Posts Tagged: Marci Seither

Challenge Yourself

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people on rope course

by Marci Seither

One of the most often asked questions when I talk to school-age kids about writing The Adventures of Pearley Monroe is “How long did it take you to write your book?”

When I tell them it took eight years, their eyes widen. Eight years!

I started my writing journey with a family humor column for a small town paper, then moved to human-interest stories, and later wrote feature articles.

Basically, I have a 750- to 1,200-word attention span. And to top it off, all I wrote was nonfiction.

There is a world of difference between writing newspaper articles for adults and writing a historical novel for middle-school readers. I had to learn everything about writing for that age and that style, and still maintain my skills and writing experience in the nonfiction area.

How did I accomplish the task of bringing a wonderful story to print? I went to conferences, such as the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, and took classes outside of my area of writing expertise. I submitted my manuscript to be edited. I learned and rewrote. I learned more and rewrote again. That cycle lasted until I finally had a story my audience would love. A story my kids would have loved.

Receiving an Honorable Mention Award from Writer’s Digest for The Adventures of Pearley Monroe was a huge affirmation that my time of perfecting the writing craft was worth it.  Interacting with students who have told me they “feel like they are Pearley Monroe” tells me I hit my mark.

Along the way, I became a better writer. It was the difference between training for a 5k run or a sprint triathlon. The cross-training had carryover value that opened doors I hadn’t considered before.

Several years ago I participated in a few sprint triathlon events. For me, the swim part of the triathlon came easy, but when it came to the biking and running … well, let’s put it this way: I figured even if I had to Stop, Drop, and Roll over the finish line I would still get the T-shirt.

Just like cross-training your body is good, so is cross-training your brain. The skills you learn in writing help you become stronger in areas you may never have considered.

Recently, I talked with the editor of Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine. They loved The Adventures of Pearley Monroe and wanted to know if I could write a short story based on the book and characters. It would almost be a “missing chapter” from the middle of the book.

That is a huge undertaking. It is not moving from one chapter to the next, it is starting from scratch and writing something that is historically accurate with characters and goals that are already established. I would be lying if I told you it was easy. I was a bundle of nerves.

But I did it.

I focused on all the things I had learned about writing fiction. I could hear the voices of those I had taken classes from. Lauraine Snelling, Gayle Roper, and Brandilyn Collins were just a few of many who helped me learn the craft. I wrote and rewrote until I had a 2,400-word story they loved and accepted.

I did something I would have never been able to do had I not been willing to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone. That is cross-training, not necessarily genre hopping.

I do not consider myself a “children’s author” or a “fiction writer.”

What do I consider myself?  A lifelong learner who enjoys putting into action what I have learned and accepting challenges that stretch me as a person and as a writer.

That is the value of writers’ conferences.

The Mount Hermon faculty is an amazing group of people who are there to help you stretch and strengthen your writing skills. They know it is hard work and they are there to help you along your writing journey, cheering you on every step of the way.

Maybe you’re wondering if you have something of value worth sharing. You do.

Maybe you’re feeling that you already know everything about your area of writing. Cross-train.

Maybe you’re afraid that you will fail.  Consider how you will feel if you actually move toward your goal. Now consider how you will feel if you never try.

Make 2017 the year you take action on making your dreams and goals a reality, even if it is just taking a baby step forward.

Was it worth spending eight years working on The Adventures of Pearley Monroe?

More than I could have ever imagined.

Do you want a challenge? Take part in the Mentoring Clinics at Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference: Pre-conference Next Level and Morning Mentoring Clinics.

Here is a list of sessions to cross-train at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference.

Marci SeitherMarci Seither has written hundreds of feature stories, op/editorials, and human-interest articles for local papers as well as contributing to national publications. She has been married to her husband almost thirty years and is mom to six amazingly rowdy kiddos who have provided her with volumes of great material, loads of laundry, and symphonies of laughter. Marci encourages others with humor that packs a punch and entertains other moms with her Urban Retro style. She recently had two books published and knows how to make marshmallows from scratch. Marci is an airport shuttle assistant for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Cross-Train Your Brain

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Marci SeitherBLOGGER: MARCI SEITHER

Marci Seither will serve on the Resource Team as an Airport Shuttle Team, on the Critique Team, and lead a Night Owl at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22.

 

CROSS-TRAIN YOUR BRAIN

I will never forget the day my sister talked me into signing up for the Donner Lake Sprint Triathlon. It was 13 years ago and I didn’t really take into consideration all that would be required.

I was a certified lifeguard and had taught swim lessons for several years. Confident that, despite the high elevation and frigid snow fed temperature of the lake, I would be okay with the swim part of the event.

The bike and run sections were going to be a challenge for me. A serious challenge.

After moving to the countryside when I was in 3rd grade, we weren’t allowed to ride our bikes down the thin tar and gravel road that stretched beyond our short driveway. We did a lot of other activities, but the bikes were soon stored under the deck, which is where they stayed until they became antiques.

I borrowed a bike to start training for the triathlon. It was the first time I rode anything with two wheels that didn’t have a banana seat and long handle bars.

I remember making the long climb up a hill near our home. My legs felt like Jell-O. Gasping for air, I took a long drink from my water container, only to have it come out my nose. Someone pulled to the shoulder to see if I needed medical assistance. I waved them off and, in-between gasps, reassured them I was totally fine. I wondered if I could get a refund if I backed out of the race.

A few days later, I contemplated the run and what it was going to take to actually complete the event.

I figured if I needed to “Stop-Drop-and Roll” the last half mile or so, I would still get the T-shirt, so I kept going.

I spent the summer training, getting up early in the morning before the kids got out of bed, and charting out my progress each week. Muscles I didn’t even know I had began to ache less and less.

By the middle of Summer, I was able to ride up the steep hill without stopping. My swim time increased. I felt healthy and stronger than I had in several years.

The weekend of the race came. I carefully packed my gear and headed to Donner Lake.  When we arrived at the staging area, the volunteers handed us our race numbers and marked our age on the back of our calves in black permanent marker. Each age group started at different times. Some people obviously had trained for much longer and with more intensity than I had, but I was just there to prove to myself that I could make it across the finish line.

When the staring gun popped, it was time to put my training to the test.  I don’t remember much about the swim, or even about the run, but the one thing I will never forget is when, after several miles of grueling straight up the mountain switchbacks, I reached the lookout where we turned around. The sight of Donner Lake below, sparkling like a million diamonds under the morning sun, was my ah-ha moment.

“If I can do this…” I felt a renewing of energy. “Who knows what else I can do.”

It wasn’t about the race, or the T-shirt, it was about challenging myself to stretch beyond my comfort zone to a place I had never imagined.

The same is true with writing. We might be equipped in one area and focus all of our energy on that one aspect of the craft, but what would happen if you cross-trained your brain?

I do it all the time and I think it has made me a better writer article writer. Taking classes on fiction, screen writing, speaking, and even writing for children have been beneficial in being able to hear, write, and market my work better than if I had only focused on my original skill.

I learned how to weave the fiction technique of “show-don’t-tell” into my articles. I learned to write with more creative imagery through poetry. I understood scenes and movement because of scriptwriting.

Because I love seeing how far I can take a project with what I have learned, I have ended up with a few published works outside of my specific focus of article writing. Does that mean I am genre jumping? No. It means that I love seeing a project through to the end and watching it take flight whether it is shared with only a few friends, or a few hundred kids.

As a Christian writer, it is a comfort, and an added discipline, to put all of our work into the Lord’s hands. For me, I think of the passage in John, where Jesus feeds the multitude. There was a boy who had a few barley loaves and a couple of fish. Not a huge lunch by any means, but he gave it to the Lord anyway. After everyone was fed, the Lord told his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

I have heard people say that going to a conference without having something to pitch might be a waste of time, or that they have already taken the track in their area of interest.

“Great!” I respond. “That means you are more open to learning something new. Something that might stretch you beyond what you would normally consider and work part of your brain that hasn’t been used for a while.”

It is not genre jumping to cross-train your brain. It is taking advantage of opportunities to strengthen your writing skills. To become better at the craft and calling you have as a writer. To trust that when you take your meager offering and put it into the Lord’s hands, he will gather what is left and not allow anything to be wasted.

Cross-training your brain helps to better equip you in your area of focus. It gets you out of your comfort zone and makes you think in ways that might feel as awkward as getting back on a bike that doesn’t have a banana seat.

Like making it to the top of that mountain on that crisp morning, it might take all you have to prove to yourself that you can do the unimaginable.

Side note-I have been in the Mount Hermon gift store, they have a variety of awesome apparel. If you make it to the end of the conference, treat yourself and get the shirt.

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Come meet Marci Seither at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 16-22, 2016.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW FOR THE CONFERENCE

$75. Early Bird Discount expires February 1!

Attending a Writers’ Conference: How Would Your Life Be Different?

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BLOGGER: MARCI SEITHER

Marci Blog Graphic cropped

 

HOW WOULD YOUR LIFE BE DIFFERENT?

My husband walked through the room as I began repacking my suitcase for the umpteenth time.

“What’s up?” he looked at the pile of clothes strewn across my bed and the tall stacks of writing samples and business cards I planned to take.

“You are only going to be at the writer’s conference for four days. Why do you need five pairs of black shoes?” he asked.

I felt my lip quiver and the familiar tightening of my stomach. “What if they find out..” The words stopped.

“Find out what?” John asked, realizing that I wasn’t kidding around. The tears at the rim of my eyes were real.

“They find out that I am NOT a real writer.” I sighed.

That was in 2002. I had worked all summer lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons so that my teenage daughter and I could attend a writer’s conference together. After looking online I found one that sounded great and only a few hours from where we lived. Calvin Miller and Randy Alcorn were the keynote speakers and they had a teen track for Emma and an article track for me. Perfect.

I had my samples, my spreadsheet of editors who would be attending and what they might be looking for, and all of the outlines from the classes I might want to take.

The interesting thing was that I had been a published humor columnist and article writer for about two years for a small town paper, but I never considered myself to be a writer.

My writing adventure started after a story I wrote about a cookie baking fiasco with my kids appeared in the local paper. I would have never sent in anything if it hadn’t been for my mom’s prodding. After my husband and I, along with our three kids, moved from my home state of California to Minnesota I began faxing updates to my mom, who encouraged me to get them published.

“They are just funny to you, because they are about us,” I replied.

“No,” she responded. “The whole office enjoys reading them.”

I swallowed. The whole office!  Obviously they didn’t know I wasn’t a writer.

In fact, if there had been an award for “Least likely to be published” in my high school yearbook I would have won, hands down. I was the only student in the history of Ponderosa High School to ever be demoted from electric typewriter back to manual typewriter. I also never read a book that wasn’t assigned and read in class. When extra books were required to be read and reported on for English, I lied. I made up the book, the author, the publisher, and created a believable story line that usually involved espionage and cold-war tactics. I just made sure I mentioned that it drug in the middle or didn’t have noteworthy characters.

Yet there I was, in my room surrounded by shoes and paper, having visions of someone looking over my pieces and advising me against quitting my day job.

It was about the third day of the conference when I called my husband outside the little cabin room Emma and I shared. I had been to the critique center earlier that day to have someone look over my samples.

The woman on the other side of the table chuckled while she read over the humor piece I brought. Finally, she looked up and said, “You are a really good writer.”

Tears stung my eyes as she gently handed me a Kleenex. She understood.

I will never forget my first meeting with Barbara Curtis.  She was one that encouraged me to keep writing.  We stayed in contact until she passed away a few years ago. She was one of many wonderful people who helped encourage, instruct, and even critique my work over the years. She inspired me to write to the best of my ability.

That first conference was so precious because it helped solidify the fact that God has a plan for me, even if I didn’t feel worthy or capable. In fact, the Bible is full of unworthy and incapable people that God used so really, am in good company!

I have only missed a few years since 2002. Each year I learn something new. Each year I find that The Lord uses something or someone to help me along in my writing journey.

I think it might have been Lee Roddy who said one time, “Writers write. Waiters wait. So stop waiting and start writing!”

How would your life be different if someone you trusted said, “You are a writer”?

Guess what? If you are reading this, chances are that God already did.

So start. Commit to giving Him your best.

What are you waiting for? Register now for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

Note to self…only one pair of black shoes is really necessary, however, you might want to bring a small package of Kleenex, I will be in the critique room waiting to help cheer you on.

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Marci SeitherCome meet Marci Seither at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Marci Seither will serve on the Resource Team as an Airport Shuttle Team, on the Critique Team, and lead a Night Owl at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-18.