Thursday, September 22, 2016

Never underestimate ...

by Mazzy Adams

As part of my Creative Writing studies, I completed numerous ‘Quick Writing’ exercises based on various verbal prompts and images. Here’s one of those prompts and my response to it:

Every day of the week, between 7:00 am and 8:00 am, Vince and Jack arrived at the park bench with their newspapers.  Every day they grunted a greeting, sat, and read. Every day, between 8:00 am and 9:00 am, as one finished reading his newspaper, he would fold it, tuck it under his arm, stand, mumble a farewell and leave.

Sometimes Jack left first. Sometimes Vince left first.

Jack didn’t know Vince was an inventor whose ingenious creations languished for want of entrepreneurial investment. Vince didn’t know Jack was a lonely millionaire who intended to bequeath his millions to an animal shelter because he had no family and no friends.

Vince could have become like a brother to Jack. Jack could have enabled millions of people to benefit from Vince’s inventions.

Could have, should have, would have … didn’t.

All because of the one thing they did share … a failure to communicate.

Never underestimate the value of a good discussion.

I sat down intending to write this blog on a totally unrelated topic (to do with ‘the individuality of your voice’) when the memory of this particular writing exercise sat down beside me, tapped my heart, then rapped me over the head like a rolled up newspaper and suggested I use it instead.

So, I suspect that, for whatever reason, someone out there needs another kind of prompt: my gentle encouragement to connect.

Perhaps there is someone you’ve wanted to chat to for ages and, for whatever reason, you haven’t managed it yet. Why wait? Pick up the phone and call them. Better still, invite them to join you for coffee, or a walk in the park.

Perhaps you need encouragement to connect with like-minded people, or, say, to attend a writers’ conference. That can be a great place for good discussions. (It just so happens that the Omega Writers Conference is on in Sydney in October. Have you booked yet?)

Perhaps there is a letter you’ve been meaning to send. One that will break the ice so your writing/publishing/networking boat moves forward? Today might be the right day to put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard and make that connection. (Preaching to myself here!)

Perhaps you need encouragement to connect with someone who can help you in some other way. Honestly, I find it so difficult to ask for help. I’ve been more thoroughly inculcated with the message that it is ‘more blessed to give than to receive’ than the one that says ‘ask and you will receive’. Perhaps that underscored the problem I created for Jack and Vince in a moment of quick writing madness back in 2012.

Back then, I needed encouragement to find and join a writing critique group. Back then, someone I had never met in person invited me to come along and join in regular discussions about writing. And back then … I did it. I went to meet five strangers … and received five wonderful friends. (Thanks, Nola, for initiating that connection.) I’ll never underestimate the value of creative, fun-filled shenanigans again!

There is no doubt in my mind that discussing the pros and cons of my writing with other writers has helped me hone my craft. Doing the same for them has … helped me hone my craft! (‘More blessed to give than receive’ still rings true.) There is immense value in the mutual support offered by groups like Christian Writers Downunder. Being connected really does help.
I think I’ll finish this post with a ‘homework’ exercise our writing critique group tackled in April, 2014, one that I’d filed beside my story of Vince and Jack. Our prompt was, ‘What does your writing group mean to you?’ Perhaps you could share your response to that question as a comment below. Here’s what I wrote:

Quirky Quills is
larger than individual idiosyncrasies;
the sum of corporate wisdom;
the strength of forged metal alloys;
the flexibility of seasoned allies;

a cohesive, healing ecclesia;
a hug for brain and heart;
a canvas prepared for inspiration;
brushes dipped in holy ink;

a catalyst for action;
a treasure-trove of friendship;
a creative, vocal ensemble with
an infinite, lyrical repertoire;

and the heartbeat of my social redemption.

So ... why not try to make that new connection? (And if you happen to connect with a millionaire called Jack who has money to bequeath struggling authors, please, by all means, feel free to introduce us.)

Mazzy Adams is an Australian wife, mother, grandmother, creative and academic writing tutor and published author with a passion for words, pictures and the positive potential in people. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Showing up

Yesterday, I was at a market with a friend. We were sharing a stand to sell our books. Both of us write and publish middle grade novels, and we've done a few markets in recent months. Some have been fantastic and we've sold a lot of books. Others, like yesterday, we barely sold enough to cover the stand. It can be a bit up and down when it comes to markets.

There are people who tell us that we are crazy for doing markets. We don't make a lot of money for the hours we spent there. I figure that I made more sales by being at the market than if I hadn't been there. It's also a great opportunity for kids to see our books, often they are the ones who pause by our table, browse the books, and get their parents to buy a book or two for them.

At the market yesterday, we had a great discussion when it was quiet about books - writing, publishing, and promotion, and how to be successful in getting our books out there. The conclusion we came to is showing up has a lot to do with success as an author!

My table at yesterday's market

It's the same with any aspect of writing and publishing. Instead of sitting there with words swirling in my I head, I spent time at the computer writing down those words, then I put myself out there by publishing them.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has people saying to them "I've been thinking about writing a book," or "I'll write a book when I have time," or any number of similar comments. I like to point out to those complaining about lack of time that I'm a single parent with two kids with chronic medical conditions, and I have a day job, and I'm still able to write. In essence, I'm showing up.

Showing up is also putting your hand up to do a guest blog post, submit a story to an anthology, agree to speak for a group or run a workshop, attend a conference or workshop,or anything you need to do to work on your craft, get your name out there, and get your writing done.

I know this is something I am constantly working on. There are times when I think I'm kidding myself in my dreams, but I know that if I just put words on the page, if I show up, I will get there.

Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne with her two sons and pet blue tongue lizard. During the day she works as business manager in the family business.

Follow her writing journey at and

Monday, September 12, 2016

An Immersion Excursion by Nola Passmore

A few weeks ago, I was immersed.  Totally submerged.  Out of my depth.  Drowning in a sea of visceral responses.  Diving for a fresh metaphor.  And loving it!

The occasion was a writing immersion course run by the inimitable Margie Lawson (pronounced Marj-ie, as in Marge Simpson only without the blue hair).  Over three full days and two half days, we lapped up fabulous instruction, applied lessons to our manuscripts, discussed examples, and worked one-on-one with Margie to make our words dance off the page.

So who is Margie Lawson?  She's a former psychologist who now helps authors use psychological techniques and other insights to empower their writing.  Through her own analysis of hundreds of top-selling novels, she's developed a deep-editing system to help you analyse your own manuscript and lift the prose from mediocre to stellar.  Many of her immersion graduates have secured publishing contracts and some have even gone on to write New York Times bestsellers.

As the name 'immersion' suggests, it was pretty intense.  The full days went from 8:30 am until 8:30 or 9:00 at night and we also discussed work over lunch and dinner.  But there was a lot of variety, laughter, and M & M's to keep us going.  (Thanks to hosts Sheila and Shane for the never-ending supply of snacks!)

The preparation was also intense.  In order to do the immersion class, we had to first complete three of Margie's 'lecture packets' that are available online: Empowering Characters' Emotions; Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues; and Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices and More.  The 700 or so pages of lecture notes are filled with tools and exercises to help you take your writing to the next level.  If you feel daunted at that volume of lecture notes, don't be.  They're easy to read, packed with examples from best-selling novels, and laced with Margie's sense of humour and encouragement.  She cheers you along and helps you believe that you can write a page-turner.

I wanted to do the immersion course because I knew there were areas of my writing that needed improvement.  I can write clearly and accurately, but readers rarely say, 'Oh you must read so-and-so's new novel.  It's really clear and doesn't have any typos.' Readers want an engaging plot, well-developed characters, and prose that leaps off the page.  I still have a lot of work to do, but the immersion class gave me strategies to help me write fresher and empower my manuscript with body language, rhetorical devices and subtext.

The more polished and original our writing, the greater chance we'll have of landing an agent or publisher.  However, that's not the whole story.  If we're called to write and have a God-given ability or talent in that area, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of that gift.  Why would we want to send a mediocre manuscript out into the world?  We owe it to ourselves and our readers to produce the best work we can.

Margie is based in Colorado, but will be back in Australia in February/March to run more immersion classes in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.  Hopefully there will also be a one-day workshop in Toowoomba.  I'll post a message when the dates are finalised.  In the meantime, why not download one of the lecture packets from Margie's website and try it out for yourself?  I'd suggest starting with 'Empowering Characters' Emotions'.

Writing a bestseller isn't guaranteed. However, if you have a teachable spirit and are prepared to work hard to hone your craft, your writing will shimmy and shine in ways you never thought possible.

Nola Passmore's short fiction, poetry, true stories, articles and devotions have been published in magazines, journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas.  She and her husband Tim operate a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. She is currently polishing and revising her debut novel.  Based on Margie's advice, she's still working out how to 'Save Essie!'

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Omega Writers Book Fair (Brisbane)

Last Saturday, on the northside of Brisbane, over fifty enthusiastic people came together to celebrate books, writing, authors and stories at the first Omega Writers Book Fair. 

Rochelle Manners & Lynne Stringer

We had 16 stalls and over 18 writers and authors - including YA authors Lynne Stringer and Adele Jones; Fantasy authors Lisbeth Klein, Raelene Purtill and Jeanette O'Hagan; middle-grade author Jenny Woolsey; children's author Paul Clark; romance author Andrea Grigg; historical fiction from Frank Taylor, writers of biographies and memoirs such as David Bennett (also theology), Ruth Bonetti, Hazel Barker, Nina Wiesenekker; self-help (on hearing loss) by Pamela Heemskerk; inspirational stories by Graham Bee, Kaye Hollings and Gwen Akers; and devotions from Ray Akers. Rochelle Manners from Wombat Books/Rhiza Press was there with a wide range of fiction and non-fiction for all ages through Books in Stock; and also Nola Passmore from the Write Flourish (editing), poetry and short stories. There were a number of new releases -Lynne's Once Confronted, Adele's Activate, Hazel's Heaven Tempers the Wind, Ruth's Burn My Letters - as well as titles shortlisted in the 2016 Caleb Prize - for instance Too Pretty by Andrea Grigg.

Ruth Bonetti reads from new release Burn My Letters

We also had book teasers and readings - poetry, excerpts from novels, flash fiction and short stories - that brought laughter, tears and enthusiasm to the listeners.

The two workshops - The Power of Story by Paul Clark and The Writing Life by Raelene Purtill - inspired those who participated. 

And then there were the door prizes and the end of day prize draws - with a couple of fantastic book packs - as well as the show bags and a delicious lunch. (You can see more photos of the day here.)

First Prize - Fantastic Book Pack 

Altogether, it was a great day of fun, friendship and enjoyment of books and faith. Many went away with a pile of wonderful books and anticipation of hours of reading pleasure.

It was all made possible by the authors, publishers and editors who came and shared, our workshop presenters, Omega Writers (including President Simon Kennedy and Judy Rogers), and a group of volunteers and offsiders - as well as book lovers and readers who attended. Throughout the planning and on the day itself, we were grateful for God's provision and power, and for those who supported the day in prayer.

Omega President Simon Kennedy with Jeanette O'Hagan

While most of those present came from Brisbane, the Gold Coast, even Gympie - we were thrilled to have Lisbeth and Graham Klein, who are currently travelling around Australia. 

There were a number of people who would  have loved to be with us but were unable either due to distance or to prior commitments or other restraints.

We are thinking of doing it all again next year - and the Toowoomba-rites and inspired to run a Book Fair in Toowoomba.

Overall, it was a good start and well worth the effort of putting it together. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see Omega Writer Book Fairs across Australia - celebrating the writing of Christians downunder :)

Jeanette O'Hagan

Monday, September 5, 2016

Omega Conference Update

by Raewyn Elsegood


This years Omega Writers Conference wants to empower you to believe ‘Your Words Can Change the World’. We all have a unique voice and story to be told.

My daughter’s anxiety driven screams began a journey that would lead my husband and I to learn that our words could change our daughter’s world.  Who would have guessed that being vulnerable with our journey with her would lead to my words changing Australian girls' worlds through being invited to write empowerment programs for Netball Australia’s Confident Girl program.

When God calls us to do something, we may laugh, procrastinate and doubt while He patiently waits confident in His choice. I wonder what word you might need to believe in His choice? 

You can choose to be:
Resilient, careful, generous, curious, clear, fair, thoughtful, confident, respectful, Happy, strong, caring, honest, serious, peaceful, calm, patient, free, creative, practical, forgiving, flexible, brave, grateful, satisfied, reliable, interested, committed, consistent, helpful, exuberant, decisive, passionate, polite, myself.

Many years ago I choose to be RESILIENT and now God has given me the opportunity to build resilience in others.  It only takes one word to change our own worlds.  Just imagine what your 40,000 plus can do for others.

The Omega conference has had an outstanding response to registrations. Our 25 presenters are looking forward to sharing their empowering WORDS with you on The Craft of Writing, Publishing, Marketing, Editing, Creativity, Inspiration and multiple genres. 

The conference gives you a great opportunity to network with others, make appointments with publishers and editors, join a writers group in your area, and possibly even find a mentor. So why not identify your goal in attending and come with a plan. We want everyone to leave with something they came for, a new idea, new connections, excitement for writing or just your next WORD.

You can find further details on our Facebook page ‘Omega Writers Conference, Australia’ or website

Omega Writers Conference will be held in Sydney
Friday 28 - Sunday 30 October 2016
Edmund Rice Retreat and Conference Centre
1315 Mulgoa Road - Mulgoa

Raewyn Elsegood

Cross-post with Australasian Christian Writers 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

How Do We Answer?

A question most fiction writers are asked: Where do the ideas of your stories come from?

I am still scratching my head about the answer to that.
All I can offer is that it's something like a seed being planted into fertile ground. (And no one can dispute we writers have fertile imaginations.) It's bound to shoot and wiggle its way up until we see the possibilities of a story. That's when it needs watering.

So what is the watering process for you? Do you get to work and begin laying out your ideas until you see the story emerging fresh, original and tempting?

Or do you take an idea ( or many ideas) you've read before and rewrite the plot with a twist - as agents love to encourage us to add in our book proposals?

Or is it something you've been struggling with in your own life and you place this into you main character's personality? This naturally introduces a spiritual dimension. And may help you discover along the way in figuring out your own life's answers.

The possibility exists that all of the above are true. Now is there something I've missed? I am curious about where we writers differ and where we are similar. As a pantser myself, I wish I could see the end from the beginning. But it seems I need to concentrate on understanding my characters and let them make the right choices ... or wrong as the case may be. Actually wrong choices do make them more human. Then it's interesting to find out how they'll extricate themselves from the consequences of their stupid decisions!

Sigh. All the above is a glimmer, but doesn't prove how we come up with our stories. I'd be glad if you could add some ideas of your own to enlighten me. OR do you have a good answer when posed with the question of where your stories originate?

Rita Stella Galieh is a co-presenter on a Christian radio program broadcast Australia-wide. She was a contributor to several US anthologies published by Adams Media. An attendee at several conferences, she has judged for ACFW, contributes to several other writers’ organizations, blogs weekly, and participates daily on Facebook. After several years study at the Sydney National Art School, she joined the family ceramics business before attending Emmaus Bible College. Each year, besides Australia, she travels with her violinist husband throughout Thailand, with permission from the Buddhist Government, to explain the true meaning of Christmas. 

This past year she has enjoyed presenting the amusing Etiquette of the Victorian Era to ladies and seniors fellowships, dinners, coffee evenings and similar functions. Her website is

Monday, August 29, 2016

Great Australian Stories

Early this year I was invited to make a contribution to an online site that I'd never heard of before - Great Australian Story. I read some of the other stories on the site and was very moved, amused and intrigued by these offerings. They give a great insight to so many aspects of life in Australia, honouring the brave, sharing funny stories and great achievements, and appreciating the extraordinary in the ordinary. 
I decided to contribute a story about my great aunt, Mary Oakes. Her story was part of one of my early novels, The Price of Peace, and because it's now 100 years since WW1 and there have been so many commemorations of those who fought and died in the battles of the war, I thought something of the battles faced by mothers of those soldiers should also be told. Part of short story I wrote follows.  

Mary Oakes was born in 1856 and was raised in the small country town of Murringo, near Young, in New South Wales. He mother, Suzannah, died in 1843 when Mary was just 17. A year later Mary married John Coddington and they had two children; Susan and William. Sadly, after just four years of marriage, John died of a fever. In that same year, 1878, Mary’s father, George Oakes, also died. In anyone’s estimation, that’s already a lot of loss for a young woman. At that time, continuing on with two small children would have been a great challenge.
In 1880 Mary married James Taylor and over the following sixteen years eight more children came along; six sons and two daughters. By the time the eldest children began to marry, it was clear that James came and went from the family quite regularly. Perhaps for work, or perhaps he was one of those men who wandered and returned unreliably. From remarks on the wedding certificates, his whereabouts was often unknown to Mary.
After the death of their twelve year old son, David, in 1903, James was never heard of again. David died from Tetanus after an accident on their small farm in Murringo. In 1912, Mary’s eldest daughter, Susan, died in childbirth. So much loss and pain to bear without the comfort of a husband.
When war was declared in August, 1914, Mary had three of her boys at home; James (27 years old), a labourer, Frederick (21), a horse breaker, and Herbert (18). No doubt she relied heavily on them for support and survival on the farm as there were no other social supports for women. Charles (29) worked in a nearby village as a blacksmith. The two older sons, William and George, were married and had families of their own. No doubt the war seemed an exciting thing for the young. There was enormous pressure for men to go and fight for the empire. It was considered cowardly by many for young men not to go.
Frederick, aged 21, was the first of Mary’s sons to go. He enlisted on September 4th, within weeks of war being declared. At that stage there was speculation that it would all be over by Christmas. However, that was not to be the case. In January, 1915, Charles enlisted and in March James signed up. In August that year, Mary received a card from Charles, from Egypt, saying they were off to the front. By the front, he meant Gallipoli, where the ANZACS had landed in April and were dug in on the sides of steep hills, held off by the Turks. All of these names and details must have been terrifying and mystifying to women like Mary, waiting at home, hoping and praying that the war would end soon and their boys would come home safely.

In September Mary received word from the War Office that Frederick had been injured at Gallipoli and hospitalised. That same month another telegram came, to say that Charles and James had gone missing in action between the 6th and 25th of August, one at Lone Pine, and one at Hill 60.  Many soldiers’ bodies were identified and buried when their fellow soldiers had a chance to get out of the trenches and retrieve them. Many were not retrieved, not identifiable. For many months Mary did not know whether her two boys were dead, injured somewhere, or buried in mud.
In October, word came that Frederick was back in Egypt, hospitalised with fevers, but still no news of Charles and James. It was May, 1916 before Mary got word from the War Office that her two boys, James and Charles, could reasonably be presumed dead. About that time, she found out that Frederick was to be sent home to Australia with permanent damage to an arm. 
It’s hard to imagine what pain she then experienced to hear that two of her other sons, George and Herbert, were about to enlist. George was 33, married with 2 small children. Whether he thought he was going to find his younger brothers, or to avenge them, or whether the pressure at home was so great, it’s hard to know, but he left his wife and children, took his youngest brother, Herbert, and off they went to war. Mary’s nephew, Arthur, son of her brother, also went with them.
These boys were sent to the Western front where the allies were trying to keep the Germans out of France.  Arthur was killed in March 1917 in Villers Bretonneaux.  Mary’s son, George, was injured in France in France, and returned to England to repatriate. Herbert was also injured, taken to England for treatment and returned to the front. The two boys returned to Australia in mid 1919. Both married and went on to have families of their own. I can only imagine their memories and nightmares as, along with thousands of other young men, they struggled to resume some kind of normal life.
It’s also hard to imagine the agony for Mary and her sister-in-law, Sarah Oakes.  It was 1920 before both of these women received notification from the War Office, attempting to finalise their deceased sons' affairs.
I can still weep for those women and marvel at the fortitude which enabled them to survive their pain, a pain and sacrifice that is often forgotten as we remember the fallen of the war. 
Last year I attended a memorial service at Murringo (now called Marengo), to unveil a cenotaph honouring the Murringo boys who gave their lives. I couldn’t help but think of mothers like Mary and Sarah, and wish that their sacrifice and pain was also acknowledged and honoured.

This, along with many true stories; sad, funny, inspiring, can be found on Great Australian Story. ( I'd encourage any of you as writers to consider making a contribution to the site. I've had numerous responses to my story and was able to link it to my author pages so that interested readers could find my novels if they chose to. It's also an opportunity for writers to practice their skills and get some feedback. Most of all it's a great way for down to earth, everyday Australian history to be documented.  

Carol Preston 

Carol writes historical novels based on her family ancestry in Australia from the First Fleet. They include the Turning the Tide series; Mary’s Guardian, Charlotte’s Angel, Tangled Secrets and Truly Free. Her earlier novels Suzannah’s Gold and Rebecca’s Dream have been re-released by EBP. Her new novel, Next of Kin, was released last year by Rhiza Press and her latest novel, Beyond the Fight was released this April. You can see more about Carol and her novels on her website, her Amazon author page or FB author page.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Becoming an Elephant

I stumbled across an old email the other day—it hinted at a true story about elephants. I’ve always been fascinated by these creatures (who abounded in the land of my birth), so I eagerly read on. What an intriguing tale! Lawrence Anthony, nicknamed ‘The Elephant Whisperer’ had been an international conservationist, environmentalist, explorer and bestselling author. I quote from the narrative:

On March 7, 2012 Lawrence Anthony died. He is remembered and missed by his wife, 2 sons, 2 grandsons, and numerous elephants, italics mine.

How did those ‘numerous elephants’ show that they remembered him?
How did we know that they did?
But first, what had they to remember of him?

Lawrence Anthony had been a legend. Rogue elephants who would usually have been put down, had been calmed, rescued and given refuge in a large sanctuary he established for them. Anthony was known to be exceptional in caring for traumatised elephants. When the ‘Elephant Whisperer’ died, something mysterious and profound took place. From miles away, wild elephants—dozens of them, silently began a long trek to his home, in solemn single file, taking at least 12 hours to reach. They stayed for two days, refusing to eat or drink, saying goodbye to the man who had championed their cause.

What an amazing story! And what a brilliant example of remembering. How did they even know he had died? We human beings are good at recalling the bad done to us. Do we also bring to mind often the acts of kindness we’ve received? I've been inspired by the life of King David as I've studied it recently. I was struck also by an occurrence that took place when King Saul died. Men in the small town of Jabesh Gilead came stealthily at dead of night, and took his body away with them so that his enemies would not taunt his body. These valiant men risked their lives for a dead king, because years before, King Saul had helped them. They too had remembered.

Would you like to be an elephant today? Not in size of course. Nor in looks, so you can rest easy. But would you like to be an elephant today in the act of remembering?


1. That Jesus bought us life, freedom and salvation. Praise Him.

2. The inspiring books we’ve read and how we’ve been changed through them.

3. Writers, role models and teachers in our writing sphere who have taught us, shaped our writing and grown us. Let’s appreciate them.

4. That our dreams, talents, abilities, time and even opportunities to write, all come from Him who reigns over all. We are stewards. We owe it all to our Lord.

5. That everything we’ve achieved are gifts from Him, so any praise directed at our writing and speaking efforts should be boomeranged back to our Creator.

6. The encouraging ways that God came through for us in the past, so with grateful hearts, we can entrust the future of our creativity to Him.

7. The deep joy we have in being writers called of God—how thrilling the journey. Let us never take our calling for granted.

And so today, I pause, reflect and give thanks. To God—for calling me to write for Him, for His guidance and inspiration. To you, my fellow writers who’ve taught me over the years and encouraged me stay on course. To those whose insightful books have showered God’s truth over my being. I look forward to new mountains yet to climb, because all I know of our God tells me that if He’s come through for me in the past, I can count on His faithfulness in the future.

I’d like to be an Elephant today.
Would you care to join me?

And now my Christian Writer Friends, this is for you:
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 1:3-6

Anusha’s been on many interesting detours in life, as a lab technician, a computer programmer, a full time Mum, a full time volunteer, a charity director, a full time job chaser, until one golden day (or was it a dark moonless night?) God tapped her on her shoulder and called her to write for Him. She has never recovered from the joy it brought her. She loves to see others enjoying life with Jesus and does her mite to hurry the process in her world through her writing and through her life. The goodness of God is her theme song through each season, as she dances in the rain with Jesus. Please stop by at her website Dancing in the Rain to say G’day. She’d love to see you.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Searching for Treasure

I dig around – it must be in here somewhere. I’m sure it’s here…

I keep searching – going deeper – getting to the bottom and finding fluff and broken bits and things that haven’t seen the light of day for a while.

I strain my eyes – sometimes when looking for something, my eyes pass right over it. I’m sure you’ve done the same. So I look at each item and name it, just so I can’t miss what I’m looking for.

There’s a lot of stuff in here: treasures, junk, forgotten things, insights, incomplete thoughts, words from other people, words that belong to other people, half-started piece of writing…

Surely amidst all the experiences of my life, I can find something to write about. I have friends for whom there simply are not enough hours in the day to get it all on paper. But I rarely write like that. I have to discipline myself to stop and listen; to chew over experiences and insights; and to listen to what God is asking me to put on paper. It’s all too easy not to be a writer! I even struggle with calling myself a writer – more than 20 short pieces and a booklet in print and I hesitate with the epithet ‘author’. An author? Are you sure? I don’t write much really. In fact not at all sometimes.

And I realize, I’m letting my thoughts undermine my ‘work’ as a writer. And that leaves me wide open to the enemy undermining who I am and who I can become: ‘A testimony? You? With your safe little life? Ha, ha, you’re so ordinary.’
I’ve started two new jobs recently – it’s pretty busy. There’s not a lot of time to write, (or market my booklet!), and I’ve been wondering how to go about meeting my writing commitments. However, my new jobs provide me with plenty of driving time, mostly alone, and I try to discipline my mind to prayer and meditating on Bible verses.

I think over books I read last year – books that talk about who we are and who we can become with the power of God in our lives. Our application of faith to our lives is often so small – we see our lives empowered within the context of who we are and what we do with each day. Our Heavenly Father sees our lives empowered by His Spirit within the context of the world with all the resources of Heaven at our disposal.

So I refute the arguments that try to destroy my identity and my inheritance.
I have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in me
I have all the resources of Heaven at my disposal and for the glory of God
I am being changed into the perfect image of Christ
I have a strong testimony about the work of God in me and in my life
And there is a whole world out there needing to hear about the saving grace, goodness and love of God through the written word

I am…a writer.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Robbie is a soldier who grew up as a fringe dweller on the edge of town in drought ravaged sheep country. He experienced the challenges of a homeless family knowing what it was to really struggle and even face horrifically terrifying events as a child. These things though could not prepare him for the shocking realities of battle he had experienced in the Middle East. Robbie may be a central fictional character in the narratives I am expressing, but he is also an expression of the challenging realities I have personally faced, and also the empathetic acknowledgement of what others are dealing with. Robbie (from the fictional platform of my writing) can express and engage at a deep level what many people grapple with in their day to day realities. Perhaps this can also help people find solutions to their issues: solutions that are perhaps less about solving things from our own strength, self-focus and material success, and more about discovering purpose, hope, meaning and even supernatural answers in life from The Source of all Life.

I am a School Chaplain pastorally caring for many students, staff and families often in very difficult circumstances. I am also engaged in discipling University students, ministering in indigenous communities, and serving in development opportunities internationally. Life is like a battlefield for many of these people. All of these opportunities give pause for me to reflect on the vagaries life throws at people, but also gives opportunity of seeing people call on help from outside themselves when all goes wrong.   
I am presently supporting our returned servicemen and their families by bringing attention to the scourge of depression and the high incidence of suicide among their ranks. The 22 day challenge sees me doing 22 pushups per day and remembering their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder struggle (

Today (the 18th of August) marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Long Tan in Vietnam. An incident recognised in the history of military service in Australia as one of the most horrific and heroic battles experienced by our soldiers. This is outlined clearly in a documentary I recently watched directed and produced by Damien Lay (battle of Long Tan Documentary Trailer . For 3 and a half hours just over a hundred Australian soldiers held off over 2500 North Vietnamese soldiers in a rubber plantation to the East of Saigon. 18 Australians and more than 500 Vietnamese were killed.
Many of the returned soldiers who shared their stories on the documentary wept as they recounted their terrifying ordeals, acts of sacrifice, and what could only be related as incidents of miraculous survival.

In reflecting on all this I began to consider what many of these soldiers testified that when soldiers face life and death in the field, they cry out for spiritual direction. Others have related a similar notion that in the heat of battle there are no atheists. When faced with desperate, impossible situations people cry out for help beyond themselves. This is not just the reality for soldiers in battle, it is a human condition. As one soldier has related:
“What really sustains, in my view, is something more than this – something far bigger than ourselves, something bigger and deeper than we can imagine or rationalise for ourselves.”
This same soldier gives this account of a battle he found himself in:
“My platoon got involved in a fierce gunfight – two of the enemy were killed, two of my soldiers were shot and one died. Everyone that day was really frightened, despite our denials. That experience told me that even the toughest of men, when the chips are down and the reality of life and death confronts, are reaching out into the spiritual dimension, beyond the rational “(Richard Dannett).

It is a well attested reality that people in the thickest of battles in the traumas of life people call out to God for help.
Fundamentally,  Life (when under trial) begins to recognise that there must be, there needs to be,  a higher source to rely on for help.
That’s why my character Robbie ends up coming to the end of himself in my story telling. It is not just to tell his story, but to relate the human story. Perhaps others can relate. When we come to the end of ourselves, when we need more than what we have to give or think we can handle, when things are impossible, we need a power higher than ourselves, we need a Saviour, we need The Source of all Life to reach in to our existence with His merciful hand and do what is only possible with Him.

 So I will continue to do my 22 pushups each day for 22 days. I will keep bringing hope to the generation of young people and families I work with. I will keep promoting the reality that we also don’t just have the opportunity to call on this Saviour when everything is falling apart, but perhaps more vitally He is there to do our Life journey with (through the struggles yes, but also) in relationship with us every day through the highs and the lows.

Oh, and I will keep expressing this reality through the interwoven complexities of my characters and their experiences, not just because it tells a good story, but because it is our human story and that means that perhaps this story telling can help others reach out for their Life Giver. 


Here with a friend he met in Vietnam. Ex Viet Cong. Who also testified of a Saviour who helped him survive after having his arm traumatically amputated by a tank shell in battle, 

Monday, August 15, 2016

'The Artist' - A Blog About Time

The Artist: Oil on canvas by Avril Thomas.
Used with permission 

My husband, Marc, and I recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We booked a gorgeous B&B at McLaren Vale and snuggled together in the warmth as the wind blasted rain against the windows. It was great to spend quality time together in this cosy retreat.
      When we checked out on Sunday morning we decided to look at some art galleries. We considered a list of local galleries but in the end we only braved the weather to take in one exhibition, that of South Australian artist, Avril Thomas, at Magpie Springs winery in Willunga.
     Avril’s works are striking. I immediately liked the large portrait of South Australian politician, Alexander Downer, and a series of paintings commissioned by the Flinders Medical Centre. These are unusual: Oil paintings of medical professionals, including doctors and nurses working in an operating theatre.  I enjoy Avril’s ‘tonal realism’ style and the humanity that seems to imbibe her work.
     But there was one painting that stood out for me. The Artist (pictured above) depicts a woman in the act of creating. Colours on her palate stream onto brushes and onto the canvas as the woman paints an image of herself in the act of painting. On first impression I thought it a passionate, unusual work, but then I saw the small hourglass in the lower right quadrant of the painting.
     The beauty of art, whatever its form, is that it can pierce us in that place which is the core of who we are. It doesn’t matter whether the medium is oil paint or music or words, art can get inside us and bring conviction. The small hourglass in the painting suggests that time is passing. The notes to the side of the painting explain that the hourglass symbolises the finite nature of time – the artist only has so many days to do the things they’ve been made to do.
     As I looked at this painting I sensed that God was speaking to me. ‘Are you doing what I made you to do?’
     The conviction didn’t come with judgement. There was no, ‘Come on Susan, you need to do more. MORE!’ It came instead with a sweet sense of grace. I’m in the middle of my life and God has spoken things over me along the way: A call to ministry, a call to write and I think to visual art as well. He has given me some wonderful promises that have budded but are yet to fully flower and fruit.  Am I tending those promises as fully as I can? God reminded me that the time available to do that is finite. I need to seek his face and make some tough decisions.
     In Ecclesiastes 3:1 it says there’s a time for everything under the sun. So I don’t think Jesus wants us to drop everything and make our art the sole priority. There’s a right time and place for everything. But I sense that for some reading this, like me, God is saying, ‘You’ve been patient, you’ve waited, now it’s time to do the things you've been made for.’
     What things has God put on your heart to do?

Sue Jeffrey was born in Scotland but moved to Brisbane, Australia with her family when she was just a wee lass. After a childhood spent reading, drawing and accumulating stray animals, Sue studied veterinary science and later moved to Adelaide where she worked as both a vet and a pastor. After a sojourn of several years in the Australian Capital Territory, Sue returned to Adelaide with two dogs, a very nice husband, and a deepdesire to write. Sue has a MA in creative writing and her short stories and poems have appeared in several anthologies including Tales of the Upper RoomSomething in the Blood: Vampire Stories With a Christian Bite and Glimpses of Light. Her e-book Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story is available on Sue also paints animal portraits.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Apologies and The Report of My Death Was An Exaggeration
                                             The picture below is not me. :-)

That quote from Mark Twain has been greatly misquoted. He said it as I have it above. But there are many variations of his words. I used it because for three months I hardly wrote a word, crashed inside myself, lost a sister-in-law, left the writing world and left some of the best friends I have ever had. Anusha, Jenny, Nola. Not to mention our MOP group. I like the way Mark Twain said it better than the other versions. He never said GREATLY. I wonder if he was in the place I was. This was part of the real letter he wrote to that reporter who printed the obituary. 

Mark Twain was undecided whether to be more amused or annoyed when a Journal representative informed him today of the report in New York that he was dying in poverty in London...
The great humorist, while not perhaps very robust, is in the best of health. He said:
“I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. "The report of my death was an exaggeration.”

I was going through some biopsies and my world turned topsy-turvy. (I love those words. They feel so good in your mouth when you say them. Go ahead. Say them. Topsy-turvy. That's a little thing. But I have that pleasure back in my life. In those hard months, I didn't care. I know Anusha, Jenny and Nola were whispering my name in prayer. I felt it.

 I don't have cancer, but I have something close. Precancer. I never knew you could have that. I came to realize that I missed writing. I missed my friends. Our group. And now I'm rushing to finish my 12 poems for our anthology. So I wasted time while throwing my pity party. 

I apologize to all of you. For not getting by to read your words. I will from now on. I've learned that we can't live in fear. That's no fun. So I picked up the pieces, glued them back together and now look like the picture above. Hahaha. 

 Anusha sent me an email. She'd realized she never answered my email. It was in her draft folder. That was on July 10th. The very day I started trying to pull myself out of the mire. I was writing again. Her email made me smile. And I knew I would write my poetry and novels and picture books. This verse she sent snatched me out of that miry pit. 

Isaiah 30:15
Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; He rises to show you compassion.
For the LORD is a God of justice.

Blessed are all who wait for Him. (Wait for Him.) Yes. 

Anusha and I had a retreat. And it was lovely. It was right before my crash. God uses people in our lives to bring us back from the brink. That retreat was another way God used her to help me and she didn't know it. Well, she does now. 

I prayed about this post. I actually intended to write something else. But He impressed me to write this. I believe someone needs to see it.

Thank you for making me a part of your lives I tell everyone I'm an honorary Aussie. I love Australia for many reasons. And you have short elections. Not like our three years of election talk. BLEH. 

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All my love to all of you.