With the Wordsowers Christian Writers Conference right around the corner, Kat Crawford, one of the leaders of the group, did a Q & A with me (I’ll be teaching at the conference) recently and it just went up on the Wordsowers website.
We talked about when I first knew I wanted to write, how writers conferences helped me, my favorite workshops to teach at conferences, my favorite authors, why I enjoy writing about sports, and a few other topics.
If you are in the Midwest, it’s not too late to register for the conference that will be held in Omaha, Neb. on February 28 – March 1. Click here to register.
Now, here’s the interview:
Lionhearted Kat: When we met, you worked at a bank. When did you decide you wanted to write?
Lee: My parents divorced when I was eight years old, so my dad came to get me on Saturdays to spend time with him. He was a painter (the kind who paints houses) and he owned his own shop, so we would often stop by there on Saturday afternoons. While he was busy, I often gravitated toward his big manual typewriter on his desk. I’d scroll a piece of paper into it and begin copying liner notes from albums, articles from newspapers, etc., sometimes picking up a story where it left off. I didn’t know it at the time, but the writing bug was planted in me back then.
During my teen years, I wrote poetry to deal with my emotions. As an introvert, the written page was my only safe place. During my twenties, I wrote songs to deal with my emotions. I became a Christian in my mid-twenties and a few years later got online, where I landed a singles column with Christianity Today Online.
And then in my thirties, I received a flyer for a Christian writers conference in Kansas City. I was intrigued so I registered and attended. For the first time in my life, I was among kindred spirits – creative types who expressed themselves with the written word. That’s when I really knew I wanted to write.
Lionhearted Kat: Before you started writing fulltime, you drove to Kansas City to attend a monthly writers group or critique group. It’s a long drive to Kansas City, how often did you go and how did that dedication help you as a writer?
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I had a conversation with two disillusioned young adults recently. They were looking for meaning in freedom, but I told them they wouldn’t find it there.
We’ve all been young, and most of us were disillusioned at one point. I certainly was, so I can sympathize. In our teen years, we’re convinced we know all the answers, then something happens in our late teens or early twenties – cancer, death of a loved one, financial ruin, estrangements – and nothing seems to make sense. So we get lost in freedom.
For this young couple, their freedom is marijuana, and their pursuit is to see it decriminalized in their state. So I followed them down that trail.
“Let’s say that happens. My next question is, to what end? Will you indulge your freedom at the exclusion of responsibility?”
They weren’t quick to answer, which meant they were listening.
I stuck my hands out to portray a scale. “Freedom is important. In fact, it’s worth protecting and ultimately dying for, as so many have. But freedom without responsibility leads to self indulgence and meaninglessness.” I moved my left hand, which signified freedom on the scale, all the way down to signify a large helping of freedom. I kept my right hand, which signified responsibility, at the top to show a complete lack of responsibility.
“We only find meaning when we willingly give up a little freedom.” I moved my hands to show a balance. Then I told them a story.
My mom raised my sister and me with little help from my father, who battled alcoholism most of his life. They divorced when I was eight. Mom made an internal commitment to make my sister and me her priority. She worked hard, scrimped and saved, asked for help from relatives and a woman in our neighborhood, and she made sacrifices my sister and I never knew about.
The one thing I did know was, I could count on Mom being home every night. She cooked us dinner, ran us around to extracurricular activities, helped us with homework and we watched television together. She never dated, even though she was free to do so. Instead, she willingly gave up her freedom because of her sense of responsibility toward us.
[Please don’t read this as a criticism of single mothers who are dating because that’s not what I’m saying. Instead, I’m pointing out one woman’s way of giving up some of her freedom because she felt a sense of responsibility elsewhere.]
At this point in the story, I raised the responsibility side of the scale upward and the freedom side downward. “She found meaning in sacrifice,” I said.
“If you were to live a life that was more heavily weighted toward responsibility than freedom, then you would find fulfillment,” I continued. “But the opposite is not true. If your scale is much more heavily weighted in favor of freedom, your life will always lack meaning.”
I hoped they were connecting a few dots internally. Investing a lot of time and energy into the decriminalization of marijuana is the wrong focus and it won’t satisfy them.
I did not understand this concept when I was young, even though my mom modeled it for me. So I lived out of balance, always leaning more heavily toward freedom than responsibility, but after caring for a couple of sick relatives I began to experience the satisfaction of giving myself away to help someone else and it changed my perspective.
Now I’m just hoping my experience helps to guide this young couple as they try to find their way.
If you are a new or prospective author who has done a little research, then you know the importance of building a platform. It's become so important that some publishers are now asking authors to include social media and email subscription numbers in book proposals.
If all of this seems overwhelming to you, then you might be interested in viewing an online discussion that author Angela Meyer hosted this morning called "Pre-publication Author Platforms." Panelists included Tamara Clymer, owner CrossRiver Media Group, beginning blogger Jeanie Jacobson and me.
We discussed the importance of blogging as it relates to platform building, whether Facebook or Twitter is enough, how often we should be blogging, what we should be blogging about, whether it is important to buy a domain and finding balance in the writing/marketing/life.
We had a few technical difficulties to begin with, so bear with us for the first two minutes. I think you'll find it informative.
I had lunch with a group of friends on Friday. Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been talking about the timeline of Genesis, and it has led to some interesting conversations.
One of the guys did a little studying and came back this week, saying only one-hundred and twenty years had passed between the flood and the Tower of Babel – making the “how quickly humans forget” point.
It reminded me of a three-hour conversation I had with my niece and her boyfriend a month ago about how quickly generations in our own families are forgotten.
Not only do we not know the sacrifices they made, the lessons they learned or the triumphs they celebrated, but we don’t even know their names.
I made this point to my niece and then I traced the heritage of Christianity in our family for her back as far as I could. I’ve since learned even more that I plan to share with her.
Before my grandmother (Modene) on my dad’s side of the family married my grandfather (Edward), she was a King – born to Hugh King and his wife Unie in 1915.
Hugh struggled with alcohol – sometimes spending a large portion of his paycheck at the saloon. One day, he was headed up the stairwell to the saloon when God spoke a very simple question to him: “What are you doing?” Hugh shoved his paycheck back into his pocket, walked back down the stairs and never touched another drop. He knew the Lord had spoken.
After his conversion, he became a voracious reader of the Bible, memorizing large portions and speaking it over his family. And his conversations with friends were driven by Scripture. He took his family, that included six children, to a small hardshell Baptist church on the back roads of central Arkansas, and somewhere along this journey, my grandmother, Modene, became a Christian.
She married my grandfather when she was twenty and eventually they moved north to start a new life. After surviving the Great Depression with three boys – two of whom were adopted relatives, she went on to become one of the founding members of Chandler Acres Baptist Church in Bellevue, Neb. (a suburb of Omaha) where she served faithfully for the rest of her life.
Modene lived long enough for my niece to get to know, and love her. Modene used to pray with my niece and she took to her worship on occasion, as well as VBS. Once I connected the dots between Hugh, who died in 1936, and Modene, who died in 2002, my niece’s eyes lit up.
“I had no idea,” she said.
“Each generation faced a potential pivot point – they could do their own thing or turn toward the Lord,” I said. “Some did their own thing, and you know their stories. But others turned toward the Lord and it changed everything. I want you to know their stories, too.”
After the conversation, I browsed through Modene's gigantic family Bible. She recorded portions of the family tree inside it in her own handwriting. If you offered me a million dollars for it, I wouldn’t take it. As I flipped the pages, I rediscovered a number of newspaper clippings about various family members.
Since she was from such a small town, the local newspaper ran stories about every community gathering. One small clipping reported that Modene’s brother, Ed, “who just recently surrendered to preach, delivered his first sermon.” Modene cut it out, pasted the one-paragraph story onto a piece of cardboard and proudly wrote, “My Brother” under the byline (see the photo below) before slipping it inside her Bible.
Modene did her best to make sure generations after her understood the difference that Christ made in her generation.
Now it’s my turn.
I’ll be taking Modene’s Bible to my niece’s the next time I visit.
Lee Warren is a freelance writer and editor who has written twelve non-fiction books, one novella and hundreds of articles for various newspapers and magazines as well as edited more than 50 books that currently appear in print. He's a fan of NASCAR, baseball, tennis, books, movies and coffee shops.