Thursday, September 29, 2016

What is in Your Hand

Sometimes we feel desperate for inspiration and try all kinds of techniques and courses to get creativity flowing again. While this approach can be successful to a degree, I’ve realised more and more that I must use what is in my hand.

In Exodus 4:2 the Lord commanded Moses to throw his staff on the ground whereupon it turned into a snake. In other parts of the Bible we read that Moses stretched out his staff to part the Red Sea and struck a rock with it to bring forth water. The staff would have been something he used in shepherding flocks – an everyday occurrence, but God used it for a variety of unexpected purposes.

As writers, it’s easy to confine ourselves to our favourite genre or topic and leave the rest for someone else. I’ve felt challenged to step out of my comfort zone this year and use what is in my hand. At heart, I’m a fiction writer and love weaving stories and creating characters. However, I decided to spend some time on non-fiction using my life experiences.

My first project was to write an e-book about packing wisely for an overseas trip. As a frequent flyer, this was easy to write and it’s been selling consistently. I’ve actually decided to make this a series and am working on book two which is about air travel and book three about choosing accommodation.

My second project is almost ready for release and this is a picture book about Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (RTS) the rare genetic condition my sister was born with. With the help of a group of Kickstarter supporters and a gifted but affordable illustrator from Fiverr, the book has become a reality. Picture books were never on my agenda but I have intimate knowledge of RTS and discovered there wasn’t anything like it on the market. I used what was in my hand – what I had that could make a difference to others out there.

My question to you is what do you have in your hand? What skills, experience and passions do you have that you could turn into a book? The answer might surprise you.






Monday, September 26, 2016

STAY IN BED


Ever wanted to achieve great things while doing nothing for a day? Well, I hope you took your opportunity yesterday!
If you didn’t realise, September 25th was Australia’s ‘Stay in Bed Day’—and not just for any reason. ‘Stay in Bed Day’ is an initiative to raise awareness and fundraise for mitochondrial disease (mito), which is a disease that impacts the mitochondria i.e. powerhouses of our cells. You can find out more on the Australian Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (AMDF) website.
You might be wondering why I’m telling you this. (If you’ve read my books, you’ll already know. :-) ) You see, Blaine Colton, the main protagonist of my young adult trilogy is a mito survivor. And Activate, the final novel in this series, is being released November 1 by Rhiza Press! Blaine credits his survival of this otherwise incurable genetic disorder, to revolutionary gene therapy.

Sounds great, right? But things are seldom as simple as they first appear.
Firstly, my stories are fiction. Although these technical thrillers are based on a scientific framework, extrapolating proposed approaches that could offer a potential treatment for mito sufferers, they are still extensions of reality. This means despite significant advances in the understanding of this disease in the real world, a cure for serious cases, like Blaine’s, is a) invented and b) not likely to be available anytime soon.
Secondly, just like the ethical tangles that thread through my novels, there can be as equally challenging ethical boundaries to navigate for achieving real life cures through appropriate processes that uphold the value of human life at all stages. This takes some pretty big (and long term) thinking to navigate, especially where genetic manipulations are involved, and mito is a more prevalent disease than you might expect.


‘One in 200 people may carry the genetic changes that can cause mito, with one in 5000 people suffering from a life-threatening form, making it the second most commonly diagnosed, serious genetic disease after cystic fibrosis.’ (Stay In Bed Day, 2016)
This is where ‘Stay in Bed Day’ is working hard by putting heads on pillows to raise money for further research. If you missed your chance to sleep on it (ha!) it’s never too late to donate, which we’ve done through the launches for both Integrate and Replicate. You could also get on board for next year. And don’t forget you’ll need a good book to read while you’re snoozing for the cause. There are some topical ones I can recommend. ;-)



Adele Jones is an award winning Queensland author. She writes young adult and historical novels, poems, inspirational non-fiction and fictional short works, along with juggling family responsibilities and a ‘real job’ in the field of science. Her first YA novel Integrate was awarded the 2013 CALEB Prize for unpublished manuscript. Her writing explores issues of social justice, humanity, faith, natural beauty and meaning in life’s journey, and as a speaker she seeks present a practical and encouraging message by drawing on these themes. For more visit www.adelejonesauthor.com or contact@adelejonesauthor.com 



Thursday, September 22, 2016

Never underestimate ...

by Mazzy Adams

As part of my Creative Writing studies, I completed numerous ‘Quick Writing’ exercises based on various verbal prompts and images. Here’s one of those prompts and my response to it:


Every day of the week, between 7:00 am and 8:00 am, Vince and Jack arrived at the park bench with their newspapers.  Every day they grunted a greeting, sat, and read. Every day, between 8:00 am and 9:00 am, as one finished reading his newspaper, he would fold it, tuck it under his arm, stand, mumble a farewell and leave.

Sometimes Jack left first. Sometimes Vince left first.

Jack didn’t know Vince was an inventor whose ingenious creations languished for want of entrepreneurial investment. Vince didn’t know Jack was a lonely millionaire who intended to bequeath his millions to an animal shelter because he had no family and no friends.

Vince could have become like a brother to Jack. Jack could have enabled millions of people to benefit from Vince’s inventions.

Could have, should have, would have … didn’t.

All because of the one thing they did share … a failure to communicate.

Never underestimate the value of a good discussion.

I sat down intending to write this blog on a totally unrelated topic (to do with ‘the individuality of your voice’) when the memory of this particular writing exercise sat down beside me, tapped my heart, then rapped me over the head like a rolled up newspaper and suggested I use it instead.

So, I suspect that, for whatever reason, someone out there needs another kind of prompt: my gentle encouragement to connect.

Perhaps there is someone you’ve wanted to chat to for ages and, for whatever reason, you haven’t managed it yet. Why wait? Pick up the phone and call them. Better still, invite them to join you for coffee, or a walk in the park.

Perhaps you need encouragement to connect with like-minded people, or, say, to attend a writers’ conference. That can be a great place for good discussions. (It just so happens that the Omega Writers Conference is on in Sydney in October. Have you booked yet?)

Perhaps there is a letter you’ve been meaning to send. One that will break the ice so your writing/publishing/networking boat moves forward? Today might be the right day to put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard and make that connection. (Preaching to myself here!)

Perhaps you need encouragement to connect with someone who can help you in some other way. Honestly, I find it so difficult to ask for help. I’ve been more thoroughly inculcated with the message that it is ‘more blessed to give than to receive’ than the one that says ‘ask and you will receive’. Perhaps that underscored the problem I created for Jack and Vince in a moment of quick writing madness back in 2012.

Back then, I needed encouragement to find and join a writing critique group. Back then, someone I had never met in person invited me to come along and join in regular discussions about writing. And back then … I did it. I went to meet five strangers … and received five wonderful friends. (Thanks, Nola, for initiating that connection.) I’ll never underestimate the value of creative, fun-filled shenanigans again!

There is no doubt in my mind that discussing the pros and cons of my writing with other writers has helped me hone my craft. Doing the same for them has … helped me hone my craft! (‘More blessed to give than receive’ still rings true.) There is immense value in the mutual support offered by groups like Christian Writers Downunder. Being connected really does help.
  
I think I’ll finish this post with a ‘homework’ exercise our writing critique group tackled in April, 2014, one that I’d filed beside my story of Vince and Jack. Our prompt was, ‘What does your writing group mean to you?’ Perhaps you could share your response to that question as a comment below. Here’s what I wrote:

Quirky Quills is
larger than individual idiosyncrasies;
the sum of corporate wisdom;
the strength of forged metal alloys;
the flexibility of seasoned allies;

a cohesive, healing ecclesia;
a hug for brain and heart;
a canvas prepared for inspiration;
brushes dipped in holy ink;

a catalyst for action;
a treasure-trove of friendship;
a creative, vocal ensemble with
an infinite, lyrical repertoire;

and the heartbeat of my social redemption.


So ... why not try to make that new connection? (And if you happen to connect with a millionaire called Jack who has money to bequeath struggling authors, please, by all means, feel free to introduce us.)


Mazzy Adams is an Australian wife, mother, grandmother, creative and academic writing tutor and published author with a passion for words, pictures and the positive potential in people. 
Website: www.mazzyadams.com 
Email: maz@mazzyadams.com



Monday, September 19, 2016

Showing up

Yesterday, I was at a market with a friend. We were sharing a stand to sell our books. Both of us write and publish middle grade novels, and we've done a few markets in recent months. Some have been fantastic and we've sold a lot of books. Others, like yesterday, we barely sold enough to cover the stand. It can be a bit up and down when it comes to markets.

There are people who tell us that we are crazy for doing markets. We don't make a lot of money for the hours we spent there. I figure that I made more sales by being at the market than if I hadn't been there. It's also a great opportunity for kids to see our books, often they are the ones who pause by our table, browse the books, and get their parents to buy a book or two for them.

At the market yesterday, we had a great discussion when it was quiet about books - writing, publishing, and promotion, and how to be successful in getting our books out there. The conclusion we came to is showing up has a lot to do with success as an author!

My table at yesterday's market

It's the same with any aspect of writing and publishing. Instead of sitting there with words swirling in my I head, I spent time at the computer writing down those words, then I put myself out there by publishing them.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has people saying to them "I've been thinking about writing a book," or "I'll write a book when I have time," or any number of similar comments. I like to point out to those complaining about lack of time that I'm a single parent with two kids with chronic medical conditions, and I have a day job, and I'm still able to write. In essence, I'm showing up.

Showing up is also putting your hand up to do a guest blog post, submit a story to an anthology, agree to speak for a group or run a workshop, attend a conference or workshop,or anything you need to do to work on your craft, get your name out there, and get your writing done.

I know this is something I am constantly working on. There are times when I think I'm kidding myself in my dreams, but I know that if I just put words on the page, if I show up, I will get there.




Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne with her two sons and pet blue tongue lizard. During the day she works as business manager in the family business.

Follow her writing journey at www.melissawrites.com.au and www.melissagijsbers.com

Monday, September 12, 2016

An Immersion Excursion by Nola Passmore



A few weeks ago, I was immersed.  Totally submerged.  Out of my depth.  Drowning in a sea of visceral responses.  Diving for a fresh metaphor.  And loving it!

The occasion was a writing immersion course run by the inimitable Margie Lawson (pronounced Marj-ie, as in Marge Simpson only without the blue hair).  Over three full days and two half days, we lapped up fabulous instruction, applied lessons to our manuscripts, discussed examples, and worked one-on-one with Margie to make our words dance off the page.

So who is Margie Lawson?  She's a former psychologist who now helps authors use psychological techniques and other insights to empower their writing.  Through her own analysis of hundreds of top-selling novels, she's developed a deep-editing system to help you analyse your own manuscript and lift the prose from mediocre to stellar.  Many of her immersion graduates have secured publishing contracts and some have even gone on to write New York Times bestsellers.




As the name 'immersion' suggests, it was pretty intense.  The full days went from 8:30 am until 8:30 or 9:00 at night and we also discussed work over lunch and dinner.  But there was a lot of variety, laughter, and M & M's to keep us going.  (Thanks to hosts Sheila and Shane for the never-ending supply of snacks!)

The preparation was also intense.  In order to do the immersion class, we had to first complete three of Margie's 'lecture packets' that are available online: Empowering Characters' Emotions; Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues; and Deep Editing, Rhetorical Devices and More.  The 700 or so pages of lecture notes are filled with tools and exercises to help you take your writing to the next level.  If you feel daunted at that volume of lecture notes, don't be.  They're easy to read, packed with examples from best-selling novels, and laced with Margie's sense of humour and encouragement.  She cheers you along and helps you believe that you can write a page-turner.


I wanted to do the immersion course because I knew there were areas of my writing that needed improvement.  I can write clearly and accurately, but readers rarely say, 'Oh you must read so-and-so's new novel.  It's really clear and doesn't have any typos.' Readers want an engaging plot, well-developed characters, and prose that leaps off the page.  I still have a lot of work to do, but the immersion class gave me strategies to help me write fresher and empower my manuscript with body language, rhetorical devices and subtext.

The more polished and original our writing, the greater chance we'll have of landing an agent or publisher.  However, that's not the whole story.  If we're called to write and have a God-given ability or talent in that area, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of that gift.  Why would we want to send a mediocre manuscript out into the world?  We owe it to ourselves and our readers to produce the best work we can.

Margie is based in Colorado, but will be back in Australia in February/March to run more immersion classes in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.  Hopefully there will also be a one-day workshop in Toowoomba.  I'll post a message when the dates are finalised.  In the meantime, why not download one of the lecture packets from Margie's website and try it out for yourself?  I'd suggest starting with 'Empowering Characters' Emotions'.

Writing a bestseller isn't guaranteed. However, if you have a teachable spirit and are prepared to work hard to hone your craft, your writing will shimmy and shine in ways you never thought possible.


Nola Passmore's short fiction, poetry, true stories, articles and devotions have been published in magazines, journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas.  She and her husband Tim operate a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. She is currently polishing and revising her debut novel.  Based on Margie's advice, she's still working out how to 'Save Essie!'

www.thewriteflourish.com.au
https://www.facebook.com/TheWriteFlourish


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Omega Writers Book Fair (Brisbane)

Last Saturday, on the northside of Brisbane, over fifty enthusiastic people came together to celebrate books, writing, authors and stories at the first Omega Writers Book Fair. 

Rochelle Manners & Lynne Stringer


We had 16 stalls and over 18 writers and authors - including YA authors Lynne Stringer and Adele Jones; Fantasy authors Lisbeth Klein, Raelene Purtill and Jeanette O'Hagan; middle-grade author Jenny Woolsey; children's author Paul Clark; romance author Andrea Grigg; historical fiction from Frank Taylor, writers of biographies and memoirs such as David Bennett (also theology), Ruth Bonetti, Hazel Barker, Nina Wiesenekker; self-help (on hearing loss) by Pamela Heemskerk; inspirational stories by Graham Bee, Kaye Hollings and Gwen Akers; and devotions from Ray Akers. Rochelle Manners from Wombat Books/Rhiza Press was there with a wide range of fiction and non-fiction for all ages through Books in Stock; and also Nola Passmore from the Write Flourish (editing), poetry and short stories. There were a number of new releases -Lynne's Once Confronted, Adele's Activate, Hazel's Heaven Tempers the Wind, Ruth's Burn My Letters - as well as titles shortlisted in the 2016 Caleb Prize - for instance Too Pretty by Andrea Grigg.

Ruth Bonetti reads from new release Burn My Letters


We also had book teasers and readings - poetry, excerpts from novels, flash fiction and short stories - that brought laughter, tears and enthusiasm to the listeners.

The two workshops - The Power of Story by Paul Clark and The Writing Life by Raelene Purtill - inspired those who participated. 

And then there were the door prizes and the end of day prize draws - with a couple of fantastic book packs - as well as the show bags and a delicious lunch. (You can see more photos of the day here.)

First Prize - Fantastic Book Pack 


Altogether, it was a great day of fun, friendship and enjoyment of books and faith. Many went away with a pile of wonderful books and anticipation of hours of reading pleasure.

It was all made possible by the authors, publishers and editors who came and shared, our workshop presenters, Omega Writers (including President Simon Kennedy and Judy Rogers), and a group of volunteers and offsiders - as well as book lovers and readers who attended. Throughout the planning and on the day itself, we were grateful for God's provision and power, and for those who supported the day in prayer.

Omega President Simon Kennedy with Jeanette O'Hagan

While most of those present came from Brisbane, the Gold Coast, even Gympie - we were thrilled to have Lisbeth and Graham Klein, who are currently travelling around Australia. 

There were a number of people who would  have loved to be with us but were unable either due to distance or to prior commitments or other restraints.

We are thinking of doing it all again next year - and the Toowoomba-rites and inspired to run a Book Fair in Toowoomba.

Overall, it was a good start and well worth the effort of putting it together. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see Omega Writer Book Fairs across Australia - celebrating the writing of Christians downunder :)

Jeanette O'Hagan

Monday, September 5, 2016

Omega Conference Update

by Raewyn Elsegood

YOUR WORDS CAN CHANGE THE WORLD



This years Omega Writers Conference wants to empower you to believe ‘Your Words Can Change the World’. We all have a unique voice and story to be told.

My daughter’s anxiety driven screams began a journey that would lead my husband and I to learn that our words could change our daughter’s world.  Who would have guessed that being vulnerable with our journey with her would lead to my words changing Australian girls' worlds through being invited to write empowerment programs for Netball Australia’s Confident Girl program.

When God calls us to do something, we may laugh, procrastinate and doubt while He patiently waits confident in His choice. I wonder what word you might need to believe in His choice? 

You can choose to be:
Resilient, careful, generous, curious, clear, fair, thoughtful, confident, respectful, Happy, strong, caring, honest, serious, peaceful, calm, patient, free, creative, practical, forgiving, flexible, brave, grateful, satisfied, reliable, interested, committed, consistent, helpful, exuberant, decisive, passionate, polite, myself.

Many years ago I choose to be RESILIENT and now God has given me the opportunity to build resilience in others.  It only takes one word to change our own worlds.  Just imagine what your 40,000 plus can do for others.

The Omega conference has had an outstanding response to registrations. Our 25 presenters are looking forward to sharing their empowering WORDS with you on The Craft of Writing, Publishing, Marketing, Editing, Creativity, Inspiration and multiple genres. 

The conference gives you a great opportunity to network with others, make appointments with publishers and editors, join a writers group in your area, and possibly even find a mentor. So why not identify your goal in attending and come with a plan. We want everyone to leave with something they came for, a new idea, new connections, excitement for writing or just your next WORD.

You can find further details on our Facebook page ‘Omega Writers Conference, Australia’ or website www.omegawriter.org/conference-2016/

Omega Writers Conference will be held in Sydney
Friday 28 - Sunday 30 October 2016
Edmund Rice Retreat and Conference Centre
1315 Mulgoa Road - Mulgoa

Raewyn Elsegood

Cross-post with Australasian Christian Writers 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

How Do We Answer?

A question most fiction writers are asked: Where do the ideas of your stories come from?

I am still scratching my head about the answer to that.
All I can offer is that it's something like a seed being planted into fertile ground. (And no one can dispute we writers have fertile imaginations.) It's bound to shoot and wiggle its way up until we see the possibilities of a story. That's when it needs watering.

So what is the watering process for you? Do you get to work and begin laying out your ideas until you see the story emerging fresh, original and tempting?

Or do you take an idea ( or many ideas) you've read before and rewrite the plot with a twist - as agents love to encourage us to add in our book proposals?

Or is it something you've been struggling with in your own life and you place this into you main character's personality? This naturally introduces a spiritual dimension. And may help you discover along the way in figuring out your own life's answers.


The possibility exists that all of the above are true. Now is there something I've missed? I am curious about where we writers differ and where we are similar. As a pantser myself, I wish I could see the end from the beginning. But it seems I need to concentrate on understanding my characters and let them make the right choices ... or wrong as the case may be. Actually wrong choices do make them more human. Then it's interesting to find out how they'll extricate themselves from the consequences of their stupid decisions!

Sigh. All the above is a glimmer, but doesn't prove how we come up with our stories. I'd be glad if you could add some ideas of your own to enlighten me. OR do you have a good answer when posed with the question of where your stories originate?


Rita Stella Galieh is a co-presenter on a Christian radio program broadcast Australia-wide. She was a contributor to several US anthologies published by Adams Media. An attendee at several conferences, she has judged for ACFW, contributes to several other writers’ organizations, blogs weekly, and participates daily on Facebook. After several years study at the Sydney National Art School, she joined the family ceramics business before attending Emmaus Bible College. Each year, besides Australia, she travels with her violinist husband throughout Thailand, with permission from the Buddhist Government, to explain the true meaning of Christmas. 

This past year she has enjoyed presenting the amusing Etiquette of the Victorian Era to ladies and seniors fellowships, dinners, coffee evenings and similar functions. Her website is www.ritastellapress.com