Monday, October 31, 2011

Shedding those extra kilos!


A few weeks ago, I had the special joy of whizzing off to Sri Lanka to spend ten wonderful days with my precious (86 year old) Mum. As I excitedly packed for my trip, one of the difficulties I faced was that the combined weight of clothes, gifts and other necessities being packed into my bag, came to a hefty 35 kilos. Why do I call it “hefty”? Because my bag allowance was only 20 kilos! Oh oh…! 15 kilos too many!

Something had to go!

After much unpacking and repacking, taking out, throwing out, putting in, pulling out and whatever else I did… I finally was only 5 kilos overweight! Whew! Much better! I hastily typed an email to my Mum and my sisters telling them of a specialist doctor’s appointment I’d attended that day. I added a post script.

PS. I’m still trying to get rid of a few kilos. Alas, I’m 5 kilos overweight!

Mum replied immediately. “Don’t worry about shedding those 5 kilos while you’re on holiday. You can think about it when you return home’!

My sister responded, ‘Mum – I think Anu means her bags and not her own weight’! If you heard a loud peal of laughter going off in 3 different countries in 3 different continents, that was us! My Mum, my sisters and I having a good laugh over her mistake!

I replied “As for my own weight – that’s more like a good 10 kilos over!

Mum wrote back promptly! ‘Don’t worry, Anu. You and your 10 extra kilos are all welcome. Waiting for you’! When I finally reached Sri Lanka, we all had a further laugh about my Mum’s (natural) mistake about those extra kilos.

Extra baggage! We all have it in some form, don’t we? I would love to shed 10 kilos from my person but find it hard to muster up sufficient self control to stick to a diet. Perhaps one day soon, I will do it! What about us Writers? A diarrhoea of words is usually a sign of bad writing isn't it? We Writers need to constantly chop off sentences or words to make our writing tight, succinct and more readable. I don’t know how it is with you – but I struggle with this. With having too many words in my writing. I have to keep going over and over my work in order to make it much much better than the initial draft. Thankfully I love editing my own work and enjoy having a 2nd and 3rd and 4th look into it. Chopping off a sentence there! Adding a more suitable word there. Revising our work can be a lot of fun!

Of course the problem of too much baggage applies not just in Writing – it applies to us as Christians too, doesn’t it? What kind of baggage need I shed today? Of recent months, God has been challenging me more and more about my character. Have I allowed His Holy Spirit to work on me? Recently Asta reminded us that we Christian Writers have a ‘Holy Calling”. Thanks Asta! You are so right. I’d like to add to that. We also have a “Calling to Holiness” don’t we? A calling to become the people of God that He has created us to be. God calls me to be not just a Christian Writer, but also a Woman after His own heart. How else can I communicate His truth to others? I need to be ‘walking the walk’ so I can ‘talk the talk’! Don’t you agree?

And so….. I can think of many kinds of baggage that has needed to come off my own life at different points in my journey! Selfishness, pride, unforgiveness? Laziness, greed, indifference? Do those words ring any bells? How about anxiety, self centeredness and slander? Disobedience, fear, rebellion? Oh dear… the list does go on and on and on!

What kind of baggage is God asking me to offload today? Editing my stories is painstaking and needs to be done and re-done many times over. Editing myself is another matter. A life time exercise! Something that only the Master Editor could cope with doing. It must grieve Him often, that despite all his editing, He continues to find fresh flaws creeping into the person I am! Hebrews 12:14 reminds me that holiness is not an option. It is in fact, an essential part of my walk with God.

1 Peter 1:15 tells us that God calls us to be holy. 1 Peter 2:9 adds to it. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

It would be wonderful when The Amazing One and Only Designer-Creator-Editor who writes our stories puts down His heavenly pen with a flourish, looks at us with a satisfied smile, the love-light dancing in His eyes and says ‘’Well done thou good and faithful Image-bearers. You are exactly as I planned you to become. Enter into the joy of my Kingdom’!

Wouldn’t that be something worth striving for?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo


Do you know what Nanowrimo is short for? National Novel Writer’s Month, which is now international. You try to write a 50 thousands words of a brand new novel in one month, November. It sounds like a tremendous undertaking, but every year many people from all over the world complete it.
When you do Nano (Nanowrimo) you have to switch off the internal editor inside your head. You must write without editing. It doesn’t matter if what you write is no good, it forces you to get that word count up. It isn’t really that much it is 1776 words per day.

The first few times I tried Nano, I didn’t get it done. I got a few thousand even once up to 15 000 but never the 50 000. But now I have a few ideas of novels that I have started. Even if that is all you do, is get a novel idea. And 50 000 doesn’t have to be your top limit.

It feels so good when you accomplish that 50 000 word mark. You see it tick over on the bottom of your word document. To know you had a simple idea and it turned into a story. Last year I said to myself I can’t really do Nano, I have too many unfinished novels to work on. Though I got talking to someone and said if I did do Nano I would name my character Jet.
Now I had no idea what Jet’s name was, I knew it was his initials but that was it. So I used Google to find names starting with E, I could only think of a few. The first name that came up was “Eagle”. That name gave me the whole heritage and idea of who Jet was going to be.
I had an idea of how my two main characters would meet (I write romances). Apart from that I had no idea where is was going to be headed. More have come out, so it has turned into more of a mystery than I had expected.

Nano can be great, I made myself a word count goal for the first day last year. 5 000 words, the next day was over 4 000. It gave myself a bit of buffer which I think is helpful and I ended up winning Nano a day early.



Your days get busy and I made sure I had a few meals ready, that I could just take out of the freezer. It is also good to have support and hope that your family won’t mind if you neglect them and the house for just that one month.
I went to a Nano meeting in my area. That gave me close to 4 000 words on that day. There are support groups. I know this year there is a meeting about writing a novel in my area, but it’s on a day I can’t go.

This year I most likely won’t attempt it, but my goal this year is to finish one or two of my novels, one of my previous Nano attempts. There is still a few more days and things can change.

Consider Nano, get your character names and their features straight, the setting. Maybe write a brief outline. You can do all of this, just not start the writing of the first chapter until the 1st of November. The website has more information on it.

Good luck if that is what you want to do
Melanie Carter Winkler
http://www.nanowrimo.org/

Monday, October 24, 2011

Holy Calling


Do you ever wonder what impact your writing has had or is having on the public? The feedback I have had for 'Time to Shine' (co-authored/ co-edited with Jenny Baxter, along with some lovely contributors who had their work previously published in Christian Woman magazine) has mainly come from book reviews or friends, or friends of friends. The feedback has been pleasing but has never quite had the impact on me that a recent one has had.

A customer, I have never met before, came into the library where I work casually and totally floored me. She was looking at my name badge, as I processed her books, and said,"That name... did you write a book?" It was my 5 second moment of fame - and my work colleagues congratulated me (and ribbed me)!!! Someone had recognized my name as the name of a writer!
It was a lovely moment. But fame isn't important, though perhaps it can help with publishing. What was important to me was that this lovely young mother treasures her copy of our book. This book that was published five years ago, and conceived eight years ago (and a great many of the stories that Jenny and I had selected had been written many years before that!). She has it sitting on her bedside table and returns to it over and over again. She told me the stories of the women in the book were a huge encouragement to her. May God bless those women who once felt compelled to write their stories for that magazine.

It is a great reminder that what we put down on paper is ministry - it is the work of God. Surely it is holy. Do we ever recognize it as such? How often do we think we aren't up to it? Or we question the value of what we have to say?

This encouragement came at just the right time for me. For almost three years now I have been working on a manuscript, a unique collaboration with someone very special. There was a time when I walked away from it because I felt vulnerable and uncertain, but it has a message that is very close to my heart and I know God wants me to stick with it. God also brought on board a close friend, who is a well published author (30 plus books) and editor, who kindly edited it for me (free of charge)- as a gesture of friendship and belief in my work.

As we are getting nearer now to submitting our work to a publisher it may be just the time for me to trust that God will use my faithfulness and that of my friend. Maybe it is indeed time to recognize this writing I do as a holy calling. I remember saying to Jenny as we worked on 'Time to Shine' - "God will use our availability and obedience above any skills we might or might not have". He called us and we responded and then one day a young mum with a terrible cold pushed a pram into a country library and delivered a message I needed to hear.

Thanks be to God.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Testimonies - Let God Speak Directly

Christian fiction readers love happy endings; at least I do. But in real life we don’t always get to find out what happens until we reach eternity. Now, that's the advantage of novels! Have you ever thought of incorporating testimonies as part of your storyline? Here's an example of one of my own experiences:

Many years ago, my children and I were waiting at the railway station for a city-bound train. It was a glorious summer morning, the children were playing a game, and I was enjoying the scent of a flowering bush nearby. We had the station to ourselves except for a middle-aged woman who kept glancing in our direction. I was wondering if she felt lonely, when suddenly I noticed her moving towards me. “Your children aren’t in school today,” she said, and it sounded as if she was concerned for them. “Oh yes, they are,” I laughed. “We are on our way to the museum in Sydney. We home school, you see, and we like to do lots of practical things. By the way, I am Margaret, and you are…?”  “My name is Rosalie,” she said, and after a slight hesitation went on to ask, “What do you mean by home schooling?”

Just as I started explaining, the train arrived, and Rosalie moved away towards another entrance. I felt a bit disappointed that our conversation had come to such an abrupt end, but to my surprise she walked back down the aisle. And guess what – she picked the seat right next to me! Like so many other people she was curious about our strange schooling habits and started asking questions. She also commented on how polite and well behaved the children were (phew…was I glad they were being a good witness – as you know, all children have their moments!)

So I started telling Rosalie how we found out about home schooling a few years after becoming Christians, and that our faith was the main reason for doing it. I used the opportunity to ask her about her own philosophy of life, and she gladly volunteered. I always try to get people to talk about themselves, so that they will allow me to share with them in return. And so it happened this time. After listening with interest to what she had to say, I asked if I could now share with her how I came to my faith, and she agreed. Fortunately, I had been involved with a women’s group just a few weeks earlier where we had learned how to give a short testimony that naturally incorporates some Bible verses. And here was my chance to practice.

So I began my story...I noticed that Rosalie kept nodding when I talked about not being a sinner, so I continued, wove in Bible verses, and finished with... I neither heard a voice nor did I have an ecstatic experience, but by the end of that evening I could no longer carry my burden. I fell on my knees and cried out to God, shedding tears of shame and tears of sorrow for causing Him so much pain.  But there were also tears of joy because I realised that I had been forgiven, my debt was paid, and I was set free to live a new life for God.”  (this post is getting a bit long, so you can click here to find out which Bible verses were used and how I constructed the testimony.)

Just then the train slowed and Rosalie realised that this was her stop. She hurriedly gathered her bags, and I just managed to hand her a tract and wish her well. As she walked down the platform, I thanked the Lord for this unusual encounter. Would there be a happy ending? Would I meet this woman in heaven? I didn’t know, but I prayed for her and felt thankful for the opportunity to sow some seeds.

Looking back, I realise that this was no chance encounter, no co-incidence. I prefer to call these occasions God-incidences – and we all have them. So let’s never be backward in being forward! Let us use these opportunities boldly and hope for many happy endings to be revealed in glory. I wonder if fiction writers could use this 'personal testimony approach' with their characters?

By the way, if you haven’t been bold enough in the past to speak to others about Jesus, it might help to write down your own testimony and hone it on paper until it is short and gripping. Leave out the self-indulgence of talking about all the terrible sins you were into in your sordid past (sorry, too many people focus on self here rather than God), and  instead include Scripture passages that convey the gospel. Cull anything that isn’t necessary without taking away from the freshness of your experience and – hey presto – you have a ‘formula’ that you can adapt to many situations. Memorise it and don’t worry!

God doesn’t need us to be accomplished speakers or fantastic people persons (or even writers:). He will draw people by HIS WORD (hence the focus on Scripture). As He proclaims in Isaiah 55:10-11, “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there…so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” I like that.

Dr. Margaret Lepke is a Christian educator, naturopath, counsellor and writer. She loves encouraging women to grow in Christ and serve God better and achieves this by presenting talks and workshops on many helpful topics (see  http://drlepke.com.au/speaker.htm). 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Visual Closure

Graphic designers use a device called 'visual closure' when creating some logos and designs. It goes like this. Imagine someone just showed you a picture of a square, but one side was missing. You would know it was supposed to be a square because your brain automatically filled the gap and put the missing line in place.

Below is an outline made up of two pie shapes and a wriggly line. Of course, it’s a car. Then look at the Disney Channel logo – two circles above a broken arc. Yep… Mickey Mouse. And some ink blots, each meaning nothing in their own right, and no lines to join them, yet most of us would know the finished result is the logo for the World Wildlife Fund.







You may not know, but I work as a proofreader fixing other people’s spelling, grammar and punctuation. But I miss stuff sometimes in the documents because, if I’m not careful, I see what should be there not what actually is. And it’s why, when proofing a document, I have to read at grade three speed, one word at a time and often out loud… so I can see what’s really there.

This got me thinking about faith. Since Adam, we’ve all lacked something. Some of us are made up of blots, or wriggly lines or funny shapes. We’re all incomplete. Yet, when we come to know Jesus at whatever stage in our lives, God sees us as complete. We’re not perfect, but He fills the gap with His grace and healing.

Matthew told the story in chapter nine, verse two, of a paralytic who was taken to Jesus.

‘Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”’

What was it they did that showed their faith? What was it that inspired Jesus to forgive and heal the man?

They just showed up.

When we’re doing our work, whether it be writing or anything else, there are times when we have gaps; times when, like the paralytic in a way, we feel incomplete. But God is the great gap-filler. When we’re numb with fear, or lacking inspiration, or overwhelmed, all we have to do is show up.

I need to pick up my pen or sit at my computer − I just have to show up and invite God to fill the gap.

That’s faith and Jesus sees it every time.


About me: I live in Sydney with my husband Phil. We've been married forever (that's what you're allowed to say after thirty years). We have three adult kids, two d-i-l's (daughter's-in-law), one grandson and another grandson on the way.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Writing in reality

My apologies! This is my first post and I have to admit to having read too little of other people's posts, but I want to support what this blog is trying to do.
I have another confession...
I'm a writer. I've been writing now for nearly 20 years. I've been published for about 4 years. Am I an author? I'm still struggling to come out of the closet with that one.
I have a day job as a Minister in a church. This job sees me write a lot, and have a captive audience! But it gives me little chance to be an author. That is, to spend the time I want on my writing. To nuance and perfect and polish my writing. That is why blogging here is so hard!
I suspect everyone has these issues. Very few Aussie Christian writers make a living from their craft. I salute those who do, or those who risk it all to try! That's faith in a God given gift.
The reality is, it is my day job that makes my writing powerful. If I were to disengage with the daily struggles of people in parish life [real life] I think my prose might be poetic, but less poignant.
So I'm happy to be a writer - one who words are here today and tomorrow thrown into the distant memory of all except a few - but I do hope to slowly become more of an author.
I had a wonderful book/DVD launch last weekend in Brisbane and am a keynote speaker at a children's ministry conference in Townsville this weekend [this blog came at a bad time!] - I am perhaps more of an author than I give myself credit, and to share in the limelight of others who write here is a privilege.
This is my first post - I hope it is not my last! May you all be too busy authoring to write.
Cheers.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Waiting...


I've been waiting a lot lately. My life is changing and my travels around Australia have paused for a time. I know this is part of God's plan. It has given me time to think about all the times in my life I've had to wait. You know what I mean: waiting to go to school; waiting to finish school; waiting to get a job; waiting to get married; waiting to start writing; waiting for an answer from the publisher. These are only a few of the waiting moments in our lives. There are many in between these big events.
Sometimes I become impatient with the waiting and want it to be over. I realised yesterday how much time can be wasted in waiting if I allow myself to be idle. What do I do with my waiting time? Do I let the circumstance control my every waking moment so that I don't achieve anything in that time. When I've written a novel and have sent it off to a publisher, do I sit back and not do anything productive until I hear from the publisher or am I pro-active and throw myself into a new project? I've thrown myself into another project and feel good that I've written the first draft. My waiting time has been well spent and I feel I'm serving the Lord in the way he wants me to.
I'm in limbo as I camp here in my caravan in Mackay and I'm waiting on what the Lord has in store for us here. I've made a conscious decision to live in the moment and make sure I use every minute to do something productive because it is easy to slip into holiday mode. Others in the van park are relaxing and taking time out. I do take timeout by walking several kilometres every day or swimming. This is my creative time.
Life is too short. I don't know how long God has me on this earth, so I believe I have to do all that I can with the time I have available because in a sense I'm waiting for the end of my life, too. so I've decided to always find something productive to do while I'm waiting, no matter where or what I'm waiting for.
How about you, are you caught up in the waiting game where you sometimes feel you're dilly-dallying and not sure where to turn? I'd like to encourage you to keep your eyes focused on what God has for you and pursue his purpose for your life with all the gifts and talents he has given you. Turn your waiting time into productive time and be pleasantly surprised how much more productive you can be.
Blessings and God's grace be with you all,
Laura.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Is God whispering to you?


'Lynne', Annie commented as she sipped her cup of tea! 'Why don't you write a book about your families All-in Nights because so many young parents want to know how it works'. After my friend left with her new baby, I laughed it off thinking how ridiculous it all was, me writing a book!

'God, You know I can't', I whispered, 'I'm dyslexic, we have 5 teenagers who need me and we have our own business. We're heavily involved in Ministry at church and I don't want to give any of that up, God, I just can't do any more'.


Twelve months went by and I had tried to push the idea of writing a book, into the back of my mind even though it kept coming up. I was attending a Women's Conference at Hillsong Church when

one of the speakers said something which hit me like a lightning bolt. 'When God asks you to do something and you don't do it, He will then go onto the next person and ask them'!

I sat there quietly and prayed, Lord, if you want me to share my experiences of All-in Night with other parents by writing this book,
well You are going to have to guide me every step of the way!

I came home and began to put pen to paper and even though it took me 5 years to write and get my book published, God has kept His promise to guide me at every turn. He has taken me on a journey I could never have imagined.
It really has defied logic that this book ever succeeded but when God is in charge, He makes things happen.

I've met many incredible people who are also on their writing journey and I'm now speaking to different school and women's groups about All-in Night and just loving it. If God is whispering something to you, listen carefully as He might just take you on the ride of your life!


**********
Lynne Burgess has raised five, now grown, children, along with her husband Chris. She successfully implemented her 'All-In Night' for over 16 years using many simple yet productive activities that included all the family. She now shares these ideas at speaking events and through her book.

Friday, October 7, 2011

To write or re-write

In the role of a publisher (and while I dream of also being a published fiction author) I often talk to people about and wonder myself - "what next?". "I have a manuscript that needs work. It has had its share of rejection letters and so on. What next? Do I start a new one or re-write this one."
The answer is never particularly clear (and I often have to remind myself as well), but I follow this sort of thinking.

First what am I writing this for?
What do you want? Do you have passion for that book? Do you feel inspired, it could help people etc? What is your vision for the book?

Secondly what is wrong with my current book? Is it
• Show don’t tell
• Point of view
• Characterisation

Thirdly - would I made the same mistakes if I did a new book?

To answer these questions here is some "advice" I wrote and I am applying to myself. I wonder if it resonates with anyone else?

Each of these things can be worked on. If you start a new book without first learning to develop those areas of concern you may very well make the same mistakes. Very often the first writing project one writes is never published, but sometimes it is. Either way when you get an appraisal or a rejection letter it is an opportunity to learn from it and develop your writing further anyway. Whether or not it means that first book ever gets published in some ways doesn’t matter at the outset. I know it may feel like it is your baby, but it is your skill you are learning. Each appraisal or edit you get may look like it is destroying your style or voice, but generally editors, appraisers and publishers do know a little bit about what they are talking about. You may find that there are some things you don’t agree with – that is fine! But I find most authors accept 80% approx. of their suggested edits; they are designed to help you improve.

So rewriting a book or starting a new one is always going to be up to you. BUT the issues you are learning don’t matter what book you write. There is often nothing wrong with your concept or plot, just knowing how to write doesn’t happen overnight. Even established authors find they are still learning!

So when we get a no on a writing project or we are told our first book could have been better we can keep on keeping on. By learning, practicing and realising our motivation we can continue on the projects that matter AND make them outstanding writing.
No matter what, meeting other authors and connecting on places like blogs facebook and other social networks may be a good way to learn too. Either way to make it as an author find the right people to support and learn from. Today I am off to The Word Writers Fair in Adelaide. I look forward to learning something new too. ;)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


What inspires you to write? Where does your inspiration come from?
My first book, ‘Though the Bud Be Bruised’, is now a finalist in the Caleb Unpublished Manuscript awards. This book, though a work of fiction, is a true story camouflaged within a novel. I didn’t create the story. It really happened. So I wondered, could I write a real novel?

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Dos and Don'ts

What are the dos and don’ts of writing? I admit that I am not extensively schooled in the refined techniques of writing. Apart from possessing an Arts degree, I haven’t done a writing course; nor have I poured over books about writing; and I didn’t spend years researching the best writing methods. I just knew that it was in my heart to attempt to write something. I also knew that the Lord was prompting me to try.
So when I first heard other writers talking about daily word counts, courses, and writing technicalities, I started to get very nervous and began to seriously doubt myself. Was I even qualified to be a writer? What did it take? What did I need to do to improve? Was I doing enough to advance my craft?
It really worried me. In the end after much pondering, prayer, and words of wisdom from my husband, I drew a simple, yet powerful conclusion – Do What Works.
I think there is great value in every course of action for improvement, weather that is a writing course, research, mentorship, or any other. But it can be detrimental if it’s not the right course for you.
Just like everyone, I could certainly benefit by advancing my skills. But, for now I have to admit that I find myself content with my writing. I am doing what works for me, and my life. My writing schedule and process provides me with, enjoyment, growth, productiveness, a ministry, and a purpose. What more can I ask for than this?
So if, like me, you find yourself being bamboozled by the dos and don’ts; sit down, take a deep breath, and cut yourself some slack. Remember – there is no right or wrong – only what works for you.
We are all individuals in possession of our own unique strengths and weaknesses. We have been deliberately given varying forms of expression. We do not all write the same way or produce the same work, but we are all a part of the same body of work – the calling to serve the Lord through the talent He gave us.
If you are unsure of what course of action to take; ask the Lord. After all, he gave us a talent for writing, and has directed us to use it for His purpose. He knows best how to nurture, grow, develop and cultivate that talent.
Don’t get wrapped up in the dos and don’ts. After all, what works for you will ultimately produce your best work for Him.
Rose Dee's first novel 'Back to Resolution' is being released at the Word Writers Fair in Brisbane, November 12th 2011. Visit Rose at http://www.rosedee.com/