Monday, August 29, 2016
Thursday, August 25, 2016
I stumbled across an old email the other day—it hinted at a true story about elephants. I’ve always been fascinated by these creatures (who abounded in the land of my birth), so I eagerly read on. What an intriguing tale! Lawrence Anthony, nicknamed ‘The Elephant Whisperer’ had been an international conservationist, environmentalist, explorer and bestselling author. I quote from the narrative:
“On March 7, 2012 Lawrence Anthony died. He is remembered and missed by his wife, 2 sons, 2 grandsons, and numerous elephants”, italics mine.
How did those ‘numerous elephants’ show that they remembered him?
How did we know that they did?
But first, what had they to remember of him?
Lawrence Anthony had been a legend. Rogue elephants who would usually have been put down, had been calmed, rescued and given refuge in a large sanctuary he established for them. Anthony was known to be exceptional in caring for traumatised elephants. When the ‘Elephant Whisperer’ died, something mysterious and profound took place. From miles away, wild elephants—dozens of them, silently began a long trek to his home, in solemn single file, taking at least 12 hours to reach. They stayed for two days, refusing to eat or drink, saying goodbye to the man who had championed their cause.
What an amazing story! And what a brilliant example of remembering. How did they even know he had died? We human beings are good at recalling the bad done to us. Do we also bring to mind often the acts of kindness we’ve received? I've been inspired by the life of King David as I've studied it recently. I was struck also by an occurrence that took place when King Saul died. Men in the small town of Jabesh Gilead came stealthily at dead of night, and took his body away with them so that his enemies would not taunt his body. These valiant men risked their lives for a dead king, because years before, King Saul had helped them. They too had remembered.
Would you like to be an elephant today? Not in size of course. Nor in looks, so you can rest easy. But would you like to be an elephant today in the act of remembering?
WHAT CAN WE, WHO CALL OURSELVES CHRISTIAN WRITERS, REMEMBER?
1. That Jesus bought us life, freedom and salvation. Praise Him.
2. The inspiring books we’ve read and how we’ve been changed through them.
3. Writers, role models and teachers in our writing sphere who have taught us, shaped our writing and grown us. Let’s appreciate them.
4. That our dreams, talents, abilities, time and even opportunities to write, all come from Him who reigns over all. We are stewards. We owe it all to our Lord.
5. That everything we’ve achieved are gifts from Him, so any praise directed at our writing and speaking efforts should be boomeranged back to our Creator.
6. The encouraging ways that God came through for us in the past, so with grateful hearts, we can entrust the future of our creativity to Him.
7. The deep joy we have in being writers called of God—how thrilling the journey. Let us never take our calling for granted.
And so today, I pause, reflect and give thanks. To God—for calling me to write for Him, for His guidance and inspiration. To you, my fellow writers who’ve taught me over the years and encouraged me stay on course. To those whose insightful books have showered God’s truth over my being. I look forward to new mountains yet to climb, because all I know of our God tells me that if He’s come through for me in the past, I can count on His faithfulness in the future.
I’d like to be an Elephant today.
Would you care to join me?
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Phillipians 1:3-6
Anusha’s been on many interesting detours in life, as a lab technician, a computer programmer, a full time Mum, a full time volunteer, a charity director, a full time job chaser, until one golden day (or was it a dark moonless night?) God tapped her on her shoulder and called her to write for Him. She has never recovered from the joy it brought her. She loves to see others enjoying life with Jesus and does her mite to hurry the process in her world through her writing and through her life. The goodness of God is her theme song through each season, as she dances in the rain with Jesus. Please stop by at her website Dancing in the Rain to say G’day. She’d love to see you.
Monday, August 22, 2016
I dig around – it must be in here somewhere. I’m sure it’s here…
I keep searching – going deeper – getting to the bottom and finding fluff and broken bits and things that haven’t seen the light of day for a while.
I strain my eyes – sometimes when looking for something, my eyes pass right over it. I’m sure you’ve done the same. So I look at each item and name it, just so I can’t miss what I’m looking for.
There’s a lot of stuff in here: treasures, junk, forgotten things, insights, incomplete thoughts, words from other people, words that belong to other people, half-started piece of writing…
Surely amidst all the experiences of my life, I can find something to write about. I have friends for whom there simply are not enough hours in the day to get it all on paper. But I rarely write like that. I have to discipline myself to stop and listen; to chew over experiences and insights; and to listen to what God is asking me to put on paper. It’s all too easy not to be a writer! I even struggle with calling myself a writer – more than 20 short pieces and a booklet in print and I hesitate with the epithet ‘author’. An author? Are you sure? I don’t write much really. In fact not at all sometimes.
And I realize, I’m letting my thoughts undermine my ‘work’ as a writer. And that leaves me wide open to the enemy undermining who I am and who I can become: ‘A testimony? You? With your safe little life? Ha, ha, you’re so ordinary.’
I’ve started two new jobs recently – it’s pretty busy. There’s not a lot of time to write, (or market my booklet!), and I’ve been wondering how to go about meeting my writing commitments. However, my new jobs provide me with plenty of driving time, mostly alone, and I try to discipline my mind to prayer and meditating on Bible verses.
I think over books I read last year – books that talk about who we are and who we can become with the power of God in our lives. Our application of faith to our lives is often so small – we see our lives empowered within the context of who we are and what we do with each day. Our Heavenly Father sees our lives empowered by His Spirit within the context of the world with all the resources of Heaven at our disposal.
So I refute the arguments that try to destroy my identity and my inheritance.
I have the Spirit of the Living God dwelling in me
I have all the resources of Heaven at my disposal and for the glory of God
I am being changed into the perfect image of Christ
I have a strong testimony about the work of God in me and in my life
And there is a whole world out there needing to hear about the saving grace, goodness and love of God through the written word
I am…a writer.
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Robbie is a soldier who grew up as a fringe dweller on the edge of town in drought ravaged sheep country. He experienced the challenges of a homeless family knowing what it was to really struggle and even face horrifically terrifying events as a child. These things though could not prepare him for the shocking realities of battle he had experienced in the Middle East. Robbie may be a central fictional character in the narratives I am expressing, but he is also an expression of the challenging realities I have personally faced, and also the empathetic acknowledgement of what others are dealing with. Robbie (from the fictional platform of my writing) can express and engage at a deep level what many people grapple with in their day to day realities. Perhaps this can also help people find solutions to their issues: solutions that are perhaps less about solving things from our own strength, self-focus and material success, and more about discovering purpose, hope, meaning and even supernatural answers in life from The Source of all Life.
Here with a friend he met in Vietnam. Ex Viet Cong. Who also testified of a Saviour who helped him survive after having his arm traumatically amputated by a tank shell in battle,
Monday, August 15, 2016
|The Artist: Oil on canvas by Avril Thomas.|
Used with permission
My husband, Marc, and I recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We booked a gorgeous B&B at McLaren Vale and snuggled together in the warmth as the wind blasted rain against the windows. It was great to spend quality time together in this cosy retreat.
When we checked out on Sunday morning we decided to look at some art galleries. We considered a list of local galleries but in the end we only braved the weather to take in one exhibition, that of South Australian artist, Avril Thomas, at Magpie Springs winery in Willunga.
Avril’s works are striking. I immediately liked the large portrait of South Australian politician, Alexander Downer, and a series of paintings commissioned by the Flinders Medical Centre. These are unusual: Oil paintings of medical professionals, including doctors and nurses working in an operating theatre. I enjoy Avril’s ‘tonal realism’ style and the humanity that seems to imbibe her work.
But there was one painting that stood out for me. The Artist (pictured above) depicts a woman in the act of creating. Colours on her palate stream onto brushes and onto the canvas as the woman paints an image of herself in the act of painting. On first impression I thought it a passionate, unusual work, but then I saw the small hourglass in the lower right quadrant of the painting.
The beauty of art, whatever its form, is that it can pierce us in that place which is the core of who we are. It doesn’t matter whether the medium is oil paint or music or words, art can get inside us and bring conviction. The small hourglass in the painting suggests that time is passing. The notes to the side of the painting explain that the hourglass symbolises the finite nature of time – the artist only has so many days to do the things they’ve been made to do.
As I looked at this painting I sensed that God was speaking to me. ‘Are you doing what I made you to do?’
The conviction didn’t come with judgement. There was no, ‘Come on Susan, you need to do more. MORE!’ It came instead with a sweet sense of grace. I’m in the middle of my life and God has spoken things over me along the way: A call to ministry, a call to write and I think to visual art as well. He has given me some wonderful promises that have budded but are yet to fully flower and fruit. Am I tending those promises as fully as I can? God reminded me that the time available to do that is finite. I need to seek his face and make some tough decisions.
In Ecclesiastes 3:1 it says there’s a time for everything under the sun. So I don’t think Jesus wants us to drop everything and make our art the sole priority. There’s a right time and place for everything. But I sense that for some reading this, like me, God is saying, ‘You’ve been patient, you’ve waited, now it’s time to do the things you've been made for.’
What things has God put on your heart to do?
Thursday, August 11, 2016
The picture below is not me. :-)
That quote from Mark Twain has been greatly misquoted. He said it as I have it above. But there are many variations of his words. I used it because for three months I hardly wrote a word, crashed inside myself, lost a sister-in-law, left the writing world and left some of the best friends I have ever had. Anusha, Jenny, Nola. Not to mention our MOP group. I like the way Mark Twain said it better than the other versions. He never said GREATLY. I wonder if he was in the place I was. This was part of the real letter he wrote to that reporter who printed the obituary.
Mark Twain was undecided whether to be more amused or annoyed when a Journal representative informed him today of the report in New York that he was dying in poverty in London...
The great humorist, while not perhaps very robust, is in the best of health. He said:
“I can understand perfectly how the report of my illness got about, I have even heard on good authority that I was dead. James Ross Clemens, a cousin of mine, was seriously ill two or three weeks ago in London, but is well now. The report of my illness grew out of his illness. "The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
I was going through some biopsies and my world turned topsy-turvy. (I love those words. They feel so good in your mouth when you say them. Go ahead. Say them. Topsy-turvy. That's a little thing. But I have that pleasure back in my life. In those hard months, I didn't care. I know Anusha, Jenny and Nola were whispering my name in prayer. I felt it.
I don't have cancer, but I have something close. Precancer. I never knew you could have that. I came to realize that I missed writing. I missed my friends. Our group. And now I'm rushing to finish my 12 poems for our anthology. So I wasted time while throwing my pity party.
I apologize to all of you. For not getting by to read your words. I will from now on. I've learned that we can't live in fear. That's no fun. So I picked up the pieces, glued them back together and now look like the picture above. Hahaha.
Anusha sent me an email. She'd realized she never answered my email. It was in her draft folder. That was on July 10th. The very day I started trying to pull myself out of the mire. I was writing again. Her email made me smile. And I knew I would write my poetry and novels and picture books. This verse she sent snatched me out of that miry pit.
Anusha and I had a retreat. And it was lovely. It was right before my crash. God uses people in our lives to bring us back from the brink. That retreat was another way God used her to help me and she didn't know it. Well, she does now.
I prayed about this post. I actually intended to write something else. But He impressed me to write this. I believe someone needs to see it.
Thank you for making me a part of your lives I tell everyone I'm an honorary Aussie. I love Australia for many reasons. And you have short elections. Not like our three years of election talk. BLEH.
All my love to all of you.
Monday, August 8, 2016
Thursday, August 4, 2016
It’s a common question for writers. I’m sure you’ve been asked a few times in the past. Do you write with music or silence? It’s almost up there with “are you a plotter or a pantser?” I’ve always come down on the silence side of things. If I’m writing I need to be free from auditory distractions. Even if it’s just instrumental music it can pull me away. Interestingly though, I can program while listening to music, unless it is really intense algorithmic code. But enough about my day job.
I do find music very inspiration for setting the scene, but I’d prefer to listen to it before I write.
Recently, however, I came across something new and a little bit weird. It may work for some people. Writing with scene-appropriate ambient noise.
I write a lot of sci-fi, so many of my scenes are set on a space ship. When Star Trek: The Next Generation was first produced in the late 80s they made the decision to layer the engines of the Enterprise subtly rumbling in the background. If you pay attention you’ll hear it in every single scene set on the ship. It was probably a hotly debated decision. Would audiences really want that sound constantly in their ears while watching the show? It worked out well for them. It really added to the realism of feeling like you were on the ship with the characters.
Did you know that people have made looping videos of the Enterprise engine ambient noise on youTube? Want to get away from it all escape to the 24th century? Just close your eyes, pop on some headphones and listen to this:
That’s right 24 hours of engine humming! Don’t have it up too loud, though. It’s got to be subtle. Some people even fall asleep listening to this.
Getting back to my writing, I thought it would be cool to put this on in the background to enhance my setting. Make me feel like I was on a spaceship. It was pretty cool actually.
That’s when I found that ambient noise is a big thing on youTube. I was writing a story with a Victorian (1800s England, not the state in Australia) setting. Sure enough, I found a nice little video with ambient sounds of a Victorian street at night. It helped me get into the right head-space.
Writing a scene in a jungle?, writing a modern warfare scene? Have a scene on a tropical beach?, a restaurant?, the wild west?, a sailing ship? a city street or perhaps you’re writing a medieval battle scene. And we can’t forget everybody’s favourite sound of all - rain.
These background sounds certainly help me get into the setting. (It helps that I have an unlimited NBN plan). There is still, of course, the potential for distraction, but overall I think it is helping more than hindering, so I’ll continue to experiment with it. Not to mention, it’s just cool fun.
What about you? Do you think ambient sounds would help you get into the setting for your scenes? Have you used it before? What’s the most unusual setting you’ve managed to find sounds for?
Adam David Collings is an author of speculative fiction. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam draws inspiration for his stories from his over-active imagination, his life experiences and his faith.
Adam is a great lover of stories, enjoying them in books, movies, scripted TV and computer games. Adam discusses these on his own youTube show – Stories with Adam Collings.
Monday, August 1, 2016
History repeats itself. Last year at our annual Writer’s Conference I spoke on SPEAKING. Today on CWD/ACW, I am blogging on BLOGGING.
What would you say is next? Should I read a book on READING?
The helpful aspect about speaking on speaking was that the material I used to prepare my talk helped me perform my workshop better. So perhaps my research into blogging will help me write a readable blog? My little offering today is for those who are considering the pros and cons of blogging on your writing journey and would like a whiff of its perfume in order to be convinced of its lasting fragrance.
4 ½ years ago, I began my belated blessed blogging journey with a few bumbling baby steps forward. I have now written 220 blogs to date. I must confess though that I came kicking and screaming into it. You see, I couldn’t see the point of adding my mite to the surplus of blogs out there. Who would read them? Google tells me that in 2013 there were 152 million blogs in the world. Not a small number. A publisher friend finally convinced me that I should dive in. Surprisingly enough, once I jumped in (with a mighty splash), you couldn’t get me out of the blogging pool. The lake was cool and refreshing, and I am still being invigorated by its healing waters.
So what is a Blog? A Blog is short for "Web Log" later turned into ‘Weblog’ and finally the simple four letter word: ‘Blog’. As recently as 1999, there were supposedly only 23 blogs on the Internet. The reason for there being so few was that 17 years ago, bloggers needed to be web designers who created everything from scratch. Thankfully, times have changed and we have easy access to free blogging hosts in the 21st century world. So what’s your excuse to not blogging? None!
But let me add that as a Christian writer, you will of course need to ascertain if it’s right for you at this point of your writing journey. “The first thing you need to decide when you build your blog is what you want to accomplish with it, and what it can do if successful.” Ron Dawson.
How does a blog help an Author/Writer/Would be Writer?
1. It helps build your platform
2. It gives credibility to your writing
3. It helps develop publicity for your writing
4. It can promote your work
5. It helps you develop a fan base
6. It helps you keep in touch with your readers
7. It helps agents and publishers take you seriously
8. It keeps you writing regularly
9. It lets your readership enjoy bite-sized flavourful chunks of your writing
10. It connects you to the world—writing can often be a lonely occupation
Some Important aspects to work out before you begin:
1. Name of your website/blog site—think hard. Think well. Let it stand out.
2. A page about yourself—allow your readers get to know you
3. Frequency of blog – daily/3 times a week/weekly/fortnightly/monthly/other
4. Subject matter – what would you like to focus on?
5. Make it readable – not only in content but also in presentation
New Old Stock
Free Nature Stock
What hosts are available? There are plenty of free hosting blog builders that will help you create your blog or website from scratch and with ease. I used Webnode.com and have been more than satisfied with their services—it hasn’t cost me a cent. Other sites like Blogger.com, Wordpress.com, SimpleSite.com, Tumblr.com, and Wix.com are used widely as you may know. If you would like to use your own domain name, you will need to pay for it. Here’s a useful site which shares information on blog hosts: Web Hosting Free Reviews
What kinds of Writer Blogs are out there? There are blogs that teach the writer’s craft, those that talk of the writer’s life, others that write about current issues, some which share their experiences, others that write how-to articles, some which focus on book reviews and more. Fiction writers may share snippets of their stories to hook their readers or even serialise their work through a regular blog. When I started blogging, what a blessing it was to discover that God made it part of my ministry. It was a gift from Him, and has grown me and shaped me as a writer. But we are unique beings—called by God to different tasks. So follow His heart for yourself, not for anyone else. Your blog and mine will be vastly different. And that’s exactly how it should be.
A few Good Blogging Practices:
1. Determine the length of your blog. 300 – 600 words is a good number.
2. Images will add to the blog—use them.
3. Ask a question at the end or lead them to take action
4. Make it easy for others to share—make it public on Facebook
5. Link up with other writers’ blogs
6. Create a free email newsletter
7. Invite other writers to write guest blogs on your site—a good way of joining hands (and words) with other writers!
I hope I've whet your writerly appetite to discover if blogging is something beneficial to you as a writer. Everything we do as Christian writers must be in response to a call from God. Is He calling you to start one? There are many of us bloggers on CWD and ACW who would be very glad to pitch in if you need a hand. So if you believe God is calling you to it, do jump right in. And may your expedition be God breathed, exhilarating and worthwhile.
If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.”
“Writing is its own reward.” – Henry Miller
“Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.”
Dancing in the Rain. She’d love to meet you.