Thursday, January 28, 2016

The First Author






I sat in my office praying for the break I needed for this post. I knew what I wanted to write about, but I had to have the right way to say it. In other words,  I prayed for those God given words. You know what I mean. The words that ONLY He can provide. After talking (pleading) with the Master, I had a breakthrough.

The First Author. Yes. Now we're talking. And I praised Him again. He is the first Author. The Author of all things. He wrote the biggest most complex novel ever. The novel titled Humanity.

So when I complain, when I grumble about choosing that exact word I need to remember something. The Author of the Universe is listening to me. I read something the other day.

"God is in the hearts of all, and they that seek shall surely find Him when they need Him most." ~Louisa May Alcott, "Through the Mist," Work: A Story of Experience, 1873.

Seek and you shall find. My story of finding the right words for this post is something writers do every single day. We search, fidget, pace, doodle, examine, chase and poke. We're always looking for that perfect word. We could never do this without Him. He gives us the tools that we need. All we have to do is ask. How many times has he carried me through?  How many times have I seen only one set of footprints?

I thought about this post, and I realized that the days when I struggle with my writing are the days when I neglect to ask Him to bless my words for that day. God the Father―my breakthrough.

And yes. Some successful writers have never accepted Yeshua. What then? We don't really need Him? Of course, we do. There are times in my life when I could never make it without Him. Those writers don't realize that the Author of the Universe gave them their gifts. They could do so much more. If only they knew Him.

So let us remember to bow before the Greatest Author ever and ask Him for the words that He would have us to use in this new year. The Author of all that is wonderful, of all that is lovely, of all that is peaceful, wants to show us a better way to write. In His loving hands. With His loving words. And for His loving goodness. I for one have learned a lesson (He orchestrated this). I'll try not to write without Him again. And I won't, and please don't you forget to thank Him at the end of each day. Thank the Father for your words. For the one set of footprints. Praise Him always.

I'll let you know how 2016 goes. I'm sure I'll slip back into my go-it-alone ways. He'll remind me of my need for His great Authorship. Maybe someday I'll get this right.

The Author of the Universe has us in the palm of His hands. He wants to help us. All we have to do is ask. God is our refuge. If He sent His only Son to deliver us then giving the right words is a piece of cake.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for the fabulous posts you wrote in 2015. Let's learn from each other. I love being an honorary Aussie. :-)

“Immediately He spoke to them and said, 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” Mark 6:50 NIV

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Are you looking to meet with a small group of Christian writers?

Omega Writers has recently seen a burst of wonderful people volunteering to lead small groups. Here is a list of groups now on offer, including groups affiliated with Omega Writers, and the people leading them:


Geographically based

  •        Adelaide has two affiliated groups. Author.docx is aimed at those still learning the craft of writing and is led by Drs James Cooper and Mark Worthing. For published authors, CWA offers prayer and support, with Wendy Noble and Rosanne Hawke acting as facilitators.
  •          Sydney’sOmega Chapter, led by Raewyn Elsegood, meets every couple of months and often has a guest speaker.
  •          A Gold Coast Chapter is about to start up at the end of February. Michelle Evans plans on holding meetings every second month.
  •          The original Brisbane Chapter will continue to meet monthly at St Francis College in Milton. Their first meeting will double as the AGM and boasts a couple of excellent speakers.
  •          Toowoomba’sChapter began half way through last year and already Nola Passmore and Adele Jones have hosted a half-day workshop and weekend retreat! They have big plans for 2016.
  •          New groups in Melbourne and north Brisbane (Redcliffe) will soon be under way so stay tuned!
  •          Our friends in NZ Christian Writers have a heap of groups listed on the Contact page of their website.

Genre based (online via Skype and Facebook)

  •          I’ve been leading our screenwriters group since halfway through last year. In 2016, we’ll be critiquing member’s scripts and using them as a springboard to discussion of screenwriting principles.
  •          The sci-fi/fantasy group’s Facebook group is already flourishing. They have their first Skype call tonight and will be joined by a Canadian publisher. Thanks to Cate McKeown for stepping up to co-lead.
  •          A non-fiction group will start a Facebook group very shortly and we’re investigating the possibility of a group for children’s authors.

Look on the Omega Writers website for event or contact details, or to stay up to date with the latest developments.

Omega Writers exists to educate, support and inspire Australasian Christian writers towards excellence. We want to work with existing groups so if you know of any that have a compatible mission and would like to be listed, drop me a line. I’d also love to hear from anyone who would like to help lead a group for their genre or location, either in the comments below or via email.

_________________

Simon Kennedy is the current president of Omega Writers. He has won national awards for poetry and short story, is developing a TV series with production company Matchbox Pictures, and has a first-look option with Wickham Park Productions on a feature film screenplay. His YouTube channel, Songs with Simon, was recently signed with Broadband TV, and has had over 2 million hits in the past month alone.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Briefly on Creativity

Today's post encompasses two essential elements of writing: brevity and creativity. I'll write briefly with a challenge for you to practice your creativity.

Everything you need to know about creativity is found in a single quote by G.K. Chesterton:

"Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a coloured pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling."

Your challenge is to lie in bed, stare at your ceiling and imagine what you would draw. Feel free to put your ideas into practice.

Today's Lesson? With writing, as with life, if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.

Yours,

Buffy.





Thursday, January 21, 2016

Five Facts for Every Author

by Charis Joy Jackson 

 

My dream holiday, as a writer, is finding a cabin in the middle of the wilderness where I can sit and write for days.

So at the end of last year, when I knew I was coming home for the holidays, the land considered the "Last Frontier", I thought I'd found the perfect place and I day-dreamed of days and days of writing.

But it hasn’t happened.

In fact, I've spent very little of my holiday writing. At first I felt guilty. Why was the idea of writing my novel so overwhelming? Why was I procrastinating? I love to write. I love my story, so what in the world was wrong?

And then the self-doubt started… If I'm not committed to writing every day, does that mean I'm not a writer? Has all the love and passion gone? Will I ever get my novel published? Am I really a writer? Or am I just a fake?

I needed a broader perspective - the cold hard facts and I knew I wasn’t the only one who wrestles with doubts so I made a short list of facts to hold on to in the “dry” moments.


Fact 1 - We need rest

When I came home for my holiday I was sick. I spent the first two and a half weeks lying on my blue fainting couch, barely taking in the tv shows and conversation going on around me. I couldn’t even form coherent sentences, let alone try to write from one of my characters povs.

Sometimes we need to rest from the work and creativity to replenish our supply. In my case, I literally needed to recuperate and get well, but sometimes it may mean taking a day off from my computer.

It’s good to give ourselves a break from the world of our characters, because it allows us to see things differently when we pick up the story again and maybe we’ll suddenly have solutions to story questions that our over tired brains couldn’t find before.

Fact 2 - Being an author doesn’t mean you just write

The truth is, even when I was feeling better I wasn't writing my novel, but I was spending a lot of time building my author platform. Taking part in a blog tour and promoting Glimpses of Light, an anthology recently published with one of my short stories.

There’s a tremendous amount of other things an author needs to do, so many ways we build our audience.

Writing blogs, updating our author pages on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Wordpress, website, etc. These platforms are not just busy work, but valid, important sites to keep updated so we can continue reaching new readers.

Fact 3 - Reading more, makes you a better story-teller

One thing I’ve been doing a lot on this holiday is reading. Re-reading old favourites I knew would wake the “something” in me that seemed lost. Reading new novels that were recommended to me, reading my own copy of Glimpses of Light and being blown away by all the talented story-tellers I get to share the pages with and even branching out to other genres I don’t normally have a desire to read.

The best writing resource for any budding author is to read more.

I remember someone telling me to read everything I could in the genre I wanted to write in - the good, the bad and the ugly. When I asked why I should read the bad, I was told, "Even the bad ones teach us what not to do."

Fact 4 - Spending time with God is the secret weapon of the creative

One of the reasons I haven’t been writing much is because I’m hanging out with God. Reading devotionals, journaling, spending time in worship and prayer.

I’ve discovered that after times of deep immersion with the ultimate Creator, my own creativity and love for story takes on a fresh new life. Every word becomes richer and more profound.

In order to grow in a specific thing, you must learn from those who know it better. Well, who's better to learn from, than the One who created my story and yours?

Fact 5 - Don’t become a critic, keep your wonder

I recently finished reading Frank Peretti’s Illusion and one of the themes that stood out to me was the importance of keeping your wonder. In the case of Peretti’s story it was keeping their wonder as magicians, but I think it can apply to any creative - especially the author.

I like what Robert Frost says on the subject. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

In other words, be in awe of the stories and characters you dream up.

And more importantly, be in awe of the God who wants to see you make up these worlds of adventure, daring sword fights and great romances. It’s what He created you for and the more time we spend in self-doubt the less we live out the truth of what He put in us.

The other day my mom and I were walking to the car, we'd just finished doing some shopping. It was cold and the sky was blanketed with a thick mist, blocking the majestic mountains that surrounded us. I was just about to hop into the car and get away from the dreary weather when I glanced up.

The mist had broken in some places and revealed the hidden glory there. I snapped a picture on my phone and even though it wasn't the best photo, it soothed something within me. Reminding me that even the darkest days are filled with glory if only we take the time to look.

So, what about you? What are some facts you’ve found helpful to keep doubt away and hold on to the truth?




Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series.

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder.
Welcome to the adventure.

www.charisjoyjackson.com

Monday, January 18, 2016

What are your writing goals for 2016?

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I read recently the results of an American survey that outlined less than 5% of people set goals, write them down and track their progress.

This surprised me somewhat so I ran my own small poll amongst some loved ones, which essentially validated those results. I typically am a goal setter and will sit down at the beginning of a year to map out a series of goals. For some reason or another I didn’t do a very good job of this last year.  Life was meant to be all about starting out again in a new city, Melbourne. This didn’t eventuate after many dreams, much effort and commuting especially by my wife.

When I spend insufficient time on documenting and tracking goals, like last year, I don’t make as much progress. And this particularly applies to my writing.

So I’ve made a conscious effort of spending quality time in these first weeks of 2016 on both reflecting back on 2015 and establishing goals for this year. We should do this with the Lord. We’re all probably familiar with Proverbs 16:3:

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (NIV)

Sometimes we can read this to believe God will establish what we want. But as my pastor said recently when referring to this verse, the Lord’s likely to mess with our plans for a while and then He’ll tell you what He wants and what He doesn’t want you to do. And then, and only then, will the Lord establish them.

But the first steps are both giving our goals to God and also listening to Him.

Dream BIG

Goals often fall out of our dreams. For example, I want to be a published author? Some people will call this a dream, others a goal. God wants to hear our dreams. The exciting thing is we can’t out dream God so it’s a great place to be in when we’re meditating with Him on what our dreams and goals can be for any given year.

Our dreams will remain forever just that, dreams, unless we engage specific activity to propel them forward. Many of us aren’t working to publisher deadlines rather self-imposed ones and because we’re all busy it’s easy for our writing to take a back seat at times. We’re all familiar with the old adage what get’s scheduled gets done so I find it important to schedule specific time each day to achieve that goal.

Three of my writing goals for this year are:

  1. Complete the edit of my work-in-progress by 31 January 2016
  2. Complete the draft of one 50-page short story by 30 June 2016
  3. Complete one writing craft e-course by 31 March 2016

I consider it important to write specific goals that are time-bound otherwise I will put them off. Yes, stuff comes up which may make it difficult to achieve but put a line in the sand now and deal with the stuff if it happens.

Holding on too Tight

God loves to interrupt us. Whether it’s in our prayer times, in asking us to do something we wouldn’t expect, or something big or small unexpectedly occurs, like the mid-year change I mentioned above. He’ll do that with our writing plans too. Susan’s post last Monday is a great example of it.

And remember these comforting and convicting words from the Lord:

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NKJV)

Do you set writing goals and if so, what is one of your goals for 2016?



Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Angelguard won the Selah Award for Speculative Fiction in 2014. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Inspiration From Across the Road....

Dianne Riley

When you are a writer,
there are story skeletons no matter where you go.

The framework, the back bone, the idea
can pop up in places you would never know.

Over that basic framework
the characters and situations become dressed,

with editing and rewriting the piece will be polished to be its best.

......OK so I'm not really a poet!
But I do love to write.

Monnie, the old lady from across the road, passed away and her home was bought by a family who fancied themselves as renovators.  The old house stood so bare, all the life lived there with Monnie's family, her husband and their three sons, had finished, ended and a new chapter was unfolding. The creative me had to get a photo.  The  old house was begging to be written about.

I have been watching our would-be-renovators for some months now.  I want to share with you the lessons I have learnt from my observations.

HAVE A GO....
There is nothing to be gained from wondering if you can do it.  Whatever your 'it' in writing is.  Do you have the framework for a novel, a play or a poem swirling around in your mind or on a scrap of paper?  Look for an opportunity to edit and polish, to put your writing somewhere someone can read it.

(maybe you might take the opportunity to write a sentence or two in the comments - "My first idea for writing was.....")

Not sure what the neighbour's day jobs are, but they certainly don't involve building!  Yet there they are renovating and rebuilding Monnie's home!  Good for them for having a go.

GET SOME HELP....
Don't be afraid to sign up for a course or a conference.  My first CWD conference introduced me to some lovely people, some 'real' authors!
I have also done an online course, it helped me no end.

Our renovators need some help - but who is going to tell these new neighbours?  Clearly they ran out of paint before getting to the front of the house, it isn't looking like a chic painting technique.  It looks like they ran out of their paint colour.  And the roof line has more dips than a '70's party!

DON'T GIVE UP....
Susan's post from Monday says it all.  Who is your audience?  Perhaps your writing is for an audience of one.  Maybe you aren't destined for the New York Best Sellers list, perhaps God's calling you to write for an audience you don't even know.
So keep writing!

Our renovators across the road haven't given up.  They have kept going, living between two homes as they laboriously make ready their new home.  The work isn't to my liking, but my opinion doesn't matter, it's not for me.

My husband is a great at encouraging me to write.  He sent me a link today about famous authors and how many words they try to write each day.  (2000 words - really? Who does that author's washing and ironing?)  Some only 500 words a day, seems obtainable!

I am hoping my poem, or the house across the road is an encouragement for you dear reader to have a go, get some help and to seriously not give up!

www.dianneriley.com.au 
You can find me at my day job through the week. In Customer Service there are plenty of opportunities to find the hero and heroine for the next story.



Monday, January 11, 2016

Would you?

If God told you to write a book for one person, would you?

I was challenged by a friend who asked this question (not to me in particular, but in a general sort of way). My first response was to immediate answer, "Of course. Of course I would do whatever God wanted me to so." But there was a niggling doubt in my heart.

As I thought about the difficulties of finding the exact words to express my ideas, experiences and emotions; the time it would take to write and rewrite; the cost of going to conferences to hone my skills and pay for an editor. Would I do it for one person?

I found myself adding provisos. Yes, I would if that one person's heart was so changed that they in turn touched another and another and another. Yes, I would if that one person was the next Billy Graham or D.L. Moody. Yes, I would if that one person was overwhelmingly appreciative.

Yet I know God doesn't add provisos. He didn't add provisos when he sent Jesus. God didn't say, "I'll only allow Jesus to die if enough people repent"; "I'll only allow Jesus to die if they prove their commitment"; "I'll only allow Jesus to die if enough people live godly lives." When I analysed my reasoning I have to acknowledge that if God asks me to do something, I can't add conditions. I have to accept he knows best.

I thought I'd finished this post but then I read, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and she talks about the book she wrote after her father died of a brain tumour and another book she wrote a couple of years later when another friend also died of cancer. She writes: "I just wanted to write a book for my father that might also help someone going through a similar situation… I got to write books about my father and my best friend and they got to read them before they died. Can you imagine? I wrote for an audience of two who I loved and respected, who loved and respected me."

Whether our audience is large or small, we write believing God will use our words to touch another.

*****


Susan Barnes likes to write devotional thoughts on Bible passages, book reviews and inspirational articles. She loves to challenge people's thinking and regularly blogs at abooklook.blogspot.com.au. She is also a librarian and pastor's wife.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Passing on the Baton



It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. 2 Cor 3:5 (NLT)

On Monday, Nola announced she was stepping down as coordinator of Christian Writers Downunder, though she will remain on as a member of the committee. She has passed this role (that she has fulfilled so admirably) on to me.  I have some big shoes to fill.


Reading through the responses from Monday’s blogpost, I know you all will join me in thanking Nola for her gentle, wise and Spirit-led leadership and her faithful and humble serving behind the scenes of CWD over the last couple of years. From arranging the blog calendar, sharing links to the blog twice-weekly, accepting new members, encouraging, commenting in the FB group, and negotiating the occasional tricky situation, Nola has acted with wisdom and grace. In recent times, she has co-opted first Anusha and then myself to share the load of these various responsibilities.  We would love her to continue in her role in CWD but God is calling her to focus on other things.



For myself, CWD has had a significant impact on me when I returned to writing a few years ago. Suddenly, I was part of a virtual but very real and active community of like-minded writers who were willing to share what they had learned, to encourage, pray and laugh together, even though we often came from different traditions and perspectives. While clearly valuing faith in Jesus and Christian values and worldview, there has been has also been a willingness to look outward, to consider how we might best engage creatively with the world. 

I’ve appreciated the opportunity to blog regularly on CWD blogsite, to connect and network, to discuss and group together for common goals (like the NaNo Camp July cabins & FB groups or the Glimpses of Light anthology). I like that CWD is primarily a support group for Australian and New Zealand Christians who are writers or associated with writing (as publishers, editors, illustrators). There are opportunities to promote or share one’s triumphs, but CWD isn’t primarily a promotional group where everyone is trying to sell their wares and no one is listening. 

All these are qualities that I hope we will be able to preserve and cultivate in the future.



CWD has more than doubled in size since I joined as a rookie member in 2012. It is perhaps inevitable with a large group, that some members are much more active than others. Maybe this is because not everyone is on FB as often, or maybe because some of you are shy and reticent to participate.  One thing I’ve found in life is that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it.

Let me encourage to be active in the group — join in on discussions, congratulate or pray for each other, read the CWD blogs (they’re good value) and comment on them, join the blog team, get behind the anthology, support each other’s works through sharing links, writing (fair and honest) reviews.  Another writer’s success doesn’t make ours less likely. By supporting each other, we become stronger together.

While I have a few small ideas percolating away, my main aim is to continue what has been started. I appreciate your prayers and support and would like to thank you all for being such a vibrant, encouraging and inspiring group.

Jeanette (Jenny) O’Hagan

7 January 2015

Jeanette O’Hagan enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of LightAnother Time Another Place and Like a Girl.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites  JennysThread.com or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .

Monday, January 4, 2016

Changes and Gratitude by Nola Passmore




The beginning of each new year is a time to reflect and a time for change.  I’d like to do both of those things in this post, but let me start by announcing a change.  I’ve been the coordinator of Christian Writers Downunder for almost two years and it’s been a wonderful experience.  However, I’ve felt for awhile that God was directing me to take up some other opportunities and that it might be time to hand over the leadership.  I’m thrilled to announce that Jeanette O’Hagan (aka Jenny) has agreed to take over the reins.

Jenny will be familiar to you already, as she is the one who posts the blog links up every Monday and Thursday and has also been the driving force behind our first CWD anthology ‘Glimpses of Light’.  It’s been a blessing having her on the committee and I know she’ll bring a lot of energy, compassion, faith, wisdom and creativity to the coordinator role. One of the main tasks Jenny will be taking over is the coordination of the blog calendar.  I’d like to thank her for the tremendous help she’s been behind the scenes.  I’ve benefitted greatly from her expertise and friendship and I know she’ll do a brilliant job as coordinator.

I’d also like to thank our other committee member Anusha Atukorala for her incredible support and wisdom during the last couple of years.  Although CWD runs fairly smoothly, there has been the odd occasion where tricky issues were bubbling behind the scenes.  Anusha is a tremendous encourager and prayer warrior and I value all of the input she’s given.  One of her new tasks will be to introduce the blog posts on the Facebook page on Mondays and Thursdays.




I’ll still be on the committee, but we’ll be looking at adding another two or three people to the team. We’d appreciate your prayers as we think and pray about that.

I’ve learned such a lot in the last two years and it’s been a privilege to play a small part in facilitating a group involving such a wonderful bunch of writers, editors, illustrators, publishers and readers.

One of the things we did during my watch was to develop a mission statement for the group.  We decided that the main aims of the group were to:

  • Glorify God in our writing
  • Develop our God-given creative gifts
  • Encourage other Christian writers and those in related fields

You can read a longer post about those aims here.

I think we’ve come a long way in working towards those goals.  I am continually blown away by the faith, talent, creativity and encouragement evident in the group.  We don’t always agree with each other, but I love the way we are able to discuss issues in a loving and respectful manner.  Each member is an important part of the whole and I appreciate all of your contributions. I’ve also valued the way in which we’ve been able to develop stronger links with the other Christian writers groups, particularly Omega Writers, Australasian Christian Writers and FaithWriters.  Thank you to the leaders of all of those groups for your enthusiasm and support.  We are truly stronger together than apart and I appreciate all of you so much.

I’d like to thank our previous coordinator Lee Franklin for entrusting me with the leadership and showing me the ropes. We wouldn’t have CWD if not for her initial vision.  I’d also like to thank our amazing bloggers.  I’ve really appreciated your willingness to step up and share your hearts and knowledge with us.  If you have some free time during the coming weeks, why not scroll back through some of the posts? We’ve had over 500 posts since CWD started in 2011, covering a wide variety of topics.  I am truly blessed by all of the amazing insights that have been shared and I look forward to that continuing for many years to come.

So what will I be doing?  I’ll be spending more time in face-to-face mentoring and workshopping opportunities, particularly with the Toowoomba branch of Omega Writers which I co-lead with Adele Jones.  I’ll also be putting more time into the freelance writing and editing business I run with my husband Tim (The Write Flourish) and I’ll be endeavouring to finish my novel.  I’m also currently enrolled in the Queensland Writers’ Centre online course ‘Year of the Edit’, so that will keep me busy.




I’m sure you’ll join me in welcoming Jenny as the new coordinator.  I know that the CWD ship will be in very good hands under her leadership.  You’ll hear more about her hopes and dreams for the group in Thursday’s blog post.


In concluding this season for me, I’d like to give the biggest vote of thanks to God.  He has guided us every step of the way and any good that has flowed from the group has come through Him.  There have been times when I felt I didn’t have the energy or ability to continue as the coordinator, but His strength and calm assurance has always been there.  Let’s keep Him first in our writing journeys and see what amazing things he has in store for us.
____ 

Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 150 short pieces published, including devotions, true stories, magazine articles, academic papers, poetry and short fiction.  She loves sharing what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her writing tips blog at their website:  http://www.thewriteflourish.com.au