Thursday, 28 July 2016

Stop it!

by Charis Joy Jackson

I feel like I’ve written about this topic over and over again. Coming at it from different angles, hoping to inspire, hoping to encourage and provoke aspiring authors and professionals alike. But today, I’m going to just come straight out and say it.

Stop it!

I get excited meeting other writers and I’ve been meeting a lot lately. I ask them what they write and they tell me they haven’t really started anything yet, but they want to. I ask them what’s stopping them and while the answers vary with excuses, ultimately it all comes from the same place.

They are afraid and they’ve let that fear stop them.

I’m so done with seeing fear win.

There’s a comedy sketch with Bob Newhart where he plays a therapist, Dr. Switzer, meeting with a client, Catherine Bigman, for the first time. He starts by telling Catherine he charges five dollars for the first five minutes and then after those five minutes doesn’t charge anything else. Sounds like a dream come true for Catherine, but then Dr. Switzer says he guarantee’s the meeting won’t last that long.

Confused, she agrees to the payment and they start the session. She begins to tell him of her fear. She’s afraid of being buried alive in a box.

He sits and listens to her like a good therapist. Nodding his head, making noises and asking pertinent questions all to encourage her to continue. Then once she’s finished describing how far this fear extends he tells her he’s got two words for her. He tells her to listen carefully, to take these words with her and to incorporate them in her life.

Intrigued she pulls out her notepad to write them down and that’s when he says it.

“Stop it!”

What if it’s as simple as that? To stop it.

Fear paralyses us, but think about it. We’re the ones feeding it. It’s our own creativity and imagination working against us. What if I don’t succeed? What if I can’t write? What if I’m not good enough? And the “What if’s” continue pilling up like an excellent tragedy.

But, what if we tried?

Even if we don’t succeed we tried.  Even if we find that writing is a lot tougher than we expected, at least we stepped out of our comfort zone. Even if we really aren’t good enough, at least we know where our weaknesses are and we can grow from them.

The truth is, none of us start out as super human wordsmiths knowing exactly what to write. The good news though is we can grow to become great novelists, but it takes time and practice. If we let fear win, we never give ourselves the chance to practice and if we don’t practice then we’ll never learn.

So if you’re feeling particularly stuck at the moment with your writing, or if you haven’t yet put pen to paper, please watch Bob Newhart’s hilarious sketch Stop It and let the simple truth wash over you.

And if you still struggle with fear, then listen carefully to these ten words. Write them out and take them with you. “Stop it or I’ll bury you alive in a box.”

Write! You’re actually more creative than you give yourself credit. Remember all those “What if’s” that pile up in your mind and paralyze you? That’s creative thinking too! Yes, it’s negative, but it still takes energy to come up with all those fears. How about doing something more productive with your mind. Start creating those epic adventures trapped behind the walls of fear. Break the walls down and like Nike says, “Just do it.”

Stop letting excuses take over.

Stop letting fear get in the way.

Stop giving in to self doubt.

Stop it and try believing in yourself for once. Try believing in a creative God who created you to create and go and write.

I dare you.


 Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company, an independent film company. Where she gets to make movies for a living. 

She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel in her spare time, which she hopes to publish in the next year.

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder.  Welcome to the adventure.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Omega Writers Brisbane Book Fair

Image in header courtesy of Apolonia at

Almost two years ago the idea of a Christian Book Fair was mooted in a vigorous Facebook discussion - there was a lot of enthusiasm and ideas at the time. Earlier this year, Raelene Purtill and I were chatting. I'd loved the Rivercity Conference which Raelene had organised and I put it to her, why don't we get a Book Fair organised in September. She took up the challenge and, after a chat with Simon Kennedy, we enlisted the help of Omega Writers. Rochelle Manners will also present with Books in Stock as well as a number of authors (Indie or traditionally published).

Our vision is to connect readers with the range of great books available and the talented Christian authors, publishers, booksellers, editors, illustrators and others that make these books possible.

For now the Book Fair is in Brisbane, though we trust and pray that there will be others both in Brisbane and in other locations (Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Auckland) in the future. We do appreciate the past efforts of Rochelle in staging previous book fairs, now over a decade ago. We are the beneficiaries of her vision and the vision of other pioneers at Omega Writers, Christians Writers Downunder, FaithWriters and Australasian Christian Writers.  

At the inaugural Omega Writers Brisbane Book Fair - there will be authors, table displays, books for sale, readings, and presentations. We are also pleased to have two fantastic workshops: The Power of Story by pastor, author and radio personality, Paul Clark and The Writing Life by our own Raelene Purtill.

Attendance at the fair is free (or gold coin donation) - but we would love you to sign up on the FB event page and keep up with the updates and tidbits of news.

You will need to pay and register on the Omega webpage, if you want to:
  • Host a table display
  • Do one or both of the workshops
  • Wish to join in the catered lunch with a bunch of crazy - er - fabulous authors.
If you are an author and want your books represented but can't be there on the day, there is an opportunity to make your books available through Books in Stock (contact me to find out more). 

What can you do to help:

  • Come to the event - with your family & friends
  • Tell others (especially readers) about the Book Fair
  • Share this post and/or the FB event - with friends, on your blog or among groups you think might be interested etc
  • Give out flyers to friends, groups, churches, schools ...  (flyers available soon)
  • Host a table display  
  • Register for and attend one or both workshops
  • Register for and enjoy the lunch
  • Talk to the authors, have you books autographed, enter the competition
  • Buy books
  • Be a volunteer (we need volunteers for setup, on the day & takedown)
  • Pray - even if you can't do anything else we'd love you to pray

While, obviously, not all of us can be there on the day due to distance or prior commitments - you could still supply your books through Books in Stock and/or support the event through prayer and by telling your fans, friends, family, and interested others about the Omega Writers Brisbane Book Fair.

When and Where

Saturday 3rd September 2016
The Hills Church
79 Queens Road,
Everton Hills Qld 

The venue is close to public transport and has plenty of parking (drive past the Op Shop up the top).

Stalls, Show bags, Prizes, Giveaways:

Come and meet a range of authors, booksellers and others related to the book industry. Discover new books for all ages and tastes: picture books, chapter books, young adult, romance, adventure, fantasy and science-fiction, biographies, memoirs, poetry and devotionals.

We will also be having readings and short presentations from different authors, books for sale, show bags, goodies, a competition and two great workshops. 

Admittance for attendees is free - though we would love you to sign up on the Facebook Event page (and share it with others).  You will need to book for workshops, to host a table display or for a catered lunch. Sign up is on the Omega Writers webpage.


10.00 am Doors open. Peruse books, chat with authors, listen to readings from stage. 
11.00 am Workshop with Paul Clark (in separate room, until 12.15 pm). Auditorium remains open during workshop.
12.30 pm Auditorium closed for lunch
1.15 pm Doors re-open. Peruse books, chat with authors, listen to readings from stage.
1.45 pm Workshop with Raelene Purtill (in separate room, until 3.00 pm). Auditorium remains open during workshop.
3.15 pm Book fair closes


Morning Workshop: The Power of Story with Paul Clark

Paul Clark’s workshop: The Power of Story – Doing the impossible

Paul Clark loves to find new ways to tell the old, old stories of God’s love. His Car Park Parable series has over 30,000 books in print. His voice can be heard on radio across Australia with his At the Top spots. He has told stories, often using puppets, in schools across Qld, with the Mt Isa School of the Air, Stable on the Strand and Scarborough Lights. He is on the team that organises Qld’s largest Children Ministry Conference – Ignite.

11am-12:14 - at The Hills Church, 79 Queens Road, Everton Park 3rd September
Registrations on the Omega Website

Afternoon Workshop: The Writing Life by Raelene Purtill

Raelene Purtill’s workshop: The Writing Life

What do the weather and housekeeping have to do with the writing?
What sort of writer are you? What does your perfect writing life look like? Raelene will help us reflect on our writing life. Using image prompts, we will consider issues of time management, boundaries and focus and how they affect our practice. We will discuss strategies to overcome these issues. We will explore our relationship to our writing and spend time sharing.

Bring writing instruments of your choice.

Raelene enjoys all sorts of creative writing and she loves connecting with other writers at conferences, retreats and workshops. Having been involved in a variety of writing groups, she now facilitates one in the northern suburbs of Brisbane. She is a member of the Writing Anthology group which produces an annual anthology. Her virtual world consists of a very understanding and long suffering husband and three techno-absorbed teenagers.

1:45 - 3:00 pm - at The Hills Church, 79 Queens Road, Everton Park 3rd September
Registrations on the Omega Website

Links to Follow:

If you would like to register for a workshop or lunch, go to

If you would like to book a table to promote your book/s, follow this link:

If you are coming to look at books, chat to authors, engage in the workshops, promote your own books - join up to the Facebook Event, follow this link:

For more information, would like to pray for the event or would be interested in volunteering, please email Jeanette O'Hagan:

Jeanette is excited about her upcoming launch of Heart of the Mountain this Saturday (30th of this July, 2016)  and the upcoming Omega Writers Brisbane Book Fair.

Jeanette O’Hagan enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl. She

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazoor on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Antics of Engagement

Being an author brings frequent opportunity to engage with readers and the community. Engagement can take many forms, from e-forums, school and library visits, signings, to writer/reader specific events and festivals. As a YA author, I’ve also learned never to assume who will be in each audience.

Writing a book is a very different activity to presenting a practical writing workshop or delivering an encouraging theme related talk. Given the YA tag, for general author visits I often see a high proportion of children attending, along with older young people and their parents, which is really cool. There’s also an equal likelihood that a range of adults up to (or beyond!) eighty may be present. This also is fantastic, as I have a lot of adult readers too, but it presents me with the challenge of engaging a vast range of reading levels, attention spans, and interests.
So how does one prepare for a child friendly event that will appeal to adults, while holding the attention of young people? I wish I could give you a simple answer. My approach has been very much trial and error. Thankfully I’ve had mostly positive experiences (mostly …), but I’ve found something a teacher friend told me once has been sound advice.
Prepare well, take charge, and don’t be afraid to look silly.

I took this to mean I should target my sessions at the more distractible ages, whilst including elements that can go a little deeper, and ensure I have fun—because if I’m having fun, so will they. This rang true with what I’d learned from many years in tertiary education, with frequent community and school engagement. Over time, this is pretty well how my sessions have developed.

The beauty of having young people at an event is no one thinks it’s unusual if you do a few crazy things. We’ve had scavenger hunts, dressing up with main protagonist look-alike masks, relay-type team competitions etc. (You should come to my book launches!) My most recent author visit was a game show style event with learning on select writing topics, interspersed with related challenges and giveaways. An interactive audience always helps.

Even if people look at me like I’m an alien at first (hey, you can’t please everyone), they generally get used to me by the end. Sometimes they even join in. Yay!

Probably the most important thing I’ve learned from all these shenanigans is to own the session. As my friend advised – prepare, prepare, prepare. But also, have the conversations you need with associated teachers or event organisers in advance regarding crowd management, available resources, timing etc. The other important thing I’ve learned is to have a backup plan. (I’m still developing this skill.) If something’s not working, have an established escape hatch that will lead to a potentially more engaging option.

There’s much more I could share, but if you’re a writer and you’ve not yet launched yourself on some unsuspecting audience (I do mean in a positive way …), be encouraged to put yourself out there—and have fun. It’s a great experience and one that can lead to really positive interactions, for yourself and the community.

Adele Jones is an award winning Queensland author. She writes young adult and historical novels, poems, inspirational non-fiction and fictional short works, along with juggling family responsibilities and a ‘real job’ in the field of science. Her first YA novel Integrate was awarded the 2013 CALEB Prize for unpublished manuscript. Her writing explores issues of social justice, humanity, faith, natural beauty and meaning in life’s journey, and as a speaker she seeks present a practical and encouraging message by drawing on these themes. For more visit or 

Monday, 18 July 2016

God As My Muse

God as My Muse
by Melinda Jensen

Few Christians would dispute that we are made in the image of God. It is one of the basic tenets of our faith but also one to which many of us give little thought.

What does it mean to be made in the image of God? Certainly, it means we are wonderfully and powerfully made and that we have twin natures, both human and divine, that often war against one another. It means we have access to the throne of God and are able to throw ourselves on His mercy when we are overwhelmed by adversity. It means He sees us as beautiful and good, even when we don’t see ourselves that way, and it means we have the power and the right to stand against the forces of darkness (as frightening as that can be).

But there is an aspect of God I once took for granted. Selfishly, I attributed it to my fleshly self, instead of appreciating the divine and benevolent gift it truly is. I’m talking about ‘creativity’ – that spark that ignites within us as we writers write.

Like many writers, I’ve always felt I was born to write. I still have an old recipe book of my mother’s in which I wrote ‘Fluff is a cat’ long before I went to school; and there was no kindergarten back then. I tripped along through my school and college English classes, able to produce prose and poetry pretty much on demand. And as the years went by, I discovered I also had a knack for arts and crafts, and my hands have been almost perpetually busy since. Until that one time …

That one time I walked away from God. My grief was immense. My sense of injustice at what had happened, not just to me but to so many others in this world, led me to become a renegade daughter. I raged at God; told Him he was an inadequate God for not protecting his people from such incredible pain; and that I believed He was simply the demi-god of Gnostic tradition – a flawed being who created a flawed world He had no real control over. And then I turned my back, telling Him I could get along very well without Him, thank you very much.

Of course, I see the incredible arrogance in my words now, but in my anguish I lashed out at the one who loves me most, as we humans so often do. I was done and dusted; ready to look out for number one for a change.

But what ensued came as rather a shock. I sat with pen and paper … but no words came to mind. I opted for the keyboard and typed what can only be called gibberish. Frustrated, I told myself I just needed a break; some time to regenerate and give my creative flair some time to swing back to equilibrium again. At least I could still paint and draw; crochet and knit; make beaded sculptures and jewellery. You name it – I’ve probably given it a shot over the years.

So out came the equipment. My tiny duplex was littered with the makings of all sorts of beautiful creations. My cat was quite delirious mucking about amongst the beads, the pencils, the brushes, the mosaic pieces, and most of all the knitting yarn! In fact, as the weeks went by and I tossed project after project in the rubbish bin, it could be said that kitty produced far better work than I did. My frustration levels threatened to erupt into a frenzy that would rival the destruction of Pompeii if I hadn’t been able to somehow keep a lid on it.

It was hindsight though, that revealed the Truth. I didn’t turn back to God because I thought, ‘Well, heck! I want my creativity back and He must have taken it away on purpose!’ I simply missed God so very much. I missed having the friend who’d been my ‘bestie’ since I was 5 years old – Jesus – to talk to and hang with. My heart felt empty … numb. It wasn’t like the pain of my circumstances had gone away. It was that I couldn’t ‘feel’ anything much at all.
And so I got down on my knees, for the hundredth time in my life, and begged forgiveness, and asked Him to please, please let me back into His fold again.

And so it was done.

I found that my heart could both cry and sing again. I felt pain and joy and everything in between.
Over the coming days, I noticed an interesting side effect. My words once more flew across the page. The pencils and paints managed to produce some pleasing pieces (though many still end up in the bin!); and my kitty is now happily chasing shiny baubles and bits of wool around the room again. My creativity returned in full measure, if not more.

Without my creative God at my centre, I simply cannot create. We are a partnership, He and I; one I can’t possibly live without, through thick and thin, sickness and health, adversity and good times. Neither my dabblings, nor yours, will ever come close to the intense beauty He has created for us … but we do have that divine, creative spark somewhere inside us, whether we write, or paint, or build marvellous things, or tinker with electronics. It doesn’t matter … it all comes from Him.

NOTE to readers: I will be away from home for a week as of today and may not have reliable internet access. I apologize in advance for any comments I'm unable to respond to in a timely manner.

Melinda Jensen (A blog, at times disturbing, about the effects of emotional, psychological and verbal abuse, it aims to educate, support and empower victims of abuse.)

Writer concerned with social justice, equality, the environment, and mostly the abiding spirit of our glorious God. Currently working on a number of projects, most notably a couple of fantasy novels with environmental themes for middle school readers.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Silver linings | Use your tragedy to encourage others

I was eleven. I was away from home for the first time ever, and I was crying into my pillow.

But this wasn’t a case of ‘I miss my mum and three days of camp is soooo loooong’. This was boarding school, stuck out in the pine forests of the Himalayan mountains. I’d been away from home for ten weeks, and I was going to be away for another ten. There were no breaks.

There was also no phone, no internet, no messaging and no Skype (nup, it hadn't been invented yet). So my pillow got wet. Almost every night.

It would have been easier to cope if I’d been at boarding with my best friend. You see, that was where most of the problems came from. When we’d made the big decision in our family that I would go to boarding school, I was excited. Because I knew I'd be joining my best friend who had already been at the school for two years. I'd read enough Enid Blyton boarding school books to know that school was great - with your best friend around.

What I didn’t know was that she wasn’t going to be my best friend any more.

At the beginning of Grade Four Sally had become 'official' best friends with someone else. (Official best friends happens like this: “So, do you want to be best friends with me officially?” “Yes.” “Okay.” Bam. Done.)

And that someone else was not happy to see me. She had to assert her rights over her friend. And she had to let me know who was boss in this school. I’d been dumped, and now I was going to have my nose rubbed in the dirt as well.

She used the usual eleven year old girl tactics: exclusion, gossip, making fun of me and playing practical ‘jokes’. When I got upset, she told me I didn’t have a sense of humour. “Seriously, Cecily, you need to be able to take a joke.”

There were six of us girls in Grade Six, and we all shared a bedroom. There was no escaping from the sideways looks and snide remarks about my clothes or my hair, or the shape of my legs, or the way I blew the hair out of my face sometimes. 

She even picked on the way I spoke. “Don’t say 'drawer' like that. That’s wrong.” From the time we got up in the morning, to the time we went to sleep, I was her target. My only time out was when we were in the classroom, or doing my piano practice. I got quite good at the piano that year.

Things escalated. She got the girls to gang up on me, tricked me into going into my sleeping bag headfirst for a game, and then dragged me in the bag down the hall into the Middle Boys dorms. I was mortified. 
Suddenly, Enid Blyton's stories weren't so appealing. 

Then one evening I came back from piano practice to our bedroom. ‘Strange,’ I thought. ‘Why is it so dark in here?’ No one had turned on the lights. And it was quiet.

‘Where is everyone?’ I thought.

They were there. They were hiding from me, and then they jumped out at me from behind beds and cupboard doors, with sticks in their hands. They hit me with them, and then laughed. “Can’t you take a joke, Cecily?" And then to each other: "Ha. Did you see her face?”

I had no idea what to do.

As an adult now, it seems so simple: just tell someone. But when you’re eleven, it’s complicated. If I told, I’d be bringing more punishment on myself. There was no way a staff member would be able to supervise all of us, all of the day and night, and kids find ways and means to pick on each other, even when people are watching.

I could have gone home, but there weren't any other real options for me to be educated where my parents lived. Besides, if I left the school, I’d forever be ‘the girl who couldn’t handle boarding’, spoken of with scorn by my peers. It was a small English-speaking community and my disgrace would be felt forever.

Also, bullying was handled differently then, too. I don’t remember a single anti-bullying lesson in my whole school life – ever. There was a certain amount of aggravation that was expected; you simply put up with it and trusted it would stop eventually.

Being eleven, in Grade Six, was the loneliest, hardest year of my life, and my heart breaks for girls who suffer at the hands of other girls at that age. The desolation and the desperation that young pre-teen and teen girls feel is real, as is the unending search for ‘true’ friends and mentors who care and understand.

Remembering that year of my life is why I write for girls, and why I write realistic fiction. I want girls to know two things: there is always someone who cares, and there is always hope and a future.

Yes, things might be tough, but there’s a way through it. It’s not an easy way, but it is a way.

Young girls have so many opportunities to make choices that will affect the direction of the rest of their lives; through my writing I hope to help them make the good choices – choosing truth, loyalty, strength, kindness, resilience and persistence.

My miserable year wasn’t wasted. There were silver linings. Because of it I gained empathy and compassion and faith – and a calling to write for girls.

What are your silver linings? How are you able to encourage others with your writing because of things you've experienced?

Cecily Paterson is the author of four novels for girls and an award-winning memoir, Love Tears & Autism. Find her at or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as Cecily Paterson.


Monday, 11 July 2016

Sandlewood and Vanilla

I have been presented with a wonderful opportunity to speak at a local artists' night here in Adelaide. It's a "Pecha Kucha" night, where the artists share 20 images, each for 20 seconds, and talk to the audience about, well whatever they like, pertaining to their art. 

This is a wonderful opportunity to share my personal testimony with a majority non-Christian audience; in fact, I would go so far as to suggest there may be some quite anti our beliefs, as is often the case among creative circles, sadly. 

This has really got me thinking about how we relate to a non-faith based audience, with what we write/present/speak on. My journey has been both incredible, with such a wonderful experience of healing, but also in some ways quite heartbreaking, and not at all what I thought it would be. But I am absolutely certain that God is the centre of everything I have experienced; therefore, to present my story, even minus the specifics, I must include God, or I would have nothing to share. I feel quite nervous about this, it's such a foreign environment for me; but I believe that God is showing me, in his beautiful and gentle way, how I should approach this.

I am to be like the beautiful, Sandlewood & Vanilla-scented soy wax candle I am enjoying as I am typing:
  • The aroma of this candle is beautiful and delicate; it does not overwhelm me with such a powerful scent that I cannot bear it, but rather just subtly touches the air around me, so I catch a glimpse of the flavours every so often. Heavenly!
  • The glass the candle is held in is translucent; the glow from the flame is evident, but is not glaring and blinding, forcing me to turn my face away; it is gentle and alluring, the flicker dancing to its own tune, bringing such a delightful sense of tranquility. 
  • The candle did not light itself; it relied on someone else to light its fuse.
  • Every time the candle is lit, it is changed; the wax is melted, then reforms a little differently, and the wick has become just that bit shorter.

And this is how these things relate to my presentation:
  • My faith should come across gently, not so over-the-top that people feel overwhelmed, but rather that they hear a small, sensible account of my faith; God should be woven in between the layers of the story, so people know without a doubt that he is there, and do not tune out right from the start.
  • Preaching to people who are not familiar with God will accomplish little more than blinding them, like lighting a flare in a room that has been in darkness for years. Yes, I absolutely should shine my light, but in this setting, a little will go a long way. Too much, and they will turn their faces away.
  • I can probably come up with an adequate presentation without God; I am creative, after all...but unless I include God in the preparations, my light will remain unlit. And in the same way an unlit candle gives off neither scent nor light, my presentation without God would be...perhaps entertaining, at best? I want to be courageous in a place where faith is seen as weakness, or worse, as bigoted religiosity, and show that there is so much more to God and to being a Christian than what the media, and social media, depict.
  • As I step out and speak of my faith in God, I am making a declaration that I am prepared to be changed - that is, I am willing for God to determine how my name is defined. I want to be accepted as a respected photographer/speaker/writer, but people will see me on this night and they will form their own judgments/opinions accordingly. Throwing faith into the mix may cost me some degree of credibility, or alienate me from other artists who perhaps are not accepting of Christians. But I will not modify my story by intentionally removing God from it, for the sake of others' approval.

    Ultimately I pray that they will see someone with kindness, compassion, humour, hopefully talent, and a story of healing and freedom from mental health issues of nearly 20 years; that they will leave with hope, for themselves and/or somebody else they may know.

    And I pray that God would use my words and pictures as a link in the chain of someone's salvation. Not because I stood there and preached up a storm, but because I stood there like a fragrant candle, with gentleness and a peace that falls on all who are there. 
Blessings, Helen

Matthew 5:15-17 (NIV)
15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

A Review of the saga, Federal Election by Jo Wanmer

This saga covers the progress of Turnbull attempting to strengthen his political position in Canberra. His antagonist, Shorten, jumps to the challenge and they parry for eight long weeks. The middle of the story was very boring and drawn out. I found the plot weak and the opposition unbelievable. I wanted to throw it aside but I continued to follow because of my personal involvement. At the close of the saga I had to make a choice. This is a ‘choose our own ending’ story.  

But who wants to select the ending when the two offered choices are uninviting and unsatisfactory? So in a vacuum of brilliance, Aussies added other options, leaving us with a Senate voting paper large enough to wrap my fish and chips.  

On the whole, the characters were grey, dull, and strangely alike. Of average height and weight, living in average suburbs, they were both middle aged males. One had more money than the other, one from Sydney and the other Melbourne and although from different political persuasions, their greatest passion was proving someone else wrong. I longed for a flash of brilliance, innovative thinking, sparkling dialogue about an inspiring future. But I found no daring hero or heroine, just average politicians dancing like puppets, trying  to impress as many people as possible. Their performance was aimed at a particular ‘reader target’. In other words, they were boring at best, blatantly dishonest at worst.

At the extreme edges of the saga, both to the right and the left, a few minor characters added colour. Aussie’s gravitated to the brightness and did the unthinkable. They wrote their own ending to this boring saga. The expected clear-cut, tidy ending was dumped. Pauline Hanson, complete with red hair and loud opinions has been resurrected from the dead. Derryn Hinch, the belligerent outspoken human headline, Bob Katter, a big-mouthed cowboy and many colourful others will join Pauline on the cross benches of the Senate. They’ve lived life. They know hard work, great difficulty, broken marriages, small business challenges, financial success and failure. At least two of them have experienced the clang of jail doors. These characters engender a response. Love them or hate them, they are there and will add ongoing frustration and colour for an indeterminate length of time.

When we compare this colour with blue/grey suited, gray haired merchant banker or professional unionist, is it any wonder Aussies have rebelled and tried to write a more interesting ending than the expected three years of never ending blah? Now the unhappy  lead characters struggle to make sense of this new ending.

Colourful characters and passionate plots draw people, lots of people. Look, for example, at the presidential elections in the USA. Love or hate Donald Trump, we know about him! He has made a long boring campaign much more interesting. Why?  Because he breaks the rules, is full of life, stands his ground...and he has shocking hair!
As I ponder the uncertainty of our political future in Australia, I realise the election saga suffers a similar problem to many books, including mine.  The plot is either predictable or unbelievable. The characters are average or caricatures.

So there is a positive in this saga. I’m heading back into the pages of my book to add colour, interest and the unexpected. After all I want my reader to finish my book inspired and satisfied, not lying in bed at night dreaming of a better ending.

Currently Jo Wanmer is enjoying the Queensland sunshine and wind in her hair. When she's not touring with Steve or minding wonderful grandchildren, she's communicating hope. She is a pastor at a small family church at Burpengary called Access and loves speaking anywhere people want to hear of the love of God. 
Her book ‘Though the Bud be Bruised’ was published in 2012 and there are two more novels in the pipeline. Her passion is to bring the love, healing and hope of Jesus to men and women who have walked through life’s valleys. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, 4 July 2016

The Review Revue by Nola Passmore

A revue is a form of theatre that consists of songs, dances, and funny sketches.  Oh wait!  Wrong kind of revue.  I was thinking of book reviews.  But in deference to its theatrical homophone, here are some short sketches that outline what you need to know in order to write book reviews.

Reasons for Writing Reviews

  • They help authors - Good, honest reviews help to create a positive vibe around a book which in turn can increase sales.  Once there is a critical mass of reviews (e.g. over 25), Amazon will also start recommending the book to readers who’ve made similar purchases.   Writing a review is one of the best ways of supporting an author or publisher.

  • They help readers - Constructive reviews can help readers decide on their next purchase or library loan.  Is it the type of book you’d enjoy?  Is it well-written?  Is there anything you’d like to be warned about (e.g. swearing, graphic sex or violence)? Is it a light read or something that will stay with you long after the last page?  Reviews can help answer all of those questions and more.

  • They help the reviewer - If you regularly write reviews, you’ll sharpen your analytical skills.  What was it about this book that compelled you to keep turning pages well into the night?  Why did that story drag in the middle?  What made that particular passage sing?  As you answer these questions about the books you read, you can learn valuable lessons to apply in your own writing.

Guidelines for Writing Reviews

  • Be Honest - This might sound like a no-brainer, but it can be tricky, especially if you have reservations about the book and/or know the author.  However, the desire to support authors doesn’t mean you write a glowing review when there are a number of problems with the book.  Your integrity is at stake.  Readers expect you to give an honest evaluation so they can make an informed choice about whether or not to read the book.  An author worth their weight in fresh metaphors will also appreciate constructive feedback that can help them grow as a writer.

  • Be Specific - Don’t just say it was a fantastic book and everyone should run out and buy it.  For the feedback to be constructive, you need to identify the elements that worked well.  By the same token, be specific about what you didn’t like and why.  Perhaps you couldn’t relate to one of the characters because they were too perfect.  Maybe there were too many long descriptive passages that slowed the pace.  Specific details add credibility to your review.

  • Be RespectfulDon’t feel as if you have to point out every flaw.  The aim is to help readers and authors, not to tear people down with your biting observations.  Imagine the author is your mother and think about how you’d like reviewers to address the problems in her book. 

  • Don’t Give Spoilers - “This book has a fantastic twist.  I had no idea the sassy hairdresser would turn out to be the killer!”  EEK!  You’ve just ruined the book for me. If you want to discuss your feelings about the ending, save it for your book club.  There might be more leeway in this when reviewing nonfiction books, such as self-help books and how-to books.  Afterall, it’s hardly a spoiler to know that the croquembouche recipe appears in the desserts section.

  • Follow Policies and Give Disclaimers - Before posting a review on a particular website, be sure to check their guidelines.  You should always disclose whether you have been given a free copy of the book for the purposes of review. Amazon also has strict policies about who can and can’t review a book.  For example, authors, family members, close friends or those with some involvement in the book (e.g. publishers, editors) are not allowed to post reviews. Sites like Goodreads are more flexible.  However, you should still give a disclaimer if you have any conflicts of interest.

Suggested Format for Reviews

There is no right or wrong way to write a review.  However, I’ve found the following format helpful:

  • Briefly say what the book’s about.  As an optional extra, you could also note any key themes.
  • Use the sandwich method to say what you liked and didn’t like about the book.  That is, start with something positive, then mention any problems or flaws, then finish with a positive.
  • Give a recommendation (optional).  For example, what type of readers would like this book?
  • Give any disclaimers where relevant (e.g. if you received a free copy or if you had any involvement with the book).

For an example of that format, you might like to read my review of Twice Stolen by Susanne Timpani.  It’s a bit longer than I would usually write, as I got carried away with the indigenous themes.  However, it gives you an idea of the different elements to include.

Where to Post Reviews

There are hundreds of potential outlets, but here are some of the major ones.

GoodreadsGoodreads is a great place to start if you’re a novice reviewer, as their policies are a bit more flexible than Amazon.  You can read their guidelines here.

Amazon – Be sure to put your review on the American and Australian sites as reviews don’t automatically cross over. You can read their guidelines here.

KoorongKoorong is an Australian Christian bookseller.  Reviews are restricted to 250 words, but you can earn $10 gift vouchers for every four reviews they publish on their site.  If you click on a book on their website, a link will pop up allowing you to review it. You can read their guidelines here.

Books in StockBooks in Stock is an Australian company that offers a wide range of books, including Christian and family-friendly titles.  Click on the relevant book, and a link will come up to add a review.

More information

To learn more about writing reviews, pop along to Iola Goulton’s workshop at the Omega Writers Conference in Sydney in October.  Iola has posted hundreds of reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, so she’ll have a wealth of experience to share.

Do you have some other sites to add to this list?  What do you look for in a review?  I’d love to hear your comments.

Nola Passmore’s poetry, devotions, inspirational articles, true stories and short fiction have appeared in magazines, journals and anthologies in Australia and overseas.  Although she’s a former academic with qualifications in creative writing, psychology, and Christian ministry; she’s found that you can never underestimate the power of friends, critique partners and mentors in the writing journey.  She’s a founding member of Quirky Quills and co-leads the Toowoomba chapter of Omega Writers. She and her husband Tim have a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish