On Thursdays we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.
Today’s interview: Melinda Jensen
Question 1: Tell us three things about yourself.Who am I and where do I come from? Hmmm…let’s start with the basics. I’m an Aussie mother of two strong young women, a grandmother of two talented kids (blatant nanna bias) and a pretty ordinary human who has lived with a painful and debilitating illness since 1995. That’s the first thing.
And then, I’m an unashamed feminist in a world that finds feminists embarrassing at best, and demonic at worst, but true feminine strength is something I believe Jesus held very dear. He treated women tenderly and with infinite understanding and respect.
Thirdly, of course…well, I’m a writer, though I can’t claim to have yet published a book. I have had poetry, newspaper articles and some pithy (I hope!) short stories published in fiction magazines.
I’m going to be cheeky and add a ‘fourth thing’. I’m absolutely passionate about the environment and my commitment to being a good steward over our earth infiltrates every aspect of my living, including my writing.
Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?
For much of last year, I concentrated on a work of non-fiction, a process that was temporarily disrupted by having to evacuate my home because of Australia’s devastating bushfires. I’m very thankful we came out of it completely unscathed.
The topic of the book is going to sound truly boring - budgeting - but I’m writing in a light-hearted way, giving lots of practical tips on shopping, budget ideas for entertaining, saleable crafts and lots more, even cheap wine that’s cheap, but not nasty. And I’m peppering it with sketches of my own as illustrations. It’s a fun process and I hope people have fun reading it.
As for why I write, I think it’s probably twofold. Writing’s always been the subject I’ve been best at – since primary school, in fact. And I find it therapeutic. I get into the ‘zone’ when I write (and paint/sketch) that I can’t achieve with other activities. I figure that God planted the talent and desire in me from my very beginnings…and who am I to argue with that?
Also close to my heart is my blog on domestic violence which has been on the back-burner for some time now but for many years was my passion and, I hope, a source of education, comfort and encouragement for a few precious souls. I expect to continue blogging on the topic in the not-too-distant future.
Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?
I guess quite a few people in the general public have read a couple of my published short stories, which appeared in a popular mag. Some of my poetry has been published online and in printed anthologies so it’s hard to say who might have come across them, but there’s been a smattering of interest, at least. The same applies to newspaper articles. My blog on domestic violence has over 500 followers, all of them victims of psychologically, emotionally and/or physically violent partners. And there was a time a few of Toowoomba’s infamous ‘Quirky Quills’ had a gander at my writing, too, and all of them have been very encouraging and supportive, as has the whole CWD crew.
With regard to the book I’m currently writing, the people I’d really like to read it are those who need it most. We have a growing crisis in Australia (in addition to the drought and the fires), and it’s a crisis defined by the high number of people living well below the poverty line, by affordable housing shortages, an aging population and a number of other mitigating factors. Homelessness is on the rise, particularly among women over 55 who are then vulnerable to sexual assault and physical violence. As I’ve had intimate experience of living well below the poverty line, raising two children on my own and with a chronic health issue, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to live a happy and fulfilling life despite severe budget limitations. I want to be able to give people who are struggling a little hope and a little practical advice.
Of course, I’d be absolutely delighted if my book was read by the likes of Helen Garner, Ruth Park and Jackie French…Jackie French particularly as her style resonates with my own.
Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
My writing process is a bit piecemeal. I’m somewhere in between a pantster and a planner. Generally, I’ll write furiously when the ideas are flowing are and the words come easily; then take it slowly during the inevitable lulls. During those times, I research, take notes, edit and sometimes just write anything and everything to get the juices flowing again.
My biggest challenge is my health. I require a lot of sleep and a very calm, quiet environment in order to optimise my good days. Even on good days, I rarely have more than four hours in which I’m not too debilitated to be productive, and there’s so much to cram into those few hours! It’s a constant balancing act. Today, I might sweep the floor, then do some research. Tomorrow I might do a couple of loads of washing and muck about with illustrations. In short, I hasten slowly. I live by my late father’s words, ‘The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get’, which I think he filched from the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.
Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?
I’m not sure I have a favourite writing craft book. I’ve learned a lot by searching online and also from having done a short course with the Writers Bureau. I highly recommend it.
Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?I have to say I’ve gained such a lot of insight from Anne Hamilton’s books, of which I’ve read four and intend to read the rest! I’ve loved Adele Jones’ ‘Integrate’ series and have also enjoyed David Bennett’s thought provoking, thoroughly researched work. I’m keen to read more.
And I absolutely cannot express the profound comfort brought to me by Anusha Atukorala’s beautifully penned devotionals.
There are so many other talented CWD writers whose books I haven’t yet read and when I do, I’ll likely want to list them among my favourites.
Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2020? How will you achieve them?
I’m keeping my goals focussed on the non-fiction work I mentioned earlier. I have a tendency to allow myself to be spread around too many ‘projects’, resulting in none of them coming to fruition. I really want to get my book to the first draft stage before the end of 2020 and it will take discipline for me not to distract myself with the myriad writing ideas that seem to shuffle around inside my head. I’ll certainly be asking God for His guidance. And asking family to hold me accountable.
Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
That’s an interesting question. I think of myself as a bit of a fringe-dweller in that I don’t feel compelled to write only for Christians, or even to craft my writing in an overtly Christian way. That way, I feel I can reach people from outside Christian circles and perhaps plant a seed. My values, drawn from my faith, underpin all my writing. I keep things gentle, compassionate, inclusive and just. Christ’s heart for the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged is very much my own. I prefer to ‘love’ first, put my values into action and then, if the opportunity arises, I’ll share my faith.
Melinda Jensen has blogged extensively on emotional and psychological abuse and is currently enjoying a sea change from writing fiction to writing non-fiction, self-development books. Who'd have thought? A keen student of human nature, she's had articles, short stories and poetry published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and journals, having juggled single-motherhood and chronic illness for about 24 years. She's still almost sane and definitely has a heart for God and a yearning to bring a couple of books to fruition this year. Apart from that, she's besotted with cats, makes jolly good fudge and is desperately trying to keep her garden alive in the drought. On that note, she’s extremely passionate about the natural environment God has gifted us all with.