Thursday, January 30, 2014

Work It!



In recent months I’ve been having treatment for an injury to my “lower back”. (Really low—like, the part you sit on...) Anyway, through this often frustrating process of recovery I’ve discovered how easily muscular function can be taken for granted.

In many ways the skills we use for writing are like muscles working together. Grammar. Character development. Plot. Dialogue. (Etc.) It can be really easy to focus on one area, and in so doing, enable others to atrophy, whether through under–use, misapplication or inexperience.

Something I’ve discovered is it’s one thing to say a muscle needs strengthening; it’s an entirely different matter to achieve that goal. Anyone who’s had physiotherapy knows that process can be really uncomfortable, even painful. Writing pain can take many forms. It might look like embarrassment or frustration. Perhaps accentuated by a rejection letter. It might be someone saying they don’t like our work, or criticism highlighting flaws in our writing.

But even when we’ve identified a weakness, there comes the active pain of exercise. Worse, we can pay exorbitant amounts of money, say through a writing course or critique, but if we don’t take on board the instruction and do the exercises, nothing changes.

I don’t know about you, but I can get a bit attached to parts of my work or writing style. ‘It doesn’t work that way.’ Well, that’s just an opinion. I like it! So someone else reads the work and says a similar thing. It’s a bit like my physio pointing out differing joint function and shifts in weight as I do requested movements. I might think there’s nothing wrong with what I’m doing, but patiently he highlights where things aren’t quite matching up.

So, time to get motivated! Join the writer’s gym!


But guess what? Not only can that be painful and expensive, it’s often plain straight out hard work! And those exercises can also feel really awkward at first.

Just the other night I was doing one legged squats against a wall and thinking how easy it was to drop back to familiar habits to compensate for the muscle weakness that has developed. I know I’m getting stronger, but it’s slow. I have to form good habits and progress at an achievable pace until my body shapes up.

As a writer, have you ever looked back on old work and shuddered? It’s a bit like watching myself do those squats. I look clumsy and uncoordinated. But I’m also learning. I can see myself developingcan see strength and balance coming back into my movements and, er, “lower back”...

I think that sometimes it’s a good thing to pick up an old manuscript or short work from the past and have a read. It may not seem like you’ve changed your style much, but oooohhhh, yes, you have!!!! Little by little, over time, with sometimes painful, expensive and awkward processes, you have grown stronger in your craft.

What a satisfying realisation this is—and such good motivation to continue strengthening. Even more exciting is growth shared with other writers. By encouraging each other to continually build our writing skills, over time we get to celebrate the new strength and achievements together. Now that sounds like fun!


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

Monday, January 27, 2014

Comparisons

Comparisons can be a good thing or a bad thing. It all depends on who we are comparing ourselves to and what the purpose is for making comparisons. For example on Christmas morning my husband and I both took photos around sunrise at a nearby beach. I thought mine looked pretty good.


I was pleased with it, until... until I looked at his which looked just spectacular. I wanted to show you his stunning photo but for some reason the blog doesn't want to take it, without you having to stand on your head to look at it.. So here is a different one instead, not as effective but still pretty sky.  


Of course there are several explainable reasons for the difference. Firstly mine was just taken on my inexpensive mobile phone camera, while his was taken on a proper camera. You’d expect given better equipment, the results would be better. Also I’m really just a hack when it comes to photos. I snap them for my own amusement and have been known to have thumb in shot or horizons that aren’t straight. He is much more accomplished.

We can do it in our writing too. We can compare ourselves with other writers and think, ‘Oh I’m not doing very well. They’ve got heaps of books out. I’ve only got one or two.’  Years ago when I made a comment along that I had only published one book, my then teenage daughter replied, 'and that’s more than some people will ever have. ' That’s what I call a smart daughter.  She made me stop and re-evaluate the situation.

So I may not have written a row of best sellers but I have had several books of different types published. What’s more people have read them, enjoyed them and responded to them.  Only this week someone came across one of my poems and contacted me about it. After I responded she has since bought Kaleidoscope my book of poetry.

Of course I might just as easily compare myself to someone else I heard talking the other day. She’s been working on a manuscript for years but still hasn't even got half way, isn’t sure she wants to write the rest or of she will ever finish it.

It’s easy to do in church too, to compare ourselves with others. A friend of mine often says, ‘I could never stand up the front and lead the singing like you do.’ I can because God has called me to it and it is easy to do something I love doing. I love worshiping God in song and encouraging other s to do the same. I also love being on the roster for bible reading. But to do some of the other jobs in the church like welcoming - I would run a mile or should that be two kilometres? The same with jobs that require technical expertise like sound or projector. I am not the person to ask. Fortunately anyone who knows me knows better than to ask. If there is a wrong button to press you can be sure I will find it.

That’s what Paul was on about in his letter to the Corinthians about working together. Not expecting one person to have all the gifts but to work together. Not comparing ourselves with others but accepting that we are each different and have different gifts.

Coming back to writing though for just a moment, comparisons are not always bad. They can be good when we read the work of an author and then analyse why it works or why it doesn’t. Then it is a useful comparison, because there is a point to it. It’s not that you’re trying to write like that person but more that we need to keep learning from other writers as well as our own writing, to know what works and what doesn’t.  Have you read anything recently that has made you re-evaluate the way you craft a story, show a scene, write dialogue, explain a bible passage or anything else you found helpful? It would be great if you could share it here so we can all benefit.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The WILLING SUSPENSION of UNBELIEF

Why would we want to do that?

As readers we want to believe what we're reading is true, don't we?  Of course, but that's only when we read nonfiction.

When we read fictional novels, we actually do something interesting, often as an automatic response. 

We know the story is not true, even though it may contain many facts. But here is where we actually choose to set aside that part of us that doesn't believe a word of what we're reading and accept what the author has written ... all of it.

Yes, we deliberately suspend our unbelief. 

Now here is where the onus is on the author to convince you to believe and thus accept the plot and the reality of the characters.  

It's a big job. Authors are expected to do thorough research to make the whole story resonate with his or her readers. And when they don't, we get disgusted and lose interest. Yet when an author is also an avid reader it becomes difficult to simply read for enjoyment and set aside their critical eye. But should they?

I don't believe so. We can all learn from each other. We can appreciate the author's skill, but we can also see where they may have slipped up here and there on certain "rules" we believe they should have followed. Here is where we must use caution. As we all know rules are helpful in just about every case. Yet there are times when they can also be cumbersome. I personally love it when an editor points out mistakes, ( and I've made enough of them!) or suggests other ways to write in order to strengthen the storyline or double check facts.

And don't fall into the trap of thinking "that couldn't  have happened" or "they wouldn't act that way". Dan Walsh's book, The Deepest Waters is a case in point. Many of our Australian authors incorporate things that have happened to them into their stories, even if it might seem far fetched.

Real life truth can be far stranger than fiction. And people do not always act the way we expect them to. There are many underlying reasons for this. We don't always know why we sometimes say or do things we wouldn't ordinarily do or say! So why should our characters be any different?

Ah, it all makes for great reading doesn't it? Let's remember that with the next book you read. (I mentioned Dan's book because I admit I thought he was stretching my suspension of unbelief a bit thin. How wrong was I?)

I wonder how many of us read books with our mental editor at work or whether we can switch off and enjoy. 
 
Rita and her husband co-present the Christian radio program Vantage Point, broadcast on FM stations around Australia. She had two historical romances published  and her novel, Signed Sealed Delivered, can be found on Amazon Kindle. Books II & III of her trilogy are still in the pipeline.

Monday, January 20, 2014

My Life in Books

Shortly after becoming a Christian I was on holidays with my parents and the place where we were staying had some books for sale. I realized that one of them was a Christian book so I bought it with my own pocket money. It was Norman Vincent Peale's, A Tough Minded Optimist.

This is probably not the book you would recommend to a teenage girl who had just become a Christian. Yet it began a journey of reading Christian books. These days I wouldn't agree with all of Norman Vincent Peale's theology but back then I knew nothing about theology. I had not grown up in a Christian family but had come to faith through a church youth group.

The book, A Tough Minded Optimist, gave me the one thing I desperately needed at the time, hope. I was a deeply depressed teenager and I read and reread this book, filled with story after story of people who had turned their lives around by trusting God and changing the way they thought.

I had always been an avid reader; it was a way of escaping the real world and getting lost in another. Now I had found a whole new genre of material. I stumbled across John Powell, David Seamands, and when I had my children, James Dobson.

However the next life changing book moment came when a friend gave me a copy of Selwyn Hughes' quarterly devotional, Every Day With Jesus. For the next 20 years I read these devotions. I also read Selwyn Hughes' other books and went to one of his conferences when he was in Australia.

From Selwyn Hughes I discovered Neil Anderson who wrote along similar themes, then there was Larry Crabb, Dan Allender, R.C. Sproul and Mark Buchanan. I said to someone recently I can't give my books away because, although I won't read them again, they have sentimental value because they changed my life. They replied, "If you gave them away they might change someone else's life." Ouch!

I am grateful to each and every one of these authors yet none of them know they changed my life. It motivates me to tell my story through the things I write when I realize how much other people's stories have impacted me.

We may never know whose lives we touch, encourage and motivate with our writing. However if we seek God as we write we know that God will use our written offerings to bless others.

*****


Susan Barnes likes to write inspirational articles, book reviews, and reflections on Bible passages and regularly blogs at abooklook.blogspot.com.au. She is also a librarian.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What an Interesting Point of View



We are soon approaching one of Australia’s National Holidays – January 26th – Australia Day. I always love a public holiday. Apart from the day off from work, Australians love a good opportunity to have a picnic or Barbeque; an opportunity to pull out the cricket bats and wickets; to sit at water’s edge and enjoy the heat while the kids play in the water. I have been known to tape an Australian flag to the aerial of the car. In the year we were in the UK for Australia Day, we went outside in the freezing cold with our jar of vegemite and Australian flag, wearing footy shorts, singlet and thongs (flip-flops for the non-Australians) and took photos to mark the occasion. Actually I took the photo, my son wore the Aussie garb.

In recent years I have become aware of some agitation that has been coming to light over Australia Day. I’m not going to say I know what it’s all about, but from the bits and pieces I have picked up I would suggest it has something to do with point of view. As writers we are big on ‘point of view’ discussions; how important it is to keep the POV from jumping around, but more importantly as a writer of fiction, it is crucial that we can begin see things from various points of view and show an empathy or understanding if we are to make our characters credible.

I’ve had numerous discussions with my daughter who has been a teacher of Aboriginal Studies for seven years, and is currently studying a masters in Aboriginal Studies. She is very animated when she talks about Australia Day. For some odd reason she doesn’t see Australia Day the same way I do. The chops on the barbie and the cricket on the TV is not what she thinks of at all. If anything she says she thinks of the yobbo’s who drape Australian flags over their shoulders, waving stubbies of beer in their hand, racing around the suburbs inciting violence and yelling racial chants. You might ask if that was our usual family activity for an Australian Day holiday, and I would say: Of course not. I think I saw something of the sort on TV once and dismissed it without a second thought. Those sorts of people are not Australian! Are they?

Then I recall a recent back yard party I was invited to. The family were Indian migrants, and their backyard was full of Indian migrants. We ate some fabulous curry and even joined in some Bollywood dancing to music that was blaring out of the speakers in the parked car. It was very multi-cultural from my point of view. There was me, the lone Aussie Aussie, my husband , who identifies as an Italian, though he was born in Australia, and two or three other Italian neighbours. It was all going very well until I engaged in a conversation with one of the young Indian fellows. He was highly educated, and unlike a lot of his friends at the party who drove taxis for a living (all the taxis were parked in the street), he worked in a slaughter house. He was scathing in his description of the country Australians he worked with. He saw them as racist and abusive. I wanted to object. I am a country Australian, and we are not racist, are we?

This year I was studying Australian Literature of 20th Century for a semester. Of course Dorothea Macellar’s ‘My Country’ was dragged out and examined, and I immediately connected. ‘I love a sunburnt country; jewelled seas; ragged mountain ranges; the wide brown land for me.’ But then there was another poem entitled ‘Australia’ by Ania Walwicz. Walwicz arrived as a twelve year old non-English speaking migrant to a crowded urban environment, and from the way she has written her poem, her experience was not that great. ‘Acres of suburbs watching the telly. You bore me. Freckle silly children. You nothing much. With your big sea. Beach beach beach...you dumb dirty city with bar stools. You’re ugly...’ It’s not what you’d call a poem that inspires patriotism. Clearly her point of view was of a crowded, unfriendly, overwhelming place where she had no escape.

But as we approach Australia Day particularly, I want to look at the reason we celebrate in the first place. I have heard the throwaway line – it’s the day Australia was settled. And in those few words lies the problem. It was the day the Europeans arrived, ran up a flag and proclaimed that the British Empire would build a nation. However there were already settlements and nations all over the land we now call Australia. Of course they were the first Australians. When we look at the first picture we see the ceremony with the flag, the officials standing around about listening to proclamations and prayers. However, the second picture shows us the other folks that we don’t see represented in the first picture. These were the first Australian indigenous people whose land the Europeans were laying claim to. From that day to this, a lot of history has taken place, but usually we only focus on the part that represents from the European (particularly the British) point of view. So when we come to Australia day we of white British descent can give a cheer and thank God for this great land, and for all the good things that we enjoy by way of provisions and freedoms. But while British colonial settlers were successful in building a great future for their white descendents, what was constructed for the indigenous population was characterised by some very ugly history, if we choose to look at it.

Now I am about to enter contentious waters. Come with me a little way – it will be OK. In 1938 at the 150th anniversary Australia Day celebrations, a small group of courageous aboriginal people staged a silent demonstration, proclaiming the day as a day of mourning. This group was led by a William Cooper and his nephew, Douglas Nichols. They weren’t saying ‘Europeans have stolen our land’; nor were they saying, ‘Europeans go back to where you came from’. What they were saying was, ‘let us be a part of the nation you have built’. This was the beginning of Australia’s own civil rights movement where this group had written a petition to the King asking that Aboriginals be given civil rights: to be counted, to be allowed to have a say over their own affairs, to vote, to be allowed to go into the public swimming pool, for their returned soldiers to be allowed admittance to the RSL clubs. At that time they were still having children being taken from them indiscriminately, and they were only allowed to live on certain reserves. They were not allowed to move around from those reserves, nor were they allowed any say on how the reserves were run. All of that was left to white overseers. Some were benevolent, some were cruel and unkind. William Cooper begged his nephew, Douglas Nichols, to use his influence to help their people. Doug Nichols was the first indigenous professional football player in Victoria. He was reluctantly accepted by the VFL(they couldn’t refuse his skill), but he was refused the usual rub-downs that all other football players received. But he persisted in the game, and eventually joined his uncle in the cause. After he finished his football career, he became a Christian minister, and using his influence he pursued the cause of equal rights for his people. It is an inspiring story of Australia’s civil rights leader – he is our Nelson Mandela; he is our Martin Luther King. Why don’t we know much about him? Perhaps you do, but if you don’t, I strongly encourage you to take a look at a TV documentary you will find on You Tube. It is from the series ‘First Australians’ produced for SBS. This episode is called ‘A Fair Go for a Dark Race’, directed by Beck Cole.

This Australia Day as you enjoy your chops and sausages with good old tomato sauce (translation ketchup for American friends), and you cheer wildly while the Aussie’s beat the Poms in the cricket, don’t forget to give a nod of recognition to the other points of view. In our country today there are many different cultural and ethnic backgrounds represented. Sometimes their experiences have not been so great. Perhaps we could offer a prayer for our government and for our people, that we can find the course of grace and wisdom that will help us travel difficult roads together towards a more loving and accepting time.

Meredith Resce
Author of Cora Villa, Mellington Hall, For All Time and The 'Heart of Green Valley' series


Monday, January 13, 2014

Will this scene offend my reader? Jo Wanmer's dilemma.

As Christian writers, in editor mode, there are many questions that challenge us and our manuscripts. Today, I want to look at one set of those questions. 

'Will this content be acceptable to my readers?'
'Will this passage offend? ’
‘Should I draw a veil over the stark reality of this scene?'

The answer is determined by another question. Who are my readers? 
I write for the mature adult market, for mostly women who are interested in seeing life’s big issues discussed and resolved. But am I writing for the Christian market?

I try to write every word with the writer’s mantra, ‘show, don't tell’ in mind. I can visualize the action as I write. The settings are so clear I know when the character turns right or left. My hope is the reader can see it as well. But I also want my reader to relate to, if not experience, the protagonist’s emotions, the raw pain and the deep joys. Here in lies my dilemma. In my efforts to 'show' is my writing still acceptable to the Christian market?

Recently I followed an interesting, online post discussing acceptable content in Christian writing. Readers stated that, once offended by content, they will never read that author again. How concerned should I be about that comment? Can I afford to lose a section of my potential readership? 

Because the Christian readership in Australia is so small, should I try to be inoffensive to every sector of the market?  But if I write to satisfy the lowest common denominator, I fear my book will lose its impact. Surely it is tragic to gloss over the most compelling scenes, missing the opportunity for powerful writing, risking frustrating one half of my readership to avoid offending the other half.

Take for instance the tricky area of sexual abuse. Some readers don't want such obscenities to be mentioned, considering it unnecessary content for Christian fiction. Others can cope, providing the book only details the shaking of bushes in the park, or the resulting emotions. Francene Rivers, in her excellent book, ‘The Atonement Child’, shows a stranger grabbing the protagonist in the dark. The next scene is written from the police's POV. The reader is protected from the experience.  That method works well in this instance, but is it right for every occasion? 

 'A Novel Idea', a book of advice on writing inspirational fiction, tells the author to shut the bedroom door. Let the reader know what is happening, but please, spare the details. In others words, 'tell, don't show’. This is my dilemma. If we are honest, many of life's big struggles revolve around sexual issues. I want to be able to talk about them. I want my writing to bring God into these areas, bringing healing and wholeness. 

I believe we can go there without being explicit or obscene.  But where is the balance? 

Wendy Francis commented about this topic, when speaking at the launch of Though the Bud be Bruised.  She thanked me for showing her reality without leaving behind yucky feelings and images. This comment has been very helpful to me. 

A couple of years ago I wrote a short story for a competition. The setting was the year 2032 and the theme was social issues.  I told God I would enter if He gave me a really good idea. And He did. The story fell into my mind about two days before the deadline. The judges weren't impressed but I love the crazy, edgy story. It speaks of bravery, war, seduction and subterfuge. I sold a few rough copies at the book launch of Though the Bud be Bruised. Some people loved it, but another reader asked how I could call myself a Christian and write such content. She refused to read my book. Yet I know God was happy with that writing!
  
A few Christian readers don't want to read 'Though the Bud be Bruised' because it deals with sexual abuse. Many others have written letters thanking me for bringing healing to their lives. Of course, every reader makes their own choice, but it shows me, the writer,  that I can't keep everyone happy.

I have written a second book in the same genre as the first. 'El Shaddai' follows Milly's struggle to hold her family together after she is separated from Dan by a natural disaster of massive proportions.  There are life and death issues. Her adventures aren't sanctified or pretty. It exposes the raw reality of life and an active, relational God. 

But is it what my readers are looking for? My two committed Christian friends, who have read the first draft, love the story and have no objections to the content. Yet, I understand the risk a publisher will take to produce it.

Should I soften my writing to make the book safe for the Aussie Christian market? I've pondered this question long and hard. But I can't bear to weaken the powerful scenes, or remove the theme that relies on the graphic action. Having said that, I believe this book still 'shows' without leaving nasty images or feelings behind. 

Maybe I'm not a Christian writer but a Christian who writes for the general market. Maybe they will enjoy the story? God is not talked about much, but He is shown on almost every page. He has a lot to say. Maybe the world would like that?

So, my fellow writers, what should I do?
How do you navigate these questions? 

Jo Wanmer is a writer of challenging fiction. As she edits her second book, it's sequel is demanding attention, yet it is even more controversial. She lives in Brisbane with her long suffering husband, Steve, who never reads fiction.

She is so in love with her new book, that her good judgement has departed and she can't see its flaws! Hence she is looking for a limited number of critical readers for El Shaddai. If you are interested please contact her through the comments below or via Facebook..


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kicking that Goal by Nola Passmore



In January, a lot of us make New Year’s Resolutions.  We’ll go to the gym, lose 20 kilos, learn French, and tutor children twice a week at the local refugee centre.  The problem is that by February, we’re watching reality TV and polishing off a tub of ice-cream. One reason is that we sometimes set the bar too high.  Then when we can’t meet our lofty goals, we give up.  One of my favourite newspaper columnists, Frances Whiting, has resolved this problem by publishing her “Remotely Achievable List” each year.  One of her goals for 2014 is to “learn how to write more interesting tweets/Facebook posts than ‘Homemade lasagna for dinner. Yum!'’”  Actually, that could be a lesson for a lot of us!

The other problem is setting the bar too low.  If we have a goal of reading four books this year, we’ll probably achieve it, but will that actually be of any benefit?  Well, I guess it would be of more benefit than not reading any books, but we certainly wouldn’t have stretched ourselves.  As Zig Ziglar has said, “if you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time”, but that’s probably not a success rate we’d want to brag about.

So how do we set worthwhile goals and stick to them?

  • First, we can commit our goals to prayer, asking God to show us what He would like us to work on and then asking for His help in achieving those things.
  • Second, aim for realistic goals that will stretch us, but aren’t beyond our reach. 
  • Third, if we share our goals with an accountability partner or trusted group, they can encourage us to keep on track.
  • Fourth, life happens.  If unexpected things occur during the year (e.g., illness or family issues), we need to be kind to ourselves and adjust goals where necessary.  It’s not about beating ourselves up if we don’t meet our objectives, but about staying in the race.

I haven’t quite finished setting my writing goals for this year, but I’ve made a start.  I’ve registered for a Month of Poetry challenge where we have to write a poem a day for the whole of January.  I’ve managed to keep up so far and I’m already seeing the benefits.  Not only is it fun, but by the end of the month I’ll have 31 poems and feedback that I can work on with a view to publication.  Another target is to finish the complete first draft of my novel.  I wrote about 15 000 words last year, but then stalled.  This year, I really want to keep the pages ticking away and I’m counting on my writing buddies to keep checking in on me. 

What about you?  Why not share your writing goals and we can encourage one another.

 
 
 
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").
 
 

 

Monday, January 6, 2014

A life spent reading


During this first week of the year, I stumbled across a quote by Annie Dillard. She reminded me, "How we spend our days is how we spend our lives." Then she expanded on that to say, "Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading - that is a good life."

I had to stop and think about that, because I do consider a day free to do nothing but read is a good day indeed. As I pondered, I began to see what I think she meant. And she's right.

Consider the benefits of a life spent reading. We stimulate healthy paths in areas of our brain which might have been left dormant otherwise. At parties, we have the potential to begin interesting conversations. We never need to worry about being bored in unexpectedly empty hours. Instead of moping about how we have nothing to do, we relish the sudden opportunity to get stuck into our books. If we're caught in a queue or waiting room without our books, we simply pull our fully loaded reading devices out of our handbags or briefcases and we're all set. If we're bloggers, it isn't difficult to come up with something to spark a blog post because our minds keep ticking over with what we've read. As I skimmed through my blog to see the tone of last year, I noticed how often I said something occurred to me because of something I'd read. If fiction is among the mix, we may be more empathetic people than those who don't read. Even scientific studies have indicated that. Imagining ourselves in other people's shoes comes easily to us, enabling us to intuitively sense how those around us might feel, making us more sensitive in our relationships. We may be more familiar with the experience of having sudden flashes of insight or unexplained answers to questions we've been pondering, without actively seeking them, because they come to us from within the pages of our books. We are more familiar with the interesting features of the world without physically having to visit each place. And our imaginations are healthy. They get more aerobics than those of people who merely opt for watching TV. There are huge benefits to a life spent reading.

BUT to have the benefit of a life spent reading, we have to be able to spend part of our days reading without feeling that we're wasting our time. There's where people may sometimes come unstuck.

It's increasingly difficult for people to justify doing that in the twenty-first century. There's usually something pressing and urgent to be done within each 24 hour block. We feel lazy if we're caught with our feet up, reading a book, while there are still dirty dishes in the sink or wet towels on the bathroom floor. When we feel as if we shouldn't read until all the housework is done, there's very little time left over. If your house is like mine, one room is being made messy while another is being straightened. If we are lucky enough to be caught up in the pages of a fascinating book, how easy it is to call the day a write-off and say, "I spent too much time reading," or "I did absolutely nothing."

Now that we're beginning a new year, I'd like to encourage us all to remember the great benefits of a life spent reading, and remind us that we won't achieve those good things listed above unless we prioritise at least a little while each day to read. And if we really want to feel as if something good and constructive is coming out of our reading time in the short time, we can leave trails of our experience through reviews left on our blogs, or any of the many book review sites. That's a good record of our life spent reading, which might be springboard for those of many other people.

I wish you all happy reading in 2014.

Paula Vince is the award-winning author of contemporary, inspirational novels such as "Best Forgotten" and "Picking up the Pieces". She lives in South Australia's beautiful Adelaide Hills, which she uses as the setting for her novels. Her most recent novel, "Imogen's Chance" will be published in April, 2014.