Thursday, 8 March 2018

All for One, One for All

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Remember the image of a lonely, starving artist struggling in the garret, unknown and unrecognised until after his or her tragic death? Okay, some of you will, and some will be saying, 'What's a garret?'

According to that wise source of the hive mind, Wikipedia, 'A garret is a habitable attic or small and often dismal or cramped living space at the top of a house or larger residential building. In the days before lifts (elevators) this was the least prestigious position in a building. In this era, the garret often had sloping ceilings.'

So most of us don't live in garrets and most of us are not literally starving - though we might be if we tried to feed ourselves from our royalties (if we get royalties). And being seen and heard in a noisy, crowded book market can be daunting. So the struggles of artists and creatives maybe haven't changed that much over the decades, but one thing we don't have to be is lonely.

But, but ... we all know artists, particularly writers, are introverts (mostly). And writing is after all a solo pursuit - right? We sit down in our cave (or garret) with the door firmly closed and tap, tap, tap away at our keyboards composing masterpieces, engaging with our recalcitrant characters, patching up plot holes or wrestling with section headings, or daydreaming (hey, that's working) or reading, researching, (w)riting. Unlike musicians, scriptwriters and dancers - we do things alone and are responsible for set design, costumes, lighting, tempo, special effects, make-up, music, camera angles, and the gaffer's boy (whatever he or she does?!)- and also refreshments.

Well, yes, true the actual writing is often a solitary pursuit (though few strange writers like me don't mind writing in cafes and public places). Even so, it takes a team to bring a book into the world --- not just all the writers that have fed your imagination and inspired you to write, but also critique partners, beta-readers, editors, proof-readers, formatters, cover artists, publishers, printers, street team, reviewers and promoters. So yes, even writing is a team effort.

But what I really want to say today, is that we don't have to do this by ourselves. We don't have to be isolated and alone. We don't have to feel like we are stranded on a coral island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

For one thing, God understands. And chances are, if He has placed the passion in your heart, He has a purpose for it - maybe not always exactly how we envision it, but for something even better than we can imagine.

And in addition to that - you are not alone.

In fact, you are part of a crowd. And it's in banding together, in helping each other, in lifting each other up that we can flourish.  And how is that done?

  • Groups like Christian Writers Downunder (and Australasian Christian Writers, Faith Writers and Omega Writers) can provide encouragement, support, advice, inspiration. 
  • Critique groups and chapter groups.
  • NaNoWriMo  through buddies in November and cabins in April and July (we are forming one now), or Month of Poetry or other writing challenges.
  • Conventions, camps and retreats.
  • Courses, workshops.
  • Giving feedback, reading and reviewing others' works (though be wary of review swaps on Amazon). 

And if you are at the start of this journey or anywhere along the way - there are four events coming up that may be of interest:

Omega Writers Book Fair (Brisbane)

This Saturday (10 March).  We have over 25 local authors, editors and publishers with their books, plus a great workshop by Gary Clark on Inspiring Humour and - we praying for a big crowd of book fans :) FB Event page here.

Omega Writers Retreat (Toowomba)

4th-6th May
Week-end retreat with great seminars and a relaxed program - time to network and to write. Read more here.

CALEB prize

Opportunity to receive feedback as well as recognising the talents of aspiring and established authors. Read more here.

Omega Writers Conference

This year run in conjunction with Tabor College in Adelaide with fantastic guest speakers, workshops and networking.  This October 2018. Read more here.

And then there are smaller more focused groups.

Omega Writers chapter groups - as well as some online groups (check the webpage). 

Brisbane group - meets first Sunday of each month (2 pm) at St Francis College, Milton (next one in June - due Easter & May Retreat). Contact Judy Rogers.
Toowoomba - meets on the third Thursday of each month for some writing (7-9 pm), but also have other events on through the year.
Sydney group - next meeting is 7th April, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm at St Joseph's Centre for Reflective Living, Baulkham Hills. Contact Raewyn Elsegood.
Wangaratta group.  Meet every second month. Contact Susan Barnes.
Screenwriters group - Screenwriters meets via Skype on the third Monday of the month. People can join the FB group to stay up to date on the areas covered.
Sci-Fi/Fantasy group - meet via Skype once a month.

Other groups are in the Gold Coast, Toowoomba, Geelong, Adelaide, New Zeland - or include special interest groups in Writing for Children and Young Adults (COWS group) and non-fiction group.

There is sure to be other groups around - both Christian and secular - and if not, why not start one up yourself?

I wrote in isolation for some time - until I enrolled in a Master's Course on writing and then, almost by chance, went along to an Omega Writers Conference (it was run by Rochelle Manners and called World Word Fair at the time). That lead to me joining Christian Writers Downunder and then, in time, Omega Writers. I can't tell you how much the encouragement and inspiration of other writers -- like Paula Vince, Anusha Atukorala, Nola Passmore, Adele Jones and so many others -- has meant to me. I love being part of the Omega Writers Sci-Fi/Fantasy group - with a monthly Skype call. I'm also a member of a secular Spec Fic group and Month of Poetry.

When burning coals are scattered the flames go out. Bunched together and they can set the world on fire.

Jeanette has just released her latest book, Ruhanna's Flight and other stories, a collection of short stories in the world of Nardva. She 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 numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children. Find her on Facebook or at her webpages Jeanette O'Hagan Writes or Jenny's Thread.


  1. Thanks Jenny for a comprehensive post and a great reminder that we don't have to do it alone. That's awesome how your Master's degree opened the way forward for you to blaze new trails in your writing journey and connected you to so many. I well remember that conference when we were room mates - gee... do you remember how cold it was at night? I was freezing. :) Loved your pictures too Jenny. Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Anusha - I well remember being bunk mates with you, Kayleen and- Desley. I can't remember the cold - I do remember your warm welcome. Loved the conference - such a door-opener.

  2. PS And thank you so much for all you have done for us Christian Writers through CWD and beyond. Thank you Jenny. We are very grateful.

    1. Indeed we are! Grateful, that is. Very much so. The group has been a lifeline and an inspiration, and gives me a much-needed connection. That connection has often been tenuous due to circumstances and health issues. I need to lift my game. Loved your post...but it did make me a bit teary. :)

  3. Thanks for that, Jenny. It's so important that we all work together. Great to know there are so many groups and different local chapters around. Thanks for everything you do for CWD and Omega. You;re amazing!

    1. Thanks, Nola. Right back at 'yer. I love the way we work together in support of each other. And there was more local Omega Writer groups than I realised, which is great to see.

  4. Great blog, Jeanette. It's so great to be a part of a writing community. Love this: 'When burning coals are scattered the flames go out. Bunched together and they can set the world on fire.'

    1. Thanks, Elaine. It is, isn't it - get that flame going :)

  5. Remembering fun at the Blue House! If not for the encouragement of others, I might have drifted into the wannabe ether long ago and dissipated in its atmosphere. Instead, I've had adventurous souls launching kites that say, 'You can do it' while keeping me tethered to reality.