Wednesday, January 6, 2010

N.J.Lindquist interview with Alice Valdal

Alice: Eileen Watson mentioned Write! Canada on this blog a few weeks ago and I'm following up on her post by interviewing N.J. Lindquist, one of the founding organizers of that conference. N.J. could you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing journey?

Wow! That could take a while.
Books and magazines were my best friend when I was growing up and I’ve always been drawn to making up stories and thinking about things in new ways. I was an only child who was adopted, so I was rather lonely and I felt a bit like the ugly duckling.

My first published piece was an anonymous letter to the editor of our small town local newspaper when I was 12. I didn’t get much encouragement from teachers on my writing until I got to university and finally learned to write essays, thanks to my first year English teacher. I actually ended up winning the English medal when I graduated.
I won’t bore you with the rest of the details, but I became an English teacher, got married, took a correspondence course in writing, put my writing aside to raise (and homeschool) four sons, and was very active in church leadership. My first book was published by Moody Press in 1991. Since then I’ve written articles of all kinds, columns, short stories, a Christmas play, and had 10 other books published. I’ve done editing , and I’ve been teaching writers since 1992.

In 2001, I realized there was an urgent need for Canadian writers who are Christian to work more closely together. With some other writers and editors—in particular, Wendy Nelles I founded an association called The Word Guild ( and served as the executive director for a number of years—all as a volunteer. Wendy and I have also directed Write! Canada since 2002.
For a more detailed bio,

Alice:Tell us about the Write! Canada conference. Who? Where? When?
N.J.: Write! Canada is an annual conference for writers and aspiring writers that is held at Guelph Bible Conference center about 45 minutes west of the Toronto, Ontario airport. The conference celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. This year’s conference is Thursday to Saturday, June 17 – 19, 2010.
Our keynote speaker is Joel Freeman, international speaker and coach, and author of the book If Nobody Loves You, Create the Demand, which we felt was an appropriate topic for Canadian writers who are Christian.
In addition to three keynote addresses, the conference offers continuing classes , writing intensives, and workshops, editor/agent appointments, manuscript critiques, worship, a publishing symposium, and lots of networking. While we do have classes for authors and aspiring authors, we know that there are many other types of communication. This year our continuing classes will include: "Writing from Your Life," "Eight Step Editing," "How to Craft a Novel," "What Journalists Need to Know/Do for the Future," "How to Develop a Speaking Ministry," "Writing Poetry," and a small group intensive for people writing biography or memoir.
Our website is We’re just finalizing faculty and we’ll be putting up details in the next month or so. You can see the pages from 2009 in the About Us section.

Alice: Is the conference open to non-Canadian participants?
N.J.: Yes. It’s open to anyone. We have a mix of faculty from both Canada and the United States. Attendees come from all over Canada, but we do have some Americans who come on a regular basis, and we’ve had a few other registrants, including one from Africa. We normally have about 225 to 250 people in total.

Alice: Can you report any sales made as a direct result of an author attending the conference? N.J.: Yes. Some of our sales are for book manuscripts, and others are for smaller items and articles. And we have had people sign with agents as well. Or connect with other writers who can encourage or even mentor them.

Alice: International Christian Fiction Writers was formed to support authors whose work is set outside the United States. Do you have any words of wisdom for such writers trying to sell to the mostly American publishers?
N.J.: I’ve had three US book publishers, including St Kitts and Moody Press, and have been published in US magazines and taught workshops in the US. I’m not really opposed to the idea of having a US publisher. But I do think we need to think about what we’re doing in the "big picture" and perhaps establish ourselves in our own country and not merely try to be another "US author." I’m also very concerned that my own culture’s Christianity be reflected honestly, and trust me, it really isn’t the same as the US Christian culture that has dominated Christian publishing for the last number of years.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the desire to get into what may well be a bigger market, but does it make sense in the long run? To be acceptable to American Christian publishers, I will probably need to set my novels in the United States and use only American spelling and phrases, and write for the American Christian culture. And if I do that, what will I be leaving for my children in terms of a Canadian Christian culture?
Why not instead work to develop a market in my own country first, and then perhaps sell my work into other countries, including the United States?
I wrote a piece on this subject for Christian Fiction Online in May. You can read it either on their site or on one of my blogs.̢۪s-plan/
If you still feel God wants you to write for the American market, you’re going to have to follow the same rules as American writers: know your audience; know the area you are working in; develop a platform in the US; go to conferences where you can meet other writers, editors, and agents; get articles and stories published in magazines or online; and develop a career.
This is all made more difficult (or more exciting) by the fact that the entire publishing industry is in total flux right now, and no one knows where it is going to end up. It just might be a time of great opportunity for people who are willing to try new things, work hard, and work together.
FYI: I do a lot of blogging on writing issues at my Web site

Alice: Anything you'd like to say to this group of authors writing from all around the world?

N.J.:Just this. God created you and He put you in the country where you live, and presumably in that town or city or farm. So look around and see how you can use your gifts and talents where you are now. If He wants to use you beyond that area, great. But don’t ever feel He put you in the wrong place. He can and will use you exactly as you are.
For my proof of that fact, you might want to check out my own story, "The Diamond Ring". J
Alice: Thanks N.J. You've given us lots to think about. Good luck with the conference.

You can learn more about Alice Valdal at her website


  1. Alice,
    Thanks so much for this interview with N.J. I'm forever trying to aim for markets overseas and changing my style to fit the market.

    You've given me a lot to think about. Yes, God has placed me here for a reason and he will use me for his purposes. So why am I trying to be somewhere else? Good question!

    This has been insightful. Thank you

  2. Thanks so much for this interview, Alice and NJ :) I'm a Canadian (eastern BC) who had no idea Write!Canada was this large an organization.

  3. I hadn't even heard about it, Valerie. I found it through Joanna Mallory, who is a supporter of this group :)

  4. Write! Canada isn't until June, but I'm already watching the airline seat sales. I love the benefits that come year-round through internet connections with other writers, but it's great to meet face to face. Some year I'd like to get to the ACFW conference too.

  5. That was great! Thanks for all the advice and good to hear how things are going in the Canadian Christian publishing world!

  6. So glad Joanna suggested Alice interview me. I hope all your readers, and especially the Canadians who come here. will check out The Word Guild and Write! Canada. It's one of my strongest beliefs that we need to work together as much as possible, on local and national levels as well as a world-wide level. There is enormous strength in people working together to help one another. Change happens when people join together.

  7. Alice, great interview! NJ, thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights regarding the Canadian publishing world and Write! Canada conference. I agree it's important we don't lose our cultural identity, and this is another reason why we need to support the smaller Christian Publishers in our own countries.

  8. Thanks Natalie. Sometimes, as in our case, there is a very small national publishing industry, btu that doesn't mean we should ignore or disparage it. Much more effective to work together to build up a thriving industry at home. One of the things we have done is published the anthology, Hot Apple Cider, which has has work by 30 Canadian authors in it. Not all fiction, of course, although there is some. But it's been a real door-opener and conversation-starter for us because of its professionalism and high-quality. (Both keys to being taken seriously!)