Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Continuous Creation: a work in progress




Writing is a continuous creation. From the initial thought to the final production of a printed page our books are a Work In Progress.

Creation is not as simple as saying, let there be words on the page. Our creations go through various stages as we bring them to life.

An idea, a character, a place or a story gets under our skin and won’t let go. We dream, jot ideas in notebooks, make Pinterest boards and have discussions with writerly friends as we flesh out our masterpiece.

Once we have some sort of shape, we begin to stretch it out like bread dough, hoping it the yeast will expand the mix and get it ready to be baked.

Just when you think the dough is ready, it’s time to pummel it into shape once more. The first draft is a rough manuscript and editing or kneading takes place as we pummel it into shape again.

Then we give it to the consulting editor who gives the dough a further pummeling and really gives the manuscript a beating. Often, we feel like the dough as it gets to this stage. We wonder if we have what it takes to see this thing through. We groan and struggle to get that one sentence just right.

By the time our manuscript has been through several revisions and is deemed ready to submit to a publisher, we may think it’s ready to deal with the heat in the oven, but there’s more to do.

By the time our work is published, it needs to get out into the world. Marketing is another process that is a WIP. Just because you have a product to sell doesn’t mean people will find it.

When the reader finally picks up the work, they create their own story as they read. While guided by our writing, their imaginations recreate the stories and make it a personal experience. Hopefully, our work is good food for their souls.

 What keeps us going?
Thankfully, we are part of a creative community that encourages one another. Whether it is through our blogs, conferences, retreats, Facebook or critique groups we share the creation of our work.

We may be the authors of our books, but without the inspirers, encouragers, friends, editors, reviewers and publishers in the process the final product would not be the same.  


Isn’t it like that in all areas of our lives?  Our lives are continuous creations. We evolve and change as time goes by, we are works in progress. If we are not changed, we are not growing.

Where there’s no progress, there’s no growth. If there’s no growth, there’s no life. Environments void of change are eventually void of life. Andy Stanley
Even with people around us in our writing communities, our friends, family and professional colleagues who help us, it’s not enough to keep us strong during times of progress and change.

Psalm 121: 1-2 says:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    
From where does my help come? 
My help comes from the Lord,who made heaven and earth.

Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2) and journeying with Him, and all those who He has placed in our lives, is how we survive and flourish in this journey of life and writing. 

For me, it’s not an either/or situation. I need all of these influences in my life. I need to eat of the Bread Of Life and allow Him to work in me. My writing, and my life, will be much better for it.

Elaine Fraser
www.beautifulbooks.co




Monday, October 28, 2013

The Exam Paper by Anusha Atukorala


For close to 15 years I’ve written a long newsy email to my Mum each night. She’s done the same – written a long newsy email to me. We never run out of things to ‘talk about. As I enjoyed her email last night I chuckled over a certain paragraph. Here it is.

“Before I go to bed, I must tell you about another strange dream I had. I saw a list of questions typed as if for an exam paper. When I read No.1, this is what it stated: "Describe, in sequence, the beauty of the Magnificent Seven". And I woke up with that. What do you make of it? Could "in sequence" mean, in order, from Ranmali down to you? And is it the beauty of each of your characters (not to mention your faces), that I have to describe? Wow!”

I can’t help but laugh out loud as I read it. What an interesting examination! What an interesting question! ‘Describe in sequence the beauty of the Magnificent Seven’. “The Magnificent Seven” is the name my 6 siblings and I called ourselves when we were young. Many decades on, we are still ‘The Magnificent Seven’ – grown up now with our own magnificient babies who also have grown up.

I’ve been reflecting on four words from her ‘Exam paper’. Describe, Sequence, Beauty & Magnificent. Here are a few questions for us to ponder on today.

Describe
If I described my own journey in one sentence it would be something like this: An amazing God breathed adventure, writing stories and creating books, composing songs and scribbling poems; seeking to please my God and to bless my world through my writing.

Have you enjoyed your writing journey? Has it taken you places? Were there any frustrations? 1. How would YOU describe your journey?


Sequence
The sequence of events that made me a Christian writer was simple. I loved to write from the time I was little. And did. But I travelled on a long meandering path at first – Lab Technician, Computer Programmer, Full time Mum, Volunteer - were some of the detours I trekked on. Till one beautiful day God tapped on my shoulder. He soon led me through a magical door into the enchanting world of Writing. Being a Christian writer has been thrilling, energising and deeply fulfilling. I love it. I love it. I love it!

2. What sequence of events led you into your own calling as a Christian writer?



Beauty
We Christian writers have stories to share. Stories that spring from our imaginations. Stories that happen to us. Stories that are versions of real life situations. Stories that are yet to be told. The Christian life is filled with beauty, truth and goodness. You and I know the Source of these three commodities don’t we? I see so much beauty around me through my Creator’s Handiwork that I love adding beauty into my writing.

3. Do you intentionally weave beauty into your stories?


Magnificent
I believe you and I have a magnificent calling; don’t you? We are called to share Him with the world. We each do it through different genres it’s true – but we use just the one amazing tool. Words. The Word Himself is what it’s all about after all. And so we writers are unique. We get to use words just as He did. The world was breathed into existence through a word from the Word? So yes, I believe it’s a truly magnificent calling.

4. What do you find magnificent in your own writing journey?


Lest your head is spinning after reading all my questions, let me hasten to add that no, it is NOT an exam paper. So you don’t need to answer any questions… unless you like to. May there be beauty in your writing journey. May there be magnificent moments in your life with God. May there be joy! May our Creator God help us as we seek to create new stories inside the One Amazing Inspiring Story of God.



Anusha Atukorala is a writer with a passion. Jesus turned her world right side up since He entered it almost 4 decades ago. He has given her a song in her heart and she can’t help but share it with the world. Please visit her at her website ‘Dancing in the Rain’ to say Hello and to dance in the rain with her. http://anusha-atukorala.webnode.com/

Friday, October 25, 2013

Going Bananas!



Bananas are great. They come prepacked, are flavoursome and visually appealing. They are also easy eating, healthy and versatile. This brings me to the conclusion that bananas provide a great model for writing!

No, I’m not going fruity on you! The simple banana draws out some great points

Being prepacked, they are clean. This, to me, equates safe for eating with no hidden lurgies that can make you feel unwell post-consumption. I think that after-effects are a really important consideration for a writer. What will we deposit in the heart and mind of a reader of our work?

Like a banana, a writer has a distinct flavour (or voice) of their own. This is something a reader comes to recognise. A writer needs to be committed to honing and developing this trait and allowing their voice to mature. Just as a green banana leaves a tart set to your teeth, an underdeveloped voice can miss the mark and leave a distasteful tang. Developing our writing skills is not only a commitment to bringing out the best in our craft, but providing the best experience for our readers as well.

Is our writing easy eating? This could be interpreted in a number of ways, but I’m going to take the angle of ‘choreless’ reading. Some writers do this so well! Their writing immediately engages their readers, and no matter how short or long the text, it provides an experience that leaves you feeling grateful for having read their work. Definitely something to aim for!

As a writer, are we versatile? If you’re anything like me, there are certain styles of writing you prefer over others. It can be easy to invest solely in a familiar, comfortable style. This is fine, but if you are called upon to make a banana split instead of a smoothie, it helps if you’ve challenged yourself creatively in the past. A great way to do this is by joining a writers’ group, especially one that sets frequent writing challenges. (Don’t you always see bananas hanging out in bunches? :) ) Writing courses are also a great way of challenging our comfort zone and providing valuable opportunities to have our work critiqued by fresh eyes, enabling us to become more proficient at our craft.

All these things can increase the health of our writing – just like eating bananas, really. :)


Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and her broad ranging imagination. To find out more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Picking up the pen again by Jo Wanmer

    A couple of weeks ago, interested parties gathered from across Australia and New Zealand. We came together at the Caleb Conference to celebrate writing . It was fun. It was helpful and inspiring. (Wombats are pictured on the left)
     I, however, felt like a fraud. Was I really a writer? Does one award-winning, published book qualify me as a real author? These feelings reminded me of the first time I walked into an Omega Writers meeting. Or tried to walk in. At the door I couldn't enter. I retraced my steps to the car. How could I even think of walking into an author's meeting? Yes I'd typed 80,000 words. Did that mean I could walk through that door? Surely I'd be looked at strangely. 
    However I needed help and lots of it, so I turned and crept in. That was the beginning of loads of encouragement, massive learning, shared expertise, and the birth of a passion for quality writing. 
    Three years later again I fought the same feelings. I haven't written for over a year, except for blogs and a few articles. And I stopped blogging in May. Surely I have disqualified myself. However, as I had prepaid for the conference months earlier, my husband insisted. 'Go! You know you want to write more. You must not give up.'
    Yes, my daughter's circumstances have been difficult and family always comes first. My creative brain was swamped in a sea of medical drama and overwhelming tiredness. I had laid down the pen and walked away.
    Somehow, whilst listening to speakers, sitting in workshops, and praying with friends, my thinking balanced.I have had quite a few articles published. I am more than a freak flash in the pan, more than one amazing God story. That story was the initial impetus, the beginning.
Listening and learning, I came away inspired to write, to get my novel out of mothballs, to push on. A few days later a friend sent me this poster.
     So I am writing. This blog may not be well crafted, but it is here! I must write, write a little every day.
    As soon as I made that decision I was hit from behind my the same medical monster.Two consecutive nights I spent in an emergency department, supporting my granddaughter. Tiredness swamped me. Even today, after 10 hours sleep, my armchair calls me.  As I type, my fingers hit the wrong keys and the page is covered with red lines, highlighting my ineptness.
    At Caleb conference I learnt to stay in the creative brain. Editing is for later. So resisting the urge to silence red squiggles, I continue to drop random letters on the page.
So I have begun. Next an article, maybe a poem and then - watch out book, here I come.


Jo Wanmer writes from an untidy desk in Kallangur, Qld. Her Book 'Though the Bud  be Bruised' won the Caleb unpublished manuscript award in 2011. There are other books, both fiction and non-fiction racing around her head, looking for a way past the brain fag!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Just Pick A Cup!

It never ceases to amaze me how the Holy Spirit seeks out and uses everyday experiences to teach me lessons; profound lessons that often bring conviction and correction as well as encouragement and blessing all rolled into one neat little object lesson. 

Once such lesson came mid-2012. It was a 'normal' day; our 3 year old son was finishing his lunch and asked me for a drink of water. . . 

"Mummy, I'm very drinky." 

"Okay, I'll get you some water."

"Not that cup, mummy!"

"Why not?"

"I don't like the white cup!"

"Okay, fine; how about this cup?"

"No."

"This one?"

"No."

"This one?!"

"No."

"The green one?"

"No."

"The blue one?"

"No."

"The red one? The orange one? The one with your name on it?"

"No! No! No!"

"Well I can't give you water if you won't take a cup!"

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I froze on the spot. Tears came as the revelation overwhelmed my soul; God wanted more than anything to bless me, but I had to choose a cup! 

You see we had just, (quite literally the previous evening), decided that after 18 months at our "new" church, it was time to move on. I say "we" but it was really me.  I earnestly plead my case to my husband, "I'm miserable, I haven't connected with anyone, there are too many 'issues,' it just isn't working." He eventually conceded, and called our connect group leaders to tell them of our decision. They strongly encouraged him to reconsider, to give it some time. He agreed, but I had made up both our minds. We were leaving.

And now, not 24 hours later, here I stood, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, vulnerable and yet expectant. Through the beautiful, gentle love of the Holy Spirit, the facade of my heart was removed, and I could see the truth behind my discontent; fear. Surprisingly, not of being disconnected, but rather the opposite, of actually reaching out and letting people see the 'real' Helen. Of putting down roots and daring to say, "Yes! We will commit to this particular church - this cup - which God is offering to us." 

It came as no surprise that my husband had been feeling uneasy about the decision all day at work; what a relief for him to find my heart so changed from the night before! He immediately rang our connect group leaders and, with great humility, let them know that we would be seeing them the following morning after all. 

We've now been at this church for a little over 2-1/2 years and are slowly growing into it. I'll admit that sometimes I feel like ditching my cup, gathering up my roots and making a break for it; but then God brings His comfort and love, and I find peace. And taking a deep breath, I drink from His beautiful, bountiful river of blessing.

Oh yes, my cup truly does run over with blessings from my Lord. 

You prepare a table before me
  in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
  my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me
  all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
  forever.  Psalm 23:5-6

Friday, October 18, 2013

Walk What We Write by Nola Passmore


 
A piece I’d written on hospitality appeared on the Upper Room devotional site recently.  Is it a coincidence that we had a rush of guests and requests for visits round about the same time?  My parents stayed for a weekend, my cousin flew out from England for a week-long visit, a missionary friend asked if she could stay for a week in November, and a New Zealand friend asked if she could visit in January.  Now it’s great to see all these people, but we’d never had so many house guests in such a short period.  I couldn’t help thinking that God was prompting me to apply the hospitality lesson I’d advocated in that devotion.

One of the editors from the Upper Room also asked if I could do an additional blog post for the web site.  I wrote a piece about how God had challenged me to go part-time in my job so that I could spend more time writing.  As I sent off my faith-filled blog, I joked to my husband that I wouldn’t be surprised if God tested me on that too.  A few days later, God did indeed challenge me to take an even bigger leap of faith.  How could I fail to do what He’d asked, knowing that my article was about to appear?  So I took a deep breath and stepped out again.

The lesson in all of this is that we should just write bland, unchallenging material so that God won’t ask us to do anything about it.  No wait, that’s not it!  Though my husband did say I should check with him before sending anything else out. J

God wants us to practise what we preach, or maybe in our case, “walk what we write”.   I’d like to say that I have this principle nailed, but I don’t always get it right.  For the last few years, I’ve contributed pieces to an American devotional book and I often find myself reading something I’d written a year before and thinking, “Whoops … haven’t been doing that”. Fortunately, God is ever patient and merciful.  He doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does want us to try to live the things we’re writing about. 

In James 1:22, we’re told “do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”  Maybe as writers, we could add, “do not merely write the word … do what it says”.  It’s not always easy, but it certainly makes for a more authentic witness.  Isn’t it wonderful to know that God is so intimately concerned with our writing endeavours, that He takes them seriously and uses them to mould us into the people He wants us to be?

I'd be interested to hear about times you’ve been challenged to apply something you’d already written.
 
 
Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 90 short pieces published in various magazines, journals, and anthologies (including true stories, devotions, poetry and short fiction). She has a passion for writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same. (Some call it "nagging", but she calls it "encouragement").

Friday, October 11, 2013

Having the eternal view by Susan Barnes

The year I became a Christian, Larry Norman recorded a gospel album called, "Only visiting this planet". At the time the thought that earth was not my permanent home was attractive. The apostle Paul had this in mind when he said, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). I liked the idea that what I saw was not all there was. It had the air of adventure.

However time past, I married, started a family, bought a house. It became easy to put down roots and forget I was only a visitor. The idea that I am only visiting was no longer exciting. I had responsibilities that I enjoyed, raising children, maintaining a home and planning a future. It took effort to remind myself that what I see is temporary while God sees the eternal.

One of the reasons that Abraham, Noah, Enoch and Abel were commended in the hall of faith is because they remembered they were only visiting. Hebrews 11:13 reveals their attitude, "admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth." Likewise Peter writes, "Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles" (1 Peter 2:11).

When I have the view of a visitor it helps me cope with life's little irritations as well as the tragedies because I know there is more to life than what I see. When I find myself getting annoyed by temporary inconveniences, computer crashes, power cuts, car break downs, I pause and ask myself – will this matter in 5 years time? Will I even remember what I was upset about in 10 years time? Is it really worth worrying about now?

I can cultivate the attitude of a visitor because I know God sees the eternal and nothing can thwart his plans. I can trust him with my future.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Self-Publishing on the Kindle Platform

 

Success ... Last week I uploaded Rita's first Kindle e-Book (Rita Galieh’s Signed Sealed Delivered). I am usually pretty good with these things, but it took me half a day just to wade through all the preliminaries, and then a few more hours before the book was actually online. I know that many people have already written about this topic, but I thought you might appreciate some sequenced shortcuts and pro-active tips.

Tips for obtaining a US Tax ID: 
Before you can do anything else, you need a US tax ID. After sifting through all sorts of IRS forms, related sites and forums, I finally found some good news: to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN), also known as Federal Tax Identification Number, is easy.  If you have a registered business name here in Australia you can get this number for your business. If not, you can get it in your own name as a personal identity. You do not have to employ anyone to receive an EIN.
  • Here’s what to do: call the IRS on 267-941-1099 (use a world clock to find the time difference) and ask for an EIN.  For the cheapest way to ring the US, use Skype or a similar service. You will need your Australian TFN and answer a few questions before they can issue your EIN over the phone. The official confirmation may take up to 3 weeks to arrive in the mail. Your EIN will last for life, so you will only ever have to do this once.

Tips for W-8BEN Form
Once you have an EIN, you can use it to fill out the W-8BEN form required for any publishing done in the US. Some online publishers want you to mail the completed W-8BEN, others let you upload a PDF, and Kindle KDP will do it for you online during your account registration process. Download the actual form: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw8ben.pdf. For instructions regarding this form: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw8ben.pdf 
  • Part I, number 6 of the form: This is where you write your EIN number and tick the EIN box. By the way, an SSN or ITIN is an Individual Tax File Number, which you DON’T need (http://www.irs.gov/Individuals/Individual-Taxpayer-Identification-Number-%28ITIN%29).
  • Part II, number 10: In order to pay only 5% withholding tax on book royalties, you need to claim the relevant tax treaty between the US and Australia in Part II, point 10, of the W-8BEN. This treaty is Article 12. If you are using the hard copy form to send by mail, for the reason you are using the W-8BEN form, write "Australian author self -publishing via US distributor." When going through the kindle process, this isn’t necessary. They know this is your reason :)

Tips for Kindle Account and Upload: 
  • Go to www.kdp.amazon.com and sign in with your Amazon account. If you don't have one, you can sign up for a new account on that page. Simply follow the prompts. 
  • You will arrive at the kindle direct publishing page showing your Bookshelf. If this is your first book to be published, this page will be empty.
  • Remember that you don't have to sign up for KDP Select at this stage. This is the program where you allow kindle exclusive rights for 90 days so that you can offer your book for free for up to 5 days. I would suggest to start with the standard process and select 35% royalties. If you change your mind later, you can enroll in the KDP Select program at any time on your Bookshelf page.
  • Now finish setting up your publishing account. At the top right hand corner of your Bookshelf page you will see a notice saying, Your account information is incomplete.’ Click ‘Update Now’. This process will take you through your personal information and automatically produce the W-8BEN form. You will need to agree to the digital signature and have your EIN and Australian TFN ready. Bank Account details can be omitted as non-US residents will be paid by cheque anyway (ensure that your mailing address is correct). 
  • Before starting the actual upload, it would be helpful to have the following ready to go: the formatted manuscript according to Kindle guidelines (Word docx works well), a good quality cover picture, which is at least 1000 px along the longest side, your ISBN if you have purchased one (not essential), author and other contributor information, and your book description.
  • Do a quick trial on your own kindle. Send your formatted Word doc to your kindle via email and see how it looks on the actual device (easiest if you have the kindle app on your PC or laptop – right click – send to kindle). It's a good idea to do this trial also for your iPad/Android Tablet and smartphone. If you don’t like something on any of those devices, you can play around with changing it in your Word (or other format) document BEFORE the actual upload.
  • Uploading your book is easy. On your Bookshelf Page, click 'Add new title' (yellow field, next to 'Actions'), and simply follow the prompts ... easy ... you're done.

I hope this post will be helpful to those of you who are thinking about self-publishing. I certainly wish that someone had posted something like this BEFORE I made my first attempt :)







Margaret Lepke is a counsellor, educator and freelance writer. Find out more about her at www.drlepke.com.au. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

And so it began...



I often tell people that my writing journey began with a dream. This is true, in that the idea for my first novel began by writing down a repetitive dream, but recently I realised that I’d overlooked a significant step in acquiring my writing obsession.

Before I’d started dreaming crazy things about ships, people smuggling and a shipmaster held to ransom, my husband and I took a road trip from our home in Queensland, to Sydney in New South Wales. Those who’ve done it know that it’s a long drive. Undertaking this trek in a small Hyundai that struggled to reach 70km/hr uphill made it even loooooonger!

Out of this we acquired a whole collection of random “driver pulling faces with significant milestone whizzing past” shots. Of course, being pre-digital, this provided many a laugh when the photos were developed.

And then there was “the story”...

I have NO idea why I brought an empty exercise book along. Usually I’d bring something to read, but not this time. So, for a significant number of those travel hours I wrote a story. (Quite a long one, too!) And I haven’t stopped writing them since.

The vivid remembrance of that trip took me by surprise. Then the significance of it occurred to me.

That journey forced me to sit still long enough to explore creative writing and detect the spark of interest it ignited. Sure, I’d enjoyed writing at school and had been encouraged to pursue it, but life got busy and that encouragement fell by the wayside. Then suddenly my enthusiasm for it was back – insatiably!

This revelation got me thinking about life and its rapid pace. We’re all in it, rushing here and there, striving to get done what we must – or at least what we perceive we must. Yet, I’ve noticed that my most significant “hearing God’s voice” moments have been in the stillness of time. It may be a late evening lull; showering; a two minute sit down between domestic chores; wandering amongst nature; or stuck in a car with your spouse for twenty-four hours round trip.

I wonder how many times God is just waiting for us to be still long enough to listen? I know He speaks in any circumstance, but there’s something powerful about giving Him our “pause moments” – even unexpected ones. For me, I was able to glimpse a whole new dream and rediscover a form of creative expression that I’d all but forgotten. Even now, I find the best writing inspiration often comes in the quiet suspensions of time.

How about you? Are you short on pauses? Personally, I think it’s endemic to our modern way of life. In a way, this makes it even more important to snatch these stops and catch our breath. These are opportunities to listen, be spiritually refreshed, and perhaps even discover a whole new dream just waiting to be explored.
 

Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. Her writing is inspired by a passion for family, faith, friends, music and science – and her broad ranging imagination. To find out more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com