which confirmed that I’m on the right track. I don’t know where the track’s going yet, but it’s the right one to be on.

So, with critique in hand, I’ve started the revision process—the fourth pass through. The judge suggested a resource book on revision: The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. Writers, trust me, you need this book.

I feel good, even a little exhilarated. I’m the Little Engine That Could. I’m pressing on. Revision. Agent hunt…

When I feel discouraged, thinking I started this writing game too late, I remember what an 80-something friend said, “but you wouldn’t have had the maturity to write then like you do now.”

Press on to take hold of the prize. Win the race!

Be blessed to be a blessing.

Review, “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake”, by Anna Quindlen

Screen shot 2013-01-07 at 3.40.47 PM

Part review, part discourse on the topic at hand, here’s what I thought of Anna Quindlen’s bestseller.

Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of nonfiction, but “Lots of Candles…” is worth a read. Quindlen writes with candor about the experience of growing up and growing old(er) as a Baby Boomer woman.

A confused generation of women—we Boomers were raised by mostly traditional mothers and fathers, then thrown into the Women’s Liberation Movement, coped with marriage to men raised by traditional parents, slammed into motherhood and careers, crashed against the aging and deaths of our parents, and now have come to rest in our sixties. It’s been exciting to be part of an era of such change, but exhausting.

What Quindlen misses, and this is a good thing for her, is the phenomenon of serial marriages to which our generation has fallen prey. Married to the same good man for decades, she views the cultural mess of marriages from a distance and can only write about it journalistically. We’ve perpetrated serial attachment figures on our children to the point they no longer trust relationships. Worse yet, another consequence is that, as parents, our children are afraid to set boundaries with their children, to say “no”, for fear the kids won’t love them. Shame on us Boomers. (If this doesn’t apply to you—well done!)

A Pulitzer Prize winner, Quindlen’s an exceptional writer, though I got annoyed with the 75¢-New York Times-words. I wrote a doctoral dissertation, so I can use big words, but I don’t like reading with a dictionary to hand or guessing at the nuance of a sentence more than once a chapter.

Quindlen’s memoir is a glimpse into the life of a woman who has so far navigated the Boomer experience pretty well. She’s one of the pioneers of our era. As I watched an episode of BBC’s “George Gently” in which child sexual abuse in the 60s is depicted correctly as the crime that never existed, I’m grateful for the movers and shakers like Quindlen.

But…Quindlen extolls the era as one of choice for women. True. However, some of the choices we made were really stupid—short-sighted and self-centered—free love wasn’t free at all. We’re still counting the cost.

It was hard growing up a Boomer woman—exciting, but hard. A lot of what shaped me was in reaction to anger and resentment. Seems like I vacillated between outraged “Why not?” and passive acceptance. I remember a cartoon with two toddlers, a boy and a girl, looking down the front of their own diapers—”Oh THAT’S the difference in our salaries!” Not funny. Still isn’t. My boomer friends and I were often at war with our expectations and our desires.

So, are we now Invisible Women? Yes, I think we are—certainly we’re invisible to younger men, (that’s creepy anyway)—but also in the workplace. Age discrimination hasn’t changed one bit. In these economic times it’s tough when many older women find themselves in need of a job.

Too often we’re invisible in our marriages as the shared guilt of taking each other for granted sets in after years together.

Some of us seem invisible because we’ve just quieted down—either worn out or finally content. The next generation is making the noise now, the noise of entitlement as they scrabble toward their dreams. They too deserve their day.

Quindlen strikes a chord in us—”Never give up!” said the frog, its hands around the heron’s throat.

To that end, never giving up, I’ve created a Facebook Page you might be interested in if any of this resonates with you—”Full Pitcher Christian Women…because you can’t pour from an empty pitcher.”

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Full-Pitcher-Christian-Women/421200524619882?ref=hl

Quindlen says she wants more. Me too!

Cristine Eastin © 2013

Rejection #l

The wait is over. After three long months, the ten semifinalists, out of 102 entrants, for the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest were announced; the list did not include my name and the title of my novel.

Rejection #1. I can start the official count.

I’m disappointed, but not as much as I thought I’d be. I’m familiar with this process. I once responded to the psychological projective questions of—”I am___, People are___, Life is____,”  with “Life is an audition.” I have what seems like a life-long history of competitions and auditions—waiting for results. Now I wait for the critique and the score on my novel. Then I revise again.

In the meantime, I get busy. Since I now know the OFN isn’t the door I’ll go through at the moment, I keep preparing—developing my platform (social media), identifying agents for the query phase, trying not to fall off the path.

Rejection can do one of two things—discourage me and get me to quit, or galvanize me to action and improvement. I choose the latter. I remember the first time I was videotaped in preparation for a speech contest in high school and really saw my performance. I learned to welcome critical feedback and use it.

Rejection never feels good. But it doesn’t feel quite so bad when you trust the source of the rejection. The CWG is committed to helping writers do their best.

So, congratulations to the ten semifinalists. I know they worked incredibly hard to get where they are and that they’re obediently using the gift of writing the Lord gave them.

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Writing as Worship

Dry, shriveled leaves blowing down the alley. Hard, scraping noise in the dark. The sound caught my attention and found a place to hold on.

I’ve felt dry. Since submitting my novel to the Operation First Novel contest, I’ve felt withered—disconnected—in general, and from the Lord. I thought it might be just the letdown of completing a huge fourteen-month work during which I was happily cloistered from reality. But it’s more than that.

I realized writing is an act of worship for me—a gift I give back to the Lord—and I miss it.

I’ve said and prayed that I rely on the Lord for every breath. And for every word.

“He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Deuteronomy 8:3 NIV

It was a blessed time, writing my novel—in a nearly constant loop of seeking and praising the Lord.

Now I’m in the praying-about-the-next-story phase, casting for the starting point. I have to remember that for some, the waters part before they take a step—others have to stick their toe in, and then the river parts.

I picture myself, sitting on my heels in the presence of  the Lord, with my gift of writing in a wooden box before me. I shove the box out to the Lord. The world pulls it back to me. But I keep pushing it out, until finally I take my hands off of it, close my eyes, and watch and pray while I wait. Worshipping.

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Next Novel—Like Climbing A Mountain

Pity me—I’m starting to think about beginning work on my next novel.

It’s fun, but it’s also like standing at the bottom of the mountain, looking up at how far you have to go. We wonder—why in the world do people climb mountains?—really. Because they’re there? Not likely—it would be much easier to go around.

Taurus mountains, Antalya, Turkey

I think people climb mountains because the process of getting to the top fulfills some need—maybe a dysfunctional, masochistic need, but a need nevertheless—and the view is gratifying, even incomparable.

I climbed a mountain once, sort of. I got up at 3 a.m. and joined a group for a trek up a smallish peak in Switzerland. We had to start early to get off the mountain before snow melted, opening up unseen crevasses. It was mostly a hard slog. We followed switchback paths, marched over a snowfield, and clambered up the rock pinnacle with the assist of embedded chains, to the hut at the top. But what a view! Of the Matterhorn, Dent du Midi, and other surrounding peaks. On the way down, a woman panicked when we had to leap over a petite crevasse (the bottom of which I couldn’t see), and she had to be encouraged down step by step.

Writing is like that. Regardez la petite crevasse! Watch out for the little crack! (Our Swiss guide really said that.)

My next novel might be set in the Scottish Highlands or an island and then England, starting in the ’50’s or ’60’s and moving forward in time to the ’70’s or ’80’s. I foresee complexity (crevasses)—things I’ll have to research—all over the place. “Why?” the writer laments, “Couldn’t I pick something simple?” Because, when I’m done, it will have been worth it.

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Saudade, A Deep Longing

Saudade–I have a bad case of it. Wikipedia defines this Portuguese word as, “…a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.”

Sigh.

My saudade sighs are for England.

In my mid-twenties I lived in Beaconsfield, England: halfway between London and Oxford. This was my house—minus the two-story addition on the right where the brick is darker and plus masses of tall Queen Elizabeth roses. My house must also have a new name, or no name, since one chimney was removed. The Post Office once directed a friend visiting from Geneva to my house when the friend said, “I think her house is called ‘Two Stacks’.” How quaint.

For two years “Two Stacks” was home. I arrived a young, naive woman and left with a heart full of the love of friends—a heart that’s got a chunk of it shaped like England into which only England and things English will fit.

I long to return: a longing so strong it feels as if it might pull my heart right out of my chest and stick it to some place in England.

I run back to England as often as I can—to the dreary weather, the quaint houses, the endless footpaths, the English way of life—and to friends.

Almost every day a friend and I walked our dogs here. Public access to private land gave us miles of hill and dale for the dogs to run, providing the dogs didn’t bother the livestock. The only time that almost went wrong was when I watched helplessly as a stud donkey chased my dog. Fortunately my dog ducked under the fence an inch ahead of the hoofs.

Sigh.

I long to walk in England. Tramping the sidewalks in my rabbit warren urban US neighborhood doesn’t cut it. Nor does walking the Department of Natural Resources land near my house where they’ve just clear-cut the woods to make way for a prairie restoration. “Progress!” she spat out in disgust.

Sometimes my English friend and I ate lunch here, both dogs resting under the table—the Royal Standard of England. I had already had a taste of living overseas by this time, having lived in Geneva, Switzerland, for two ski seasons, but the Royal Standard was an eye-opener. I understood why England viewed its American step-children as unappreciative of history. Part of the Royal Standard was 900 years old. I had no sense of history like that.

England has changed  tremendously since I lived there. The pace of life has almost caught up to the US, horrible blights on the architectural landscape have gone up, economic stress is rife, and the country struggles valiantly with ethnic diversity. The butcher shop that brined my corned beef for me and the butcher that gave my dog treats are gone, replaced by a huge, convenient grocery store.

Yet I can’t wait to get back. It makes me feel righted somehow—like my bones have fallen into place.

I know all this saudade silliness flies in the face of  Paul’s wisdom: “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” (Philippians 4:11). It’s not that I’m not content in the State of Wisconsin. But, for some reason, God put this love of England in me. I do know that my next novel will be set in Scotland and England. If I can’t live there in reality, at least I can live there in my imagination.

If only they wouldn’t drive on the left!

Cristine Eastin © 2012

Operation First Novel

Operation First Novel is a contest for, as it says, authors submitting an unpublished novel. The contest is sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

This year I entered my novel. 

Huh. When I pushed the send button on my entry form no flares went up, no confetti, no balloons, no champagne cork popped. Didn’t it register in the universe that I had just submitted my novel to a contest?

No—nothing. Then I remembered what a lonely business writing is. Really, it’s more alone than lonely. I’m not lonely when I write—generally I’m having fun somewhere on the fun continuum between good enough and a blast.

After submission, then a writer waits—and waits—and waits.

Years ago, while whining to the Lord about waiting on something else, the scripture came to mind “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41). Whether or not I get what I think I want, I don’t wait alone—I wait with the Lord—and I wait actively—watching and praying.

There are a lot of I‘s in that last sentence— enough to gag on. My fervent prayer is that the Lord helps me get out of His way so He can use me. But I’m no better than the disciples—I keep falling asleep when I’m asked to “watch and pray.” Then it’s—wake up—slap cold water on my face—and try again.

As Peter Leavell, winner of Operation First Novel 2011, said “…God knows the end (Jeremiah 29:11). He knew I would win.” Likewise, He knows exactly what will come of my novel. That’s weird to know while I wait, but that’s part of God’s process—teaching us to trust Him in the dark. But it’s still…well…dark, and sometimes my lower lip trembles.

I don’t expect to win the contest, but I want to win the prize. “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

© Cristine Eastin, 2012