Friday, May 11, 2012

One Writer's Story

         This is Carol Stratton's story of growing as a writer. It is an excerpt from the book, Writing So Heaven Will Be Different, 35 Years of Encouraging Stories From The Write-to-Publish Conference.

         Through Carol's contact with an editor at the Write-to-Publish Conference, she published her first book, which I am giving away this week. It is a devotional book for those who have moved once or many times. Carol has moved twenty-two times! It is, Changing Zip Codes, Finding Community Wherever You're Transplanted.

          Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing.
         The deadline is midnight, Thursday, May 17.

From Doubt to Confidence
By Carol G. Stratton

     As I unpacked my suitcase at my first big writer’s conference, doubts dripped into my mind like syrup from a tipped-over bottle. What on earth am I doing here? I wondered. Don’t I have to have a book published or at least several articles to my name to call myself a writer?
      I thought of the woman I had passed in the hallway. She touted a one page crammed full of credits.  Other veterans rolled by me wheeling heavy suitcases of their books they planned to sell.

      Suppose someone might check my credentials? Keep a low profile, I told myself. I would have to maneuver through the week without anyone finding out I was a fraud. I just needed to get through the week without embarrassing myself.

     Showing up for classes, I fought my conflicting emotions. Maybe I didn’t fit here. But I had a desire to write. Where did that come from? Like a spring seedling begging for a shower, I eagerly soaked up information in the classes I took, wearing our three pens with all my notes.  Even if I wasn’t a real author, I was rubbing shoulders with those who were, and my fantasy world had kicked into gear.  A new world had opened its doors, as I peeked inside.

Realistic role models

      Many of the conference speakers were down-to-earth people. As they spoke, I discovered they didn’t inherit a writing mantle from a dramatic encounter with the Holy Spirit. Instead, through steady steps and lots of failures they found a ministry in writing.

     They worked hard and wrote honestly to influence their generation for good. It took hours and hours of butt-in-chair time. Nothing magical, just hard work. Less glamour,  more routine. Their satisfaction came through lives changed and people encouraged as a result of their words.

      James Scott Bell, the continuing-class teacher for fiction, mesmerized us with his passion for excellent storytelling. And Doc Hensley, in his keynote address, challenged us to be the armor bearer for God.

     This is good stuff, I thought. As I listened to seasoned writers and editors, God spoke to my spirit. He showed me how I could harness my stories and wry observations about the church to communicate truth to readers. 

Much to learn

     Continuing classes and electives made me realize how much I didn’t know. Unfamiliar writing terminology overwhelmed me, but kind souls around me filled in the “ignorance” cracks. I enjoyed meals with experienced writers, discovering they, too, had been neophytes only a few years before.

     Casual conversation with other women while brushing teeth in the communal bathroom and visits with other conferees standing in line for cafeteria-style dinners allowed me to hear the Holy Spirit working. 
     I marveled at God’s creativity to the varied ideas He gives writers. One Georgian woman, while relaying me the plot for her novel, mentioned how she’s learning to play poker so she can spend time with her nephews.  By sharing their interests, she had cracked open a window to change heaven. Hmm, I saw an article in that story.
     In a late-night critique session, a man who had struggled with stuttering read his poem about a stuttering young boy who saved the day at school.

     Hearing stories like these reminded me of Proverbs 27:17: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” The more I heard about the types of things others were writing, the more I saw fresh story ideas unleashing in my own mind as my word-processor began calling to me from home.

     God fed my dream as the conference progressed. My “maybes” turned into a call. With every encouraging word I wrestled my vague dream into a concrete plan.

A changed woman

     Four days later, I boarded the train back to Michigan, a changed woman. As we pulled out of the station, I was oblivious to the stores and parks blurring past, outside the window. My heart remained in Wheaton, where God connected to me though a decades-old writers conference called Write to Publish.

     I didn’t sell anything.  Not one editor even asked me for my e-mail address. But I took away a more precious commodity—confidence. I knew God could use me as a writer. The self-doubts that trailed me to the conference melted like a double-scoop ice cream cone on a hot playground slide.

     I know God can use me to make a difference.

Carol G. Stratton (, has written several articles since her first Write-to-Publish experience, and speaks to women’s groups and writers’ groups. As a somewhat of a reluctant expert (twenty-two moves) on relocation, she has just published her first book, Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You’re Transplanted, a forty-day devotional for those who move.  Her connection with a book editor came through WTP last June when she met the Acquisitions Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas.  She currently lives in Mooresville, North Carolina with her husband.



  1. Hi Carol,
    What a blessing this book will be, esp for those displaced by relo - something I've also experienced. Thanks for sharing your experience at WTP. Gained confidence is a real gift. Congrats on the book and blessings for many more titles with your name.

  2. Hi Lyndee,
    Thank you for the feedback! Yes, I know this book is needed as moving rates #3 on the list of life stressors. Moving is like a giant spatula that scoops up your entire life and flips it over to another location. Those with temporary name tags at church may be hurting and the the body of Christ needs to come along side and offer real friendship. Newbies can be the most fertile (and closest) mission field for any local congregation.

    I have three other books but God moved this one to the top of the line. Only took eleven years but who's counting!

  3. Michelle R. WelshMay 12, 2012 at 1:00 PM

    Congratulations on your new book! Thanks for sharing your story. I'm going to my first conference, which happens to be Write-to-Publish, in a few weeks, so I found your article encouraging. I'm getting more excited as it draws near!

  4. Great- I hope you learned from my story how it's better to go to a conference with boldness and confidence. Things don't happen overnight but God can whisper into your spirit as He strengthens your convictions to write. With patience you will be amazed at how He can open doors. I know you will enjoy your time!


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