Thursday, May 18, 2017

Making rough places smooth...together. by Jo Wanmer

I sat on my back veranda in the sun. (I love Brisbane at this time of year; any time of year really!) My friends sipped their coffee. All was good in my world until the sun fell on my legs like a spotlight. Shock! Horror! Only thirty centimetres of leg showed below my three quarter length pants but...

You see the forest on my legs (I’d convinced myself no one would ever see) was highlighted, the blond hair so long it looked as though it needed brushing not shaving! I excused myself hoping they hadn’t noticed, and rushed to do the only possible thing. I changed to jeans that covered me to my toes.

The incident, traumatic as it was, reminded me of Paul the apostle, saying some parts of the body that are unpresentable should be treated with special honour. In other words, we cover up the ugly. I’m comforted to find at least my response is biblical.

Last weekend I attended the Omega Writers Retreat in Toowoomba. (My apologies to any attendees who may have been subjected to a glimpse of unbrushed leg hair!) We gathered as a body of Christian writers. Yes, a body. As Paul says, we are many diverse parts, but one body. There were fingers pounding keyboards, eyes reading, ears attentive, hands cooking. Wisdom was taught, expertise shared, counsel given and received. Together we made a whole, and even those of us who took the word ‘retreat’ literally and forgot the word ‘writing’, were treated with honour and love.

At CWD we too, are a family. Just this week there was a plea on Facebook for someone to read a MS. Another asked what a MS was. There is interaction and reaching out in love. And there can be also be lively debate and different points of view. But we treat each other with honour and respect, remaining in unity within our diversity. I love that.

But what happens when a writer displays an ugly side, submits or publishes an unshaved manuscript, or condemns another through a review or a cutting comment? How does our body of writers cover these episodes with special modesty as Paul says in 1 Cor 12:23?

I am forever thankful that my book was submitted to several mentors and editors before a publisher laid eyes on it. They covered its ugliness with gentle words... ‘If you’re willing to work hard I think I can teach you how to write.’  ‘It will need a lot of editing.’ ‘Show the story. Don’t tell us about it.’ Others taught seminars, led workshops, read and critiqued, edited and covered my shameful spelling.  Yes the Christian writing body worked very hard to stop me embarrassing myself.

Over the years in CWD I’ve watched as writers patiently imparted their knowledge again and again to ones who are still learning. They have graciously but firmly led them away from the danger of rogue publishers, pointed them to necessity of good editing and offered to read and make suggestions.  If necessary they will go off line to bring correction or rebuke. Why do they do this? Collectively we are known as Australasian Christian Writers. What one writer publishes effects our reputation as a whole. This is why we host conferences, retreats, chapters etc. and I believe we are seeing the results in the level of writing expertise being displayed.

The hardest thing to cover is pride, quickly followed by stupidity! I was working on a novel in NaNoWriMo several years ago and a member of CWD was also writing. She shared every step on Facebook about her efforts and reached the goal of 50,000 words before the deadline, 30th November. Allowing only one night to edit, she posted the story as an ebook the next day, under a different name. I was thankful it wasn’t written in Christian genre for I was appalled at its unprofessionalism, mistakes and even storyline. But, with no editing work, how could it have been any other way?

Writing is a process and when that production uses others’ talents within the body of Christian writers, we all stand proud. And then, we, with unshamed faces, celebrate together.


I did get Steve’s chainsaw and cut down the forest on my legs. Likewise, thanks to the Christian writing community, I have pages and pages of advice from friends, publishers and editors about how to smooth out my current MS. One day soon I’ll get the courage to take the axe to some of my beloved words so the storyline is more easily seen. 



Currently Jo Wanmer is enjoying the Queensland sunshine and wind in her hair. When she's not touring with Steve or minding wonderful grandchildren, she's communicating hope. She is a pastor at a small family church at Burpengary called Access and loves speaking anywhere people want to hear of the love of God. 
Her book ‘Though the Bud be Bruised’ was published in 2012 and there are two more novels in the pipeline. Her passion is to bring the love, healing and hope of Jesus to men and women who have walked through life’s valleys. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

12 comments:

  1. I've read plenty of blog posts on the pain of cutting and editing our manuscripts, but this is the first I've read using the analogy of shaving our legs!

    But you make a good point. Revision and editing isn't about destructive cutting. It's about making our manuscripts the best they can be.

    And it's also about encouraging each other in the journey, and doing our best to give our feedback in love - especially the critical feedback we need so that our work can be the best possible.

    Well said.

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    1. Thanks Iola. The writing body appreciates all you do to keep us all growing. Bless you.

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  2. Hi Jo,
    Thanks the for entertaining and thought provoking post. It's so true, that encouraging feedback you've mentioned is given in a spirit of generosity, which is great when each of us knows it can be reciprocated. And your analogy helps us to consider the writing of each of us as part of a larger body, which makes sense that we should help each other. I'm glad the recent retreat was such a great and productive time for you ladies.

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    1. And thanks for your generous help to so many n the body, Paula. Your books set a high standard for us to follow.

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  3. Thanks for the post, Jo. Great analogy - though I was probably as guilty as you in flashing leg hairs at the retreat (I find the older I get, the less inclined I am to worry about that particular fashion. Whoops.) I love what you say about CWD, ACW, Omegas, FW as being part of a community that supports and encourages - which includes constructive critiques and guidance. When we first start out we have little idea of what we don't know.

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    1. I know Jenny. It's a wonderful community, isn't it? Thanks for your active role in encouraging us to help each other in your Friday posts.

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  4. Thanks for this wonderful post, Jo. I love your analogy and your fabulous sense of humour. Oh those pesky leg forests! This has been a great reminder that yes, indeed we are a part of the larger 'whole'. I've been chasing the 'black dog' a fair bit this week, but after reading your post I feel refreshed. I was considering not attending the conference at Mulgoa this October, but now I am thinking 'Why not?' I am happy that you enjoyed the retreat ... always wishing that I could wriggle my nose and be where ever my little heart desires.

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    1. Hi Josephine. I'm glad my bit of light heartedness has sent that black dog running. The conference is always refreshing and encouraging. We do need to spur each other on.

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  5. LOL Jo - Thank goodness I didn't catch a glimpse of that leggy forest at the retreat. My mind was already fit to overflowing and that probably would have sent me over the side of the mountain ;)

    It is so good to see the body of writers working so well together. At the retreat, I saw some commenting on each other's manuscripts, others giving advice about how to break into certain types of writing, people praying or giving counsel, people giving technical advice, and even our caterer helping someone with directions home.

    Unlike the Olympics where there can only be one winner for each event, we can all be winners in writing if we help each other. Thanks for sharing. And thank goodness you got the chainsaw out!

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  6. I know. The body is wonderful when it works together. We even help each other kill loved ones and babies! (As only writers can.)

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    1. LOL - Yes the baby has been washed out to sea, but the manuscript's better for it :)

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  7. Great image Jo! And good points.

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