Thursday, August 10, 2017

A revealing experience

It is ten years since my first novel, Heléna, was published. During that time, I have spoken at all sorts of venues—churches, halls, Leagues’ Clubs, RSL Clubs, schools, private homes, even in the open air. I have addressed a variety of groups who meet for a variety of purposes—some simply to be together, some to learn more, some out of tradition, some to reach out and serve others. I thought I had exhausted most possibilities, but I was wrong. Last month, I was invited to speak at my first ever book club event—and what a unique, scary, humbling experience it was! After all, it’s not every day one walks into a room, knowing most present have read one’s latest book during the past month!

‘It must be like standing there naked,’ someone commented.


As I tried to banish that horrifying image from my mind, I realised how apt it was. If this group had chosen one of my novels instead, perhaps I would not have felt so exposed and vulnerable. After all, authors can hide in novels. And authors can refuse to take any blame for their characters’ beliefs and actions, because we know those characters have minds of their own. But no, this group had chosen my book, Becoming Me, which deals with my own struggles with self-doubt, insecurity and perfectionism. Nowhere to hide this time!
While we chatted over the yummy breakfast provided, someone asked me about a related issue. I could not remember, however, whether I had mentioned it in Becoming Me or in my earlier memoir, Soul Friend.
‘Oh, it’s definitely in Becoming Me,’ I was told. ‘It’s in Chapter Five!’
Whoa! Now I had read my own book again, in preparing for this event, because I have written many other things since it was published. But this person seemed to know it better than I did. Perhaps they had all gone through it with a fine toothcomb. Perhaps they were all about to tear me to shreds!
Eventually, everyone sat down and I was invited to talk for a few minutes about my life and why I wrote this particular book. Then the book club organiser began asking me some questions—and gradually others chimed in as well. As our time together unfolded, I began to relax and enjoy this unique, God-given opportunity. What a privilege to be there with such a lovely, sincere group of women to discuss my own book and the deep, related issues it brought to the surface for some of them! What a privilege to see the impact a book I had written and published with some trepidation had made in the lives of some at least! How humbling to realise God had used my words to convey greater self-understanding and reveal those often hidden hurdles that can be overcome in God’s strength!
I came away from my first book club event even more convinced of the power of our words to affect others in ways we could never imagine. It’s all so completely worth it, I said to myself, as I drove home across Sydney in a daze.
May you too know in your heart today the huge worth of your writing in God’s eyes and the power it can have to impact the lives of others.

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 the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and two non-fiction works, ‘Soul Friend’ and ‘Becoming Me’. 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.

14 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing such a precious experience Jo-Anne. How precious it is to be used by God to bless others.

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    1. Yes, I agree, Jo--a very humbling experience, but such a privilege!

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  2. Great post Jo-Anne and I loved the happy ending. :) I can just imagine your trepidation when you first walked into that group. But of course - the fact that they asked you to come meant that the news was good! How powerful it must be to see first hand in that manner how your writing has impacted others. Yes, it's all worth it. Of course. Thanks for sharing and for the encouragement you bring us through it.

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    1. I hope what I wrote has encouraged you and other authors, Anusha, rather than just a description of something I did. And yes, I thought too that if they invited me to come, they must have been reasonably happy with the book. But we don't always agree with everything someone has included in their book, so I was ready for anything! And one lady did ask a curly question relating to Psalm 139, which I quote a few times in my book, but we had a good discussion as a result.

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  3. Whoa, I can see where you'd feel totally out of your comfort zone, Jo. But being so (nakedly):) honest as you are in your writing, these women must have been really helped by your sharing of your struggles. I guess that would have been so rewarding for you, dear girl!

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    1. Yes, Rita, I came away feeling even more convinced that I was before that we need to be honest and have integrity in the things we write. And it truly was such a rewarding morning--such a privilege. One lady told me openly in the group that she read every word in the book and related to everything I wrote--and then she thanked me for writing the book. I nearly burst into tears on the spot!

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  4. Lovely to hear of this experience for you Jo-Anne. There are so many diverse and rewarding aspects of writing. May they continue for you for many years xx

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    1. Thanks, Carol. And yes, I agree re those diverse, rewarding aspects to our writing. We have such adventures, don't we?!

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  5. What a wonderful experience Jo-Anne!
    A great privilege to connect with people through writing and then in person.
    What a joy to know you have blessed a person who read and related to every word you wrote!
    God is good as He uses our faithfulness for His good purposes.

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    1. I totally agree, Di! More and more I am realising the huge privilege, as you say, of putting our words out there in print and just trusting God to speak to people through them.

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  6. Thanks for sharing that Jo. What a unique experience to hear from a whole group of people who had read your book. I'm sure they got a buzz out of it too. It must have been a challenge to lay yourself bare in the book, but it's reaping dividends far more than you could ever know. Looking forward to the next tell-all book :)

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    1. Thanks so much, Nola. But ... the next tell-all book???? Hmm, now that's a tempting thought! Perhaps it could be about ...? Or maybe about ...? Then again, maybe not. I could get into big trouble if I went with some of those wild thoughts of mine!

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    2. LOL Jo, that's what pseudonyms are for. Just remember to whisper the pseudonym to a couple of hundred of your closest friends so we don't miss out :)

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  7. Thanks Jo. Your post and your experience is so very encouraging. Your last sentence sent shivers through me. May it be so.

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