Wednesday, 2 October 2013



This past year has been very challenging in many areas of life. My husband went from being the director of a car business to working as a full-time photographer; we built a new house, produced two new books, travelled extensively, my mother passed away and we faced numerous other challenges.

                   Sometimes life pushes us to our limits, and, often beyond.

Early this year, in the midst of immense change, I decided to apply for Summer School at Oxford University.

Christ Church Oxford

Three Reasons

I had three major reasons for going (besides always having the dream of being an Oxford Scholar).
One was to give my writing a much-needed boost, to push my own boundaries and move forward. My fiction writing was pedestrian and I knew I had to do something to make a significant leap.

Another reason was to see if I was capable of writing at a level recognised by one of the best universities in the world. If I were to continue to pursue fiction writing, I needed to know whether or not I could stand on the world stage and be good enough.

The third reason was to figure out whether I should write for the Christian market exclusively or the general market. I wanted to find a way to write that was true to my identity, the craft and God in a new way.

My expectations for these goals were to be met in a three-week crash course in fiction writing in ways I never expected. It was intense, stretching and amazing all wrapped up in a 700 year-old building in a town populated by students and professors.

The history and tradition of the university, along with the quality tutors made it an experience I will never forget.

Were My Goals Achieved?

I was pushed to write the beginning of two novels (in two genres) in two weeks. 3000 words were required in each, as well as completing other homework and attending classes. Writing in two genres at the same time was a challenge in itself.

Handing in those assignments was nerve wracking. Would I gain the affirmation I was looking for? Would I feel flattened if I was told my work wasn’t up to scratch? I was surrounded by brilliant people from all over the world, many of whom were in their twenties studying at universities. How would my work stack up?

Reading your work in class and getting critiqued constantly by the tutors and classmates stretched me too. It’s not like being in a critique group with people who know you and your work. This was one of the most helpful aspects of the course. It confronts you and makes you accountable so you produce your very best work.

My grades exceeded my expectations and I felt very proud and happy with my work. The feedback shows even more work to be done, however, being told your work is publishable gives you incredible affirmation that you are on the right track.

Faith and writing in an institution such as Oxford has a profound history. CS Lewis, one of my heroes, was one of a number of writers whose faith shone in their work. Today, secular post modernist writing is more likely to be endorsed and valued.

However, the idea of a post modernist Christian perspective in my writing was birthed in my thinking. I’m not sure where this will lead, however, I will pursue this thinking and ponder as I write.

The 'Adult Learners' Graduate

The Future

I think if we stay the same and never push ourselves beyond what we are capable of or stretch our thinking, we can become stale or stall progress in our writing skills.

I’m only beginning this fiction-writing journey and I am determined to keep pushing the boundaries. God hasn’t brought me this far to give up or become complacent. He’s called me to be the best I can with what he’s given me. 

The hard work is up to me. I rely on Him for the inspiration and strength to keep on pushing the boundaries.

2 Timothy 1:7 (ESV) for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

#If you'd like to read more you can see The Oxford Files at

Elaine Fraser


  1. How brave you are Elaine, and what a fantastic experience. I love Oxford, so that would be a wonderful bonus. I'm sure you learned heaps and no doubt it will show in your writing. Good on you for pushing the boundaries - and such a huge one at that.

  2. That sounds like quite an adventure. You obviously take your writing craft very seriously. Well done!

  3. Congratulations Elaine. What an amazing experience and a boost to your confidence. I read your Oxford we'll expect some fiction input with all the ambiance of Oxford.

  4. Hi Elaine,
    What an awesome place to explore those questions. You'll never forget it. I think you were very brave to do that, but wow, what an experience.

  5. Hi Elaine,
    What a lovely post. And what adventures you've had this year. You certainly have been pushing boundaries. It sounds like God has affirmed your call to you and given you a boost through all of it. Well done on those good grades too. I have no doubt He will continue to lead you along many challenging pathways leading to much fulfillment and blessing in your writing. Well done!

  6. Wow Elaine cool post!
    What an amazing opportunity, such a wonderful gift, and one that keeps giving as you write your way to your next novel!
    I popped over to 'beautiful books' the website style!
    Look forward to journeying along with you!
    x Di

  7. What a magnificent adventure, Elaine. Congratulations on your courage and the following success! Had you been afraid of failure, this would never have happened. Point taken...expanding my own boundaries is a constant challenge :)

  8. Wow, that sounds like an amazing experience Elaine. I did a weekend at Queensland Writers Centre earlier this year called Novelist's Boot Camp and I found that challenging enough. I'm not sure how I would have gone on a three-week course. What a great kick start for your fiction dream. Good on you for taking the plunge.

  9. Good on you, Elaine! What an adventure - of which I'm sure there will continue to be many. Thanks for sharing! :)

  10. I am SO happy for you, Elaine. It's hard to step out of our comfort zone, isn't it? You've managed to do it wonderfully well. Congratulations! :)

  11. Good on you, Elaine! I'm just a tad envious, even though I did something similar by doing an MA in creative writing at Adelaide University 13 years ago - and for the same reasons. It is a noble thing to 'push the envelope' in order to pursue excellence!