Monday, 28 October 2019

God's Ways and Ours

I love reading stories of God’s reality in our world. So this year, I hoped to submit at least one story for the Stories of Life competition. I believed I knew which story God wanted me to share. It was about moving home—a season when He’d taught me much about Himself, His love and His ways. He’d taught me then how to pray using the scriptures. He’d taught me how we can witness His power and His glory and I couldn’t wait to share it with the world.

For weeks on end, I worked hard on my story, refining it over and over again like an athlete in constant training before her winning race. An idea had been percolating in my brain on the next story I’d write, but God surprised me a week before the closing date of the competition with a huge dose of His love and I knew that that was what I had to write about. It didn’t take long to rustle up a 500 word story which I sent off as my second entry.

I was certain my first story would be chosen for the anthology. After all, I’d been writing for twelve years now and knew how to write a good story of faith. (Or did I?) Besides, God would want the world to know what He did for us back then. But … when the long list was announced, my eyebrows shot up and my puppy dog’s tail had to be tucked in! The story which I had persevered over for weeks on end hadn’t made it. Instead … the little tale written in a flash of inspiration—that had got in. Wow!

After the initial shock wore off, I could not stop smiling, because the truth bopped me on the head and I could finally laugh at myself. Of course! Silly little me!
  • ·       I can hope for success but it is God’s will that will come to pass.
  • ·       I could work hard but unless God blesses my work it is of no avail.
  • ·       I might plan, but it’s always God’s purposes that will prevail.

Like the sun’s golden rays, Isaiah 55 shone light onto my path. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9.

My journey into becoming a Christian Writer had started after a series of failures in finding employment. Yes, failure was the springboard to my writing life, my dream life. That’s what God does. Failure in His vocabulary is often spelt SUCCESS! As soon as my first book was written, He found me a publisher—just like that. That was God! My second book on the other hand, took years to get published … I faced rejection after rejection from various publishers for eight long years! That was God too—He kept me humble and leaning on Him. Thank you God. Don’t you love it how He shapes us and grows us through life’s journey?

God has blessed me beyond measure as I’ve followed His heart in my writing. He has also helped me discover time and time again that in myself I have nothing to offer the world. I need the Holy Spirit’s help in all of my writing, because unless the Lord builds the house, we build in vain. Yes, God’s ways are rarely our ways; His thoughts are rarely our thoughts.

Where you are in your writing journey dear fellow-writer? Are you inspired and productive? If so I rejoice with you. Are you struggling with the delays and disappointments that have blocked your way? I know what that’s like. Don't forget that what you class as failure, might in His book have a bold title: “SUCCESS”. Being faithful to all He has called you to is what matters. In eternity, you will discover the fruit of your hard work, your journey, the relationships you have nurtured, your life. And you (and I) will be surprised—what we consider achievements here on earth may be just a small dot on the heavenly landscape while what we discard as failures may be what the Father delights in and brings glory and honour to His Name.

No, God’s ways are not our ways. And for that we can be thankful.

All that I have seen, teaches me that I can trust God for all that is yet to come.
I know your Writing journey must bring great joy to our Father’s Heart. 

Keep writing! 

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. 

Her first book Enjoying the Journey contains 75 little God stories that will bring you closer to your Creator. Her second book  Dancing in the Rain brings you hope and comfort for life’s soggy seasons. Her third book, Sharing the Journey is a sequel to Enjoying the Journey and will be launched on March 7th 2020.

Do stop by at her website Dancing in the Rain to say G’day!

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Title: CWD Member Interview – Debra Williams

Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview:  Debra Williams (Pen name Debra Clewer)

Question 1: Tell us three things about who you are and where you come from. 

I am Debra Williams from the NSW country town of Cootamundra. I moved here in 2002 with my late clergy husband John Clewer, after forty plus years in Sydney. Along with being an author, I am an established puppeteer and puppet builder.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?

I write currently for the Middle-Grade age group (8-12 years) but am branching out into different age groups and genres. I have signed up for an online course in writing chapter books for 6-9-year-old children. My aim with my writing is threefold: to engage children in reading, to engage their imaginations and to teach them some historical fact in a fun way. Whilst I write fantasy, most of it is based on historical fact. I also try to introduce Christian concepts such as forgiveness, doing the right thing, prayer and honesty.

My other reason for writing is to share my faith where I can. When John died suddenly in April 2016, twelve days after being diagnosed with a brain tumour, we had been together for 40 years. We were in Christian ministry for 25, first through Church Army, then in the Canberra-Goulburn diocese where John was priested. His eyesight failed and he took early retirement in 2012. He was passionate about his faith. The night before his funeral my young granddaughter Bethany asked how granddad would be able to see in heaven because he was blind. We had a good talk about heaven from the Bible and what things would be like. Friends suggested I should write something for children to explain these things. Recently I entered the Dear Jesus diary competition through Elephant House press and wrote a 12-day journal entry story from Bethany’s point of view. It has been accepted for publication in a children’s anthology.

John had co-written a large part of the first draft of Harriet and the Secret Librarian with me, and when it was published last year, I did so with a printed dedication to him. 
Encouraging children with their writing is important to me, and I recently ran my first children’s writing workshop at our local library.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

Many adults and children have read my work and been absorbed in the stories. One boy in New Zealand whose dad is a member of CWD read my first two novels in three days last year and loved them. He now has a copy of the third novel in the series, and I’m hoping for another review from him. I would like anybody and everybody of any age to read and be engaged with my stories, even though they are aimed at a particular age group and genre.

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

My process is to first come up with an outline for the story, with the protagonist, supporting characters and loose story structure. Whilst I am writing, I will refer back to the outline to check whether I have achieved what I have set out do. Of course, the Lord often changes my ideas and gives me wonderful new ones to add in, usually about two o’clock in the morning! My challenge is then to remember what has come to mind so that I can record those notes later on. What helps me the most is giving my writing to the Lord and submitting my writing to the online critique group of which I am a member. Their feedback is always most welcome. I also visit the places written about in my books for research, helps enormously with my story structure.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 

The First 50 Pages by Jeff Gerke. Jeff has helped me to re-structure my writing and turn it upside down. I realised when writing my first novel that the opening scene was wrong, and I needed to re-work what I had written, changing the opening to be much later in the book. One of the pieces of advice was…” Never start with a flashback, unless you’re already a really established author.” I had started off that way, but changed the beginning, and for the better.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

To Jenny Glazebrook, for her continuing faith and trust in her life and writing direction. I have been inspired by her integrity and inherent faith and trust in the challenges she has faced.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2019/2020? How will you achieve them?

I have released my third novel in my middle-grade Harriet series, which happened in September 2019. Several people have commented that they have ideas for my next novel (which I must admit, at this stage, I haven’t really thought about!) However, having said that, I have left the ending of the current novel open to lead into the next. My husband and I visited Tasmania in February this year. We loved the Devonport Maritime Museum, and I discovered that there had been a shipwreck called Harriett. There wasn’t enough time to delve into it as we were on a time-constrained bus trip. We are hoping to re-visit Tassie for a short break in December and I would like to gather some information from the Maritime Museum for the next chapter in Harriet’s life. 

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

My faith has a huge impact on my writing. Everything is committed to the Lord. In my first novel, Harriet and the Secret Rings, Harriet and her friend time-travel to three different historical periods. One is Philippi, where they are accidently arrested and end up in jail next to Paul and Silas. I have taken both an historical angle and a faith angle with this adventure, with Harriet assuring her friend she knows how everything will turn out due to her attendance at her church’s kid’s club. Harriet has a quiet faith and optimism and of course, she is proven right.

Monday, 21 October 2019

Our Patron Saint of Fangirls

Disclaimer: Although I use the term 'fangirl' throughout this reflection to match my gender, it also applies to 'fanboys' and 'fanpeople' in general.

I am always on the lookout for role models from stories and history, to help direct how I live and think. This young woman cries out to the strong reader, lover of stories and eager fangirl I've always been. If you relate to this reflection, you may well be the same.

Do you enjoy a good story? You look forward to reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to a podcast simply for curiosity. The fun of finding out a new fact, making an unprecedented connection or adding new favourite characters to your book lists is what drives you. The phrase, 'fascinating discovery' makes your ears twitch. Maybe you just want to know who's going to get married by the end of the novel, or who the bad guy is. And you've covered the backs and fronts of several pieces of paper with scribbled notes.

But an obvious drawback makes you sad. If someone asks the purpose for your reading and research, you'd be hard pressed to make a decent reply. You're not brilliant enough to add anything great to the world of science, engineering, politics or education. You can't point out a single soul who benefits directly from your love of listening and learning. It's nothing like the helping professions. You're merely very interested in things, but that's the limit. And however much you'd love to believe otherwise, something tells you being a fangirl isn't a skill, it's a luxury. Is it self-indulgent, though? Are you wasting your time, by taking in without the means of giving much out? Those are discouraging questions, and enough to make you wonder if you're pulling your weight on this planet.

That's why this Biblical girl is one of my favourite role models. Mary was sitting near Jesus with her eyes fixed on his face, captivated by every word he spoke. But Martha, her bossy older sister, poked out her head to pay her out for not helping in the kitchen. Martha put Mary in the embarrassing position of drawing their house guest into the tense family dynamics. 'Don't you think she should be helping me cook, serve and scrub up instead of sitting out here enjoying herself?' (In the same way, you've probably heard, 'Put down your book,' or 'Turn off the computer.' The ultimate message we get is, 'Do something that really helps and makes a difference.')

His reply probably shocked both of them. 'Martha, you're stressed out with many things on your plate, but Mary has chosen the best one of all, and who am I to deprive her of that?' Wow, he didn't say her choice was equally good, but even better. That's the statement that helps put our habit of idle curiosity into context. Could it be that being a fangirl is a gift after all?

One thing always surprised me about this story. We don't even get to know the subject of his discourse. What was he was even talking about to enthrall her so? Was it one of the stories or parables which are recorded elsewhere, or something entirely new? Was whatever it was worth risking a tongue lashing from Martha? Hey, if Mary was so spellbound, I'd like to get the inside scoop too. Why aren't we told, so we can share the benefit, or at least decide if we agree it was worth listening to?

But we don't get to find out, because it's beside the point. In this incident, the focus isn't on the master storyteller so much as his audience. Her attitude impresses him as totally commendable, to the point where he calls it a perfect use of her time. And she didn't even appear to do anything mind-blowing with whatever she learned. There's no 'Book of Mary'. Her receptive, interested heart was enough. She enhanced her own life, which no doubt spilled over in quiet ways to those she brushed shoulders with. Maybe when a receptive, interested heart is the best we have to offer, it's enough from us too.

People often bring up counter points about this story. If you're thinking, 'Yeah, well somebody has to cook the meal and do the dishes,' I agree hard, tangible work is a great thing too. And sometimes people in Martha's position are quite right to speak up. But hard workers often get the pats on the back they deserve, because the results of their industry are pretty much in our faces. This little anecdote is highlighted for a different reason. Could it be that those with their heads in the clouds, being scoffed at as lazy slackers may deserve accolades too? What we take in through our reading, viewing and study does make a difference. It shapes us and what we have to offer in invisible but deep ways. You may hazard a guess that in this story, Jesus was talking about holy, spiritual things, but I'm writing this reflection with the understanding the many things under the sun are worth getting enthusiastic and excited about for the good they contain. And if somebody has to listen and take it in, let it be us.

So read on, my fellow nerds! Watch the documentary, learn how that game works, tell us your favourite novel from a particular series and why. When I'm feeling a bit fruitless, I sometimes think of Mary, who was never actually called the patron saint of fangirls (and guys) but might well have been.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful coastal area of Adelaide, with its four distinct seasons. Paula was a homeschooling parent and is now studying a Master of Divinity at Tabor College. 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, 17 October 2019

CWD Meet Our Members - Jenny Woolsey

Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today's interview: Jenny Woolsey

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.

I am a motivational speaker, educator, advocate and mum living, north of Brisbane. 

I am visually disabled and have three children who have a range of disabilities. 

I facilitate the Moreton Bay Region Local Writer Meet and Greet and the Moreton Bay Region Book Feasts. And of course I love God! 

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?

I write on the theme of Be Weirdly Wonderful! Embrace your difference. I have 5 published junior fiction/YA books, been included in 5 short story anthologies and I also write blogs on the subject. Within these stories I use a combination of fantasy, contemporary realism and my blog posts address mindsets for coping with being different and societal issues. My world is one of difference and disability, so God has put on my heart that I must help others to feel worthy and valuable, and to know they are perfect the way they are.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

My stories have been read internationally. My first novel, Ride High Pineapple, was endorsed by the Children’s Craniofacial Association which I was excited about. I would dearly love for my stories to be in all libraries and schools, read by as many children as possible, because they deal with such current pertinent topics. 

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

I think my biggest challenge is forming the initial idea then planning a unique and engaging storyline. 

A spark of an idea normally comes from a book I read, something I see in a movie or on TV, a real-life event, or talking to someone. When I am reading other authors’ stories, I always study the structure, how they use point of view and how they use the element of surprise or twists.

Once I have my idea, I play with it in my mind, working out the characters, the setting, and the story line. I plot out the story on a large piece of paper or by using post it notes on a story arc picture. If the idea doesn’t work, I scrap it, and rethink. For my children’s novels I want stories that have a message and will keep the child turning the pages.

My blog posts are written in reaction to something I see on the news or on social media, or after I have been triggered by an event.

I think what helps me the most is my inner determination to not give up and the fact that I am willing to toss a story away and start back at the beginning if I believe it isn’t going to be good enough. 

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?

I use blogs on the internet and YouTube videos often to check on different types of story structure and grammar rules. I have style guides in my home library. I haven’t found one craft book that has all my answers, so am happy to read from a variety of sources.

A friend has just lent me the book, How to Write Your Blockbuster by Fiona McIntosh and I am enjoying reading it, as it has many general topics – and you can always learn something you didn’t know!

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

I would have to give a shout-out to Jeanette O’Hagan (Jenny) who I met early on in my writing journey. She has always supported my writing and I have enjoyed watching her successes, reading her stories and her friendship. Jenny also facilitates this wonderful blog so needs to be congratulated for that! 

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2019/2020? How will you achieve them?

My goal is to publish two books - my self-help book, Be Weirdly Wonderful! Embrace your difference. How to be yourself in this world of perfection and prejudice; and the second book in my Daniel Barker Series. I will also continue to write my blogs. I am nearly up to the editing stage of Be Weirdly Wonderful! so it is well on its way. I have the storyline for Daniel Barker #2 worked out, so after I finish my self-help book it will be my focus. I also will continue to write short stories for anthologies and blog posts, that fit within my theme.

To help me achieve my writing goals I have a vision board with the specific names of the books on it. I then break the process down into smaller steps and give them an accomplishment date. From there I break these smaller steps up into weeks then to daily to do lists. If it isn’t written down, it won’t happen.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

I put my faith into my children’s stories in some capacity. They are aimed at the general public so sometimes it is just that Grandma goes to church as in Daniel Barker: By Power or Blight. In Ride High Pineapple, Issy says in her journal that she believes in God and prays. I will not write stories that have topics that God would see as inappropriate, and when I write fantasy, I am careful with the characters and props. If I can, I will add a verse or theme from the Bible, as I did in Land of Britannica with the coat of armour Brittney wears being similar to the Armour of God, and also the quote in the front is Faith, Hope, Love – the greatest of these is love. I pray before and during the writing process and ask for guidance.

Jenny Woolsey is a visually-impaired author and motivational speaker who is passionate about making the world a better place for people who have disabilities or are labelled as different. In Proverbs 31: 8 it says to speak for those who can’t, so she does.
North of Brisbane is where Jenny hangs out with her family and adorable fur baby, Smokey.
Jenny facilitates the Moreton Bay Region Local Writer Meet and Greet, and Moreton Bay Region Book Feasts.
You can find Jenny at, on Facebook,  Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and on Blogger . Her books are available from most online bookstores or from her website.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Omega Writers Conference 2019

Wow! What a weekend. Raewyn Elsegood you did it again and thank you to everyone else who helped make it happen. There were some amazing presenters who came to speak at the conference including key note speaker, Steve Laube.

Nola Passmore, Adele Jones and Kirsten Hart were asked some questions about their time at the conference this year.

What inspired you most at the conference?

It’s always encouraging to see and hear what everyone has been doing with their writing since the last conference. It always perks me up and reminds me why I write. Also Jenny Glazebrook’s sermon during our worship time really touched my heart, especially the inspiring story of her 10-year-old daughter sharing her faith without fear because she’s so in love with Jesus.

It’s a tough ask to pick one moment out of so many: from Keynote address by Steve Laube; Practical workshop sessions; CALEB awards; to meal conversations. As I have to pick one, I’m going to say seeing so many first time Omega conference attendees embraced by those who’ve attended previously, and watching those newbies become connected.

It's interesting how other people perceive things. It's the same with the books we write. Steve Laube shared a story (one of many) about a lady who expressed her thanks to him about a book he'd recommended to her, and how it had changed her life. The message she'd taken from the book had absolutely nothing to do with what the writer had intended for the story. If we can make a positive difference in one persons life, regardless of whether it's the message we were trying to convey or not, we've already succeeded.

What challenged you most?

To redefine what I think of as success. Not to compare myself to others and think in terms of how many books someone else has published, what awards they’ve won, how many reviews they have, whether they’re with a big publisher, etc. Instead think of what God has called me personally to do with my writing. If we touch the life of just one other person with our words, we’ve succeeded.

I'm going to cheat on this one and pick more than one! I can’t remember word-for-word, but during one of Steve Laube's sessions we were challenged to honour our writing as a privileged opportunity to create powerful, God-honouring stories, and not treat those words with doubtful uncertainty or even contempt. (I’m not sure that was the exact message, but that’s what I’m taking away!) Another challenge from David Rawlings was to engage others in our writing journey so they can share that creative adventure. Oh yes, and hearing so many examples of brilliant writing. Always more to learn.

David Rawlings workshop, Managing a Writer's Workload presented some helpful solutions to the challenging areas of being a writer. He challenged us to go away and try at least three ideas to help with time management. The biggest challenge for me would be to do things one at a time. I've always created new ideas for more stories, written and edited a first draft, worked on social media platforms and researched bits and pieces for a number of stories all at once. I liked the suggestion to work on one thing per week. I might have to try this.

What was your most memorable moment?

Steve Laube telling me it’s okay to say ‘No’

Seeing so many familiar faces and catching up on a year’s worth of life happenings.

After Steve Laube spoke on Friday night, I had the strongest urge to blow off all the workshops and just write for the entire weekend!

What are your goals moving forward?

To finish the edits of my novel and have it published and on the book table next year And of course to be beach-body-ready for next year’s conference. Bring it on!

I need to complete revisions on the two manuscripts I’m working on, along with the “Wired for Story” course I abandoned mid-year, at about the 2/3 mark. I also need to get a couple of ideas off the ground on the social networking front.

To complete structural edits on my fantasy novel within the next few months and learn all about Instagram.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

CWD Member Interview - Hannah Currie

Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview: Hannah Currie

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from. 

I’m Hannah, I’m from Brisbane (born, raised, and still here ) and I’m mum to three amazing kids (and wife to a pretty cool husband too!). 

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?

I write Young Adult Contemporary Christian Romance novels (aka YA princess books, which is way easier to say!). 
As to why…short answer, because it’s what I love to read. Longer answer, because the YA age is such an incredible time of personal growth for people – they’re coming out from under their parents’ umbrellas and discovering who they really are and their own purpose in life. Add in the rules and expectations of royalty, a few tiaras, a bit (lot) of romance and I can’t think of anything I’d rather write more. Christian fiction – especially Robin Jones Gunn’s Christy Miller (and co) series – had a huge impact on my faith as a teen and if God could use my books to encourage and grow someone like Robin did me, I’d be absolutely stoked!

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

Currently, those who’ve read it are family, a bunch of publishing professionals and editors (including Roseanna White and Dina Sleiman at my publisher, WhiteFire), and some authors who are endorsing it. 
Who would I like to read it … everyone? Well, everyone who loves Christian romance or princess stories. The vast majority of my readers so far have been a decade or two (or three…) past the Young Adult age group, which is amazing because it thrills me that so many ages are loving it, but I’d really love for lots of young adults to fall in love with it too. 

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

Heart of a Royal (my debut novel) was actually a really different writing process to every other story I’ve written. Where usually I skip back and forth and write whichever scene is in my head at the time and take between 6-9 months (sometimes longer) to finish the first draft, with this story, I wrote it from start to finish in three months, sending a chapter a week to my teenaged sister to read like a serial story.

In general, my first drafts are very similar to the finished product because I edit a lot as I go. Once the first draft is finished, I’ll read through it a few more times, adding in more ‘atmosphere’ – description, setting, what’s going on between the words. I tend to forget them when I’m writing because I get so caught up in the dialogue! 
My biggest challenge is turning off the inner editor so I can actually get words on paper. Doing word sprints has really helped with that. I set the timer on my phone for fifteen minutes and challenge myself to see how many words I can get written in that time. 

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 

A Novel Idea: Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction in which heaps of multi-published Christian authors  - like Robin Jones Gunn and Jerry B Jenkins – share their advice on (surprise surprise) writing inspirational fiction. It was one of the first writing books I read and was so incredibly helpful in those early days, not only to read about their processes and passion for writing but to learn all about POV, Show v Tell and all those other writing terms you hear wherever you go. An amazing book and whether you’re starting out or have been on the journey for a while, one I’d highly recommend.  

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

Penny Morrison, author of all the Hey! books that my kids absolutely giggle themselves through every time we read them. There’s something so heart-overflowing about hearing your child laugh as you read together and these books always have them – and subsequently me – in stitches. Brilliant books, gorgeous photos and totally my kids’ humour. Keeper shelf forever. Thanks Penny!

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2019/2020? How will you achieve them?

My writing goal for 2019 has been to do the absolute best I can do with releasing my debut book, Heart of a Royal, including connecting with readers in both the US and Australia through my social media accounts and newsletter. Also, to finish Book Two of the series (oh boy, did that main character misbehave! I think I have almost an entire book (definitely a long novella) of words and scenes cut from it because she wouldn’t do what she was told). 
2020 is then all about finishing Book Three and starting the edit/release/launch process all over again for them. 

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

Like most Christian authors, so much of my faith and what God is teaching me comes out in my writing. In many ways, the characters’ stories are my story – of finding hope in dark places when life just seemed too much, of discovering that God will always be enough, of fighting anxiety and the pressure of expectations, of holding on to faith when God leads me through the impossible, of finding love in unexpected places and trusting that God has that in his hands too… Sure, the situations are different – I’m certainly not a princess or royal of any kind! – but the heart is the same. The journey. The challenges, hopes, doubts, prayers. 
I don’t think I could leave faith out of my writing if I tried!

Aussie author, Hannah Currie, loves God, family, people (in small numbers, let’s not go crazy here!) and writing. She and her husband live with their three adorable kids in sunny Queensland, where it really is beautiful one day and perfect the next. Except, maybe, during heatwaves. They’re not so fun. 

Monday, 7 October 2019

Exploring Genre: Memoir

Memoir is one of my favourite genres to read, and I’m in good company, it seems. 

I did a quick google search for ‘best selling Australian books 2019’ as I wrote this article, and unsurprisingly, the first three books I saw were memoirs. 

The right memoir can do exceptionally well. Elizabeth Gilbert sold over four million copies of her Eat, Pray, Love, the story of her quest for meaning and inner peace across several continents. It was equal to Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, the story of a miserable Irish childhood. Another miserable childhood story, this time from the US, The Glass Castle, sold 2.7 million copies.

Why do we love to read other people’s real-life stories so much?

They’re a good read.

The best memoirs are well-written, with a distinctive voice and a strong story structure that has the beginning, middle and end that every work of fiction relies on. We follow the character through their challenge, quest or discovery, fight their battles with them, and marvel at their transformation at the end.

They give us true insight into other people.

Putting your hopes, dreams and flaws on a page for all to see can feel exposing for the memoir writer, but it’s a gift to the reader. We don’t know many people as well as we know ourselves. When you read someone’s heartfelt story, it’s an opportunity to intimately understand not only an individual, but humankind.

They allow us glimpses into situations we haven’t experienced.

I’ve never lived with drug-addicted parents, hiked a 1200-mile trail or travelled to a war zone to be a medical officer, but I’ve read the experiences of those who have. Their stories opened my eyes, moved me and challenged me. Most of us live safely in the suburbs; reading a memoir is a world-widening experience.

They teach without being didactic.

While I press the point home to my memoir students that writing their story is not the same as writing a sermon (ie. no lecturing!) it’s true nevertheless that readers will learn. Lessons are gained from the writer’s experiences and transformation. Anyone who has ever tried to teach a child—or an adult—will know that we all listen to a story more easily than a ‘you should’. By reading other people’s stories, we learn lessons for our own lives.

Types of memoirs

While it’s true that there are plenty of memoirs written about tragic childhoods, abusive marriages or terrible sicknesses, memoirs don’t have to be miserable. There are canine memoirs, eccentric-mother memoirs, travel and celebrity memoirs and a whole sub-genre based around the ‘My Year Of…’ concept. I’m thinking Julie and Julia, where Julie Powell decided to cook her way through the famed French cookery book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking; and Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood, in which she spent a year following the Bible’s instructions to women, literally and figuratively.

You could argue that blogs, which after all, are mostly personal stories, are memoir in short form. Often, a blog will become a book. My memoir, Love Tears & Autism drew on the five years of blog posts I published following my three-year-old son’s diagnosis with ASD.

If you’re writing a memoir, here are three tips.

A memoir is not the same as an autobiography

An autobiography spans a person’s lifetime and doesn’t necessarily have an overarching story arc that ties it together. Sporting or political ‘memoirs’ are more technically biographies and often are not much more than a series of events or anecdotes in chronological order. It’s important to get the facts and details right in this sort of narrative. A memoir, however, tends to focus on a period or significant event in a person’s life, and is more about how the person perceived the events, was challenged by them, and learned from them.

See yourself as the 'main character' of a story

Any good fiction protagonist must be a well-rounded character, with flaws as well as strengths. If you’re only shining off the page of your memoir, readers will close the book in disgust. We all know that real people have warts. Memoir readers want to see a balanced, honestly drawn character.

See the events as a story

Readers have expectations of what a story will give them. They seek challenge, tension and a win (of some kind) at the end. If you know the rules about story structure, you’ll be better placed to write a memoir that will hook readers and give them exactly what they are looking for.

Looking for good examples of memoirs to read and learn from? You’ll find some of my favourites listed on this page of memoir resources.

Cecily Paterson teaches memoir writing in her unexcitingly named online course, Write Your Memoir. Her own memoir, Love Tears & Autism won Third Prize in the 2012 Australian Christian Book of the Year Award. She’s the author of seven MG/YA novels for girls, with an eighth title to be published with Wombat Books in 2020.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

CWD Member Interview – Jessica Kate

Most Thursdays in 2019 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today’s interview: Jessica Kate

Question 1: Tell us three things about who you are and where you come from. 

  • I am passionate about romantic comedies, apple pastries and theme parks. 
  • My parents are basically The Man From Snowy River married to a beach babe. 😊 I grew up in a couple of different locations, mostly across rural Australia, as my parents compromised on their vastly different preferences for where to live. 
  • I try to keep fit by going to boxing training. I have mediocre success. 

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?

I write romantic comedies with a hearty side dish of drama! Some of my favourite movies include Sweet Home Alabama, The Proposal and Admission. The enemies-to-lovers trope is my FAVOURITE for a few reasons:

  • It gives the characters a chance to display loyalty despite their differences, which is a character trait I really value
  • It allows the characters to be more honest with each other, because they’re not keeping up a façade
  • It’s straight-up hilarious.

I’m planning a StoryNerds podcast episode where I delve into this in TREMENDOUSLY nerdy detail. I love nerding out over fiction!

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?

It was amazing to have Love and Other Mistakes endorsed by Rachel Hauck, Melissa Tagg, Rachel McMillan and David Rawlings. 

I love the work of Jenny B Jones, so if I ever got an endorsement from her I’d be over the moon!

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?

Discouragement is definitely my biggest challenge. Dealing with that has involved God really teaching me how to rely on Him, getting some better coping strategies from a psychologist and learning when and how to take breaks and fall back in love with stories!

And my process? It’s always evolving. I love listening to podcasts like The Writers Panel and Scriptnotes and hearing about other writers’ processes and pinching the parts that sound good.

For instance, I used to brainstorm my book out by just typing these long, endless notes into Scrivener, but I’ve just switched to using index cards. It’s way easier to go back and find relevant info and also frees your brain up to pursue different ideas and not get stuck on one track. For example, I’ll label a card ‘meet cute’, and then brainstorm ten different ways that could happen. I never used to do that just typing into Word or Evernote or Scrivener. 

I’ve spent much of the past 2 years editing drafts of novels I’d already written, so it’s been a while since I tackled a brand new book! I’ve learned so much in that time, it’s going to be interesting to see how my process keeps evolving. 

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 

Writing the Romantic Comedy by Billy Mernitt. I love that it delves into the history of the genre and breaks down what made those stand-out movies so great, all from the perspective of just giving the audience a great time. 

Entertaining the heck out of readers has always been my goal. I identify more strongly with screenwriters than more literary writers or poets, so this book has a lot of insights that I apply to novel writing.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?

I enjoy Kara Isaac’s stories and Iola Goulton has been an amazing editor and critique partner!

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2019/2020? How will you achieve them?

It’d be amazing if I could ‘earn out’ on my recently released debut Love and Other Mistakes and my upcoming A Girl’s Guide to the Outback, and I’d love to write a third book with my publisher! 

My main marketing goal is to double my newsletter mailing list. I hope to do that by cross-promoting with other authors, doing (but not overdoing) the occasional giveaway, maintaining an engaging presence on social media, updating the reader magnets on my newsletter (free ‘sassy shorts’ and a book sample) and working with some specific book bloggers. 

Plus, I hope to really engage readers through the StoryNerds podcast, which I co-host with Hannah Davis. It’s a place where we can nerd out over fiction we all love, which is super fun to do.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

Basically I write Christian fiction because every time I dig into what my characters really need, the answer ties back into God somehow. Placing your identity in God, trusting God, surrendering to God…etc. I love getting the chance to share that in the story – and to learn some lessons myself, too!


Australian author Jessica Kate is obsessed with sassy romances. 

She packs her novels with love, hate, and everything in between—and then nerds out over her favorite books, movies and TV in the StoryNerds podcast. When she’s not writing or discussing fiction, she’s hunting the world for the greatest pasta in existence.

Her debut novel Love and Other Mistakes releases July 2019, while A Girl’s Guide to the Outback hits shelves in January 2020.

Receive her sassy short The Kiss Dare FREE when you sign up for her newsletter at 

Book links
Love and Other Mistakes –
A Girl’s Guide to the Outback –

Social media
Facebook and Instagram: Jessica Kate Writing
StoryNerds podcast – Nerd out with us over books, tv and movies! Available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts and at