Tag Archives: mentoring

Why I Can’t Forget 2014

Clonmacnoise High Cross
Always remember to forget the troubles that passed your way.
But never forget to remember the blessings that come each day.
~Irish Saying

And that’s why I chose to count my blessings in 2014. Not that I haven’t learned from mistakes. The true purpose of making mistakes is to learn from them and try not to repeat them. But dwelling on them isn’t helpful. Novelists really do have to protect their minds and spirits in order to focus on writing stories that not only entertain but also inspire.

Now that I’ve written that, I realize that the bad things that happen in life also help to form inspiring stories so long as hope is still visible.

Looking Forward Without Blinders

Author Cindy Thomson's bookcasesComplaining about life only brings you down. Focusing on moving forward, on new opportunities, on the hopeful future is what motivates us to keep on going, don’t you agree? But if that’s all you do, you will miss out on the wonderful experience of counting your blessings. One of my characters (I’m sure it must have been Mrs. Hawkins or perhaps Grace’s mother) taught that no matter how miserable your life seems to you, there is always someone else who has it worse. That perspective is necessary if we’re going to avoid becoming bitter, complaining people no one wants to be around. So I’m taking time to reflect on the blessings that came to me in 2014. I am going to focus on my writing career for this list. I certainly have personal blessings beyond this.

My 2014 Blessings

*I had a second novel published with Tyndale House Publishers! This was a huge blessing. Cindy Thomson Books by the Banks Book FestivalGetting published by a traditional publisher is harder than ever (oops, slipped into a bit of complaining there!) but I was fortunate with this book. It could have very well not happened, but I worked hard, was blessed with fantastic editors and a tremendous cover, and Annie’s Stories was introduced to readers!

*Annie’s Stories was well-received. Sure, there were critics who didn’t like it, but the vast majority of folks who reviewed it, liked it, and most of those liked it a lot. That’s why I wrote the book, for readers. So this was extremely rewarding.

*I did a lot of mentoring in 2014, and I saw many of my students improve vastly. It was a privilege to witness their passion for telling stories. The future is bright with potential when it comes to novels!

*I was able to meet lots of readers this year. I went to many events: book launches, book festivals, multi-author signings, and I saw firsthand how much readers love books. That certainly blessed me.

* I had several media interviews surrounding the launch of Annie’s Stories. That’s a blessing because they are difficult to get for novels.Around Cincinnati radio

*At one of those events (The Dublin Irish Festival–Ohio) I sold a record number of books for me!

Brigid of Ireland by Cindy Thomson, ebook*I was able to re-introduce Brigid of Ireland by making it available on Kindle. There were many blessings involved in that project, including two designer friends who donated their skills: Deirdra Doan who contributed opinions and some of the interior design, and Kim Draper who designed the cover and title page. They really blessed me, and readers too!

*I have learned so much about social media marketing that has helped me connect virtually with readers. My literary agency conducts a yearly marketing seminar, and I was able to go this year. I have also learned a lot from various webinars and newsletters.

*I had another college intern from Denison University this year. Elena did various tasks for me and make some valuable contacts.

*I have some viable ideas and directions for future novels. Woo-hoo! 🙂

Ready Now, Go!

Those were only a few of the blessings. And none about my personal life because I’m trying to stay focused on one topic. Focus, by the way, was My One Word for 2014. For 2015 it is Share.Sharing I’m not sure what I’ll be sharing, or what the whole scope of that word will reveal, but I’m ready to turn toward the New Year without complaining about the publishing industry. I have to make lemonade out of lemons, but that’s a challenge I can only meet if I keep that frame of mind–what I CAN do, not what I can’t. True, the industry has changed. Authors have been left behind in the dust for the most part. But blessings still abound and they will propel me forward in 2015. Ready, set, go!

Writers Are Unique People

Just in case you didn’t know that, I’ll tell you a story to illustrate what I mean.

Mentoring Mentor mug

There are mentors for all kinds of occupations, and what my county does with high school students I think is tremendous. Even before they get to college students are able to get some real life experiences to find out if they would like to work in a certain career. They’ve been doing this for years. I didn’t know anything about it until a few months ago when a gifted coordinator (that’s her actual title) from a local school district contacted me and asked me to mentor a high school senior. I really enjoyed doing this since I’ve mentored students online for several years and I used to teach. I’ve also had a couple of college interns. But in this program, I was somewhat of an anomaly, because Bethany is as well. If you assumed I was the only author mentoring a student in the program, you would be correct. (But I didn’t care.)

A Writer Must Write

No matter how difficult the path is (and it is difficult, make no mistake), no matter how unsure the possibility of financial gain, a true writer must write. If someone can choose another career, he or she must do so. Because if you feel like you have a choice, you may not make it as a writer. It takes dedication. It takes perseverance. It requires hours and hours of working alone. It requires being able to hold up under a cloud of rejection. Sure, lots of writers work in other occupations, but if you want to write you simply must have the drive to do it. You can’t NOT do it. A writing career is not for the “take it or leave it” personality type. If you do not possess this drive, then do something else because nothing you write will impact readers. And that’s what all readers want–to be heard.

Unique, Meaning Not The Same as Everyone Else

Bethany could not think of another career she’d like to explore. Writing was it for her. So her counselor had no choice but to seek out a published author for her to mentor under.

At the end of the mentorship the programs holds a luncheon to honor the mentors and to show off the students’ final projects. The other mentors present were professionals such as veterinarians, nurses, politicians. They seated me at a table between a forensic scientist and an aerospace engineer. Seriously. The brain power at the table was overwhelming. How could a novelist not find that amusing, and a bit intriguing at the same time.

Mentor student Bethany

Bethany Garrison, my student, with her mentorship project

The head of the program (the gifted coordinator) admitted at the beginning that we would have to be creative. I have no office. I have no procedures to observe or patients to work on or clients to see. And of course, Bethany and I were creative. We talked a lot about writing career choices. We visited a publisher and spoke with some editors. We chatted with my literary agent. She joined my writers meeting one Saturday. And in the end she was the only student who chose the option of making a scrapbook for her project. Very creative, I thought. Yes, she still wants to be a writer. (Despite the reality check I was honor bound to present. Few are able to make a living at being a novelist.) She has no choice but to write, really, because she has that peculiar writer’s virus–a gene, a brain that simply must write or have no rest. (Hmm, I wonder what the genetics researcher would think of that? Yep, that person was a mentor too!)

The World Needs More Good Writers

Just as much as scientists and engineers. Sure, there are tons of books out there. Plenty of people fancy themselves writers but then never put in the work required to produce high quality books. We don’t need more of those kinds of people. But we do need more books that are so well done that they inspire us to become better people. Bethany strives for excellence. I’m sure she’ll find it. It might be a long time before another high school student requests a writer as a mentor. We are different and not many can understand us. (We really do hear voices in our heads!) But I sincerely hope they invite me to mentor again. It was refreshing to see the author gene alive and growing.

Best wishes to all the young writers out there. Take up your pens and follow your heart!

Farewell to the Christian Writers Guild

Mentoring with the Christian Writers Guild

Christian Writers GuildI began mentoring the Guild several years ago, starting with the Pages program for kids when it was first introduced. I was thrilled to be included, and as a former teacher I loved that it gave me the chance to teach again. Over the years the Guild asked me to include Squires (for teens), several of the short adult courses, and in the last year the adult courses referred to as Apprentice and Journeyman Fiction. I also did a couple of critiques, attended the Writing for the Soul conference to take appointments as a mentor, and judged the first round of The First Novel Contest for several years. Besides my students, which I enjoyed walking through these courses, I met other mentors and employees of the Guild that I count among my friends. Wonderful people.

Jerry JenkinsJerry Jenkins

I heard Jerry relate his reasons for buying the Guild in 2001 many times at conferences and meetings we had in Colorado. He believed (and I’m sure he still does) that Christian writers ought be just as good or better than mainstream writers. We should represent Christ by writing with excellence. And to this end he wanted to train Christian writers and the Guild was the way to do that, a means to give back. He gave of his time and his resources. If anyone thinks it was a money maker, they’re wrong.

Anyone who has witnessed his “thick-skinned critiques” understands how much he cared about teaching writers. He even chose carefully each mentor and employee of the Guild. But as time marched on, he wanted to focus on his family and his own novel writing. The time had come to close the doors. Some have reported that he did this “suddenly” but that’s not true. The man doesn’t make impulsive decisions. Not that I’ve witnessed anyway. It was a process.

One thing I learned over the years about the man is that he’s a perfectionist, but a kind one. Did you know he wears an atomic watch so that he’ll always know the exact time? When we had mentor meetings he used it to make sure we started each session on time. So it makes sense that he is now personally making sure the students and members currently enrolled in the Guild finish and receive all they’ve been promised. And the mentors still get paid for the work they have left to do. He is honorable. Make no mistake.

Endings and Beginnings

I hate saying good-bye to an organization that has done so much so well. But an ending creates the opportunity for something else to commence. I am open to that. I’ll be mentoring in other ways, including offering short critiques that interested writers can sign up for right here on my site. But I’m still just a wee bit sad.

What endings have you experienced that ended up opening new doors? Please share!