Today’s interview: Susan Barnes
Question 1: Tell us three things about who you are and where you come from.
1. I was born in England and migrated to Australia with my parents in 1964 as Ten Pound Poms
2. I’m a writer and short-term interim pastor. I’m working towards getting my first book published
3. I’ve always been an avid reader, but I didn’t grow up dreaming of being an author
Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?
I write to teach, disciple and encourage Christians. Mostly I write devotional thoughts based on Bible verses but I’ve also written book-length manuscripts. My manuscript, 10 Blessings of God You Won’t Want to Miss, recently won the CALEB unpublished non-fiction award. Currently, I’m working on a manuscript where each chapter is a Bible character. I particularly like to write about obscure characters or difficult stories. For example, Priscilla, Lydia, Jephthah, Jonathan, Nebuchadnezzar, Abraham sacrificing Isaac etc.
Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?
A lot of my devotions are online and I don’t get a lot of feedback. I know from the statistics that my website has always attracted more Americans than Australians, but I have no idea why. Perhaps because there are simply more of them. In the last 12 months, I’ve had a surprising increase in the number of hits from the Philippines.
Of course, I’d like everyone to read my blog/website! But realistically, I hope my work is found by those who need a word of encouragement, challenge or hope. Link to my website.
Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
Initially, my process for writing devotions was random but these days it’s highly structured. As part of my devotional times, I write about a verse that stands out to me. This means I have exercise books full of thoughts on Bible verses. When I want to write a series of devotions from a particular Bible book, I find the exercise book where I’ve written about that book of the Bible. At the moment, I’m writing devotions on Luke from notes I made in 2017.
When I’m writing a book-length manuscript, I look for a theme that I can break into ten chapters and as I approach each chapter, I look for one overall idea with three points.
My biggest challenge is not to rush. I’ve come to accept that it takes as long as it takes. If I rush the process the standard of my writing suffers. I loosely aim to write or edit 4,000 words a week for three weeks of the month. (The fourth week I write articles for my blog.) I hold this goal lightly and if it doesn’t happen, that’s okay.
It helps me to have a routine. Most mornings I write or prepare sermons (which is quite similar). In the afternoons, I shop, exercise, read, socialise, do housework etc. It’s been difficult to explain to my hairdresser why I don’t like appointments in the morning!
Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?
My favourite writing craft book is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, not because it was brilliantly insightful but because it was so funny, despite the bad language. However, she did also share some useful thoughts, particularly about not taking yourself too seriously as a writer. I have trouble finding craft books that address the genre I write which is Christian living, but not creative non-fiction. I enjoy reading about other authors’ processes. The first one I ever read was Stephen King’s On Writing which was helpful, again, despite the bad language.
Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?
I like to give a shout-out to some writers I met at the beginning of my connection with Christian Writers who are still part of CWD particularly, Jenny Glazebrook, Jo-Anne Berthelsen, Nola Passmore and Penny Reeve. These writers have inspired and encouraged me by their faithfulness and persistence over many years. In the early days of Omega Conferences, I remember their willingness to run workshops for a pittance, yet they always came fully prepared. They shared not only their talents but their love of words and their heart for God. They have been good role models for me.
Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2021? How will you achieve them?
I have been given a place in the 2021 Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing and Communication course run by Tabor College. So my goal for next year is to complete the course! I also want to keep writing three articles a week for my blog. Every other writing project is going to be put on hold.
I’m looking forward to doing this course and curiously, I only felt confident to undertake it because of receiving the CALEB Award this year. In about June I received feedback on my CALEB entry from the first-round judges, which was mostly positive and the few negatives were things I could easily fix. When I received the feedback from the second-round judges, there were again lots of positives and a few negatives. However, this time I wasn’t sure how to fix the negatives yet I also knew they were things that needed to be fixed. Still, there were enough positives to give me the confidence to pursue further study.
Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
Without my faith, I would have nothing to write about!
I started writing regularly when my husband became a pastor and he asked me to write a devotional article once a fortnight for the church newsletter. At the time, I thought it was a huge commitment and how would I ever find enough to write about? Three years later, we moved to a church that had a newsletter every week, but at least by then, I could recycle a few thoughts from the previous church.
Over the years, I’ve felt a growing sense of my writing becoming a ministry rather than just a hobby.
Susan Barnes likes to write devotional thoughts on Bible passages, book reviews and inspirational articles. She loves to challenge people's thinking and regularly posts on her blog/website. You can receive her free ebook, 10 Things My Children Taught Me About God when you sign up for her newsletter.