letter-writing, writing

Living My Letter-Writing Largo

largoLargo. Not being musically inclined, it was an unfamiliar word. It drew my attention in a recent essay headline related to living at a slower pace.

largo articleThis week I began the arduous, yet delightful task of working with an editor on my creativity book. The seeds of this book were planted in my heart a long time ago, shortly after my mother passed away in 2010. The completed manuscript was submitted last May. As much as I am hurried and impatient to see a finished product, I’m also keenly aware that an entire chapter in the book is devoted to the concept of “slowing down.” I’ve often lamented my inability to slow down, just “be,” relax and savor moments, and envied that ability in others.

In her essay, Christina Capecchi  elaborates on the musical term: “Largo as an art form comes after the practice, once you turn off the metronome and play what you love.” 

She goes on to say that she discovered an invitation to slow down, in the form of a handwritten letter that was sent to her. With that, she had my rapt attention.

In our busy modern world, to sit down and write someone a letter is a powerful affirmation of that person’s dignity,” she writes. “The recipient is worth each pen stroke, each thought written for her and her alone.”

Letter-writing; an invitation to slow down? Why was this such an epiphany for me? After all, I’ve been a letter-writer for as long as I can remember. I still have the letters my parents and siblings wrote me in 1978 and 1979 (in response to letters I’d written them) during my freshman year at college. I also have several binders filled with hundreds of articles and essays I’ve had published since 1988.

What if all those years of hand-writing, letters or otherwise, has been my method of slowing down? What if writing is playing at what I love?

Largo has another meaning. It derives from the Latin word largus, meaning abundant. Writing has indeed contributed to my abundant life. When I sit down to write an essay, or work on a manuscript, it requires slowing down. Pausing to think. Taking time to pray. While hours can pass as I write, I enjoy the flow so much, it feels like minutes.

When I write a letter, I’m thinking about the recipient, even to the point I’ll choose stationery and stamps with them in mind. I guess there’s a reason it’s called snail mail. Not just because the delivery is slower than electronic delivery, but because of the time taken in the writing.

I get a thrill of excitement just seeing that unopened package of butterfly paper in that bottom drawer full of stationery. And if you get a letter from me with one of those 10-cent “Letters Mingle Souls” stamps attached to the envelope, count yourself special. Those are the only stamps I paid more  than face value for. All the others were purchased through discount postage lots on eBay.

I love my wall rack filled with notecards and greeting cards. This area of my house is my happy place. When I’m relaxing in my recliner for those treasured “slow” moments, I can glance up from writing or reading and see things that bring me joy, like this rack, or the teddy bear my mother made, sitting on the trunk next to it. Downsizing for a move last year put a dent into my collection of paper and cards, but I’ve somehow managed to replenish the supply. And though I sometimes miss my desk, I manage to keep my letter-writing supplies well organized in a small shelf that sits atop my record player.

I’ll be sharing both my wealth of supplies and love of the snail mail habit at several events I’ve scheduled at my workplace this fall; a Saturday in late November for a day-long retreat lauding the benefits of letter-writing, followed by a Saturday afternoon card-making event and three Saturday mornings devoted to Snail Mail Socials, when coffee and pastries will be served at morning gatherings for those who want to work on their Christmas cards, address cards to soldiers or cancer patients, or just write letters. When better to enjoy some slow down moments than the busy holiday season?

In the meantime, I think I can stop berating myself for not slowing down more.

A letter a day can keep the guilt away~

letter

Note: Christina Capecchi, the author of the “Living in Largo” column mentioned here is an award-winning journalist from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She is the author of the nationally syndicated column “Twenty Something.” Read more about Christina at christinacapecchi.com/

 

 

 

 

Cedar Falls Christian Writers workshop, mentor, Shelly Beach, writer's conference, writing

Re-Entry: Day 4 Post-conference

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Every June for the past nine years, I’ve attended the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop.  I no longer go for the writing and publishing aspect, though I do continue to learn something new every year. Instead, I attend because of the God-encounters, the connections old and new.
And every year, I promise myself I will indulge in a period of solitude and prayer afterwards, to give myself some time to decompress and process the intense spiritual experience. The “high” can last for days. The sky is invariably bluer, the grass smells sweeter, the air is crisp, I’m in awe of birds flying overhead. I smile at everyone, stop to hold doors open for others, go out of my way to be helpful and kind, basking in the residual aura of the spiritually-charged atmosphere I’ve just encountered.
While I’d like at least two days of quiet contemplation, flipping through handouts and business cards, journaling and perhaps diving into one of the books I’ve purchased, the suitcase demands to be emptied and a load of laundry must be done. The cat and the daughter vie for my attention. The garbage can is overflowing, the sink full of dishes. Less than 48-hours after I return home, I’m back at work, feeling the full effects of re-entry, returning to reality.

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These are my people, my tribe, my church. I get a little glimpse of heaven in this building called Fellowship Hall. 

It was at this very conference I discovered something broader than happiness; eudaimonia, a Greek word loosely translated as finding the purpose of your life.

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Just ten years ago, I couldn’t even imagine getting up in front of a room and talking. Now, public speaking is one of my passions. David saw that in me before I did, and God planned for it all along.

One of my first workshops was a two-hour couponing one at a community college in October 2011. David was at the back of the room watching my presentation. At one point I glanced up and the look on his face made me catch my breath. It was because of his presence I could relax when a reporter came to do a news article. I was smiling at the man behind the one holding the camera.

coupon workshop

“I love seeing you like this. You come alive in front of an audience,” David commented on the way home.

I feel alive at this conference; seeing friends and mentors I might only see once a year, meeting broken and gentle souls, experiencing small miracles, giving and getting more hugs than I can count. I am a better person because of these people. I want to spend each and every day with them and other kindred souls.

Someday, I will.

 

 

Cecil Murphey, mentor, Shelly Beach, writer's conference, writing

Top Five Reasons to Attend a Writer’s Conference

This will be my ninth year attending the Cedar Falls Christian Writer’s Workshop, and my eighth year as a presenter. Two weeks after last year’s conference, I moved an additional hour away from the venue, but I’ve never considered not going. In fact, during my job interview for my current position as program coordinator at a spirituality center, I made sure to mention I would be gone for a few days every June to attend this conference.

It took me two years after I learned about this conference to work up the courage and rationalize the cost to attend. It was my husband who suggested I invest in myself and my writing. He was my biggest encourager. Outside of the learning that takes place at these kinds of conferences, I’ve netted lifelong friends and mentors at this particular conference. While there are many reasons to attend a writing conference, here are my top five:

To learn more about the craft of writing. I believe in lifelong learning. No matter our level of expertise in writing, there is always something new to learn. Sometimes we have to make a commitment to hone our craft and that commitment might involve both time and money. Committing to a conference or a class could be the first step in taking our writing seriously. Call it an investment in yourself. I tell attendees in my writing classes that paying for a class gives them a reason for taking time out of their busy days to write. “Remind your husband or your kids that you paid good money for a writing workshop so now you need to write and sell something to recoup your money.”

If you take yourself seriously, others will take you seriously, too.

To learn more about the business side of publishing. It’s not enough to be a good writer; you also have to learn about the ever-changing world of publishing. What is a book proposal? How do I write a query letter? How can I build up my platform? Do I need an agent? Where do I find markets for my work? These are questions you can find the answers to at conferences and workshops.

To connect and network with other writers. There is nothing more enjoyable than “talking shop” with another writer who understands the foibles and follies of the world of writing. Writers at conferences and workshops share markets with each other, commiserate about rejections, and support each other’s accomplishments. I’ve made life-long friends at each conference I’ve attended. My world has gotten so much bigger in the last few years. It was at a conference that I met my mentors (and good friends), Shelly Beach and Cecil Murphey.

To meet and network with editors, publishers, or agents. Not everyone who attends a conference ends up sitting next to an agent at a lunch table and subsequently signing a contract with her husband a few months later, but I did. I’ve developed both personal and professional relationships with editors and agents at conferences. While initially the prospect of meeting with an agent or editor was quite daunting to me, I’ve experienced some enlightening conversations with several. Of course, the easiest conversations are those I’ve had without the anxiety of attempting to sell something.

Amazing moments and divine encounters regularly happen at Christian writing conferences. I can’t speak for all conferences as I’ve only attended Christian ones, but I’ve found that if I pray fervently before, during, and after a conference, and keep my eyes and heart open to God and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, amazing things have transpired at each of the conferences I’ve attended, some so powerful they’re difficult to talk about without crying.