Friday, 28 June 2013

Passing that Baton on

It was a perfect autumn day. I sat there in my backyard relishing the blue skies as they smiled down on me. Golden sunshine danced around me like salsa dancers at their finest – bringing colour and joy into my world. A mad wind tore around my garden. All the plants and trees in my yard bowed to it in subservience.

More glad breezes rushed in suddenly. As they passed each tree, the tree in question performed a merry dance to its music. Faster and faster – shaking its leaves like a belly dancer in green, moving her body enchantingly and enticingly. The breeze passed to the next tree which took up its dance. And the next… and the next. I watched spell bound. Very intriguing – almost as if a message was being passed from tree to tree.

It reminded me of a baton being passed from tree to tree, from bush to bush from plant to plant. A baton handed to a tree which took up the dance before handing it to the next one. And so it went on. A fascinating sight.

Passing the baton. As I muse on the topic, a thought occurs to me. As writers, do we take the baton from our forerunners? Do we in turn pass a baton on? Do we continue something that was begun centuries ago – from hieroglyphics on walls to writing on animal skins. From ancient writing on papyrus to computer typing in the modern day.

Aren’t we blessed that we have so much modern paraphernalia to write on and write with? Being a writer who’s handwriting is a disgrace (sorry, but it’s true) – I can’t tell you how thankful I am that I live in an age when I am excused if I type letters rather than write them. At least people can read my letters that way. I’m blessed to use a word processor that can check my spelling at the click of a button. I’m grateful I can cut and paste and edit my documents freely because I use a computer to write my books and not paper and pen as in days gone by.

We who live in the 21st century have much to be grateful for, don’t we? We take the baton from writers who have gone before us. L.M.M. Montgomery is one I’d love to take the baton from. There are many more. Jeffrey Archer, Mary Stewart, Louisa M Alcott, Markus Zuzak, Richard Foster, Philip Yancy, C.S. Lewis, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, Dallas Willard are a few who spring to mind. Their writing has greatly impacted my life. I have been blessed to learn from them. Yes, I’d love to get the baton from each of them.

As writers, each of us is unique. And yet –our writing is the result of much reading and learning and accepting batons from numerous remarkable writers from the past. Best of all, we have a story to tell that has eternal consequences. We aren’t writing just to make a dent in the literary world. As Christian writers we are writing because of the flame God lit in our hearts when we became His.

We write because we can’t help but share the good news in whatever form we are called to - either implicitly or explicitly. We write because the love of God shed abroad in our hearts compels us to share the glad news of the Greatest Story ever told.

How’s your writing fire burning these days? If you are discouraged, disappointed, tired or in despair – do take a moment to look back and remember. Remember the baton that was given you by the writers of yore. Remember afresh the baton that was passed into your hand by the Word made flesh when He called you to your own Writing Journey.

May you and I be faithful to our call. May we pass that baton on, with joy, enthusiasm and with much excitement. One day we will see the results of all our writing endeavours and we might even be surprised. In the world’s eyes we may have not done much. But in the eyes of the Our Creator – if we have been faithful to our call, it is enough.

And so…. let me with deep joy, pass that baton on.

Anusha has always been fascinated by the English language and loves playing with words. She is thankful she can continue playing many decades since she first began. She is passionate about Jesus and the difference He has made in her life. She also loves to sing, to make friends, to read, to write, to walk and to admire the beauty of God's Creation. Do drop in at her website, Dancing in the Rain to say Hello.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Gifts A-plenty

To many days go by where my focus is on the doing and not the one who stands by me. Reading Ann Voskamps book, "One Thousand Gifts" challenged me to begin a list of thanksgiving to God. (Such a great book - thanks Ann (without an 'E').

Today I was cooking a quiche for lunch, and looking after grandchildren who were playing outside. I had onion and garlic sautéing, roast veggies ready to mix into the egg mixture and excited to surprise my husband and daughter with a yummy lunch.

The sound of happy laughter took me outside to check on the precious gift of my two youngest grandchildren. Once outside I stood watching them and felt overwhelmed by Gods goodness in the gift of their precious faces.

But this wasn't the gift I noted down in my journal ...

A gentle breeze blew through my full line of washing and I thanked God for the break in the rain to get my washing dry. Moving to the line I began to remove and fold the towels as I listened to the sounds of birds and children mixing together.

But this wasn't the gift I noted down in my journal ...


As I raced inside I felt overwhelmed by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. You may say I just remembered, which is true, but how did I remember?

So many times in the past I've ignored the prompting ...

- prompting to call in and visit someone, ignored, only to find out later that they were sad
- prompting to pick up something from the supermarket when shopping, only to get home to find we need it.
- prompting to save my onions!!!!! Yummiest quiche every

When I sit down to write I invite my co-author to prompt my mind and often as I look back I marvel at His hand upon me.

Have you finished a manuscript and actually read it later and think, how on earth did I write that? I feel that way about my books.

If we write for Him, He is in it with us!

Journal entry - Thank-you that every minute of every day you are with me!!!

Tracey Hoffmann – Author of suspense mystery novels.
Lives in Gold Coast, Australia
Books published:
Valley of Chaya

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Lure of Stained Glass

A few weekends ago my husband and I went to the Scarecrow Festival at Milton. All the shops have scarecrows on display outside them according to the theme for the year. The time we went last the theme was fairy tales. This time it was horror. As well as the scarecrows, footpaths and parks are filled with markets, stalls and entertainers dancing and singing, a petting zoo and jumping castle for kids and lots of other things.

We were interested to see a church with its doors open inviting people in for a time of quiet, to pray or just to take a look around. We went in and up near the altar were some traditional stained glass windows. Anyone who knows me knows I love leadlight and stained glass. I love the richness of colours and the way light shines through making them look like jewels.  Here is more info about the historic church for anyone interested.

Then we turned around and I was immediately taken by the leadlight window at the back of the church.

From a resident of the area we found out it had only been installed about five years ago. While the other traditional stained glass windows were beautiful, it was the newer window that mesmerised me. It showed the dove symbolising the Holy Spirit and the light shining down from the dove onto the Great Southern Land of Australia, right to the spot of Milton.

It made me think of how the ways of doing things has changed over the years. The style of this newer stained glass window was very different to the traditional stained glass windows, while still retaining the richness of the older craft. Both were beautiful but probably appealed to different people and in different ways. I saw one lady look at the newer window and dismiss it before turning back to the older windows, whereas my husband and I were riveted by the newer window. I thought it’s a bit like the change in publishing these days from traditional publishing to the innovative E publishing.  

Some people prefer to stick with the tried and true while others eagerly embrace the new initiative. I admit to being one who has resited this change for a while but recently all that changed. In an effort to bring Streets on a Map to the attention of more readers, those who like to read on Kindle and perhaps those who do not have the money to shell out for a paperback, Streets on
a Map is now published as an E Book.

Like anything new, I am still finding my way around the whole E book revolution but at least I have made a start. And I’m enjoying hearing from people who have read the opening chapter and then proceeded to buy it. Of course the more we open ourselves up to new readers, the more positive feedback, word of mouth and reviews I hope it will engender. Or of course it could also be that thorny kind mentioned in a recent post. But either way my novel is now readily available to more people. I hope and pray it will reach them at a deeper level, causing them to think about where they stand with God and the choices they make in their lives.

Friday, 21 June 2013


It's a challenge. A continual challenge. Often when I think I'm completely out of ideas, at he last moment I'll see something on TV, or somebody will make a comment and it get's my mind into gear.

You see, after many years of producing a fifteen minute program, we've just begun a new one five minute we've named VANTAGE POINT. It begins in the secular and gives the Bible answer to issues that are on people's minds. I guess it's something like 'casting your bread on the waters' because only the Lord knows who will be listening at a time when they might need to hear a message that has the potential to change their life. Or perhaps encourage someone to take a stand, or explain something from God's point of view.

Even so, it would be wonderful if anyone of you in our writing fraternity would share an idea that's on your mind that could make a great five minute script. Oh, I know we're all busy, writing, editing, marketing, and so on, but something you have thought about, or even more exciting...a rough SCRIPT would be an extraordinary gift to help get the message out. We've heartily embraced this commitment, and how wonderful if you feel led to have a share in this great outreach.

At present we are heard on scores of FM stations throughout Australia. So, like the man in Macedonia in Paul's vision, I can also say 'Won't you come over (via email) & help us?'

Rita Galieh is also a novelist with two books published and two now being looked at by Even Before Publishing an Australian publisher.

If you'd like to contact Rita about this, her email is:  ritagal  (at)  optusnet  (dot) com  (dot) au

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Taking that leap of faith

I remember the day our older daughter began pre-school. I can see her now, eyes wide as she walked in that gate, so excited to be fulfilling at last that dream of hers to get inside those grounds and that building that looked so enticing. I am remembering it because that’s how I feel right now. You see, I’ve just finished editing my next novel and am on the brink of beginning another writing project—and oh, how enticing the prospects ahead are!

Perhaps you’re about to embark on writing your first full length work or perhaps you’ve been in this place before. Whichever it is, I have found the feeling is the same. It’s that mind-blowing moment when your brain almost explodes with possibilities, when this or that story races through your head, when one delicious scenario after another pops into your brain in full technicolour—or perhaps even 3D with surround sound or whatever it is these days! It’s that exciting stage when your characters start to take shape and you begin to fall in love with them, treating them as real people—which of course any author knows they are! It’s that instant when you sense yourself almost bodily being drawn into that vortex of plot and character development and point of view and setting until you begin to lose touch with reality—at least for a few delicious moments.

All that presupposes the particular project at hand is a novel. Yet I found the same thing with my non-fiction book Soul Friend, released last year. I can still feel the excitement as those chapters unfolded and I saw how I could move ahead with the whole idea. I began to envisage how I could perhaps encourage others to find a soul friend or spiritual mentor of their own or to be that person for someone else. I felt almost overwhelmed with the thought that God could possibly use my own journey with my spiritual mentor to speak into someone else’s life. What a joy and privilege!

And yet ... and yet it can all be just a wee bit daunting too at this point. It’s now that I begin to wonder what I am even thinking of, committing myself yet again to months and months—perhaps even years—of hard slog to bring that next book to fruition! With fiction writing, it’s a wonderful experience to be able to breathe life into those characters that, prior to this, have existed only in my imagination. But there’s a lot of hard work involved too. On some days, the words will come only with great difficulty and I will grope for how to move my characters from Point A to Point B. On other days, whether writing fiction or non-fiction, my fingers will hardly be able to keep up with my brain as they fly across the keyboard, spilling those words onto the screen.

All up, this writing journey is a big leap of faith, isn’t it? As Christian authors, we may know it’s what God wants us to do, but it still requires that leap from us. Yet when we take that leap, we know we will land in the hands of our awesome God who has promised to be with us through it all.

And that makes all the difference, don’t you think?

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 and editor, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of five published novels – Heléna, All the Days of My Life, Laura, Jenna and Heléna’s Legacy—and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Her sixth novel, The Inheritance, will be released in September. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit or

Monday, 17 June 2013

On Writing Things We Did Not Intend

"There is a mysterious, spiritual component to writing. We may start writing our words but then find that our words are being written for us. We may find we are in the midst of an encounter with God, writing things we did not intend, discovering things we did not see.”
McHugh, A. (2009) Introverts in the Church. Downers Grove, IL : InterVarsity
This quote resonates with me because so often I have found myself writing things I never intended. I know this is true for many authors. I recall hearing an author talking about writing his novel and how he was upset one day when one of his characters unexpectedly died!

I find this sentiment to be true not just with my creative writing pursuits but even as I’m doing my daily devotions.

I use the SOAP journaling approach in my devotions. This method was original developed by Wayne Cordeiro and discussed in his book, The Divine Mentor. In this approach you write a couple of paragraphs about a Bible verse that has spoken to you during your time of reading.

One of the things Cordeiro suggests is that each day you give your writing a title which summaries the main point. I have discovered that I need to leave writing my title until the end. Since what I thought was going to be my main point at the start, is often not my main point by the time I’ve finished.

It is a surprise to me that God regularly steers my thoughts and leads me to write unexpectedly. Over the years I have used different methods for my daily devotions but the reason I continue with this approach is for this very reason: I never know what God is going to say to me until I have written it down!


Susan Barnes likes to write inspirational articles, book reviews, and reflections on Bible passages and regularly blogs at:

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Criticism - A Thorny Gift

Though it’s many decades ago, I still remember my Grade 6 & 7 teacher, Mr Steubins. He was an English man in the heart of Africa teaching Zambian nationals and a few white expatriate kids the three R’s and the glories of England and Englishmen in Africa. Despite this Eurocentric outlook, he inspired in me a lasting love for history, a love for English language and introduced me to the musical wonders of Gilbert and Sullivan. Most of all he always had time for a chat at the end of the school day. He also taught me the power of words to hurt and heal, though perhaps inadvertently. I recall the day I sat up straight in my chair, chest swelled with pride, while he read out and then extolled the beauty of a descriptive sentence I had written. Several weeks later, I wanted to sink through the floor, when he ridiculed (without naming me, the hapless author) the rather laboriously polite and tentative letter I had written as part of a class exercise. Looking back, I can see that both evaluations were fair though one I received gladly with both hands, while the other I took like poison.

Growing up I hated even the hint of criticism. It made me crumple and spiral inwards in shame, guilt and protective anger. I still don’t like it very much – especially when it comes from those closest to me or it seems unjustified or it is perhaps too close to a tender point. Criticise me too much and I clam up, withdraw, run away or - just maybe - fight back with a latent Irish temper. We all deal with criticism differently. For me it has always seemed like a scorching fire that withers and burns me away into vapour.

One day, some six or so years later (now back in Australia), I read a small book that opened up a new world of thought for me. Criticism, it said, can be your friend. Later Dr John Savage of LEAD ministries said much the same, “Let your critic be your coach.”  Now, as a writer, I can really appreciate the wisdom of those words. Yes, I learn and improve by practice, by reading the greats and by reading books or articles on the craft and art of writing. And when others wax lyrical over my works (as has happened from time to time), I am uplifted and encouraged. Yet, it has often been the honest and sometimes brutal search light of criticism that has forced me to take important new steps. As a writer, I need to know what I do well and what needs to improve. I value my critique partners, I value their honesty. I also value their kindness and diplomacy.

When first faced with a forceful critique I still often rear up in protective defence. Maybe smiling on the outside, I’m a riot of protest on the inside. “That’s ridiculous. She just doesn’t get it. He doesn’t know what he is talking about. She is too harsh, too rigid.” And then, as the adrenalin begins to cool, I can start to spiral down. “Why maybe I’m kidding myself. I’ll never make it. This is too hard. Maybe I should just give up. Maybe God’s not with me in this.” It’s only after a time of reflection, as once again I give this dream – to write – back to my Lord that I begin to find my balance. Failure cannot vaporise me. Making mistakes is not the same as a permanent burial. I remind myself that my worth is based on God’s love and acceptance, not on my skill and success as a writer – or in any other area of my life (as wife, mother, friend, colleague, professional etc).

As I quieten my spirit I find I can receive this thorny gift. I can scrutinise it and trim it to fit. I don’t have to take everything everyone says on board. Not all criticism is valid. Not all of it is relevant. But there is often a kernel of truth– big or small – beneath the thorns. Suddenly, the idea that there are areas in which my writing can grow and change becomes exciting. I begin to see new possibilities, new options. Out of the dying comes life. (Now where have I heard that before?)

There is an art to giving criticism as well as receiving it. Perhaps criticism is akin to pruning. A judicious pruning shapes the rose bush, strengthening it and encouraging it to flower in abundance. A too vicious and careless pruning might stunt the bush and even kill it. And every gardener knows the bush needs fertilising and watering too. One of my fellow students in my current course suggests using a critique sandwich –with the negative in the middle surrounded by positive and encouraging remarks in front and behind. As a wise person once said:

The right word at the right time
    is like a custom-made piece of jewelry,
And a wise friend’s timely reprimand
    is like a gold ring slipped on your finger.”
Proverbs 25:11-12 The Message

How do you deal with criticism? Are you overly sensitive or thick skinned and dismissive? Or do you receive it like an edgy but faithful friend? How do you give it? Do you shrink from hurting another’s feelings or do you relish hitting hard without mercy? Or maybe you give a word in season, speaking the truth in love (Ephes 4:15). I know that in this, as in so many other areas of my life, I'm still learning.

Jeanette O’Hagan
Jeanette lives in Brisbane, has practiced medicine, taught theology, spoken at various groups & is currently caring for her children, studying writing at Swinburne & writing her Akrad series.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Hobby or Career?

Is writing a hobby or a career? Maybe it should be both.

I'm a writer, I have been all my life. Many of my early childhood memories involve making up stories and writing them down. I remember the moment in my classroom when I realised for the first time, that I could write real words, and string them together into a meaningful sentence. I remember sitting with my parents in restaurants, waiting for the food to arrive (it always takes hours when you’re a kid). I would write stories in an exercise book. I'm sure that a love of writing is something that God wired into me.

Writing was definitely a hobby for me as a child. When I was in grade six I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up - a computer programmer. What a nerd! I had great fun writing that year, but I didn't choose author as my career path. It just never occurred to me that writing could be a job. Writing was what you did for fun. It wasn't work! If I’d seen things differently then I wonder if my life might have taken a different path - who knows?

I went on to study computing at university and achieved my career goal. Through all of this I never lost my love of writing. During my uni days I wrote lots of Star Trek fan fiction (who didn't?). As a young adult in my first job I turned my attention to novels. I was sure I could do it. My parents were always supportive. The idea of trying to get something published entered my mind and never really left.

As I've grown older I've come to realise something important. To succeed with this writing game, it has to be more than just a hobby. I have to treat it like a career - regardless of whether writing is my ‘day job’ or not. I have to develop a professional attitude to my writing. Here are a few ways that I am learning to do this.

1) Learn the Writing Craft.

As with any creative endeavour, you have to learn the craft. There are so many resources out there to help with this. I remember when I first came to understand the rules behind point-of-view - it was very eye-opening. I learned about story structure - this was a huge revelation to me that totally changed the way I view the creation of a novel. Learning about scene structure was the next logical step. At the end of this article I share a couple of books and free resources that helped me.

2) Stick at it

Completing a novel-length manuscript is a big job. Getting to the end requires dedication. Not just a little “writing when you feel like it”. Many people say you must write every day. Some even suggest word limit goals that every writer should aim for if they want to be taken seriously. We are all different and have unique life situations, so I think we should find a schedule that works for our situation. My current schedule is to spend an hour or two writing fiction (without distraction) every Saturday morning. I'm sticking to this quite well. I started a manuscript at the beginning of the year and I aim to have the first draft completed by year’s end. So far I'm ahead of schedule. Credit must go to my kids who are pretty good at leaving Daddy alone for his special writing time (amazing since they’re usually such a handful). This may not be an appropriate schedule later on, but as an unpublished writer, I have the luxury of setting my own deadlines right now.

3) Research

As an amateur you have the freedom to make up everything. It doesn't matter if you get a fact wrong because you're just writing for fun right? While fiction (particularly sci-fi and fantasy) does give us some room for inventing things, there are times when you just need to do the hard yards and research something. While writing my novel I have learned about a fascinating range of subjects such as astronomy and galactic coordinate systems, particle weapons, people trafficking, Tasmanian aboriginal culture, early nineteenth century history, self-defence for women and bush tucker. Obviously I'm no expert on any of these things, but I've certainly expanded my mind somewhat.

4) The ‘E Word’

As a hobbyist, I have tended to finish a first draft, look lovingly at it and say "I'm finished". Now, what will I write next?” If I hope to become an author I know this isn't good enough. Editing is an important part of producing a book of publishable quality. This is a skill I'm going to have to develop. Of course there is only so much self-editing you can do. Just like with software development, eventually you have to hand the product on to someone else with a fresh perspective who can find the bugs that you will never see. I’ll need to get my work professionally edited.

5) Surround yourself with Role Models

I think it's helpful to learn from those further along the journey. I've had the privilege of meeting Mary Hawkins a couple of times, and she has been very supportive. Hanging out with everyone here at Christian Writers Downunder has also been fantastic. The community is very welcoming of a newbie like me. This brings to mind the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1.

So that’s my journey so far. I'm sure there are still more lessons for me to learn. In all of this, there is one thing I don’t want to lose - the passion that drove me to write as a hobby in the first place. Taking a story from idea to a publishable manuscript seems to me to require a huge amount of dedication, and love is a much greater motivator than duty (that’s a line from my novel)

So what about you? What ideas would you suggest to an aspiring author such as myself to help adopt the professional attitude?

Resources that have helped me:

Adam CollingsAdam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction. He is actively working toward becoming a published author, and is currently working on a space opera. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife Linda and two monsters (oops I mean children). Adam works as a software developer for a consulting engineering company. You can find Adam on-line at or his Google+ Profile

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

To Toil, Or Not To Toil: That Is The Question.

I was ready to upload an article here this morning. I had poured hours into what was 600 words ready to go – or was it? Reading again I wondered what on earth was in my coffee that day! Oh dear, why did I leave it to the last minute to recheck it? I know I was busy – right?

This is a jumbling mess - what do I do now? I’ll have to scrap it and start again. Maybe the Lord wants me to write something else? Hey, that happened to my pastor this week and what he said was great!”

“Striving again Kayleen? You don’t have time to create a whole new article. Do you really want to be doing this when you have so much to do already?  Should you have had that coffee break this morning - now how are you going to fit the day in? Blah,blah, blah!” 

“STOP!” “Whose voice am I to listen to anyway?” “Not one of doubt or guilt that’s for sure!”

Heavy Laden: My interpretation of Matthew 11: 28-30
"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

On some days the ideas seem to write themselves, whilst on other days, I think my mind is too busy to focus on the keyboard. Writing takes considered time and then there is rewriting - a necessary part of the process. I am discovering that an over-busy life can sabotage creative endeavours such as writing. Busyness can interrupt the flow, inviting rushed work and shortcuts, or even worse: an overdose of procrastination that can kill an assignment all together. I nearly didn’t upload anything today but I persisted.

I never feel creativity is active toil even when I am reworking, but in some life situations (lately) toiling seems to be central and unconducive to creativity. If I am too anxious about the challenges going on around me it shuts down my creative side and literally blocks productivity creating feelings suffocating oppression, helplessness and unworthiness but today I have good news.

This morning I had a coffee with a very wise friend and found myself inadvertently sharing my bemusement. She discerned something of incredible value, “Do you know what the real biblical meaning of evil is?” she said. I thought it meant malicious intent, and generally associated it with an attack from an enemy, but I was wrong. 

“Evil” or “wicked” is almost always translated asponêros (poneros). This means “oppressed by toil,” “burdened,” and “worthless.”  Of things, it means “toilsome,” “painful,” and “grievous.” In a moral sense, “worthless,” “base,” and “cowardly.” “Evil” in the sense of malicious, very seldom used is kakia and the term used for “corrupt” or “rotten,” another uncommon term is sapros.

Historically, writing was never been a fluid talent of mine but I believe it is God inspired, directed, and an anointed passion in my life so I don’t really stress over it. I know it is a developing expression, and technically in need of growth,  but something God wants to use and will develop more and more over time. Demands on my time elsewhere are more of a puzzle to me; overwhelming at times and can feel incredibly oppressive.

I find myself toiling in particular challenges with our two youngest boys, heath issues and various financial and time demands that seems beyond our resources or perceived strength. Unintentionally striving provokes a sense of inadequacy. When I can’t meet the demands on me personally I find myself wondering, “Am I enough?” Does this sound like the description of evil above to you? 

What my friend shared today spoke volumes to me. While I am still figuring out what to illuminate and what to keep on my agenda I must guard against the deception of busyness and seek a healthier lifestyle to be effective in the kingdom. Stress is a weapon of the devil and doesn’t belong in our lives. Jesus asked God to deliver us from evil[i] and says his yolk is easy and burden is light[ii]. I have to acknowledge that if I am toiling in this way and it is interfering with my creativity that I have something God needs to show me – bondage to loose. I am confident that if I am to have the time to pursue a creative path like writing that I am to do so with balance and not to toil.

In this season of my life I thank God for the gift that is writing because through it, (like these words today) I can explore new revelation in addition to creative imagination in story. As long as I keep looking to “the Spirit to guide me into all truth[iii]” I will gradually unearth the answers, overcoming obstacles and embrace balance and surely my writing will follow me to a place of harmony.

[i] Matthew 6:13
[ii] Matthew 11:30
[iii] John 16:13

Kayleen West is a children's book Author and Illustrator from Victoria. 
Her new picture book Adoptive Father can be found at
Her portfolio can be seen at: 

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Richest Lady In Town

The Richest Lady In Town

A couple of weeks ago our family moved into a brand new home we’ve been building over the last year. Inside it is a library with many books dating back to my early childhood.

My library began with Golden Books purchased by my mother at the supermarket each week for twenty-five cents. (I think the price is correct. Often our three or four year old memories aren’t too accurate.) From there, I graduated to various picture books. On my ninth birthday I received a box filled with hard cover Readers Digest classics for children. I was in heaven.

Robinson Crusoe; Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island and Robin Hood fired my imagination. Our family didn’t have much money and gifts were often very practical or cheap, but books were always purchased when possible.

Sometimes my mother would foist books upon me and tell me I should read them. When it came to adolescence I didn’t get a talk, I got a book. The book was actually very good at explaining the physical changes and some of the emotional changes I was going through. I realise now that my mother struggled to communicate much of what she wanted to tell me, so she bought books.

The years passed and my collection grew as I kept favourite books from school, uni or church.
My first Bible sits on my shelf, pages falling out, cover askew and filled with notes and under linings marking the path of a spiritual journey with many ups and downs.

When I had children I had the rule that they could not ask for anything at the shops, especially if they said, ‘I want.’ My reply was, ‘I want, doesn’t get.’

However, I told them they could pick whatever fruit or vegetable they liked-even if it was expensive. If we were in a bookstore I told them they could choose a book if they wanted to. (We spent a lot of time in second hand bookstores!)

I also got library cards for every member of the family and, each week, we would head to the library and bring home bags of books.

Over the years, our financial situation became so I could go into a bookstore and buy any book I wanted. I knew I was the richest lady in town. I was a blessed woman.

I also have the honour of travelling to Cambodia and training teachers there. Books are held in such high regard there that, at first, the children in our program only saw the books in a glass case. The teacher was the only one allowed to handle them and read them to the children.

Part of my training with them is to teach that books need to be used. If they become dog-eared, then all the better. When I travel to Cambodia my suitcase is filled with books. I take a small overnight case for my clothes and personal items. The rest is filled with wonderful books I have purchased, or been given, so that 2000 children in Phnom Penh can be exposed to the wonderful world that books open up for them.

It gives me great delight to see children lying on the floor, poring over books and enjoying the pleasures of being able to read.

As I sit in this room dedicated to my books, the history is palpable around me. I’m reminded of my life journey from a child being read Golden Books on my father’s lap, through childhood adventures in myriad books to being an English teacher, a parent and now a writer with my own library space. I’m convinced God has brought me here.

I am the richest lady in town, not just because I own so many books and have a beautiful room in which to enjoy them, but because I’ve been on a journey with God. He has taught me, guided me and kept me through life. The books are signposts on that journey and markers of growth like rings on trees.

I am the Lord your God,
Who teaches you what is best for you,
Who directs you in the way you should go.
Isaiah 48:17
Elaine Fraser