Monday, September 29, 2014

Dealing with Diversity by Jo-Anne Berthelsen

I’m going to say it up front. I think authors are a courageous lot! In fact, any creative person who risks putting his or her work out there for others to peruse or assess or admire or love or tear to shreds deserves a huge dose of heartfelt encouragement, in my opinion.

In recent weeks, the first draft of my second memoir has begun the rounds of my three manuscript readers/editors. In conversation with one of these good people, I saw again how diverse our reading preferences are, let alone our approach to life in general.

‘I would never want to be as open about things as you are,’ she told me, ‘but if you’re fine with it, then that’s all that matters. I guess that’s one reason I don’t like the whole genre of memoir very much. I prefer to live in the moment and get on with things rather than dwell on the past and think about everything in such detail.’

‘That’s okay,’ I told her. ‘We’re all different. But I would still value your comments. And I’m happy for you to mark any sections where you feel I've been too introspective or made too much of certain incidences in my life. After all, I don’t want to bore anyone too much.’

Later, I remembered the reception my first memoir, Soul Friend, received two years ago. Many faithful readers of my novels loved it. Some encouraged me to write more non-fiction. Some did not give me any feedback—and their silence spoke volumes. Some did not buy it because they prefer novels. Those who never read fiction were delighted I had finally come up with a memoir instead of yet another novel. I gained a whole new group of readers—but I lost some as well. And through this experience, I decided there was little point in trying to please everyone.

Then, in preparing my memoir writing workshop for the Christian Writers’ Conference next month (see http://www.christianwritersconference.dx.am/), I decided to read a few more books on memoir. Lo and behold, I discovered thoughts about memoir I had never even considered when writing my own—let alone agreed with. As well, I read a variety of memoirs and, in the process, found myself quite bored with several of them. They were far too inward-looking, even for me, with one or two almost becoming bogged in that mire of introspection and description of minutiae. Yet some had received glowing reviews. And some had even won prestigious awards. In the end, I realised again that, even within one reasonably narrow genre, we cannot hope to please everyone.

So, what’s to be done? First and foremost, let’s make sure our security lies in who we are in God and not in what anyone thinks of our work. Yes, we need to listen to all those writing critiques, take on board what we need to and improve as much as we can. But let’s remember we will never please everyone. Second, let’s learn to listen well to God’s Spirit, the Encourager, speaking to us in that still, small voice every moment of the day as we write. And third, as faithful companions on this crazy writing journey we have undertaken, let’s keep on encouraging—that is, ‘putting courage into’—one another in whatever familiar or diverse way we can.


Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Combining the Creative Strands




Many of us creative types would realize that we are often blessed with creativity that runs deeply in several veins of our lives, whether it be music, dance, writing or art. We may not practice all of these things, but certainly we can have a love for several.

I, for one, have a passion for the Arts in several areas - music, film, visual arts and creative writing. However, my talents lie in creative narrative and visual art. So how can I successfully cross-pollinate these areas of my life to shine out what I want to share with the world? With some of us, it comes naturally; others have to learn to manage and balance.

I found for me that what I work on creatively comes and goes in seasons. I sense where I’m at within myself and I don’t try to force it. (And often you have to allow yourself space to do this.) If a commission job comes in, I find motivation to work on it, but I still allow myself the freedom within the correct time-frames to work in a way that allows me to keep it fresh and inspired. Whilst working on my current novel, I will surround myself with images and music that reflects the themes and time periods without distracting the flow of my imagination.

In both writing and painting, I find the best way to condition myself into the correct mindset is to do some warm-up activities. If it's writing, I will open a blank document, pick a random object or the first thing that pops into my head and simply write whatever comes to mind…in painting, I will grab a blank canvas or paper and just draw – without a reference image or video camera set up. Just to loosen myself up and at the ready.

Which ever way you chose to get yourself inspired ready to work, know that it’s an individual thing and that we’re all wired differently. Don’t be too hard on yourself, but allow yourself plenty of time. If your project is stressing you, move away from it and do something else. But ultimately, I’ve found that having the ability to both enjoy and engage in more than one creative discipline helps rather than hinders the creative flow in my life. Currently, I work on my novel during set times of the day, but when I enter into the evening, I find relaxation in pulling out the canvas and paintbrushes.

If you would like to see some of my current projects, please feel free to visit my website and YouTube channel. I always love hearing feedback for my artwork as well as my writing, so feel free to share and/or leave comments.

Skye Elizabeth Wieland

Website:

YouTube Art playlist:


Monday, September 22, 2014

Stylish me...........
Di Riley


I am a conservative sort of girl. 

Fashion styles come and go, but mostly, I stick to what I know suits me.
(Fashion designers would go out of business very quickly if they were relying on me!)

I know many join the throng of hopping into what's 'on trend' with what 'somebody-out-there' declares is fashionable for the season.
Thankfully we are created differently.  
Thankfully there are many styles to suit us all, whether it is in the fashion arena or at the book store.
I read with great interest the recent post by Adele (Intergalactic Avian Mutants on the Prairie) on reading outside your own genre and indeed reading a wider variety of books.

A friend asked me, just before she headed off on an overseas holiday, what I would recommend for her to read to pass the hours away on the plane.  
(Poor girl got half an hour of me talking up our great Aussie authors)

My friend and I have, over the years, enjoyed many of the same authors.  As our conversation went on, we ended up discussing writing styles and why we had 'gone off' one particular author from overseas.

Our discussion (and the CWD post) got me thinking and marveling again at how great God is.

God's creation with the stars in the heavens declaring His glory.

The lavender in my garden and their touch from God's imagination, of such a delightful perfume.  

Even the strange bird who comes back to a nearby tree each Spring and sings at 4 am.
All are fearfully and wonderfully made by God to add to our world's rich textures.
The pinnacle of God's creation - us, we are alike, but oh so different.

The style with which each of us write, gifts given by God to bless others.

Our toil is not in vain regardless of your style or mine.

(I am sure the author my friend and I have left behind, has found a new audience to bless with her different style).

As Christian Writers Downunder the Lord is glorified and many are blessed with the words we write

May we continue to serve the Lord with zeal, and the style we are inspired to write with.

 You can find out more about me and my thoughts www.dianneriley.com.au 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A tribute to Stealth Authors and Artists


 A geocache we discovered. A perfect example of anonymous generosity, in the spirit of stealth gardeners, writers and artists. 

I visited Great Britain when I was a University student. It was a holiday with my parents, and we visited a countless number of breathtaking churches and cathedrals. The abundance of stone craft and marble work amazed us. There were Biblical heroes with finely-honed facial expressions, and anatomical details, such as veins and Adam's apples, which we would never have imagined could be chipped into stone. A little creepier were the models on top of tombs and crypts of the people who lay beneath; kings, queens and statesmen staring up at us. What intrigued me most was the incredibly high quality of these works of art.

We all associate the Statue of David with its creator, Michelangelo, to the extent that both names are paired together instantly all around the world. But these long ago British craftsmen, whose work had just as much of a Wow factor for me, remain anonymous. If we looked closely enough, we might have seen tiny initials etched into the clay or stone, but just as often we couldn't. It would seem the artists were working solely for love of it, and to bring God glory. It was simply their calling. Being unacknowledged didn't seem to enter their heads or detract from the standard of their work.

I wondered whether writers would be equally happy to remain unnoticed, for even the most self-effacing author knows that his name will appear on the cover of his book, along with the title. Since I asked myself that question, excellent modern authors, who don't mind reminding anonymous, have been drawn to my attention everywhere.

My husband is a musician trying to build a repertoire of old songs, as he plays for senior citizens in nursing homes. He and I have been listening to the free Pandora radio station on our Ipad, especially interested to read the histories of the bands and solo artists who are being highlighted. There are pages and pages of well-written information, including great descriptions, fantastic imagery and impeccable research. Yet the authors don't sign their names. They make me think of the thousands of people who spend painstaking hours editing information on Wikipedia, not to earn a name for themselves but because they are passionate about the topics.

You might have heard about Stealth Gardeners. Their hobby is also known as Guerilla gardening. They creep out at night and beautify ugly patches of land and other eyesores, at the risk of being arrested for trespassing. Personally, I'd welcome them anytime they wanted to visit my place. I guess the Wiki editors and other people who write content for websites may consider themselves Stealth Writers. 

I find these people such an encouraging example. When we're working at fulfilling our calling, there is no rule that says we always need our name connected to it? If that's necessary, we may be working in the wrong spirit. Those of us who have written books and articles may consider their anonymous examples. Some of our work, although not completely secret, may be more hidden, such as blog posts that disappear into cyberspace and book reviews which join hundreds of others. If we're tempted to skimp and not put as much TLC into these things as we do for our more visible work, perhaps we should consider our motivations. Even our smaller bursts of writing may be little geocaches, which may be discovered by anyone at any time.


I take my hat off to big-hearted people everywhere, who are simply committed to making the world a more beautiful place through their passions, even if it's anonymously. Just below is a photo taken last week at the beach. The work of art sitting beside me is a good example of what I'm talking about. Although the plaque is there near my feet, who bothers to stop and read plaques? Not me apparently, for I cannot tell you the name of the fun artist, but I enjoyed his (or her) input.


Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, please visit her blog, It Just Occurred to Me. You may also like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review where she also interviews other authors.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Thankful Times Ten


With the way things are in our world and all the trouble going on in various places, it is very easy to become despondent. Instead of being despairing and negative, it makes me thankful for the country we live in and the freedom we have in this land. Being an island has its advantages.

The almost constant rain we have experienced recently is another bone of contention for a lot of people at present. I admit rain affects my equilibrium very quickly. So instead of complaining about our world and the rain which was pouring as I typed this, I decided to praise God for a warm dry house that has not let in one drop of water during the onslaught.

The reality is it’s always easy to see the negatives instead of the positives. So I decided to make a list of some positives in my life.

First is having a relationship with the living God and knowing that no matter what happens He is always in charge. Even if I don’t understand what is happening or why, God knows and has a perfect plan.

The second positive is having a husband who shares that faith.  I can’t imagine how hard it must be in a marriage where one is a believer and the other is not. It would be like being pulled in two different directions.

My third thing to be thankful for is a son and a daughter who are following the Lord and serving Him. They married Christians and are now bringing up the next generation to believe in God and follow Him. As I talk to some Christians whose children have walked away from God and His teaching, I realise how blessed we are.

Fourth is living where we live on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales.

Just to go for a walk along the bay is such a blessing. To see that bay at sunrise and know God has given us another day is something to be thankful for. This was the sunrise last Christmas morning. What stunning colours. Like a special Christmas gift from God.   

Living where I am, may mean that I am not living as close to family as I would like,  or that sometimes I can’t travel to get to events or that shopping for certain items is difficult but despite the negatives I wouldn’t swap it.

Fifth is belonging to a church where God’s Word is faithfully preached.

Sixth being involved in that church and being able to serve the Lord as part of the music ministry. Music is such a blessing in life and I don’t only mean church music but lots of different kinds of music. Just as I can’t imagine a church service without music, I can’t imagine a world without music.

Seventh, I’m thankful for eyesight to be able to see the wonders of God’s creation around us, whether that is the scarlet and blue rosellas, the king parrots, the kangaroos that inhabit our area or a flower in the garden or maybe one in a pot indoors.


Eight is the gift of friends who care about us, who spend fun times with and who will pray with and for us.

Ninth is the gift of words- whether we are using them to write a poem, devotional, novel or to share the gospel truth with another person in conversation.

Tenth is books. To be able to read firstly God’s Book and learn more about him. But also to be able to read novels, poetry, biographies, articles.

It would be easy to keep going of things to be thankful for. But this is enough for now. What I would like though is to hear one or two things you are thankful for.
Dale writes fiction, poetry and children’s fiction, and has written bible studies and Sunday school lessons. As well as writing and reading, Dale loves to sing. She is involved in the music ministry at her church. More information about Dale can be found at www.daleharcombe.com or on her Write and Read with Dale blog http://www.livejournal.com/users/orangedale/
 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Support an author when you have no money to buy books

I am a single mum with two kids and I love books. As much as would love to buy all the books my writing friends publish, I just can't afford it (and I'm rapidly running out of shelf space!). I know I'm not the only one out there in this situation.

There are a lot of authors talking about the only way you can support them is to buy their books. There are other ways.



Here are some tips to support your fellow authors if you have no money:

Request the book at your library - I am a member of my local library and have become good friends with the librarians. If there is a book I want to read, or my kids want to read, we request the book at the library and they purchase it for us. There is a program by the government called "Lending Rights" so authors who are registered don't miss out on royalties and the books are available for other library members to read.

There have been a couple of times I've suggested the library get in books that I have purchased and loved. Because I know the librarians, I usually drop them an email with the details of the book so I don't have to reserve it, and they often get these books in.

Buy a gift - I know that even if I have no money, I do have money set aside for gifts. I've been known to buy books from my author friends as gifts for friends and with either read the book before I give it, or give the gift with a request to read the book after they have read it! This still gives the author a sale and I get to read the book.

Add to your wish list - my birthday is coming up in October and already I'm getting family asking what I want as a gift. I'm prepared with a list of books I would love to read and own. This is one of the easiest ways to get a new book and support some of your favourite authors - ask people to give them to you as gifts for your birthday, Christmas, or other gift giving occasion.

Spread the word - If you've heard good things about your friends books and you don't have the money to buy a copy, you can still shout it from the rooftops that there is a new book out there. You can participate in blog tours, interview authors or characters on your blog, share the links through your social media channels, and simply talk about the books and authors.

These are just a few ways to support authors and their books when you have no money. Do you have any ideas you can add to this list?



Melissa Gijsbers is a Melbourne based author and the mother of two boys. She has had flash fiction stories published in anthologies and her first children's book, Swallow Me, NOW! is due for publication in October 2014.
Follow her writing journey at www.melissawrites.com.au and visit her website at www.melissagijsbers.com

Monday, September 8, 2014

"Fear Not" by Sally Graham


As a young girl my favorite subjects were Art and  English. As a teenager I wrote pages and pages of bleak dark poetry which I dutifully typed into pamphlets on my old typewriter and handed out for free in Rundle Mall. After a 15 year detour into drugs, alcohol and crime I finally landed in the arms of Jesus.

My return to writing occurred when God spoke to me from John 4. The story of the woman at the well  gave me the mandate to tell my town what Jesus had done in my life.  Writing a book seemed a natural extension of that mandate and so I began to pray that God would give me words that painted a picture.
I approached writing as an art form. I am an artist in the more traditional sense. I paint and draw.  As I researched writing I heard terms which strengthened my belief that I could approach writing as an art form with a different brush. I encouraged myself by excavating my old moth eaten poems and endeavoured to grow in this medium.

We self-published my first book "As Black from White" initially out of frustration.  I was tired of the growing pile of rejection letters from traditional publishers. My book was "too topical." 'too short." (36,000 words) "too Australian." 

Over the years I have lost my cringe factor associated with self-publishing and continue with it as preference. It has allowed me once again to sell or give away copies at my discretion.  We independently print and import our own books and have found a system which works for us hand in hand with public speaking events.

This I have learnt 

 “Fear Not”
1)     Never be afraid to knock on a door ..again.
                   I remember a major bookstore rejected stocking our book. After I got                      a review in  “Christian Woman magazine” I asked if they  would like to                    reconsider. They now stock us.
  
2)     Fear not. Allow your work life beyond its creator.
      As an artist I am stereotypically temperamental, dramatic, and highly critical of my own work. It is this aspect I have needed the most growth to temper. There comes a point with any artistic work where you have to reconcile to live with the flaws you perceive in the work and set it free. 

3)     Go where the spirit leads. Fear not. We have had amazing feedback from surprising arenas.  I have positive reviews, radio invitations and TV opportunities beyond my dreams.  Don't let fear of the unknown or let fear of firsts get you down. Everything is a first at some time.

4) Dream Big dreams. Dont let fear force you into small thinking.
We are all a long way from Kansas

As back from White started as my simple testimony. It has now been made into a 7 minute short film “Sal”,  has been translated to Vietnamese version and there are plans to begin a feature film .I travel, sharing my story and am currently writing a film scrip and two more books. We have just released our updated version of As Black from White.

You can contact me www.asblackfromwhite.com.au


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Intergalactic Avian Mutants on the Prairie (Or – You Read What????)




Have you ever succumbed to ‘random reading syndrome’? That moment when you’re book browsing and before you can blink, you have a title completely outside your favourite genre by an author you’ve never heard of in your hand. This could be because the cover was pretty, the title made you laugh, or there was a beetle precariously walking the edge of the binding and you were compelled to save it from plunging into the darkened crevasse between that and the next shelved title.

Readers are not the only who may suffer this ailment. Writers can also fall prey to a related condition. Not only might they read outside their favourite genre, but they might even WRITE outside it too, trialling alternate techniques within those genres just for fun!

I’m an offender on both counts. In fact, I don’t suffer from random reading syndrome, I enjoy in it! :) By forcing myself to read outside the known I’ve not only stumbled upon some wonderful books I might have otherwise missed, but I’ve learned so much: about me, about writing, about reading.

As writers it’s important to become familiar with our genres. I’ve read a heap more YA in the past year than I have in a decade, simply because I was writing into that genre and it had been a while since I’d read books targeted to that age group. But I think most writers can also identify the immense value in reading beyond what we write (including mainstream titles). Expanding out literary world is good for us. It’s also equally valuable to sometimes write outside our comfort zone. Not necessarily a whole novel, but even a short story or poem.

While studying creative writing I took the opportunity to explore different tenses and points of view while writing outside my most familiar genre. In one submission it was observed my written voice worked well with Chick Lit, so I also wrote a fantasy piece with a male protagonist. (Of course...)

Perhaps that’s why it makes sense I have two titles being released this month in two contrasting genres. Integrate is a YA fiction and was released on Monday this week. A Devil’s Ransom is a maritime historical romance to be released later in the month. I’ve loved writing them both, yet I’ve also realised how swiftly a writing focus can strangle our tendency for random reading bouts. For our own writing sakes we need to foster our inner random reader.

Besides, we might even become a fan of a genre or author we’d never otherwise encounter. Now there’s a great reason, if any, to turn into a different aisle in the bookstore next time we venture there. (And don’t forget to keep an eye for any book-walking beetles or giant intergalactic chickens ...)

Adele Jones lives in Queensland, Australia. She’s had a variety of short works published and has two novels being released in 2014—a YA SciFi and a historical maritime romance. 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