Maureen Pratt
C. Kevin Thompson

C. Kevin Thompson

Hello, everyone! Kevin Thompson here. As we prepare this blog post, we want to remember our brothers and sisters in the Carolinas as well as the other areas struck by Hurricane Florence. As one of many who experienced the eye wall of Hurricane Irma last year and the devastation it can bring, I understand firsthand what they are dealing with right now. But know this: God is there before, during, and after the storms of life, both figurative and literal. We “celebrated” the first year anniversary of Irma on Sept. 10-11th (it occurred during the middle of the night), and one year later, life is back to normal…almost (a few blue tarped homes still remain). Hope is truly eternal and not fixed in the things of this life that moth and rust (and hurricanes) can destroy.

With that, we want to welcome a fellow CAN Author who deals with some of the storms of this life with her writing. Please welcome Maureen Pratt!

Maureen, tell us about your latest book, Salt and Light: Church, Disability, and the Blessing of Welcome for All.

Maureen Pratt

Maureen Pratt

This book is a resource for clergy, lay ministers, churchgoers, and persons with disabilities to better understand and affect full welcome within our church communities. Geared toward Catholic churches, but relevant for all Christians, the book is based on the scriptural and historical contexts of Christ’s love and welcome extended to all, including persons with physical, emotional, and psychological disabilities. Read More →

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Pieper1Greetings from lovely Mount Dora, Florida, where we’re experiencing a few welcome weeks of spring before we move into our sticky summer weather. Today, I’ll share a special encore interview with author Maureen Pratt. Maureen comes to publishing from the unique perspective of a lupus and hypothyroid patient who also serves as an advocate for others suffering from chronic disease. Far from negative, her books and her speaking provide hope, help, and practical inspiration.                          Maureen Pratt

Welcome, Maureen! How many books do you have published, and what are a few of your latest titles? 

I have seven published books, and my newest one is releasing this spring: Don’t Panic!: How to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough (Franciscan Media). Other titles in print include: Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain and Illness (Image/Penguin Random House) and Beyond Pain: Job, Jesus, and Joy (Twenty-Third Publications).

Smaller book cover Dont PanicThose all sound great. You were last featured on the CAN blog in 2012. What are the chief lessons you’ve learned about the writing life since then?

Keep praying and persevere! It has been five years between my last book and my newest one, but there’s a lot that happens between times. I’ve had more life experiences, which inform my work tremendously, and I’ve developed more patience (I hope) in letting God work within me to take those experiences and turn them into something that might help or encourage others. I’ve also learned much more about the “hot buttons” that readers are concerned about today, and Don’t Panic! is a response to those, especially the anxiety and panic that we might feel when a crisis of any kind strikes. In my lifetime, I’ve lived through natural disasters, civil unrest, and personal health crises, all the while relying on God and keeping Scripture, prayer, and Jesus Christ close. These invaluable supports have enabled me to cope and be resilient, and I hope others will find more peace as they read about them and other supports in Don’t Panic! Read More →

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Maureen pic from booksigningI'll be taking about a year off of my CAN blog and other CAN activities (but will still "lurk" on the message boards and chime in from time to time – and will still keep writing my Beliefnet blog). The reasons for this are several: Because of a new autoimmune disease/condition diagnosis, I'll be starting a rather potent immunosuppressive drug and don't know what the side effects will be; I have a number of longer writing projects that I am eager to complete; and, well, sometimes I know I have to "do" rather than write about doing!

Which leads me to my blog topic. 

In the midst of our hectic schedules and multiple deadlines, it's always a good idea to revisit the "genesis" of it all, and then gauge projects at hand with what your reason for writing needs to yield. In other words, given that you are a writer at heart and have a love of storytelling, and could turn that storytelling ability to any number of different styles and genres, is what you're writing now what you're meant to write? Purposed to write? Gifted to write?

There's no easy answer to this question, and certainly it's individual for each person. But there are some helpful gauges to determine if you are, indeed, on the right track. 

One gauge is your answer to this:  Are the projects you have now enabling you to say what you have to say? Or, is God tapping you on the shoulder and whispering, "Not here, my child. Over there."? 

If you are very reluctant to get to the keyboard, or if you have become a master or mistress of procrastination, scrambling at the nth hour of a deadline, perhaps God is tapping you on the proverbial shoulder, encouraging you to stop, revisit why you write, and find the better path for your writing talents. As with other things involved in finding purpose in our lives, once writing projects mesh with your need to coommunicate specific sentiments, beliefs, or observations, you probably won't feel as much like procrastinating. Rather, you'll have abundant "fire in the belly" to get to work! 

Another good gauge is if the paychecks become more important than the work itself, or your pursuit of the business end of writing becomes so all-consuming that you cut into your actual writing time.

Another gauge: You find yourself pursuing more of the same kinds of projects, rather than stretching your gifts to "make the most of them."  

Throughout our careers, it's wise to take time to pray over our writing lives career focus. And, to take time to listen to God as he informs us with his tap on the shoulder.

Despite the health issues that loom (and they are very serious), I am quite excited about the coming year. Through prayer, a bit of "deck clearing," and renewed determination, I am ever more sure of why I write, and I'm looking forward to putting fingers to the keyboard like never before! I pray that this year ahead is full of inspiration for you, too, and that your reasons for writing propel you to author amazing works of inspiration and faith. I look forward to reading them!

Joy and peace,

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

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Maureen pic from booksigningHello! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog about the craft of writing. This month, some thoughts about satisfying, “gotta read this author again” endings.

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, each piece has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Although they are each crucial to telling a good story, it’s the ending that gives readers the final feeling, the ultimate impression, of the work as a whole. If your beginning hooked them into starting to read, and if your middle was experty crafted to keep them reading along with your storytelling, then the ending is that wonderful “icing on the cake,” and ideally makes them (the readers) want to run out and buy or read your next work.

But endings can be very tricky. They need to be just long enough, just complete enough, and just resonant enough. What do I mean by that?

We’ve all read books that didn’t know how to end. Instead of tying up the story parts into a neat package, some authors simply over write to the detriment of the piece as a whole. How do you know if your ending seems unending? As you reread your work, ask yourself, “Could I cut this second-to-last scene and still have a coherent story?” Or, cut the last scene from your book and see if the ending works with the deletion. Then, cut the next-to-last scene and examine the book again.

Carefully study your characters’ thought arcs – are they thinking in circles, or is their thought (or prayer) process, leading them to a conclusion? Is the story cycling in the same way, with several scenes that could be worked into only one?

Seemingly endless endings often suffer from lack of energy. Ask your editor or the person to whom you give your “final” draft to tell you where the book might have sagged, and where the pace flagged, toward the ending.

The second thing to gauge is whether your ending is complete enough. Does it convey the end of the story, or does it leave the reader wondering, “what happened to the [ ] back in Chapter Two? Or the character with the long monologue in Chapter EIght?” In non-fiction, if the end of the story is unresolved at press time, tell the reader there’s more to come, or simply that at press time a conclusion to the story was unavailable/had not yet occurred.  In a news story for print, one of the things that helps me “end it” succinctly is the knowledge that, if the editor runs out of room, he or she should be able to cut the story at any paragraph (lop it off, in other words), and have it still be a whole story.

Third, does your ending resonate with the rest of your piece? Is the story’s voice still that of the beginning, or has you – the author – allowed his or her voice to creep in at the end? Is your effort to end with a huge climax so aggressive that the end seems to jump off the page as if it were unrelated to the rest?

Just as we study the beginnings of classic literature, to see how authors before us began, so, too, is it helpful to study how our favorite authors tie up the loose ends and allow their stories to bid us farewell.

Finally, if we’re writing from our heart, we will feel a twinge (or more) of sadness at finishing up our work in progress. We might loathe to finish, in fact, and this can lead to some of the pitfalls I’ve tried to address here.

But when (if?) this happens to you, take a breath. Relax. Type that “30” or “The End.”

You can always begin again.

Blessings for your work and life,

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

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Maureen pic from booksigningHello, and Happy Easter! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly CAN blog – just in time for Easter joy and Springtime green!

This time of year is fresh with promise. Trees are budding, flowers are blooming, and seeds are sprouting. My creative juices seem to flow more freely at this time of year, too, and all sorts of seedlings are popping up, showing off their first leaves, and looking good for the coming warmer months.

What in the world am I talking about?

There are powerful analogies between gardening and growth and solid story-telling. Whether fiction or non-fiction, our writing work is made up of all sorts of little seeds, planted in the fertile ground of the mind and imagination. And these seeds, as all seeds do, need certain things to help grow. 

A Biblical reflection to follow… But now, I want to focus on how we plant, nurture, and grow our fragile seeds into blossoming stories that enrich the world and grace our lives.

First, there are the seeds obtained from first inspiration or impression. You hear a name or see a picture, and all of a sudden, you think, "Wow! There's a story in that!" Or, you are intrigued by some thing – a sewing case, a swatch of fabric or an old, dusty piece of pottery, and your mind starts turning on whose it was, where it has been, what history it might have lived through.

I got the idea for my master's thesis by standing in front of a bird cage at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and overhearing the snide remarks made at the birds inside of it, who were quite ugly and forlorn.

Yes, there are these small seeds all around us. And, sometimes, they become as the mustard seed and sprout into strong, large stories/plants.

But sometimes, we have to realize that those tiny seeds, while intriguing, might not make for a full book or a really newsy news article. When I realize this, I still make note of the "seed," because I've found that some have uses as yet unknown. 

There are other seeds, which yield more robustly. These are usually helped along by us, that is, we start with inspiration and work at building a world of a story around it. Or, we know a person or situation that lends itself to our "pen," that we cannot let go no matter how we try to ignore it. Fertile soil of time and energy, abundant sprinklings of the Word, even pruning and pulling up weeds (unnecessary elements), when we must. This is really the work of the gardener-as-writer, along with healthy, story-worthy seed.

As we work on our work at hand, we will undoubtedly collect seeds for future use. Much like the displays at garden centers, we can jot these down, file them away, and have them ready when needed. Like nature's bounty, many seeds will keep for years, patiently waiting for the time when they'll be planted and spring up.

NP-1 for First ClassThere is one more thing about seeds and stories, a Biblical thing, that is worth mentioning. Remember the parable of the sower in Luke 8:4-9, about the soewr whose seed fell on the path and was trampled, on rocky ground and it withered, and on good soil and it "grew, it produced fruit a hundredfold?" Our story seeds are like these, too. If we merely write to the momentary inspiration (to those little, fragile seeds), we probably won't yield full work. If we write, sometimes faithfully and sometimes not, our story seeds will not flourish in that rocky environment. But if we provide "good" soil – time, focus, prayer, energy, and love…Well, imagine how lush, how beautiful the finished product can be!

Blessings to you – for Easter and for Spring!

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.belifnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

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