Thursday, 19 September 2019

Book Review: Writing Vivid Settings

Review by Jeanette O'Hagan


Title: Writing Vivid Settings: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors (Writer's Craft Book 10)

Author: Rayne Hall


 "Do you want your readers to feel like they're really there—in the place where the story happens?

Whether you want to enrich stark prose with atmospheric detail, add vibrancy to a dull piece or curb waffling descriptions, this guide can help. Learn how to make your settings intense, realistic, and intriguing.

This is the tenth book in Rayne Hall's acclaimed Writer's Craft series."

Available as Kindle, Print, Audiotape.
Published December 27th 2014 by Rayne Hall
You can find it here.


Rayne Hall writes fantasy and horror fiction, some of it quirky, most of it dark. She has also written a number of best selling books on writing craft, including  Writing Fight Scenes, The Word-Loss Diet, Writing Short Stories to Promote Your Novel, Twitter for Writers, Writing Deep Point of View etc.

After living in Germany, China, Mongolia and Nepal, a small Victorian seaside town in southern England, and she now lives in Bulgaria. Rayne holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Over three decades, she has worked in the publishing industry as a trainee, investigative journalist, feature writer, magazine editor, production editor, page designer, concept editor for non-fiction book series, anthology editor, editorial consultant and more.

Contact Rayne Hall on Twitter
@RayneHall follows back writers and readers.

Jeanette's Comments

This is another gem from Rayne Hall and ranks along aside my all-time favourite of hers, The Word Loss Diet.

In Writing Vivid Settings, Hall breaks down different ways of including the setting into scene without bogging down the pace or producing long slabs of description that the reader duly skips. She looks at ways on including smells, sounds, light, colour, weather, telling details, similes, symbols and discusses the use of effective word choices. She explores how to research and to include the setting through the senses of the point-of-view character.

Hall then applies all these techniques to the challenges of writing specific scenes - such as the opening scene, climaxes, action scenes, at night, etc. with plenty of examples. She also demonstrates many of the techniques in a flash fiction at the end of the book.

As with her other books in the For Writers series, Hall gives many examples, tips on things to avoid and exercises to follow at the end of each chapter. She suggests building up a Setting Description Bank by journalling actual places you visit on a regular basis.

Modern fiction is often sparse of description and modern readers often skip lengthy paragraphs of heavy with description. Still, giving a sense of place through judicious description will make a more immersive and engaging novel. For fantasy and historical genres, setting is particularly important.  However, these techniques can apply for fiction of all kinds as well as creative non-fiction.

While not a particular fan of her dark fantasy, I can highly recommend Rayne Hall's Writing Vivid Settings.

Jeanette spun tales in the world of Nardva since the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. Many involve courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic. Others are set in Nardva’s future and include space stations, plasma rifles, bio-tech, and/or cyborgs. 

The last four years have been a whirlwind, with the publication of her Under the Mountain series (Heart of the Mountain, Blood Crystal, Stone of the Sea and Shadow Crystals, Caverns of the Deep) and her debut novel, Akrad's Children (in the Akrad's Legacy series),  as well as short stories and poems in over twenty anthologies. 

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her on various social media, including here:

Monday, 16 September 2019

What’s in a Theme?

What’s in a Theme?

Julia Archer

What life theme might drive a hero – real or fictional?

‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,’ wrote the imprisoned apostle Paul to his friends far away in the Greek city of Philippi.
                  As a theme for a life, it’s hard to beat.
                  Fiction writer and teacher James Scott Bell may not share Paul’s theology, but he is just as passionate that life-or-death stakes must drive your fictional hero.
                  ‘The stakes have to be death physical, professional or psychological’, he writes at the outset of His lively and instructive book Conflict and Suspense. A successful novel, according to Bell, is ‘the emotionally satisfying account of how the Lead Character deals with imminent death; the character must realise, with full force, before the midpoint, what the stakes are & spend the rest of the novel in a full throttle attempt to avoid death’.
                  J S doesn’t mess about, does he?
                  Of course, there’s a lot more advice in Conflict and Suspense than that. But right there on page two of the first chapter, Bell more or less states his thesis, and the rest of the book either proves it, or doesn’t. Read it and decide for yourself.
                  It is at the least highly entertaining and packed with illustration.
                  My current story certainly improved with edits inspired by careful reading of the whole book.
            But his take on theme and conflict proved to be the most helpful to me. Set your theme early, he said, and make the lead character’s conflict inherent in it.
                  So I thought for a few days, and came up with a working theme.
‘Battle to win respect and take your place in your community v quit and remain an outsider.’
                  Surely this is the theme of countless stories since the dawn of time, but it also grew out of the story I’d written so far. I didn’t impose it.
                  However, once I had the theme, I read my work with different eyes, asking different questions. Does this scene power the theme forward? Can I rewrite that subplot as a variation on the theme? Does this page have conflict-in-dialogue that expands the theme?
                  Never mind does it show Our Hero in a ‘full throttle attempt to avoid death’.

“Nepal girl runs away of wild horse” ID 8319007 © Koscusko |
                  This is not to suffocate the story in a straitjacket, but to give it coherence and a constant drive forward to a satisfying conclusion.
                  I am still working out the implications of having a clear theme for my story, but I also wondered, does it apply in real life?
                  The apostle Paul had a life theme. In fact, he writes a few variations on the one quoted at the top of this post.
                  But he is not the only biblical character to have one – stated or implied.
                  Often displayed in Christian homes is the punchline of Joshua’s farewell address to the Israelites, summing up his long and adventurous life; ‘As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’
                  Ruth’s theme burst from her lips in a scene of high emotion. To her mother-in-law Naomi the young Moabite woman vowed, ‘Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.’ That theme governed the rest of her lovely and gracious life.
                  Job, we are told, made his life choice – his theme – to be “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.”
          The Letter to the Hebrews, in its great eleventh chapter on faith, gives us a wonderful list of life themes of the ancient Hebrew heroes.
                  ‘By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.’
                  ‘By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.’ 
                  Moses ‘chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.’                 (All quotations from NIV translation of The Bible.)
                  The apostle Peter said to Jesus, “We have left all we had to follow you!”
                  And quoting a hymn of the early church in his letter to the Philippians, Paul describes the theme of Jesus’ life, as best a human being can describe it.
                  So, in each work of fiction we create, in our devotional pieces, our memoirs, poems and other writing, what theme are we building with our words?
                  What theme might describe our lives as servants of Christ?
                  Though chained in a prison cell Paul wrote, “I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
                  “Full throttle”, as J S Bell would say.


Thursday, 12 September 2019

Meet Our Members – May-Kuan Lim

Most Thursdays in 2019 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 interview May-Kuan Lim

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from. 

  1. I grew up in Malaysia, but travelled to Melbourne as an international student when I was 17.
  2. Working as a newsroom engineer for a short stint in the 1990s made me realise that I would rather write stories than broadcast them. In 2007, a journalist friend offered me a parenting column with the Borneo Post and I eagerly took up this opportunity.
  3. I now live in Adelaide where I teach English to speakers of other languages (TESOL), run writing workshops and record oral history.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?

For my column, I used to interview all sorts of people such from teachers to speech therapists and psychologists. My nine-year column was really an excuse to ask questions that might answer my private parenting dilemmas. Through this, I developed a habit of trying to understand the world through interviewing people and writing. I mostly write other people’s stories, in the form of narrative non-fiction. 

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

My early articles in the Borneo Post were for the general public – parents, educators, people interested in Australia. (I moved to Adelaide in 2005). In 2013, I self published my dad’s memoirs, Fish in the Well, set in Malaya, which was sold at his church and given to family members.

My latest book, Refuge, is a collection of refugee stories since the Vietnam War. My hope is that anyone touched by migration, displacement or war will read it. For this reason, I am publishing it serially online for free. The book is now at Chapter 5 Iraq, which is the story of a playwright who fell in love with his leading lady. I publish a new instalment every Friday and anyone can subscribe.

I am also adapting the stories so that they can be used as an English teaching resource. As my Port Adelaide TAFE students inspired the book, I like to think that the stories are coming full circle. 

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

My Facebook page is The Curious Scribbler. My process starts curiosity: something piques my interest or puzzles me.
I try to find out everything on the topic, whether through the library or by talking to people. Then I ask myself – what jumps out? Where is the energy? In other words, I listen to my heart. Finally, I put on my writer’s hat and try to find the voice to tell the story and the structure to contain it.
I love this quote by poet and writing teacher Mark Tredinnick: ‘How a piece of writing becomes a work of art – a plain but unforgettable thing –has everything to do with the integrity and humanity of its voice and the elegance of the work’s composition.’

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 

The Little Red Writing Book by Mark Tredinnick because it is a pleasure to read. It is also organised into sensible chapters such as Lore (On voice, music, care and thrift), Grace (On style, economy and poise), and Shapely thoughts (On thought, planning, structure and paragraphs). I also love the memorable one-liners, for example: ‘Write to please yourself; make yourself hard to please.’

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

Megan Higginson. I first came across Megan’s work via her contribution to the 2018 Stories of Life anthology, Three Dummies in a Dinghy. I then heard about her work organising teen street libraries in her area. What a brilliant idea – generous and practical. Wouldn’t I have loved such a library when I was a teen? Megan has a lovely engaging reading voice and went on to read several stories for the Stories of Life. Megan and Ester de Boer are also about to launch their picture book Raymund the Fear Monster. I hope that it will help me stare down my own Fear Monsters. 

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

I have just finished reading Rosanne Hawke’s book, Riding the Wind, on how to write for children and young adults. In line with her advice, I have started keeping two notebooks: one for story ideas and another for my response to other books. Instead of gobbling up words like a glutton, I am trying to read more slowly, to savour the way the words go down, to pay attention to technique and even to copy down exceptional sentences.
I am also experimenting with other genres. To my mind, the challenge to diversify was best put by vet and budgerigar expert Bob Donely: A real doctor treats more than one species.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

Rebecca Solnit’s words made a deep impression on me: ‘We are our stories, stories that can be both prison and the crowbar to break open the door of that prison; we make stories to save ourselves or to trap ourselves or others, stories that lift us up or smash us against the stone wall of our own limits and fears. Liberation is always in part a storytelling process: breaking stories, breaking silences, making new stories.’
While I don’t think that we can save ourselves, I think she makes a good point about breaking silences, and about storytelling being bound up in the process of liberation. It was for freedom that Jesus set us free. Let us talk and write then about how he set us free. Thinking along these lines motivated me to become part of the Stories of Life team, a team that encourages Christians to write their true stories of faith and testimony.
Jesus is not only liberator of those in chains. He is also light in a dark world. As his follower, I therefore try not to shut my eyes to block out dark and frightening things. Cover-ups and silences don’t please or glorify the God of truth. If I can bear to look at a thing honestly and dig deep, my faith assures me that there is no darkness beyond his redeeming power.
Having said that, I often find myself wrestling with how my ancient and invisible faith is to be lived out in this visible and contemporary world. For me, reading and writing seem to be part of this wrestling. Words seem to be the medium through which I sense God’s heart, and the way I offer back something to him.

May-Kuan Lim is a member of Writers SA and Oral History Australia SA/NT. She is also the administrator for the Stories of Life writing competition. Her website is

Monday, 9 September 2019

Poking the Muse: Weird, Wacky, or Wonderfully Worthwhile?

Mazzy Adams

The Muse can be a fickle and cantankerous beast. Give it a deadline and it will run away and hide behind any number of obstacles and excuses, be it a flu virus, a family crisis, or the sudden need to binge watch six seasons of a thirty-year-old television series because, you know, you can never experience too much historic authenticity in research mode … (a worthy cause according to The Right Honourable Idle Pro Crastination). Yet that same Muse will shove its stubborn creativity under your nose when you’re trying to grocery shop, work the 9 to 5, drive a car, cook dinner, shower, catch up on desperately needed sleep, or during any number of awkward and inappropriate moments.

Despite her unpredictable (and unreliable) nature, I’ve learned to truly appreciate my creative writing muse. Her weird, wild, wasteful, wistful, and wonderful moods have actually inspired some worthwhile words over the years—not to mention several truly wacky ideas.

But hey, I love her anyway.

When we first met, I thought my muse was amazing—funny, clever, sophisticated—and with my typing prowess, surely we were a match made in heaven. First love …

is blind.

(Image by 139904 from Pixabay)

Truly great relationships don’t just happen. Ours was no exception. Our relationship needed nurturing. It took time and effort for us to discover each other and to develop an understanding of each other’s hopes and dreams. It demanded tolerance, patience, persistence, perseverance and mutual respect (we agreed Alliterers Anonymous meetings didn’t work for either of us).

We spent our courtship hours creating quick responses to writing prompts for uni, socialising with other writers (and their muses), dreaming and scribbling together, chatting about all the wonderful places we could visit, all the friends we’d make along the way, arguing over which of us would take the rap for the characters we planned to kill off, choosing cream and white sheets to make up our literary bed, picking out names for our book babies …  

Though I speak tongue-in-cheek, for a writer, the relationship between inspiration and actual, useful text on a page requires active encouragement, engagement, and frequently, some outside assistance (like education and counselling). Poems, flash fiction, memoirs, novels, informative and/or inspirational works of non-fiction don’t magically arrive perfect and mature on the first draft. It takes informed effort to transform ideas into useful and entertaining literature. For this reason, I say kudos to every writer who perseveres to improve their craft.

But today, I don’t want to focus on the hard slog of editing and perfecting. I simply want to rejoice in that crazy, delightful ‘something’ that calls and inspires people to write—that’s calling you to write. I want to celebrate the huge variety of writing styles, voices, forms and expressions arising from the relationship between muse and writer. I want to sing and splash around in the bubbling flow that springs to life when the muse turns on the faucet. I want to thank God for it. Thank him for the fun and the frustration alike. Thank him for the solid, worthy ideas that translate into powerful text. And thank him for the absurd, quirky ideas that remind me to embrace the momentum of words and enjoy the ride.

Speaking of quirky ideas, 10% of the marks for some of my creative writing uni subjects were earned by completing ‘Quick Writing Exercises’. Students were required to read the prompt, write for ten minutes by the clock, post the piece to the forum and engage in mutual feedback and discussion. I found the challenge daunting at first, but also very fruitful, because it taught me to think beyond the obvious, to stretch my imagination, to get words on the page without stressing about their initial quality (big ask for a pedant and perfectionist) and, ultimately, to not only discover my ‘voice’ but to trust and treasure it. Like all good relationships, I believe our connection to the writing craft grows in quality as we invest in it and strengthen it through engagement.   
If your relationship with the muse is a tad stale, if you’ve been neglecting it (willingly or reluctantly) of late and it needs a bit of a jump start, or if your muse has been persnickety, hiding behind excuses when it should be making you a cup of tea, perhaps it’s time to try a quick writing exercise or two. All it takes is a prompt not unlike the example* I’ve posted below (or a word, an image, the poke of an umbrella …) and ten minutes of your time. It’s a small but invaluable investment for such an important relationship don't you think?

One of my favourite uni prompts was this:

*Write a piece that begins with the words, ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink …’

The variety of responses posted to the forum ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, but it was a great deal of fun. Here’s what I wrote way back then. Why not give it a go? If you’re game, post your piece in the comments.

Sitting in the Kitchen Sink

‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’ is an intriguing opening to a story. It raises so many questions at so many levels.

At level one, I consider the grammatical structure and its implications; if the absence of a full stop and capital letter is intentional and not accidental, the introduction proposes several truly mind-boggling possibilities. For example, I can envisage a scenario which quite reasonably puts me in the sink. I’ve cleaned the gable windows above my kitchen sink before and very nearly come a cropper. A landing in the kitchen sink would be a more viable option for survival than a continuance of movement downwards to the floor.

If, however, my comfortably large posterior is actually lodged in my kitchen sink, I doubt that I would have the peace of mind or inclination, given the unlikely and clearly uncomfortable circumstances, to engage myself with pen and paper and wile away several minutes, hours or days in creative composition. I suspect my first, and only, priority would be to dislodge myself from my constricted circumstances with as much haste and as little pain as possible.

At level two, conditional upon the previous assumption of grammatical correctness of course, another possible scenario involves my accidental exposure to some strange beam of light which has transformed me instantly into a midget. Or a tea-cup. But tea-cups don’t have hands, so the ‘writing’ part of the opening becomes problematic in this instance also. Perhaps the beam allows me special new skills, such as the ability to project an image across the room onto a piece of paper or onto an interactive whiteboard using purely the power of thought. That could be cool.

(Image by haidi2002 from Pixabay)

Of course, there’s level three where I might not actually be me. I could be someone else. Or something else. That raises even more mind-boggling options. I could be a cockroach in search of a tasty morsel left dangling on a dirty dinner plate. If so, I am not only intelligent, but extremely skillful and I have access to miniature writing implements, unless I intend to cocky-poo my message on the illicit bacon rind which should be residing in the bin.

I could be the mouse that I once clobbered with a rolling pin and then drowned in the kitchen sink. (Ick! Disgusting, right?) I doubt that in the midst of all that violence, with the threat of imminent death looming, I would have the presence of mind to write, not even my last will and testament. Hmm … Imagine that –

‘To my darling great-great-grand-nephew, Horatio Mousling, I hereby bequeath my summer nest in the pile of left-over roofing insulation in the rear right-hand corner of the Brown’s garage. To my cousin, Katrina Ratspring, I leave the directions to the dog-bowl at 57 Evinrude Avenue, St. Kilda …’

Sadly, given my current predicament, the creative juices just aren’t flowing as swiftly as they should. Perhaps I should play it safe, and punctuate. Therefore:

I write this. Sitting in the kitchen sink are the questionably salubrious leftovers of my husband’s first adventurous exploration into the world of gastronomic creation. I have to say, for a first effort, the dinner didn’t taste too bad. Even the after-taste was reasonable. After the third and fourth regurgitations however, I have begun to suspect that something was not altogether kosher.

I would rise from my chair at the kitchen table and call an ambulance, but the slightest movement results in another violent altercation with my digestive system. Thus I write this, just in case I don’t survive, so that any investigation of my demise will be straightforward.

I write this so you will know there was absolutely no ill or harm present in my husband’s intent. He’s just never tried to cook anything more adventurous than a fried egg before! 

As for the lengthy verbosity of my report, I simply offer, in my defence, that I never do my best writing when I’m throwing up.
© Mazzy Adams

Mazzy Adams is a published author of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. She has a passion for words, pictures and the positive potential in people.


Thursday, 5 September 2019

Meet Our Members: Brian Maunder

Most Thursdays in 2019 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: Brian Maunder

Firstly, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share. I have been a part of the CWD online community for many years now, and it has been a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.


1.      Tell us three things about who you are and where you come from.

I was born and still live in Adelaide, South Australia.  I am just nigh over 50 winters of age, married with two children, and work on a casual basis for Torrens Transit Adelaide as a bus driver, sometimes driving the O-Bahn circuit. Most of my time is devoted to home-schooling my two children and to the myriad of tasks involved with family life. I am a keen musician and like to busk when I can (guitar and singing), though my main instrument is piano.  I had a conversion experience when I was about 20 years old and my early Christian years were within the Salvos. Sailing the turbulences of life, I was a pilgrim for a while, traversing various Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations.  I now call my local Anglican Church home, and have been a part of the community there for over ten years.  I also love to attend Catholic services whenever I get the chance. 

2.      Tell us about your writing. What do you write and why?

My journey into writing is all due to a painting, which I created abstractly about 12 years ago. At that time, after sploshing colours upon a canvas, then crazily attacking it with obscure brush mayhem, I created something that looked, to me, like large ocean waves. To stimulate surrealist ideals, I thought to paint an image in the sky. Initially, I intended to draw flowers, but then changed my mind and drew a kite instead. This was all done just prior to Easter.

True to the season, and with the thoughts of Christ’s Passion upon my mind, I noticed that the kite was essentially built upon the framework of a cross. Whilst I gazed at the painting, questions crossed paths with my imaginings and meditations. I asked myself: “What would it be like to fly over that turbulent sea? Who created the kite? Did the kite know it was held together by a cross?” Suddenly, an idea of a story popped into my mind, and believing it to be too important to ignore, I set to work. What resulted was a children’s picture book which was published seven years ago (2012).
During the crafting of that simple book, whilst contemplating the theology hidden within the narrative, I realised that there was far more to this story than most people would perceive at a quick first glance. At some point I thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to read this as a novel. Maybe I should try and write it out in words.” Crazy me then went ahead and tried to actually do this… and I am still at the plough.  Since then, this has been the sole aim of writing: to try and complete a novel based on my picture book. I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

3.      Who has read your work? Who would like to read it?

“Polly’s Little Kite” was distributed internationally from the US publishers, and it only takes five minutes to read, so I presume many people have read it. It has been used in church services, especially during Easter, as a way to teach the message of the cross. It is also available in many libraries across SA.

My new story, the one still being pummelled upon the anvil of intention, hasn’t been published yet, so no one, except my editor Nola Passmore, has read it. Who will read it when it is? Well, that’s something that still perplexes me. It’s not aimed at a genre, so I’m not actually sure. It is in fact three stories, layered one upon another. The first story, set in England 1919, involves a boy who, after making a tree-house with his dad, loses both his dad and family home to the war. The second story, involves an Australian father, who after losing his son in the same war, can’t make sense of life and faith. These two stories merge 20 years later when the Australian receives a letter from his deceased son, couriering knowledge of the English boy’s tree-house, and the special treasure within it. Woven through and around these two stories, intertwines the tale of the kite. All three stories combine and resolve at the end.

Though the narrative is for young readers, it isn’t really a book for children, as it is too complex. However, mature readers may not like the childish elements of the kite, and the innocence of the main characters.  So, it’s not for kids and not for adults… (sigh). I know my own children love the story, even though they don’t fully understand every nuance of language and idea within it. I suppose I live in hope that it will be prove to be accessible to young and old alike. When it is published I want to dedicate it to “Fathers and Sons”.

4.      Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

This book has mostly been written at 2am, as this is when I would wake up with that inspirational spark that just has to be fanned into written flame. I always write things with pen onto paper first, and those scribbles and scratches are then deciphered and typed onto the PC. 

My greatest challenge is that I am untrained and unskilled at writing. I would have the idea, and it would burst forth, but whilst inking down the words, I would fail to write in such a way as to incorporate the new idea into the larger narrative. This is one reason why editing has taken so painstakingly long. The story is complete, but it has been written with too many varying “points of view”.   Now, in this final drafting, all this editing seems to be taking the life out of the original manuscript. After all the efforts, I believe there is a danger it could become like an overworked mosaic of ideas. I’m hoping and praying this won’t be the case when viewed from fresh eyes.

The joy I have when I contemplate some of the ideas within the story, is one of my greatest motivations. I often look up at some grand old tree and imagine the climb to the top, (a critical element of the narrative) and sense again the freedoms and exhilarations of those wonderful experiences that I had when I was a boy, which included moments of fun activities like tree climbing and cubby-house making. This reliving and imagining is so refreshing it just keeps me alive to want to tell of it. Occasionally someone will ask how the writing is going, and that’s a real encouragement as well. What helps me the most, is that spiritual desire to “climb into that sanctuary” and experience that wonderful purity and freedom, that childhood innocence, to be myself as I spend “time with the Father” who loves me as far as the East is from the West, and farther than the heavens are above the Earth.

5.      What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and Why?

I have two books that I regularly refer to.
“Grammar Rules”, by Craig Shrives, actually makes learning and reading about Grammar enjoyable.  Written by a man with years of experience penning and compiling papers and reports for military use, this brilliant book is concise, easy to understand, thorough and full of witty and thoughtful quotes to keep you happy.

“Writing Tools”, by Roy Peter Clark, lists 55 strategies, or tools, to equip and assist writers. Just reading a chapter now and then, can help ignite inspiration, hone skills, cultivate motivations and spur you forward, not just in what you write, but as a person passionate about writing.  From developing “useful habits” to adding pizazz and special effects to your work, the book offers solid useful ideas, though it does sometimes take some mental effort to think through what is being discussed. 

6.      If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer,  editor or illustrator – who would that be and why.

There’s no doubt that Nola Passmore (through her business “The Write Flourish”) would be at the top of my “shout-out” list. She was willing to edit my first draft, green as I was, and helped me see things from her experienced and trained eyes. Her honest (and gracious) critique, though crushing at times, was exactly what I needed. She counselled me through the numerous things my first draft lacked (and there were many) whilst at the same time, encouraged and praised those things she deemed laudable. The main thing for me, was that she was not trying to tickle the truth. I needed thoughtful, honest and guiding feedback… and this is what she offered.

Consequently, when I approached her again with my second draft, I knew I was dealing with someone whose work had integrity. Her final evaluation rang as sweet music to my ears when she wrote, “I think you have a really good story now and I encourage you to pursue publication.”

Other “shout-outs” for CWD people who have helped and encouraged me include; Rhonda Pooley, Marilyn Simpson, Anusha Atukarola, Mazzy Adams, Morton Benning,  Paula Vince, Karina Hudson, Melinda Jensen, Rosanne Hawke and Lesley Turner.  Also Jo’Anne Griffiths, Jeanette O’Hagan and Adam Collins, who were also fellow Nano-Wrimo camp mates. 

7.      What are your writing goals for 2019/20. How will you achieve them?

Along with lighting a candle, kneeling and reading, writing has become a practice that accompanies my devotional times. It helps me focus and stops my mind from wandering. Often, I like to write a scripture or meditation, word-for-word verbatim, into my diary. Like music appearing upon a page, the letters curve and twist and camber into words and thoughts and themes, and as I watch my pen, and follow the flow of the ink, I slow down, and pause and pray. I listen. The act of writing becomes an act of worship. I am not skimming over things. I perceive and hear with greater clarity. So, with this in mind, my number one goal for writing is to make it help me pursue the Lord.

I do have ideas for other stories, but honestly, after the efforts required for “Little Kite and the Compass Tree”, I’m not sure if I have the resources to write another novel. I have too much happening within family life and work… and time is of the essence.  My writing goal for 2018 is to finish this penultimate draft and then send it for editing again. This process will probably happen a few times, as I will only commit to publishing until a number of people are happy. I will also send the manuscript to students and some church leaders, for their thoughts (and hopefully blessings) as well. Since the search for a publisher is, for me, a complete waste of time, and I am wearied of “knocking on doors” and “filling out forms”, I intend to publish this work myself. I don’t care about literary success. I just want to finish the job as best I can, so I can share the story with others.

8.      How does your faith impact and shape your writing.

To answer this question I will quote from Henri Nouwen’s classic book “The Return of the Prodigal Son”.  He writes: “I have a new vocation now. It is the vocation to speak and write from that place... I have to kneel before the Father, put my ear against his chest and listen, without interruption, to the heartbeat of God. Then, and only then, can I say carefully, and very gently what I hear.”

Probably, one reason why it has taken me so long to complete a written work, is that life gets so extremely busy for me. Chores and tasks, obligations and responsibilities can crowd in and seemingly take over. Consequently, to my shame, I can neglect the call to intimacy that God invites me to. Prayer and meditation is put on hold, and I cease to drink from those beautiful “streams of living water”. I literally cannot write, nor do I want to write, if my heart is far from the Lord. The first port of call for any creative manuscript, for me, is always prayer and confession, which then merges and moves into meditation and contemplation. When I feel that I can hear and sense the heartbeat of God, it is then that I want to pick up the pen.

Nola Passmore’s website:
Blog detailing my conversion: