One Small Step: Winter Workshop 2019

It’s been a week since I came home from the OYAN Winter Workshop, a workshop for older students who have taken the One Year Adventure Novel curriculum. It was a wonderful week filled with God moments, joy, and memories. This year’s theme was One Small Step.

 

onesmallstep.jpg

“When I first looked back at the Earth, standing on the Moon, I cried.” Alan Shepherd

 

Memory #1 My Critique Group

Guys, I had a fabulous critique group this year with some pretty amazing stories, from a Snow White retelling to werewolves (don’t let that scare you). Every day had us laughing, wiping tears from our eyes and screaming “no” at the top of our lungs. There are pretty amazing writers in the OYAN community and the future of literature looks promising. 😊

My own work has improved in that I was able to deceive them, give them feels, and sink their ship. I feel immensely happy — my writing has improved to be able to lead readers astray down dark forest paths. ** cue evil laughter**

Memory #2 Being with Young Adult Writers

Writing as a young adult is hard with so many responsibilities. At the Winter Workshop, there are other young adult writers in the same boat. There, we come together in solidarity, talk about our stories, and even do some brainstorming.  A bonus at this Winter Workshop was we had an hour of undisturbed writing every day, and it was so nice to be able to get back into my story world.

Memory #3 Sour Patch Kids and Tea

One of my lovely friends brought sour patch kids and tea for us during our writing sessions and it was literally the best thing ever. #writerfuel

 

REBECCA'S WINTER WORKSHOP 2019 PICTURES 444.jpg

Memory #4 The Snow

On the 31st, we had a snow fall.  One minute we were quietly writing, till someone said it was snowing. Then doors were thrown open and we stood outside in the snow, wet, cold, and laughing. This southern girl was happy.

REBECCA'S WINTER WORKSHOP 2019 PICTURES 448.jpg

Memory #5 Friends

This Winter Workshop, I was able to grow closer to old friends, and make some new ones. Friends are precious things. They are there to help you through a rough time, talk with you, lift you up. After going years with not having any, I treasure those that I have made through OYAN.

 

Memory #6 Lack of Sleep

The latest I ever made it was 2:00. Who can go to bed when there is so much to talk about? Tribbles. Star Wars. Star Trek. Home states. Very badly written fan fiction that has you holding your sides aching with laughter. There is no shortage of laughter at the Winter Workshop.

               

Memory #7 My Mentor Session with Stephanie Morrill

I knew I shouldn’t have been terrified, I know Stephanie.

But I was. 

Anytime someone reads my writing I break out in hives. But it was honestly the best 30 minutes ever. She loved my story, and I was able to brainstorm that dreaded ending with her.

 

rebecca's winter workshop 2019 pictures 504Selfie with Stephanie Morrill after many failed attempts.

Memory #8 The Sessions

Not only does Winter Workshop have adventures with friends, but it also has some amazing sessions.

Mr. S talked about story beats, great questions of genre, and who’s telling your story. Jenn Bailey spoke on worldbuilding and magic systems. And Stephanie Morrill taught us about all the little things. I love to color code my notes but it’s very hard when you’re furiously scribbling down all the things.  So many notes.

Memory #9 God Mourns with us, and Wants Us to Invite Him into Our Mourning.

Mrs. S, a member of the OYAN and our beloved matriarch spoke on this. Never have I ever thought of God in this way. 2018 was a year of loss for me.  Of health. Joy. Friendships. And while I knew God was there, and there was a reason for all of this, it never resonated with me that He would be in the same room with me, mourning with me. This may be the lesson that I take and hold the most through 2019.

2019 is a new year. A year of new opportunities. New people to meet. And new challenges. But this year I’m going to take it on one small step at a time. With God. With my friends. My family.

And the new year doesn’t seem so challenging from that point of view.

 

Rebecca Morgan

From the Ashes ~ An OYAN Summer Workshop Reflection Post

I started out writing this post as a summary of what I learned last week at the OYAN workshop. After all this is a writing blog, right? That’s what would make the most sense for me to share.

I had my notes beside me and my fingers on the keys and the words wouldn’t come.

I thought something was wrong with me, but while I stared at my computer screen, God laid on my heart what to blog about this week.

To be honest with you, I didn’t want to share it, because it felt too personal. But God kept pressing on my heart the need to share it with you. So here we are.

Days before I was to leave for workshop I lost a loved one. Someone who ever since I was a young girl would give me a Coke and start spinning a tale and set a spark to that deep thing within me that loved telling stories.

But it was more than his loss that left me aching. Over the past two years I’ve lost other family members and I’ve felt at a loss as to why. I wasn’t angry at God, but I wanted to know why, why couldn’t my family get a break?

I was thrilled when I discovered the theme for the summer workshop was From the Ashes. I have long loved the story of the Phoenix. The idea of a creature rising from the ashes, into something beautiful and new has long held a special place in my heart.

There are countless stories and songs of being reborn from the ashes; the riddle of Strider from The Lord of the Rings, “Worn” by Tenth Avenue North. Doubtless we as a culture are enamored with the story of the Phoenix. I have even heard one pastor say that when we accept Christ as our Savior, we rise from the ashes of our past life into a Phoenix , into something new, beautiful, and pure. 

In the immortal words of Aslan, things never happen the same way twice, and I didn’t go into this workshop expecting to be changed as I was last year, or the year before that. I knew a core-shaking awakening wasn’t what I needed.  All I knew was that I was exhausted, mentally and physically. And that I was hurting. 

Instead I got to campus way too early looking for something to cling to that was beautiful. So I sat there, afraid I was annoying everyone, wondering, waiting, watching, in that calm before the storm, in that silence when everything waits with bated breath to catch a glimpse of what’s about to happen.

And I found wonder and beauty in a sweet girl named Jenna who has become a dear friend. It was Luke, Christina, and Adrienne, who are some of the dearest people I know. 

It was the small everyday moments that were sparks to my ashes, those moments that come and go so fast you almost don’t notice them. 

 

It was the joy in giving away Apple Butter

It was sitting outside on the grass talking with friends.

It was getting notes in my journal.

It was being in a circle of friends.

It was walks to the secret playground and pretending we were ordering burritos.

It was sitting in a hallway reading excerpts, making them sound like a romance read.

It was getting soaked by sprinklers at midnight and the screaming that ensued.

It was Mr. and Mrs. S just being themselves, pouring out the love they have for us.

It was watching a friend lead a class and getting a free book out of it.

It was a gift from a mother who took care of me that week.

 

Since coming home from the workshop with my health seemingly in tatters, those moments are still my sparks to ashes. And with God by my side, maybe I can rise from these ashes of grief and despair into something beautiful.

 

 

Why I’m Excited to Be Going to a Writing Conference

We’ve all stumbled across The List. The List of what every writer needs to do to succeed. Generally, at the top of the list is “attend a writing conference.”

Pffttt. Yeah. Writing conferences’ cost hundreds of dollars, and that’s a lot of money to dish out for just a few days. Yes, it is a lot of money, but a penny saved here and there is a penny earned. I’ve gone so far as to sell possessions to earn money for one. 

Okay, money aside. Unless you’re fortunate, writing conferences are also hundreds of miles away. Are they really worth it, Rebecca? 

For me, yes it is, and this summer will be my fifth OYAN conference, and I’m going to give you a couple of reasons why I’m excited.

Knowledge

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

“You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

So. Much. Knowledge.

**Brain Explodes**

Back in 2016 (my first conference) I thought I knew what made a story a story, Sure I didn’t know everything, but I had the gist of it all, right? I was wrong. So wrong.

giphy.gifSource

(I’m pretty sure I had carpel tunnel syndrome at the end from all the notes I took.)

When I went home, I was eager to put what I learned into my writing and it’s been the same ever since. I’m looking forward to what I learn this year, because I’m always looking to hone my craft. Writing is like life – you’re never not learning and growing.

Doors Open at Writing Conferences

You never know when a door will open at a writing conference. I pitched my novel idea to Steve Laube at the OYAN conference last year (I almost fainted from sheer terror) and while he liked the idea, I basically needed to shred my novel and start all over.

Cries.

But we talked about it.

We talked about what I could change.

How I could make it better.

He never promised anything and nothing may come of that conversation — something that I understand fully well. But his encouragement was everything – and still is.

Friends

Being a writer can often be a lonely trade. It’s just you in your Hobbit Hole with your laptop pounding away at the keys at all hours of the night or day. No one really understands you (except your characters and they aren’t even real).

Lo and behold, the writing conference, with quirky fun people just like you who dress up in costumes in the summer heat, have light saber battles, and late night talks.

I have no idea what we talked about, I only know we were tired and giddy. 

And having writing friends who also understand you, can also uplift you when you need it most.

20170614_213615

There is no explanation for this. Just go with it.

Authors

I GET TO SEE NADINE AGAIN!

1231171028
With Nadine Brandes!

Somehow, I only get a picture with her at the Winter Workshops. **epic fail** This year though I must get a picture with her in my Ravenclaw costume. *Ravenclaw’s unite*

And John Otte. John Otte is amazing too, his sense of humor is hilarious and his cosplay style spot on. 

It is maybe slightly terrifying to speak in the presence of a published author. It may feel like this:

b8OZa.gifSource

Okay, Maybe that’s extreme. But, they’re published. They’ve done it and you may feel like you’re choking on  your own aspirations. But if you talk with them, you’ll learn they had struggles, trials, and bumps in the road.

John Otte had an interesting story he told in 2016 that I don’t remember the details to, but his journey to publication wasn’t a walk in the park.

These authors don’t care about your age – they encourage you and uplift you to chase your dreams and pursue them.

Mr. and Mrs. S

Definitely one of the highlights of the OYAN workshop is seeing Mr. and Mrs. S. The amount of work and love they pour into the workshop and us is overwhelming and encouraging. **gives them apple butter and throws glitter and confetti.

Mrs. S’s morning sessions are the highlight of the day, and Mr. S’s haunted golf cart rides the gem of the night. There is no documented proof these rides exist, but they do.

IMG_1941

Jesus

For me, OYAN is also a time to slow down. Writing conferences are all rush, rush sometimes and it does fly by. But for me it’s also a chance to stop and rest. It’s when I see Jesus even more in the simple journey of Frodo. When the small random acts of kindness make this dark world seem more bearable.

It’s when I can I take a breath and say, “yes, we can change the course of the future.”

So, is a writing conference worth the money, packing, planning,  and panicking? Yes, it is. And that is why I’m so excited to be back at home in Olathe in just nine days. And hopefully I will tell you all I learned soon.

write on, rebecca

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

The Road Through

And though where the road then takes me,
I cannot tell

The Last Goodbye by Billy Boyd

 

We all travel paths, roads, in our lives. Some may be rocky, others even.  The paths may lead through rough terrain, or a small forest. We may have friends with us on our walk, or we may walk alone.

But sometimes we walk through a Mirkwood.

A forest of deceit, of darkness, of loneliness.

We tell ourselves to stay on the path, that this will end soon, but still we wander.

And become lost.

There seems to be no end to the far-reaching forest of Mirkwood.

The Road Through was the theme at the OYAN Winter Workshop, and I’ve been thinking for days what I would blog about. What did I learn exactly? Last year’s workshop helped me reclaim my lost joy. But nothing this year hit me in the face with, “this is what you learned, or needed.”

I had to dig deep, and as I write this, I think I know what it was I learned.

My life has been a hurting mess since August. Yes, I had joy in my writing, but it never completely eased the ache. When I stepped away from my computer, away from my fantasy world, reality hit me like a punch in the gut.

A giant crack of Mt. Doom that had my heart bleeding down the middle. And I just wanted it to be over.

I share Thorin’s sentiment when he screamed “Is there no end to this accursed forest?”

But I was reminded at this workshop that I’m not only loved by friends, but by Jesus.

Mr. and Mrs. Schwabauer and Mark and Teckla Wilson make Jesus seem so real, like He’s right there beside me, holding me in my physical and emotional pain. Letting me cry on His shoulder. The night of the questions and answers the four of them made me feel like He was in the chair beside me, holding my hand, squeezing it tight.

I know people have problems more drastic than I do, and I’ve wanted to reach out, but my pain had left me feeling numb. My well of compassion was dry and rocky.

Jesus is pictured as Aslan in Narnia, a large lion who gave directions, advice, and wisdom. When I was nine and saw The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, that is what I thought Jesus must be like.

That large lion whose mane I can cling to, who will shield me and protect me from the dangers of Mirkwood.

Who can guide me back to the path.

A path that will lead out of Mirkwood.

His paws will walk beside me, His gentle voice talking to me.

If we run into giant spiders He won’t let them touch me.

If we meet Smaug He won’t let him touch me.

Till we reach the other side, to the sunshine and green hills. To the shining stars that no darkness can touch.

559c0bc73ef351a7614c6f3e7dc96ac3.jpgSource

 

I traveled many roads to get to the Winter Workshop and I learned that my road through Mirkwood will end.

Because I have friends who love and pray for me.

Because I have Frodo’s journey to inspire me.

Because I have Aslan.

Because I have Jesus.

And that is how, one day, I can step through my round green door and say,

Well. I’m back.

 

What I Learned at the OYAN Conference.

Tomorrow will mark 30 days since I returned from the OYAN conference, and a post is long overdue.  This year was amazing. Late night talks, talks in hallways (that was one of the best nights) an amazing critique group, haunted golf cart rides (these cannot be explained) and green light sabers lighting up the night. This year’s theme was Writers of the Lost Art, and I want to share a couple of things that stuck with me.

20170614_182411.jpg Photo Credit: Me

 

Writing is a dying art.

Anyone can publish anything on Amazon and it doesn’t have to be good writing. Books flood the market, books that are poorly written. I recently bought a copy of Cinders by Finley Aaron. Don’t buy it. Save yourself from the horror that is that book. Besides needing a good editor, the writing was repetitive, and there were several things that were historically inaccurate.

Mr. S said that, “excellence trumps trendiness.” The best thing you can do is write a good book. It takes time–most writers break in in their late forties.

Art without meaning is empty, so persevere and write, write, write. Don’t write something and throw it out to the world. Make sure it has meaning. John Otte said last year that you should write one million words before considering publication. One. Million. I know my writing has improved over the past two years, but it’s still not good enough for publication.

Mr. S said that writing is a gift from God to you, and it will help you see God differently.

 

Nadine Brandes’ talk on YA

YA is popular. Half the books on my shelf are YA –  The Lunar Chronicles, Harry Potter, the list goes on. Just coming off my teen years, I could relate to so much of what Nadine spoke on.

Teens feel caught between two worlds ( I still think I’m there actually), the world of childhood and the world of adulthood, and YA is the bridge between the two. Teens are getting their guidance from the YA books they read, guidance they are not getting from home, school, and church.

Since teens look for answers in YA, we can give it to them. We can show them hope, redemption, and the power of Christ without being preachy. YA is a mission field, and we can be a safe place to provide truth as they escape the world to get lost in a book.

“Cover your writing in prayer. If you aren’t willing to put Christ first in your writing, don’t write in his name. He has to be first.” Nadine Brandes.

OYAN Baseball 419.jpgPhoto Credit: Me

Lastly, the incredible Steve Laube. He is amazing. I had a mentor session with him, and I was so scared. I though he seemed unapproachable. But really? He was easy to talk to, and he had great insight on my story. Still not brave enough to ask for a picture but anyway.

Steve Laube said that excellence takes time. God wants us to wait in anticipation, like nature before sunrise, for what He has in store. And it will be beautiful.

Lamentations 3:25-26 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

                                                                                       19396626_328417890913042_8220543176483417916_n.jpgPhoto Credit: Alexis N.

With one of my best friends, Adrienne as Maleficent and me as a Ravenclaw student.

.