Thursday, 31 January 2019
Monday, 28 January 2019
|Image courtesy of fantasista/FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
Motivation is the lynch pin. If we’re motivated by God’s promptings and our love for our Lord, then any gains that ensue, whether personal or generalized to the community, are pleasing to our Father. I highly suspect that He is further pleased if those gains are in our spiritual development.
If, however, we’re motivated by personal gain – the almighty dollar, status and/or power, for instance – God sees our heart and grieves. God has never been pleased with avarice.
Prosperity gospels take this avarice one step further, however, by using prayer and scripture as a kind of magic. Words can be manipulated into ‘spells’ with relative ease.
And hence my uneasy relationship with money.
In more recent years, though, I’ve noted that not all devoted and genuine Christians hover as closely to the poverty line as I have always done. At first, I thought God had simply chosen to bless them in this manner more than He has blessed me…and I’ve been okay with that. The wind blows where it will, after all. (Alright, let me be perfectly frank, there have been a few times when I’ve pitched headlong into a full-blown pity-party, at least for a few minutes, but I do try awfully hard to snap out of it.)
After a fortuitous conversation with a beautiful Christian woman several weeks ago, it dawned on me that I’ve been missing something vitally important all these years. And it all boils down to a deeper understanding of scripture, specifically, the Parable of the Talents.
The Parable of the Talents, as many of you will recall, appears twice in the synoptic gospels of the New Testament. (Matthew 25:14-30 and Luke 19:12-27)
In both Matthew and Luke, a master puts three of his servants in charge of his finances while he travels further afield. To each he gives a specific amount without any instruction about how to handle it.
‘To one he gave five talents, to another two talents, and to another, one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17 So also, the one with two talents gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.’ Matthew 25
(Note: As it happens, a ‘talent’ is worth a great deal of money in today’s terms – according to my research it’s equal to approximately 1.5million US dollars!)
When the master returns home he asks each of his servants what they’ve done with the money he entrusted to them. It’s clear he expected some profit from the servants’ stewardship and he compensates them accordingly. To the two servants who doubled their profits, he gives rich reward but to the servant who played it safe and made no attempt to grow his riches, he meters out a negative compensation.
|Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/gameanna|
As with all the parables, Jesus is attempting to teach us a spiritual truth here and it’s definitely not just about money. Everything we have comes from God, be it dollars in the bank, our homes and possessions, our talent for writing (or painting, or woodwork or cooking – the list is endless), or our spiritual gifts. And our Master is waiting patiently for us to make the most of what we have; not to merely hoard it and look after it, but to use it wisely and watch it grow. For HIM.
|Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/nalinratphi|
Many of you are already accomplished writers and continue to be an ever-present source of inspiration and encouragement. Your words have fed my soul. I’ve been given much, it seems, and it’s about time I gave God some return on His investment.
Hmmm…it’s been a sobering realization and also a precious one. (And while I think of it, it’s probably also a good time to refinance that mortgage of mine!)
Friday, 25 January 2019
We interrupt our normal programming to make an important announcement.
Life is full of change and this year there will be some changes in the Christian Downunder Admin team, with some new faces and the absence of some old ones.
Thank you for your contributions
Anusha Atukorala has faithfully ministered as part of the CWD Admin team for five years now. She was a welcoming face when I joined the team and a great support when three years ago Nola handed me the baton as coordinator.
You may have noticed that Anusha faithfully posts the links to the CWD blog each Monday and Thursday without fail and with an encouraging comment. When required, she also chooses and posts our blasts from the past, revisiting great posts that are still relevant and inspirational.
Behind the scenes, I've been grateful of Anusha's wisdom and encouragement and prayers. I'm inspired by her unwavering gratitude and faith in God and her gentle and kind spirit despite the challenges she often faces.
Over the last few months, Anusha has felt the Spirit calling her out from CWD Admin after five years – and she is looking forward to being an active member of CWD without the admin role.
"God has been wooing me to more intimacy with Him over the past 20 years. It has been a wonderful, thrilling, challenging, blessed journey with Him. He continues to call me to a deeper walk with Him, to love Him more, to love and encourage others and to shine His love and light in a dark world. I am being intentional in not having a busy life – instead doing only what God asks me to do. A huge challenge in this world where being busy seems to be equated to success especially for writers in the 21st century world.
I have discovered that LOVE is what life is all about. Not always easy to practice – but how thrilling love of God who woos us and lavishes His love on us. I'm grateful to God for CWD and the gifted, amazing writers in it for their support and encouragement in my writing journey."
Ansuha will still be with us, blogging and as an active and valuable member of CWD.
Anusha has 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. She blogs fortnightly at her website Dancing in the Rain sharing God-thoughts and life lessons. Her first book Enjoying the Journey contains 75 God stories that will bring you closer to your Creator. Her second book Dancing in the Rain was released in March 2018 and brings you hope and comfort for life’s tough seasons. She lives in Adelaide with her husband Shan and their son Asela.
I'm also grateful for Paula Vince who will be continuing on in her role on the CWD Admin team. Paula has faithfully reviewed applications of those wanting to join CWD and welcoming new members. She, like Anusha, has been ready to step in the breach when needed, I've appreciated her gentleness and wisdom when decisions have been required.
Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, you may like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review.
Some new faces
As sad as Paula and I are to see Anusha leave the Admin team, we are excited to welcome a new member - Mazzy Adams.
Who is Mazzy Adams?
Mazzy (Cathie) has an Assoc. Degree in Arts (Creative Writing) from Tabor Adelaide, S.A. and a Cert IV Christian Ministry from World Changers College of Ministry. She lives in Queensland with her beloved husband, and manages their education consultancy business.
Mazzy has been a regular contributor to the Christian Writers Downunder blog for some years. She’s also a member of Omega Writers, Queensland Writers Centre and various Australian online writers' groups. She is most especially delighted, humbled and proud to be one of Toowoomba’s famous (or infamous) Quirky Quills.
Website: www.mazzyadams.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to the team, Mazzy
The CWD Admin are also considering adding one or two more people to the admin team over the next few months.
Christian Writers Downunder has now over a thousand members, and we appreciate your contributions and the way you interact and encourage each other. Our thanks also go to Nola Passmore, who ably lead CWD from 2014-2015, and the original founder of CWD, Lee Franklin.
As Nola said in her 2016 post:
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.
The Admin team are also grateful to the blog team who take time out of full lives and busy schedules to write blogs to encourage and inspire us. And for all the CWD members who take time to respond to fellow CWDers questions, encourage when encouragement is needed, or to participate in Share Wednesday, and to share, recommend, and support fellow writers, editors or illustrators.
Please pause a moment to thank Anusha and welcome Mazzy to the CWD Admin team.
Jeanette O'Hagan, coordinator of Christian Writers Downunder
She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children and Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.
Her latest release, Stone of the Sea (the third novella) is now available. .
You can also find her on:
Facebook |Jeanette O'Hagan Writes | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest
Monday, 21 January 2019
Most creative people like to set goals at the start of a new year. Full of enthusiasm, we plan out what we hope to achieve in the next twelve months. But those are short-term goals. Our writing career will hopefully last much longer than the coming year. How many of us make long term goals? I've been thinking about longer-term goals lately. The journey went something like this.
I turned 40 last year. As you can imagine, it was a time of reflection. I looked back and realised it had been 20 years since I had turned 20. What would my writing career look like, I wondered, if I had taken it more seriously in my twenties. It’s not that I didn’t write during that time, but I could have taken it more seriously. Improved my craft more, and more actively pursued publication. Life was simpler back then. I didn’t have a wife and kids to support. I didn’t have a mortgage to worry about. I had all the time in the world and no responsibilities.
True, the self-publishing revolution hadn’t happened back when I was in my twenties so I wouldn’t have had the tools that are available to me today, but I would have been ready to take advantage of them on day one. Heck, I could have even become one of those early Kindle millionaires. You never know.
Don’t get me wrong. 40 is hardly the twilight years, but I began to feel like I’d wasted my opportunity. That I was too far over the hill to really make it like so many others had.
A little looking back is healthy, but I was getting into regret territory. I had to pull myself out of that. Instead, I started to think about the next 20 years. That would make me 60. My eyes lit up. In another 20 years I’d only be 60. I wouldn’t exactly be ready for my deathbed at that point. What if I were to retire early, at 60, and transition to full-time writing at that point. It’d be more of a career change, than a retirement.
If that was the plan, it meant I had 20 years to work toward a self-sustaining writing career. Two decades. Suddenly that seemed achievable. It’s not like I was putting off becoming a successful author until I was 60. To write full time by that point, I would already have needed to become quite successful.
So that’s now my long-term goal. I want to be able to quit the day job and write full time by the time I reach 60 years of age. I have two decades to achieve it. (And if I take that goal seriously, and work hard toward it, I may achieve it sooner.)
This is all well and good, but long-term goals are just dreams unless we break them down into steps. What must we do practically in order to achieve the larger goal? This is where the short-term goals come in. This is where we make it practical. But now, we are designing our short-term goals with a bigger picture in mind.
Examples of short-term goals to achieve a big dream like mine above could be writing every day (or 6 days a week), setting aside money for editing costs and cover design, or publishing a book by a certain date.
And there's one other important aspect that is easy for forget.
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
We can make all these plans ourselves, but if we don't involve God, or consider how those goals fit in with his will and desires, we can be working at cross-purposes with him.
What about you?
Okay, it's your turn. Have you set any goals for 2019? Do you have a long-term goal that you're working towards?
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.
Find him at adamdavidcollings.com or sign up to his email list for a short story.
Thursday, 17 January 2019
|Writing memoir: I love to read it. But sometimes memoir writers worry about if their story is 'important' enough.|
I love reading other people’s stories. Memoir and biography are probably my favourite types of books to read, and documentaries about people’s lives are the best thing on TV.
I also firmly believe that everyone has a story to tell.
Some of the writers in my ‘Write Your Memoir’ course worry about this statement. They want to write their story, but they also don’t believe that anyone would want to read it. They think ‘it’s not important enough’ or ‘it’s not significant’ or, and this is something I hear frequently, ‘my life has just been normal’.
Of course, we all know of memoirs that tell incredible stories of bravery, suffering or triumph – the ones that are a publisher’s dream. Those stories can be moving, inspiring and challenging. But I believe that even the small, ordinary stories are worth telling.
There are two keys when you’re telling a ‘small’ story.
First: know what a story is.
It’s more than just an anecdote, or a series of events. It’s more than an emotion or that time when we fell in love, or the trip we took.
Any and all stories contain certain, distinctive elements which work together, in the right order, and in the right proportion, to produce a sense of suspense, build up, completion and satisfaction in the hearer or the reader. (And no, I didn’t go find a definition of ‘story’ from Google. That’s my own work.)
The beginning of the story must include an obstacle or problem, and a point of decision. The main character of the story must choose to act, rather than be a passive recipient of circumstances. There must be a significant low point, and a regathering of strength, and some kind of showdown. Finally, we must see change in the main character. The events of the story have affected them internally as well as externally.
The second key is this: understand how your story has changed you.
The transformation of the main character is an important part of a memoir. It’s what makes a ‘small’ story – even a ‘trivial’ story – worth reading. When you are able to write with honesty and vulnerability: “this changed me”, you are on the road to writing a story which might help to change others.
Of course, to be able to write this requires self-knowledge and awareness, the willingness to be open, and the vulnerability of putting yourself out there. But if you are courageous enough to put these things on the page, your readers will truly appreciate it.
Perhaps you’ve been wondering if your story is important enough to write? If so, I’d encourage you to think in two ways: firstly, what exactly is my story, and secondly, how have these events changed me?
Let me say it again: your story doesn’t have to be a long screed of drug use, abuse or suffering. It could be as simple as the book my young daughter brought home from the library, about a dog. ‘Marley and Me’, a story about the adventures of a troublesome puppy and what its owner learned, seems like a trivial little tale on one hand. On the other hand, my daughter loved it. And she’ll take the lessons from it and absorb them into her own life.
Cecily Paterson’s online Write Your Memoir course helps first time authors with the confidence and skills they need to tell their story. Her own memoir, Love Tears & Autism won third place in the 2012 Australian Christian Book of the Year Awards.
You can find her at:
Monday, 14 January 2019
Recycle – Use again or convert waste into reusable material.*
- If you’ve had short pieces published (e.g. short fiction, magazine articles, devotions, or poetry), remember that some magazines and anthologies will accept reprints. Some outlets may even pay you for the privilege, though paying markets do seem to be dwindling. Just be sure to check the guidelines of the new publication to ensure they accept reprints. No editor or publisher wants to print what they think is a new piece, only to find that it’s already appeared elsewhere.
- Unless you’ve signed away exclusive rights of your work, you can always reprint or republish it yourself. For example, Jeanette O’Hagan included some of her previously published short stories, along with new ones, in her anthology Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories. Don’t always think in terms of complete books either. I once saw a brochure in a waiting room that included a poem on each of its six sides. What a great way to get your work into the hands of others. You could do the same with short stories, short biographical sketches, an article, or devotions.
- Don’t throw away all of that research you’ve done for your novel or nonfiction book. Use it again for other writing projects. For example, I remember reading about a woman who had to research Victorian fashions for her historical novel. She later wrote an article on how women’s fashions had changed over the years, and sold it to a women’s magazine. What have you researched that might be of interest to others?
Upcycle – Reuse discarded objects or material in such a way as to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.*
- Most writers have a pile of discarded writing, whether it’s a half-finished novel, scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, a story that was rejected by a magazine editor, or a poem where you just couldn’t find the right rhyme for ‘bazooka’. If we’re honest, some of those things should probably stay in the bin. However, you’ll also find some gems that just need a little polishing before you send them out into the world.
- If you can’t get the whole piece to work, maybe you could do something with just a segment. For example, you could turn quotes, snippets of poetry, or paragraphs of prose into bookmarks, greeting cards, handmade gift books, fridge magnets, coffee mugs, T-shirts, cross-stitch wall hangings, and roller-derby merchandise. Well maybe not the last one, but there’s really no limit to the kinds of applications you could try.
- Even if you’ve had something published, you could still make it better. For example, one of my published stories had to keep to a strict 1500-word limit for a themed anthology. In hindsight, my idea was too big for that word limit and I didn’t really have enough space to set up my twist properly. I could have done wonders with an extra 500 words, but there’s no reason why I can’t still rewrite it and republish it myself.
- Maybe one of your ideas could be expanded even further into a novella or a book. Raymond Chandler’s best-selling detective novel The Big Sleep drew largely on some of his previously published short stories. He merged some characters to create new ones, expanded the descriptions of people and places, and came up with a more detailed and complicated plot. It was later made into a classic film starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Bigger isn’t always better, but it’s worth experimenting to see if any of your ideas have wings that could let them fly in a bigger universe.
Repurpose – Adapt for use in a different purpose.*
- Rewrite a short story as a skit. This may work especially well for stories with a lot of dialogue.
- Write a play or screenplay based on your novel. This would also work for some types of nonfiction, such as biographies.
- Turn a poem into a devotional.
- Turn a series of blog posts into teaching materials.
- If you’ve given a talk or workshop, you could turn the information into blog posts, articles, or teaching materials.
- If you’ve written something on a social issue, you could use it as the basis for a podcast.
- Incorporate a short piece into a work of art or craft (e.g. painting, collage, handmade book, wall hanging) and give as gifts.
- If you want to re-use something you’ve already had published, just check that you own the rights. If you’re thinking about short pieces (e.g. devotions, poetry, articles, short fiction), copyright usually reverts to the author after it has been published. However, some publishers have an embargo for a certain period of time during which you can’t submit the piece elsewhere (e.g. three months or a year). After that, the rights revert back to you. If you’ve signed away exclusive rights, the publisher holds the copyright and you have to seek permission if you want to reprint it elsewhere. If you’ve had a book traditionally published, check your contract and/or talk to your publisher to see what you’re allowed to do. Of course if you’ve self-published, it’s not a problem.
- As already noted, always check with the editor or publisher before sending them a previously published piece. Not all outlets accept reprints. If you adapted something from a previously published work, it’s also a good idea to be up-front about how much has changed. If you’re submitting work to a competition, be sure to read the guidelines carefully. They usually only accept original works, which also means they’re not expecting you to just revamp a previous piece.
- While there are many benefits of getting further mileage out of your writing, don’t just keep doing variations on a theme. That can be boring for you and the reader. However, with a little thought, it’s not hard to think of some new ways to give life to previous works.