by Lindy Jacobs, OCW Summer Conference Director
We’re so excited to welcome Jane Kirkpatrick as our 2015 Summer Conference Co-Keynote Speaker
Basket-Making and Writers – by Jane Kirkpatrick
For some years, I worked with Native American families on the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon. One of the traditions there was that at the completion of a basket-making class, students often gave away their first basket. Many times the basket teacher received that fledgling effort. In my 17 years there, I was privileged to receive three first baskets, even though I know nothing about basket-making.
After the first surprise gift, I tried to imagine with whom I would share my firstfruit. This made me consider what was in the teacher that I wanted to emulate in my writing life as a mentor to other writers. The exploration taught me about God as a coach. This year for OCW, I hope to weave those insights into my class sessions about landscape, relationships, spirituality, and work.
First, I would share my first effort with someone I hoped wouldn’t judge me harshly. It might not even be a first effort writers are carrying with them to Jantzen Beach. My coaching class students may choose to share a piece they’ve worked on for months. What matters is that they are taking a risk in sharing, and I want to honor that courage. Terry Tempest Williams, a Utah writer, notes that “to step into the wilderness is to court risk, but risk favors the senses, which allows the good life.” Writing is much about walking in the wilderness sometimes and taking risks, not being sure where a piece is headed. Making that effort in a safe environment allows that risk to be turned from fear and anxiety into hopefulness. I want my coaching to be a part of that.
As a coach, I hope to also see the promise in the work that students choose to share. That’s different to me than not judging harshly. One is something I choose not to do; the other is proactive. My first efforts are usually pretty miserable, which is why revisions are so important. Having a good editor matters, as does having a critique partner that finds the nuggets of gold before spending time tossing out the shiny stuff that isn’t pure. Together we’ll look at what the promise of the piece is and find ways to make it stronger.
Finally, I imagine that I’d share my less-than-perfect work because I have a Master basket-teacher who asks for our firstfruits. God wants us to give our best, a harvest that has been nurtured, watered, fertilized, and tended well. But I think God knows that our best does not mean there won’t be flaws and imperfections. Perfect doesn’t mean without errors, it means complete—in the dictionary at least. As a writer that means making a piece as ready as possible but then having the courage to send it out. We’re asked to tell the best stories we’ve been given and to trust that we are not alone in the telling.
Madeleine L’Engle wrote that when we create, we co-create. We co-create with our muse, spirit, God, and we co-create with the recipient or our readers. I hope all who gather at the summer conference will leave inclined to judge their own work less harshly, see the promise in what they’ve written, and then have the confidence to say one day soon, “This is complete.” I might even bring along one of those first baskets so we can all honor the courage of that basket-making spirit.
Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA best-selling and award-winning author of 27 books, including 22 historical novels based on historical women. Jane is internationally recognized for her lively presentations and well-researched books. She will be the Thursday morning keynoter at the 2015 OCW Summer Conference, August 10–13. Jane will also teach a morning coaching class, “Weaving Story Threads in Fiction,” that explores ways to create authentic characters at home in their landscape, time period, relationships, spirituality, and work lives.