Thursday, 30 November 2017

The People Read It

by Jeanette O'Hagan

The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message. Acts 15:31 (NIV)

 'Why do you write?'

I love words. Writing allows time to choose and shape my words without interruption. I love telling stories - anecdotes, family legends, funny happenings.  I love making up stirring tales about heroes and heroines, strange lands and epic adventures. I love to teach, to impart shared wisdom, acquired knowledge. I love the way poetry encapsulates emotion and beauty and wonder. Writing helps me process my thoughts, to discover meaning -  to understand myself, to commune with God and to communicate with others. Writing is a calling though it can never take the place of a living relationship my Lord.

There are a multitude of reasons to write.  I think most writers write because they love writing, because they have something to say, stories to tell. Those that write for fame or fortune are surely soon disillusioned.

Why do you write?

And who do you write for?

Do you write for yourself? For an audience of One? For your family or friends? Or for strangers? Perhaps, for those who haven't yet been born?

Or, to ask it another way. Why is it important to you to be published?

The reasons for writing and the reasons for (wanting/seeking/being) published are perhaps different. Maybe, we write because we must, it's a passion or a necessity. But, we seek publication so that our words and stories will be read  - not just by us, or a select group of friends and family - but by those we don't know and may never meet.

Words Unread

Words are powerful. Yet, unread words wait in silence, wait to uncoil and be unleashed in the mind of the reader.

Of course, as many have reminded us - we can't choose the impact of our words or the size of our audience. God is the God of the harvest and He directs the workers. Paul say (1 Cor), one sows, another waters. We write - as well as live - by faith and by God's grace. This is true whether we write Christian fiction or for the general market, if we write  to shine a light or to entertain, to challenge (or all of the above).

At no time is our worth or our standing with God predicated on the state of our manuscript or our publication status or the size of our social following.

There is a balance - between resting in and on God and doing the good He has planned for us. Grace is not an excuse to be idle when we could be working, though there are fallow seasons, there are times when God calls us into the wilderness, times when He passes the mantle onto others - and then there are times of planting and harvest.

For me, and probably for you, writing is also about finding and connecting with readers - not only my friends and family, and not only other writers (though I love you all and I appreciate everyone who buys and reads (and reviews ;) ) my books and the books of other writers). I think its wonderful and necessary that we support each other  - but just as the Church needs to extend into the workday week and connect with the community beyond her doors to be effective, we also need connect with general readers.

In some ways, I think that is actually the hardest part of being a writer. And, it does require some effort and lateral thinking.

Here are some of ideas how we do this - not in any particular order or importance:

  • Readers in our existing networks - family, friends, work colleagues etc.
  • Being an expert or at least interesting in a related subject
  • Social media - being interactive not pushy
  • Blogging 
  • Readers groups and book clubs
  • Reviews, reviews, reviews
  • Cross-promotions with other authors
  • Blog tours, interviews, character cameos
  • Anthologies and book bundles 
  • Newsletters and events
  • Launches
  • Book signings & bookshop events
  • Author talks, School & Library visits
  • Study notes
  • Different formats
  • Donating books
  • Promotions and ads
  • Quirky promotions
  • Leaving books in mystery locations
  • Markets
  • Conventions and Book Fairs
  • Begging (joking, don't beg, pray instead)

Not that we can necessarily do it all and certainly not all of the time.  We do what we can - and rest in the Lord of the Harvest.

What ideas or experiences of connecting with readers have you had?

New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users.

She has published stories and poems in over a dozen anthologies, including Glimpses of Light, Futurevision, Tales From the Underground, and Quantum Soul. She recently released her debut novel Akrad's Children - the first in the Akrad's Legacy series.

Find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes . if you want to stay up-to-date with latest publications and developments, sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan Writes e-mail newsletter.

Monday, 27 November 2017

The Right Write-Life Formula

by Anusha Atukorala

Years ago when I was desperate to conceive my second child, a well-meaning friend suggested that I needed to pray in a certain way in order to have my prayers answered. Hmm...! Isn’t God more interested in my heart than in any prayer formula? God did not give me a second child. But many years on, He blessed me with two lovely daughters in Christ, satisfying my heart’s desires for 3 children—one son and two daughters. The parents of my "daughters" did all the hard work! I had the joy of having them without changing even one nappy! (A great idea, God. Thank you.) My prayers may have been frail and faulty, but they were answered.

More recently, when sharing my health struggles with another (also well meaning) friend, she asked if I prayed daily for good health, telling me it has worked for her. She implied that it was a must in order to receive healing. I do spend plenty of time with God each day. I do talk to Him often. But I don’t ask God for healing every single day, because I don’t think it matters. God knows my heart. Even if my words aren’t quite right or the number of times I pray not the perfect number, I can count on Him to give me His best. After all, it’s not my impeccable prayers which bring results but the mercy and love of a faithful God.

The only Prayer formula I know is not to have one. Instead I seek the Giver of all good gifts. And oh, it’s been a thrilling journey. So … what’s the correct Write Formula if there such a thing?  I’ve spent hours learning the craft. I’ve attended conferences (fabulous times), borrowed a plethora of books from the library, (and read them from cover to cover), written articles and essays, poetry and songs, books and blogs. Perhaps unlike prayer, there IS a right Write Formula? Yes, I believe there is!

It’s true that in order to do most things well, we need instructions to guide us and help us stay on par. We can’t play a game of Cricket or Tennis or Footy without rules, could we, or there would be mayhem. We can’t write a sentence without using grammatical rules or it would not make sense. But what about the right Write Life? Does that have rules too? 

Jesus did not come to bind us with rules and regulations. He came to release the prisoners and set the captives free. As Christian writers, we can take a joyful leap across the chasm of legalism and into fields of grace. Perhaps the biggest decree for our writing lives is that there are no rules? There is only GRACE! Precious, glorious, bountiful grace. The Grace that overflows into our lives as we seek to live for God and for His glory.

Grace means that …

1.     Despite my sins, mistakes and imperfections, He still calls me to write for Him.
2.     It’s not following His laws which will help me thrive as a Christian writer but desiring and seeking intimacy with Him.
3.     If He calls me, He will equip me and help me. It’s as simple as that!
4.     As Paula Vince shared with us so beautifully last week, success as a Christian writer is very different from the world’s view of success
5.     God will use even the deficiencies and failures in my Write Life to touch and bless others
6.     Perfection may often be unattainable but I can aim at excellence

7.     God’s ways are often unusual, unexpected and unfathomable but always trustworthy
8.     My writing may not be exceptional but when I do my best, led by His Spirit, miracles happen
9.     He will always give me a second chance
10.  When I yield to the Holy Spirit. He will use my words, weak and frail as they might be, to prod and poke, to lead and lift, to bless and build
11.  We are each not called to be a carbon copy of other writers but free to pursue our own calling
12.  Most importantly, it’s His glory that we are on about, not our own

So how do I grow into a Christian writer? By spending time with Him, by following the Spirit’s leading, by using my time wisely, by learning writing skills (yes, following those rules), walking in integrity, allowing Him to shape me. being part of the body of Christ and by helping other writers thrive.

Grace frees me to become the writer I was meant to be.
Grace gives me wings to partner with the Holy Spirit.
Grace spurs me on to dare to change the world through words.

Let’s do it! Let's dance in fields of grace!

Anusha’s 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. Please stop by at her website to say G’day to her. Dancing in the Rain. She’d love to see you there.

Her first book "Enjoying the Journey" comprises 75 little life lessons and 16 colour photos. Her second book "Dancing in the Rain - words of comfort and hope for a sad heart" will be published in 2018 by Armour Books. Please stay tuned.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Like Waiting for Rain in a Drought

In our culture, I think it's easy to get the idea that fame and fortune is the ultimate measure of success. Especially for writers, artists, musicians and others in creative professions and hobbies. If you're not getting accolades, and if your target audience don't recognise your name, some might suggest you're not doing the 'platform' thing properly. The juicy carrot is always dangling a few inches beyond your reach. Yet you assume the goal of fame must be achievable, because you see others in your same field taking great, crunchy bites of their own magnificent carrots. Sometimes that encourages you to never give up, and other times, if you're honest, it makes you envious because the quality of their offerings seems to be no better (or maybe even worse) than yours.

Many of us are probably familiar with the author Julia Cameron, who helped several creative people break out of their non-productive ruts with her book, 'The Artist's Way.' She suggests that longing for fame feels a bit like waiting for rain in a drought. 'We keep squinting toward the horizon, jealous of our luckier neighbours and dissatisfied with our own condition,' she says. Her words gave me funny images of Elijah asking his servant, 'Can you see anything yet?'

Can you imagine this? After several fruitless looks, the young man replies, 'Yes, there are a couple of new reviews on Goodreads and a slight increase in your Amazon sales ranking.'

Well, we know what happened in the Bible. Elijah and his servant rushed out in order to beat the soaking deluge they'd already predicted to King Ahab. So in our analogy, we grasp these measly signs and push on, trying to prepare ourselves for the downpour of sales, ads, notoriety and money we hope will follow. But maybe in our case, the small cloud will just waft away. 'Hey,' we complain. 'That's not what happened with Elijah!'

Julia Cameron goes on to muse that our culture has taught us to think of fame as a necessary by-product, but she also suggests that it's full of empty calories with no nutritional value. We are taught even by some Christian media moguls to keep seeking the amazing breakthrough, after which our lives will be abundantly blessed. But we need only look at the sad revelations, not to mention several premature deaths, of many celebrities who seemed to have it all to see that fame is not all it's cracked up to be.

'Not all artists will lead public lives,' Cameron goes on to say. 'Many of us as talented as those who fame strikes may toil out our own days in relative anonymity.' And that's okay, because it may not even be healthy for us. I'm reminded of another article, this time written by Ann Voskamp, in which she argues convincingly that the human soul isn't really even designed for fame.

So this sort of message encourages us to make sure we're listening to our Creator rather than our culture. Keeping in mind how easy it is to get the two mixed up may be a key to help. I appreciate anything that may clear my mind in this confusing world where we're brought up not to be attention seekers as children, and then later, chastised for not seeking attention in the adult world of self-promotion. Let's enjoy any praise and accolades that come our way, but not at the cost of forgetting to stay focused on the main thing. If our love for God, others, and the joy of our work is what drives us, then our lives are full of what matters most regardless of the fame and attention we're receiving from other people.

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.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Value the gift you've been given!

By Jenny Glazebrook

Do you ever wish for someone else's gift? As writers, we rarely see the result of our work. People quietly read our words in their homes. And reviews? Well, we all know how few of our readers write those! Does this make our gift feel less worthwhile? If we could sing we'd be seen up the front, we'd receive applause or at least see the faces of those we are reaching.
Instant gratification and validation.

Until 9 o'clock last night I had a different post in mind to share with you today. But then God spoke into my heart in a way I couldn't ignore and I just had to share it with you.
I was at the Kapooka Army band concert at the Wagga Wagga Christian College. Gifted students joined the Army band in a showcase of amazing talent. I sat back, soaking up the power of that music as it fed my soul.
Kapooka at the College concert
Caleb Skewes and Micah Glazebrook singing 'Fire and Rain'

During the first interval I searched the sea of faces in the audience and went to talk to one of the few ladies I knew. She told me about a church event she attended a few weeks ago. She wanted me to know that someone there shared their testimony and in it they said God had used me to lead them to Christ.

I was humbled. And blessed. God could not have chosen a better moment in time to let me have a glimpse into eternity and the way He chooses to use us and our gifts.

Why was this moment so perfect?

Because I love music. As a child it moved me like no other thing on earth could. The beauty of music and the emotions it could stir seemed to me to have a power nothing else could match. 
The problem was, I had a younger brother who was a bit of a child prodigy when it came to the piano and a sister everyone said had a natural gift for music. And I? I was so shy, so anxious that I couldn't enjoy performing. During the years I learned piano I was unwell and was diagnosed with diabetes which made my fingers less flexible and playing difficult.
I played tenor horn in the school band, but this was also difficult as I had a cleft lip and palate requiring surgeries. I had to re-learn after each surgery. I could sing on tune, but was too shy to perform.
And so I would watch others perform, and wish I had their gift. I saw the way people appreciated and responded to music - the immediate applause and the praise my siblings would receive.
I saw myself as less valuable.

But God stepped in and showed me my worth in His eyes. I was 13 when I first understood the depth of His love for me and that He made me the way I am for a reason and will use me just the way I am.

Then at 15, I was asked to share my testimony at a youth camp. I was still shy. Still in the middle of surgeries. Still learning who I was in Christ. I was so insecure and nervous that I wrote everything I wanted to say in a note book, and then in front of that camp full of teenagers, I read it out word for word in a shaking voice. I told them my story - what I had been through, and how God had shown me His great love and how real He is. I told them how I'd learned it doesn't matter what people think ... all that matters is what God thinks.
Me as a teenager

I didn't hear about the impact of that testimony until years later. There was no immediate applause, no instant gratification. I was too shy to even look at people as I read out what I had written.

But now, more and more, I hear from people like that lady last night at the concert. There is a minister who shares his testimony around the Riverina. He came to know Christ through what I wrote down and read out at that camp. He tells people what God did through the words of a shy teenager - that teenager being me, who at that age just wished I could sing and perform musically and be more outgoing.

God in his graciousness has given me a son with a musical gift. I enjoy my son's gift of music every day, and last night was blessed as he sang before a crowd of hundreds with the school and Army band backing him up. 

But ironically it was in that very place God chose to remind me of the value of the gift He has given me. Writing lasts. Writing is not a moment of high emotion and then applause. It is a beautiful, valuable gift that can outlast and outlive us.

Our gifts are not for us. They are not for our gratification or momentary fame. They are not to build up our self-esteem. They are to build others up, to lead them to Jesus, to connect them with God and encourage them into eternity in His way, in His time. And sometimes God in His graciousness allows us to see what He is doing with our gifts.

I am currently reading 'God's dangerous book' by Nick Page. It's all about the history of the Bible. And what strikes me time and time again is that most of the people I am reading about are gone, but their words remain. God still uses them.

As I drove home with my son late last night, my heart was filled with gratefulness for the gift of writing and storytelling. And I want to encourage you today: 

Value the gift you have! It is beautiful. It is powerful. And one day, in heaven, you will see the big, full, amazing picture and purpose God has in the words He has given you.

Jenny Glazebrook lives in the country town of Gundagai with her husband, Rob and 4 children along with many pets. She is the published author of 7 novels, 1 traditionally published, and 6 self published. She writes because words burn within her. She is an experienced inspirational speaker and loves to encourage others to walk closer with God and hear His voice each day. She has a Diploma of Theology and is a 4 times CALEB finalist. Jenny’s website is:

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Confessions of a frustrated reader

I've read more books this year than in any other year of my life. Exhausted, I've looked for easy, light reading. I've dropped every free women's christian fiction ebook onto my kindle.  I've read, or partially read most of them.

Confession 1. My phone is my favoured reading tool. (See pic on right) It's light, portable and convenient. It saves the page for me when I fall asleep.  I've read a few paperbacks but, when I'm tired, they seem heavy and ungainly.

Confession 2. Occasionally I've spent real dollars on a wanted book for my Kindle. The Captivating Lady Charlotte by Carolyn Miller and Carry Me Home by Dorothy Adamek are two examples.

Confession 3. I haven't written any reviews. This gnaws at my conscience a little, but not enough to try and string a few words together. This year I've been wordless...and reviews need words.

Confession 4. Some books I will never finish. Some are so bad I delete them before they infect my Kindle! I'm a generous reader and overlook a lot of flaws to skim through a story. However if there isn't enough connection to the characters, it gets dropped. Today I started a book but there was no hook. A quarter of the way through I closed it. Will her father suicide? Will she fall into a new age affair? Well...who cares? I have no connection to the protagonist so the book becomes meaningless.

Confession 5. I read one Amish romance, by mistake. I didn't realise what it was until I was hooked and then I wanted to know what happened. But it was so sickening, unreal and ridiculous that I won't make that mistake again.

Confession 6. I've read a lot of American authors. But mostly they aren't as good as our great Aussie authors. However I've been pleased to discover Caryl McAdoo's Texas Romance series  and Sharon Srock's Inspirational Women's fiction.

Confession 7. Most Christian fiction isn't- isn't Christian at all. Some of it is religious, relying on laws and rules for plot. Some books send their characters to church, or feature a preacher. Some start each chapter with a Bible verse that has no relevance. Very few present the person of Jesus, or a character that lives in relationship with Him. Every now and then a gem will shine through and present a person that fights against negative circumstances with the love and power of God.

I guess that is why I plow through so any books, for every now and then I discover a book that shines with real Christian faith, where God is real and helps characters with their struggles, where real life problems are tackled, where the ending is unexpected.

Jo Wanmer is a lapsed writer, a pastor, wife, mother, grandmother and the daughter of the King of Kings. She lives in Queensland with her husband Steve. Her book 'Though the Bud be Bruised' was published in 2012. Other books are coming when this season is over and she finds words again.

Monday, 6 November 2017

Exploring Genres: Nonfiction

In this cross-post between Christian Writers Downunder and Australasian Christian Writers, I’ve been tasked with writing about the different types of nonfiction. This genre covers a lot of ground, from biographies of famous people to new ways with tofu, from annual reports and training manuals to news articles and blogs. First, let’s get some definitions under our collective belts.

What is Nonfiction?

In the broadest sense, nonfiction is anything based on factual information. This differs from fiction built around true events or characters. Tracy Chevalier imagined a backstory for the girl in Vermeer’s iconic painting Girl with a Pearl Earring. We understand that she took some literary licence in doing that, but it doesn’t matter. We’re happy to get swept up in the story. In contrast, readers expect that nonfiction is true, or at least a well-argued and reasoned version of the truth.

Reportage vs Creative Nonfiction

I also want to make a distinction between straight reportage and creative nonfiction. In reportage, you present the information as objectively as possible. For example, journalists report the news using the 'who, what, when, where, why and how' questions.

An intoxicated Lithuanian clown was injured this morning when his skateboard collided with a penguin on the Gold Coast Highway. The penguin remains in a fishy condition at Sea World.

Other types of nonfiction that might come under the reportage umbrella include dissertations, scientific papers, and annual reports. These documents can include opinion, interpretation and analysis, as long as such commentary is logical and consistent with the available evidence.

In creative nonfiction, you still deal with facts, but you use literary devices to convey them in an engaging way (e.g. scenes, dialogue, imagery). For example, a straight news article might report that missiles were fired over Tel Aviv, while a piece of creative nonfiction might show events through the eyes of someone holidaying in Israel at that time. (See Anna Elkins’ travel essay Of Danger and Beauty for an example).

If you would like to find out more about writing creative nonfiction, I highly recommend Lee Gutkind’s book You Can’t Make this Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction from Memoir to Literary Journalism and Everything in Between. If you would like a quicker introduction, I have a four-part series on creative nonfiction on my website. Just go to my writing tips blog and see Posts 33 to 36.

In the remainder of this post, I’ll highlight some of the main types of creative nonfiction.

Biographies, Autobiographies and Memoirs

Biographies, autobiographies and memoirs all tell about the life of someone, but they differ in terms of the author and focus.

A biography is written by someone other than the subject. For example, Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxis.

In contrast, autobiographies and memoirs are written by the subject. It’s your story told in first-person. While there is some overlap between the two, memoirs tend to cover a particular theme or a shorter period in the person’s life rather than trying to include the whole saga. Jo-Anne Berthelsen’s memoir Soul Friend tells the story of her special relationship with her spiritual mentor, Joy. Other aspects of Jo-Anne’s life are only mentioned insofar as they relate to that main theme. Memoirs also typically involve more reflection, as authors look back on events and discuss what it means to them now or what they might have done differently.

For some tips on writing life stories, please see Posts 8 to 11 on my blog.

‘How-To’ Books

As the name suggests, these types of books give readers practical instructions for accomplishing certain tasks. Whether it’s upcycling or unicycling, preparing a sermon or peppering a salmon, there’s bound to be a book or article to show what you need to know.

Christine Dillon’s book Telling the Gospel Through Story is a good example. Christine draws on her experiences in cross-cultural mission work to show readers how they can use stories to talk to people about their faith

There are also a myriad of writing craft books that show you how to show, and tell you how to tell. Some favourites of mine are Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell and Story Genius by Lisa Cron. (Click here to see my post on how to use Cron’s techniques to deepen character in fiction).

Self-Help Books

Self-help books are like ‘how-to’ guides for your life. Some of these books help you deal with challenging situations (e.g. abuse, addiction, depression, parenting, singleness), while others help you to lead a more fulfilling life.

A number of Christian living books fall within this category. In her book Beyond Betrayal: How God is Healing Women (and Couples) From Infidelity, Lisa Taylor shares her own story, but also discusses research, strategies and resources to help people who’ve been through similar experiences. 

Other examples include Bill Hybel’s Simplify: Ten Practices to Declutter Your Soul and Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life.

Expository Books

I’m using this term in a very broad sense to refer to books that describe or explain information surrounding a particular topic. It could be a book about brain surgery, global warming, literature, theology, politics, cricket, history, psychology, or the companions of Dr Who. The main aim is to inform the reader about the topic. For example, Mark Worthing combines literature and history in his book Narnia, Middle-Earth and the Kingdom of God: A History of Fantasy Literature and the Christian Tradition.

Most theological books would come under the expository banner (e.g. God’s Priority: World-Mending and Generational Testing by Anne Hamilton). Devotional books or Bible studies could also fall within this category, though the more applied devotionals may fit better in the self-help category.

Poetry and Song

Whoa! What are poetry and song doing in a post about nonfiction? Long before books and television were readily available to the masses, true stories were passed from village to village by poets and balladeers. These methods are of course still used today. In the latest Poetica Christi anthology, Wonderment, I have a poem called Apollo 8 in which I tell the story of the astronauts who read from the book of Genesis in a Christmas Eve broadcast from lunar orbit in 1968. You can hear part of the original broadcast here. Even if you don’t know a lot of poetry, I’m sure you can think of dozens of songs based on true stories (e.g. Hurricane by Bob Dylan, I Was Only 19 by Red Gum and The Outlaw by Larry Norman).

Wrap Up

As I mentioned earlier, there are dozens of sub-genres within nonfiction and I’ve only scratched the surface. There is also a lot of overlap across categories. For example, Ruth Bonetti combines family memoir with the political undercurrents of the times in her award-winning book Burn my Letters: Tyranny to Refuge.

Even if you mainly write fiction, you could make the odd foray into the nonfiction world. Perhaps you could write a magazine article about the nineteenth century fashions worn by your heroine or the science behind the gene therapy in your young adult thriller. Anthologies also provide opportunities for short nonfiction pieces (e.g. The Gecko Renewal and Other Stories of Life edited by Tabor College lecturers James Cooper and Mark Worthing).

What are your favourite nonfiction books and why? I’d love to hear your examples.

Nola Passmore is a writer and editor who has had more than 150 short pieces published, including fiction, poetry, devotions, magazine articles, academic papers and true stories.  She and her husband Tim own their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  She is currently writing an ever-changing novel and will have the draft finished by Christmas ... really!

Thursday, 2 November 2017

So many writers, so many stories

In recent years, I have been to many writers’ conferences, seminars and workshops. I remember attending my first ‘writery’ event at the NSW Writers’ Centre in 2004 and wondering what I was doing there. How did I ever think I could write a book worthy of publication? Everyone seemed so much more knowledgeable about the whole writing endeavour. Everyone seemed so much more confident and talented. Everyone seemed so much ... er ... well ... younger!

Photo courtesy Margaret Holahan
Last weekend, I attended the Omega Writers’ Conference in Sydney. It was a large conference, with almost a hundred attendees on the Saturday—for an excellent conference report by Narelle Atkins, please see her Australasian Christian Writers' blog. Again, so many knowledgeable and talented authors were present. Again, there were those more confident than others. And again too, so many seemed so much younger than I am—I remember telling someone there I felt about 110! But did I feel intimidated and out of place, as I had at that first ‘writery’ event I attended? Not at all.

Of course, thirteen years have passed since my initial foray into ‘writery’ circles. In that time, I have had eight books published. And this conference was about the sixth or seventh Omega event where I have been a presenter. But I believe there were also other reasons I experienced such a wonderful sense of belonging rather than those awful feelings of being a fraud or an interloper, sneaking into a place where I should not be.

For a start, I felt a great, inclusive warmth everywhere, that I hope each delegate experienced as well. People seemed genuinely interested in one another. People were friendly and helpful. People freely shared knowledge and expertise. People cared. It seemed to me that the whole Christian ethos behind this Omega event permeated everything and made such a difference.

Photo courtesy Margaret Holahan
But I think it was also the great diversity of writers present that enabled me—and hopefully everyone
—to feel at home. There were delegates present from almost every state in Australia (plus one New Zealander!), from both city and country regions and backgrounds.  Among these delegates were some at the very beginning of their writing journey, still thinking about whether this is what God has for them to do next, while others were multi-published authors. There were many different Christian denominations represented, although there was no real need even to discuss such issues. Yes, again there were many eager young faces everywhere, speaking of so many stories yet to surface and so much giftedness to share with the world. But there were also the more mature faces, speaking of deep experiences and insights gained that need to be heard and celebrated and valued.

I came away from the conference with the image of a beautiful, glistening opal clear in my mind. It has so much depth of colour that seems to glow and pulsate with promise, revealing itself differently from each and every angle. So ... may you all as writers, whether you attended this conference or not, know you belong, that your writing is valuable, that you add depth and colour to this unique opal and that you are part of something wonderful God is constantly fashioning and polishing to bless and reveal the Creator’s loving heart to the world.

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, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and two non-fiction works, ‘Soul Friend’ and ‘Becoming Me’. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit