Thursday, 16 January 2020

Meet Our Members: Melinda Jensen


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.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Explore Possibilities in a New Decade




Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken is one of my favourite Robert Frost poems. It’s become a little clich├ęd, but the image of the diverging roads resonates with my soul.

At the beginning of a new decade, the poem is a timely reminder that while we make plans, life doesn’t always go the way we expect. 

A few years ago, I visited Vermont, walked in a yellow wood, and explored a leaf-covered path that hadn’t seen a lot of foot traffic. Experiencing this landscape was a spiritual experience for me as I walked in places I had dreamed of when reading this poem. 

I took this photo as a reminder of one particular moment. It’s my desktop screensaver and is a visual reminder of how each day is a series of choices and intentions and that each choice or intention can influence the direction of my life.

My house backs onto a national park. We walk through the back gate right into it as we take our evening walk with our golden retriever. Crisscrossing this piece of bushland are many trails and firebreaks. We’ve lived here for years and we still get lost sometimes as we explore a new trail.

The outward-bound trails wind downhill so, if we get lost, we know that all we have to do is head uphill and we will eventually find our way home.

Sometimes, I wear my sports watch, which has a GPS tracker. It measures time, calories, and distance and, when uploaded on my laptop, a map with my path comes up. 

Sometimes, the map shows a circular route. On other days, when I go down a new path and get a little lost, it looks like spaghetti. 

My goals are achieved, no matter what the picture looks like–I’ve exercised, the dog has exercised, my husband and I have talked as we walked. Sometimes, we talk to God as our golden joyfully explores the varied scents in the bush. 

In January, we like to set our path for the year and hope that our path will be straight. However, life sometimes isn’t that predictable. Things happen. We change our minds. Opportunities emerge that we never imagined. If we had a bird’s eye view of our lives over a year, the path would rarely be smooth and orderly.

However, if we set our intentions and keep heading in the direction of our goals, even allowing ourselves to explore new trails along the way, we look back and see that we have arrived at the destination we were supposed to, and perhaps had a few fun adventures along the way. 

Proverbs 3: 5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

I’ve always found it interesting that this verse says, he will make your paths straight. At times, we are encouraged to stay on the one path, whatever that is. The picture I have in my head is of a central path with lots of deviations that zig-zag. 

Gretchen Rubin put it like this in her book, The Happiness Project

Go off the Path was meant to push me to encounter the unexpected thoughts, unfamiliar scenes, new people, and unconventional juxtapositions that are the key sources of creative energy–and happiness. Instead of always worrying about being efficient, I wanted to spend time on exploration, experimentation, digression and failed attempts that didn’t always look productive.

Setting goals for a new decade, writing to-do or wish lists, and setting our course are things we should all do. But, as we look ahead to 2020, I hope we get off the path a little and explore possibilities in new ways. 

The Lord will make our paths straight and we will end up at the right destination in our creative work and life generally. 

Blessings,

Elaine 

Find out more about Elaine at http://www.elainefraser.co

Thursday, 9 January 2020

CWD Highlights - October-December 2019






Christian Writers Downunder is a diverse group of writers, editors, bloggers, illustrators. As a group we support each other through our facebook page and blog.

Today's blog will highlight some of the achievements of our members from October to December 2019

Awards


Congratulations Kathy Hoopman for being short-listed for the ALCS Educational Award (UK)

Name: Kathy Hoopmann
One sentence bio: Author of 22 books with translations into 19 languages
Book: All Birds Have Anxiety (2017; Jessica Kingsley Publishers) 



Short blurb: This simple yet profound book validates the deeper everyday experiences of anxiety, provides an empathic understanding of the many symptoms associated with anxiety, and offers compassionate suggestions for change.
Details of highlight: Shortlisted for ALCS Educational Award (UK)- the UK's only award for educational writing which stimulates and enhances the learning experience. I didn't win, but shortlisting was wonderful :)
https://www.alcs.co.uk/news/2019-alcs-educational-writers-award-shortlist-announced-for-the-uks-only-award-for-creative-educational-writing

Book Releases 


Hannah Currie's Heart of a Royal


Hannah's debut YA novel, Heart of a Royal, was published 15 October 2019 by WhiteFire Publishing.







Blurb:

Brought to the palace as a newborn, the royal life bestowed upon Mackenna Sparrow was never meant to last forever. With Princess Alina engaged to be married, Mackenna’s presence as companion is no longer required and, like it or not, she must return to the birthright which should have been hers – that of a commoner.

But not everyone at the palace wants her gone. When the truths she’s based her life on start crumbling as fast as her future, will she find the courage to trust, both herself and the prince she’s fallen in love with?

One sentence bio:
Hannah Currie loves God, family, people (in small numbers, let’s not go crazy here!) and escaping into other worlds through stories - both those she writes and the hundreds of books gracing her shelves at home.


Helen Brown - New releases from Reading Stones


This last quarter has been a busy one for Reading Stones, after the launch of Matt’s Boys of Wattle Creek, we then prepared a second book Maggie & Minotaur, by Olwyn Harris, released on the 5th December. 



Currently we are preparing a workbook, designed by Wendy Wood, for those who work in School Age Care services. The intent of this workbook is to try and make the critical reflection involved in the task of looking after children interesting, and therefore, more productive. We have included some inspirational spots and some clean jokes to help make it interesting. 

We are also working on a new project, a book for younger readers, also by Olwyn Harris, which will be released on the 3rd February 2020. It will be the first of six books, where two girls, through time travel, discover some things about our Australian History and how God works even in the worst of times.

Events

Rendered Realms



Rendered Realms - Lynne Stringer, Adele Jones & Jeanette O'Hagan had a wonderful time at Brisbane Supernova in November 2019.  We're looking forward to more events in 2020

Omega Writers Book Fair 

Omega Writers Book Fair  Saturday 14th March 2020 at Everton Hills, Brisbane

There will be author displays, author readings, a scavenger hunt, prizes and a colouring in contest for kids.

Workshop by Simon Kennedy on Script Writing
Panel on Writing Diversity, disability & difference, featuring Kathy Hoopman, Jenny Woolsey & Adelen Jones.

Attendees don’t need to pre-book and there is no entry fee (but a gold coin donation will help to cover costs), so come along, bring some friends, and peruse the wonderful books, chat to the authors, listen to readings and enter the scavenger hunt.


Registrations for author tables open soon.  Follow the facebook page to keep up to date. 



Bushfires


Bushfires - our hearts go out to all those that have been directly affected by the bushfires in Australia over the last few months.  Cliffton Creek Primary School in Gippsland burnt to the ground. There is an opportunity to donate new children's book to help them rebuild. For more information here.

Writer's Retreat


Penny Reeve and Cecily Paterson are running a virtual writers' retreat this January. Not too late to join here.

Congratulations to all our members for your milestones and achievements and wishing you all the best for your 2020 writing goals.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

2019 Reading Recommendations

Wishing you all a wonderful New Year.

For something different, we're starting the year with some reading recommendations from the CWD Admin team

From Mazzy Adams 


1. I finished reading the final instalment of Jeanette O'Hagan's Under the Mountain Series of novellas  - Caverns of the Deep -  in 2019.



What a perfect way to round off her terrific set of YA fantasy adventures. Each novella was a lovely, bite-sized chunk of readerly goodness which left me hungry for more. Although fantasy is not my automatic go-to genre, Jenny's lively and creative approach is wonderful. She makes it easy to connect with the three main protagonists, and I was totally caught up in their exciting adventures.

 At the Toowoomba Omega Writers Retreat bookstall in June, I treated myself to two new books: Catriona McKeown's YA novel, The Boy in the Hoodie, and Paula Vince's New Adult novel, Imogen's Chance



2. Imogen's Chance took me gently into the characters' lives when they were at their most vulnerable, wrapped me up in compassion for their problems, and frustration at their responses, added heady moments of suspense that kept me reading much later into the night than I'd planned, and left me soaking in the hope-filled practicalities of God's grace, forgiveness, and unlimited, unconditional love. 



3. The Boy in the Hoodie proved to be a fabulous read. I'd thoroughly recommend it for YA, but heck, if you're older (like me) go for it! It'll take you into the world of teens at school, fraught relationships, self-discovery, the value of true friendship, and a renewed appreciation not only for our young friends and their trials and discoveries, but thankful for the embedded wisdom that unfolds through Catriona's writing. Loved it.



From Sue Jeffrey aka Susan J Bruce



1. ‘A Better Man’ by Louise Penny. One of my favourite authors is Louise Penny. Every year she writes another in her now long series of Chief Inspector Gamache mystery books. It’s a regular, secular mystery but the main character Armand Gamache, is a good man who loves his wife, poetry, the people he works with, his community and his dog. He also is willing to do what’s right even at great personal cost. A Better Man is another beautiful and uplifting book in the series. I’m not sure how murder can be uplifting but these books are  :D. You want to know these people and have them as your friends :). Five star brilliance.



2. Out of the Cages by Penny Jaye, is an excellent YA book about Nepali girls trafficked into slavery. Jaye handles the dark issues sensitively, not shirking the reality of the terrible life trafficked children face but drawing the reader through the struggles of the main character, Meena, as she tries to escape from the world in which she is enslaved. In her author note, Jaye says the book is ‘a kind of prayer that one day we might live in a world that no longer accepts any form of slavery as common place’. I found myself joining in that prayer as this surprisingly beautiful book stirred deep emotions of both anger and hope. This book won the YA section of the 2019 Caleb prize.


From Jeanette O'Hagan




1. Becoming Mrs Lewis by Patti Callahan. A novelised retelling of the love story between Joy Davidman and C. S. (Jack) Lewis with glimpses of Jack's life and writing at the Kilns as well as a empathetic and honest presentation of Joy, a writer, poet, thinker and soul-mate, and an exploration of Joy's spiritual life.



2. A New Reality - Jewel of the Stars by Adam David Collings. The second episode of the Jewel of the Stars series. Fleeing alien-controlled Earth space, the crew and passengers of the Jewel of the Stars must adjust to an new reality while a group called the Red Guard threaten the peace and safety of the ship. A great second episode with the introduction of new characters.



3. Too Bright by Charis Joy Jackson. A collection of short stories inspired by the author's dreams. A mix of gripping, emotionally intense dystopian stories and more fairytale stories full of wonder and faith.

From Paula Vince


Check out Paula Vince's reading blog The Vince Review for a whole heap of other suggestions :)

Now over to you - what books have you read in 2019 that you'd recommend to others?


Monday, 30 December 2019

By Knowing Me Here - Jo Sarah Stanford









Israel.
Somewhere between Nazareth and Capernaum.

It’s just after lunch and the hottest part of the day. Day three of hiking the Jesus Trail – from Nazareth to Capernaum.We’ve probably done about 45km already – 27km more to go. I am tired, my feet are sore and my pack feels heavy on my back. I come over a hill and look down into a valley…and straight into my story.
I stop dead in my tracks. Before me lies a dirt road with a field of wheat, growing golden-green on my right. The path ahead winds to the left around a big hill that stands in our way. I take a deep breath. I wrote this. Not just, oh this reminds me of my novel… but, that’s the hill where my character cuts across the fields, when she comes home from school because she doesn’t want to go the long way. Even though her neighbour asks her to not… It was my story…and I was there.

I recently spent a year in Israel, volunteering for the non-profit Bridges for Peace. I was part of a team of ten young adults, who came from all over the world to participate in their unique discipleship program. While there, my job was “journalist and International Content Manager” for thepublications department (Cool, hey!?). During Passover, we went on the popular hike called the Jesus’ Trail, which runs 72km from Nazareth to Capernaum, ending on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is a four-day hike, tough for anyone, let alone for someone with a physical disability like myself. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it all the way… but I did.


 
        The circumstances that led to me living in Israel were a miracle in themselves. I knew God had called me. However, hiking the Jesus’ trail – the lows, the highs, the exhilarationthe tears – was a unique experience of its own. So many times I thought to myself, ‘this is good material for my story.’ Then I came to that valley, with a scene I had already written laid out before me, and a little voice inside me whispered, ‘perhaps God brought me to Israel for another reason too.’ So I could finish my novel.
It was one I had been working on for quite some time (years) and was very close to my heart. It was also the one giving me the most trouble. The plot was elusive, the characters silent and I struggled to put into words what I saw and felt inside. To me it was more than “just a story”, but given its current not-even-a-draft status, in reality it wasn’t much a story at all. Friends were publishing their first and second – even third– novels , and I didn’t even have a name for my fantasy world. 
It is easy to get despondent over a lack of progress in our work. Whether we sit day and night at our desk and more papers end up on the floor than filled with words, whether we are too busy or just can’t find the motivation – there is a little voice inside us calling, ‘remember your mission.’ How many of us read books wishing we could be a part of that world, envying the characters’ journey yet forgetting they had struggles of their own? Some people accuse readers of “reading to escape” but I don’t escape. I learn.
My favourite books have taught to me to put others first, to be brave and to stand tall because the bad guys can be defeated. They have taught me about myself and about my faith. They have taught me that even if you are tired, your feet are sore and your pack feels heavy on your back – if you keep going you never know what story you might enter into.
In C.S. Lewis’ the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan reveals to Lucy one of the reasons he brought her into Narnia. ‘That by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.’ God brought me to Israel for many reasons, but one of them was so that I might finish my story. Hiking the Jesus’ Trail made my story more real to me. The lows, the highs, the exhilaration and the tears I experienced will become words scratched out on page after page, eventually turning into this novel I know I am supposed to write
I saw a scene from my own story, quite literally before my eyes, and I marvelled at the work of God – the Great Author – and how He planned this all before I even knew how to write. In knowing Him in that moment, I know Him better now. What story has God given you, so that one day a reader might be braver, stronger, kinder? How might they know Him better because of the words you write? 
Remember your mission. Don’t lose heart. Keep writing.

(The Sea of Galilee. I made it to the end.)





Jo Sarah Stanford is a freelance writer with her own business: Write It Up! She has recently spent a year as a journalist in Jerusalem, Israel and is the editor of Bridge Builders the national bi-monthly magazine for Bridges for Peace. She is also a karate instructor and lives in the Adelaide Hills with her chickens. www.writeitup.com.au 

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Reading Christmas

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Many things make this a special time of year - summer (or winter) holidays, Christmas carols and songs, Christmas foods, Christmas lights, decorations and Christmas trees, nativity scenes, family gatherings, parties and traditions, Christmas movies - and well, maybe a book or two, (Afterall, what better present to give a booklover for Christmas than, well, books :) )

So, I thought we could look at twelve books that focus on or highlight Christmas in their pages. (Of course, there are many more. If I've missed one of your favourites, why not share it with us in the comments below.)

1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis




In the first written book in the series, Narnia is held in the spell of the White Witch for over on hundred years- always winter, never Christmas. With the coming of Aslan, the lion, the son of the Emperor Beyond the Seas, the Witch's punishing grip on Narnia is broken. Before the great thaw takes hold, the three Pevensie children (Edmund has gone over to the witch) and the Beavers, hear the sound of sleigh bells. Not the Witch, as they feared, but Father Christmas with a gift perfect for each one, that enables them to fulfill the roles they need to play in the battle to come.  (On of the Doctor Who Christmas Specials gave a tribute to this Narnian story in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.)

2. The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickons (1843)


The well-known tale of Ebnezar Scrooge. This Victorian busnessman has closed off his heart to others and is only interested in making money. He keeps his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, wokring late the night before Christiams and begrudges giving him any time off or gifts for the man's family.

That night Scrooge is visited by three spirits - the Ghost of Christmas past, the Ghost of Christmas present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come - in which he is reminded of love and friendship of the past, is shown the joyful family of his clerk despite their poverty, and then gets a preview of his bleak, cold, lonely future if he doesn't mend his ways. Scrooge has a change of heart and rushes to show the Christmas spirit to Bob Cratchit and his family. As Little Tim says, 'God bless everyone.' (Another Doctor Who Christmas special gives a A Christmas Carol retelling.)

3. Little Women by Louisa Alcott (1868/9)


This classic book starts at Christmas time. The four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and their mother face the first Christmas of a long year ahead without their father and husband. Having lost his wealth, Mr March is faraway as a army chaplain in the American Civil War, and the girls and Marmae must somehow survive (and thrive) without him.  

Incidenttally, Geraldine Brook's award-winning book, March, imagines the story of the girl's father during the year of his absence. 




4. Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St John


Chrismas celebrations and themes weave their way through this classic story of faith and forgiveness. Annette loves Christmas time in the Swiss Alps. It is especially poignant as the day when her mother died giving birth to her little brother.  Following a terrible accident, Annette struggles with forgiving her next door neighbour, Lucian, while Lucian is crippled by guilt. Over the year, both children learn something of God's grace and forgivenss.


5. The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter


The mayor of Gloucser commissions a waistcoat for his wedding on Christmas Day, but the poor tailor falls sick and is distraught that he can't complete it. When he arrives at his shop on Christmas morning he finds a small miracle from some grateful mice.

6. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry



A young couple very much in love have little money to buy each other Christams presents. Each sacrifices something precious to them to buy each other the perfect gift.


 



7. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien


Each December J.R.R. Tolkien wrote and illustrated letters from Father Christmas to his children. The letters tell the goings on at the North Pole (from goblin wars to an accident prone polar bear), interwoven with answers to the children's questions and current events - a loving gift of a father to his growing children.

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss


This is a well-known classic, another 'Scrooge' tale in which the Grinch is annoyed about the noise and bother of his neighbours' Christmas celebrations. He decides to 'steal' Christmas but in the process learns an important lesson about sharing.




9. When Santa learned the Gospel by Simon Camilleri

In this lovingly illustrated picture book, Simon ponders the different between Santa's Christmas message and that present in the gospels. The book is in verse and uses humour to get the messsage across.  You can also enjoy an audiovisual version here. 


10. A Christmas Star Disaster by David Adam Collings


Another prequel of the Jewel of the Staris series - Cruise director, Glen Price's tries to rescue Christmeas when his planned celebrations for the passengers come unstuck due to a ship-wide power failure. 

A brand new Jewel of The Stars Christmas story. Read it completely free on Wattpad - and Adam is offering it free on Wattpad.






11. The Gospel Stories



Of course, we also have the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke's gospels, each focusing on different aspects of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, the promised Messiah. Luke focues more on Mary's perspective (and her cousin Elizabeth) the birth of John as well as of Jesus, and the shepherds. Matthew focuses more on Joseph (Jesus' step-dad)'s point of view and tells us of the Magi and the Flight to Egypt,

Either way, it's an amazing story, of the eternal God, the Logos, the second person of the Trinity coming to earth as a human being. Not just created fully formed adult with all his faculties and enjoying a position of wealth and prestige as a king. Rather, he is conceived and knit together in Mary's womb and is born (with all the mess that entails) as a baby, without a place to stay, sheltering with the animals.

Yet this, baby is the creator of the universe and will bring about peace - shalom - between God and humanity, between God and the cosmos.

Christmas stories celebrate family and friends, giving, reconcilation and hopes for a brighter future. At the centre of it all is a baby and God's love and gift, that extends to every mundane and messy corner of our lives.

Wishing you all a blessed and joyful Christmas and peace with God and your family and neighbours.


And in the spirit of Christmas (and Doctor Who Christmas specials),  I'm offering a short story Treasure in the Snow.  While it's not exactly a Christmas story, it does have mountains of snow and some parallels with the Christmas. Let me know if you can find them :) 

Find your free copy (until the 2nd Jan 2020) here.





Jeanette spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs. She has published over forty stories and poems. Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.






Find her on:

  

Monday, 23 December 2019

Spreading Christmas Cheer by Ruth Bonetti

‘Tis the season to be jolly. 

Define jolly:
"Someone who is happy and cheerful in their behaviour. Synonyms: bright, funny, lively."

Let's celebrate the season...

Rather than focus on the day. After all, December 25 owes some poetic license to monks and Roman calendars. Let’s value and enrich time with loved ones, whatever the date. 

Lifeline help calls peak over the festive season. Credit cards max. Many over-indulge and over-imbibe. 

Hair fractures can split relationships. Split families haggle over time—quantity amid hopes for quality. Trying to prove and outbid love by choosing ideal gifts, aided by Chinese sweat shop imports.  As families scatter across the globe, offspring spread their wings into their own nests, Christmas can become fraught with in-law negotiations. 

This time last year I told how such scattering of dates meant we shared our home on Christmas day and dinner with four unattached, grateful people. Thank God for prompting me to ask my son “Can you think of anyone at a loose end who’d like to come?” Indeed, he did. Glad you suggested it. 

He brought his mate –let’s call him Jack—who was alienated from his family, whose colleagues didn’t understand his offbeat wit. Shunned by peers jealous of his formidable musical genius. 

We invited another lonely soul who struggled to form and keep friendships. Again an exceptional talent, but given little credit or encouragement for that. Bad experiences had recycled, spiralled to trigger action fight or flight responses that further alienated others. We’d done our best to support him through workplace bullying, not too overt for the boss wielded the cutting word axes.

Jack could talk for hours on any topic; philosophy, physiology, ornithology, religion (and misuse of it), the state of the world. After-life or nothing-after. His sharp mind played with ideas, his nimble fingers played anything that made sounds. In rehearsals Jack’s deadpan black humour sometimes got people off-side. Why should he care? He didn’t fit into institutions, didn’t want to. No boxes could contain him.  Jack spoke his mind–too well. Just as that sharp tongue slashed through staccato riffs. 

And six months later he died.
How tragic that Jack’s alienated family
didn't organise a funeral to farewell friends, to celebrate his life and gifts. They didn’t give him the time of day, even one hour. But we gave him his day. 

Reflect before we point fingers

What phone calls could we make, to reconcile with others? Before it's too late? Rather than see them next over--or in--a coffin, before it's to late?

Don't we all bring some pocket sized-ones demons to our festive gatherings? Submissive ones? Do we dodge that argument (green/left vs. deplorables, anyone?) by activating our mouths with more pavlova or alcohol?

Do we skirt around loved ones who refuse eye-contact, unable to a risk a debacle by ramming through decades’ long impasse? Another drink, anyone? Do we wound with criticism (veiled of course), judgments, directives? 

Grant us Thy peace.  

One discordant note is enough to jar interpersonal harmony. 
Be the one to resolve discord with a healing cadence. 
May your Christ-mas time be blessed with God’s love, joy and understanding. 
And may you pass His peace to all you meet.

RUTH BONETTI wrote about her wintry Christmas experiences in Sweden and Finland in Burn My Letters, winner of the 2017 CALEB Nonfiction award. She sends love and prayers to all who battle fire in this tough summer season.

Follow her blog and FaceBook pages: http://ruthbonetti.musicabonetti.com
https://www.facebook.com/RuthBonetti/
http://www.ruthbonetti.com
https://twitter.com/boniruth

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Fifteen Great Picks from 2019

Throughout the year, on Mondays and Thursdays, we post a blog -  it may be inspirational,  a story of writerly struggles or triumphs; tips about the writing life and writing craft, or an interview of one of our members. Sometimes it's moving, or funny or thought-provoking or all three.. Always, it's the result of thought, research, experience, passion, creativity.

The CWD Admin team would like to give our blogteam a huge thank you for your contributions throughout 2019(and over the last decade).

As we near the end of 2019, we thought we'd honour our bloggers' contributions with a pick of 15 blogposts that have inspired us this year (in no particular order). Out of over 100 posts, it wasn't easy to choose and there are many other posts equally deserving of notice. We have a wealth of information and inspiration on the blogsite - accessible on multiple subjects and themes.





1. Christmas Stories & Fairytales by Charis Joy Jackson

Once upon a time, I wrote a short story about a girl who wanted a Father because Father's are good at providing for their families and because the girl needed to be provided for. It was allegorical and fantastical in nature. The girl travels to Faerie and finds a Wish Box and wishes her father into existence.

I wrote it because I'd forgotten what my Heavenly Father was like as a Dad. I'd conformed to the world's idea and my relationship with Papa God was suffering for it. Read more HERE



2. Talents? What talents? by Melinda Jensen

In more recent years, though, I’ve noted that not all devoted and genuine Christians hover as closely to the poverty line as I have always done. At first, I thought God had simply chosen to bless them in this manner more than He has blessed me…and I’ve been okay with that. The wind blows where it will, after all. (Alright, let me be perfectly frank, there have been a few times when I’ve pitched headlong into a full-blown pity-party, at least for a few minutes, but I do try awfully hard to snap out of it.)

After a fortuitous conversation with a beautiful Christian woman several weeks ago, it dawned on me that I’ve been missing something vitally important all these years. And it all boils down to a deeper understanding of scripture, specifically, the Parable of the Talents. Read more HERE


3. Any Old Donkey by Rose Dee



A wise and faith-filled lady once told me the Lord could use ‘any old donkey.’ I’ve never forgotten that. While I understood at the time she was referring to herself, I’ve often wondered about that saying: any old donkey.


I’ve recently come across several Bible references to donkeys that have made a real impression on me, and given me insight into what she may have meant. Read more HERE




4. Just Write Something by Linsey Painter 

Before Christmas, I was in a bit of a writing frenzy. I was trying to write two short stories and I had deadlines for both.


In the midst of all the editing I ground to a halt with one of my stories. I had to do a whole lot of work on the structure of it.


Structure in stories is the part that I struggle with the most.


I knew what I had to do, thanks to my frantic reading of books on structure. It was going to be hard work. Read more HERE


5. Doing Deep Work by Elaine Fraser


The monotony & solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind. Einstein.
.
I often wish I could just go into a cave and write and write and write. However, my life only allows me to do that for a couple of hours a day–unless I go on a writing retreat.

In order for me to do my best work, the kind of deep work you have to do in order to go deep into the topic, deep into the research, deep into the thinking, with long cycles of reflection, I need to make sure I get to my version of a cave as often as possible.

That’s how I develop ideas. That’s how I do good stuff.

After a busy couple of years of travelling, I was beginning to forget how to get back into the wellspring of the deep, quiet solitude of work. Read more HERE



6. Whatever could go wrong? A pantster tale by Jo Wanmer


It was a great idea. Whatever could go wrong?


‘I’ll make your wedding cake. Would you like a two-tiered cheesecake decorated with fresh flowers.’ It was my idea. The bride loves my cheese cake so jumped at the offer. At least we had one thing organised for the wedding that was bearing down on us. A wedding organised by a pantster! Read more HERE


7. Five Things Wimbledon Can Teach You About Writing by Nola Passmore

Did you spend more time watching Wimbledon in the last two weeks than working on your manuscript? If you’re feeling guilty, fret no more. All that ‘tele-tennis’ can actually help with your writing. Here’s how. Read more HERE


8. Trust and Obey by Anusha Atukorala


“Trust and Obey”. A simple way to live—the only way really. Several years ago, I decided it was time I wrote a novel. I had published one non-fiction book and ten short stories in anthologies. Two manuscripts (one of which was a children’s fiction book), had made it to being finalists in two writing competitions. I was on a roll. I decided it was time delve into writing fiction. Read more HERE



9. What’s in a Theme? by 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. Read more HERE



10. Indie Publishing anyone? by Jeanette O'Hagan

In the past there were two main routes to publishing - through a traditional publisher or through a vanity press. With the advent on e-books, print-on-demand, and online sales, it's become more and more viable for authors to become their own publishers. This means much more than finishing a book and then banging it up with a cover and no editing or proofing on somewhere like Amazon (though that can happen). A serious Indie publisher is committed to producing a quality book with professional covers, with well edited and structured content that will connect with readers. Read more HERE


11. Learning about Honesty Writing about Honesty by David Rawlings

My new novel is out next week. A second novel, another modern-day parable hot on the heels of The Baggage Handler, which I’m humbled to say was named as the best Christian debut novel of 2019. (My publishers make me say that …)

It's called The Camera Never Lies.


I wanted my next modern-day parable to cover the issue of truth. We live in a post-truth world where honesty can be sometimes subjective, and sometimes denigrated. And the best place to explore the concept of honesty – in a context that is most relatable to us all – is in our closest relationships.


What would you do if your secrets were revealed to those closest to you? Read more HERE




12. The Danger of Words by Jenny Glazebrook

Dare I write this post? It could be misunderstood … and held against me for years to come.


Words are dangerous.


They can set a forest on fire; they have the same power as a small rudder which changes the path of ships (James 3:3-9).

They can be so positive but they can be equally harmful.


Words are powerful and that’s what makes them dangerous. Read more HERE


13. Our Patron Saint of Fangirls by Paula Vince


Do you enjoy a good story? You look forward to reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to a podcast simply for curiosity. The fun of finding out a new fact, making an unprecedented connection or adding new favourite characters to your book lists is what drives you. The phrase, 'fascinating discovery' makes your ears twitch. Maybe you just want to know who's going to get married by the end of the novel, or who the bad guy is. And you've covered the backs and fronts of several pieces of paper with scribbled notes.

But an obvious drawback makes you sad. If someone asks the purpose for your reading and research, you'd be hard pressed to make a decent reply. Read more HERE




14. Going Big, Going Small, Making the Most of it All by Mazzy Adams 


... We’ve all been there, longing to gather with like-minded souls, fellow creatives who understand the word-driven psyche. We desperately want to participate, contribute and make the most of any and all opportunities to connect, learn, promote, celebrate, and, er, commiserate. Let’s face it—there’s a unique blessing that comes when chatting to someone who UNDERSTANDS. When I say to a fellow writer, ‘He says, “Just put it up as an ebook”,’ and her spontaneous laughter tells me she KNOWS there’s no ‘just’ about it. She KNOWS it’s not that simple.  Read more HERE

15. What Do You Think He Meant? by Meredith Resce


... None of them expected the promise to still be on track—poised and waiting to break forth.


What do you think Jesus meant when he talked about overcoming the world? Where are you situated this coming Easter? Are you poised with your mobile phone ready to record the miracle? Read more HERE

And a couple of Bonuses 

The Exploring Genre posts in conjunction with ACW. Like Cecily Paterson's post on Memoir
After three years, these have now come to an end. Next year the cross-posts will focus on Omega Writers. 

And the popular, Meet Our Members posts. For instance, Carolyn Miller or Anne Hamilton and many, many others. MOM posts will continue in 2020.

We'd like to thank all our active CWD members and bloggers who interact, comment and support each other and the group  - and to wish you all a blessed and joyful Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour and Lord.