Monday, 30 December 2019

By Knowing Me Here - Jo Sarah Stanford

Somewhere between Nazareth and Capernaum.

It’s just after lunch and the hottest part of the day. Day three of hiking the Jesus Trail – from Nazareth to Capernaum.We’ve probably done about 45km already – 27km more to go. I am tired, my feet are sore and my pack feels heavy on my back. I come over a hill and look down into a valley…and straight into my story.
I stop dead in my tracks. Before me lies a dirt road with a field of wheat, growing golden-green on my right. The path ahead winds to the left around a big hill that stands in our way. I take a deep breath. I wrote this. Not just, oh this reminds me of my novel… but, that’s the hill where my character cuts across the fields, when she comes home from school because she doesn’t want to go the long way. Even though her neighbour asks her to not… It was my story…and I was there.

I recently spent a year in Israel, volunteering for the non-profit Bridges for Peace. I was part of a team of ten young adults, who came from all over the world to participate in their unique discipleship program. While there, my job was “journalist and International Content Manager” for thepublications department (Cool, hey!?). During Passover, we went on the popular hike called the Jesus’ Trail, which runs 72km from Nazareth to Capernaum, ending on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is a four-day hike, tough for anyone, let alone for someone with a physical disability like myself. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it all the way… but I did.

        The circumstances that led to me living in Israel were a miracle in themselves. I knew God had called me. However, hiking the Jesus’ trail – the lows, the highs, the exhilarationthe tears – was a unique experience of its own. So many times I thought to myself, ‘this is good material for my story.’ Then I came to that valley, with a scene I had already written laid out before me, and a little voice inside me whispered, ‘perhaps God brought me to Israel for another reason too.’ So I could finish my novel.
It was one I had been working on for quite some time (years) and was very close to my heart. It was also the one giving me the most trouble. The plot was elusive, the characters silent and I struggled to put into words what I saw and felt inside. To me it was more than “just a story”, but given its current not-even-a-draft status, in reality it wasn’t much a story at all. Friends were publishing their first and second – even third– novels , and I didn’t even have a name for my fantasy world. 
It is easy to get despondent over a lack of progress in our work. Whether we sit day and night at our desk and more papers end up on the floor than filled with words, whether we are too busy or just can’t find the motivation – there is a little voice inside us calling, ‘remember your mission.’ How many of us read books wishing we could be a part of that world, envying the characters’ journey yet forgetting they had struggles of their own? Some people accuse readers of “reading to escape” but I don’t escape. I learn.
My favourite books have taught to me to put others first, to be brave and to stand tall because the bad guys can be defeated. They have taught me about myself and about my faith. They have taught me that even if you are tired, your feet are sore and your pack feels heavy on your back – if you keep going you never know what story you might enter into.
In C.S. Lewis’ the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Aslan reveals to Lucy one of the reasons he brought her into Narnia. ‘That by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.’ God brought me to Israel for many reasons, but one of them was so that I might finish my story. Hiking the Jesus’ Trail made my story more real to me. The lows, the highs, the exhilaration and the tears I experienced will become words scratched out on page after page, eventually turning into this novel I know I am supposed to write
I saw a scene from my own story, quite literally before my eyes, and I marvelled at the work of God – the Great Author – and how He planned this all before I even knew how to write. In knowing Him in that moment, I know Him better now. What story has God given you, so that one day a reader might be braver, stronger, kinder? How might they know Him better because of the words you write? 
Remember your mission. Don’t lose heart. Keep writing.

(The Sea of Galilee. I made it to the end.)

Jo Sarah Stanford is a freelance writer with her own business: Write It Up! She has recently spent a year as a journalist in Jerusalem, Israel and is the editor of Bridge Builders the national bi-monthly magazine for Bridges for Peace. She is also a karate instructor and lives in the Adelaide Hills with her chickens. 

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Reading Christmas

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Many things make this a special time of year - summer (or winter) holidays, Christmas carols and songs, Christmas foods, Christmas lights, decorations and Christmas trees, nativity scenes, family gatherings, parties and traditions, Christmas movies - and well, maybe a book or two, (Afterall, what better present to give a booklover for Christmas than, well, books :) )

So, I thought we could look at twelve books that focus on or highlight Christmas in their pages. (Of course, there are many more. If I've missed one of your favourites, why not share it with us in the comments below.)

1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

In the first written book in the series, Narnia is held in the spell of the White Witch for over on hundred years- always winter, never Christmas. With the coming of Aslan, the lion, the son of the Emperor Beyond the Seas, the Witch's punishing grip on Narnia is broken. Before the great thaw takes hold, the three Pevensie children (Edmund has gone over to the witch) and the Beavers, hear the sound of sleigh bells. Not the Witch, as they feared, but Father Christmas with a gift perfect for each one, that enables them to fulfill the roles they need to play in the battle to come.  (On of the Doctor Who Christmas Specials gave a tribute to this Narnian story in The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe.)

2. The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickons (1843)

The well-known tale of Ebnezar Scrooge. This Victorian busnessman has closed off his heart to others and is only interested in making money. He keeps his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit, wokring late the night before Christiams and begrudges giving him any time off or gifts for the man's family.

That night Scrooge is visited by three spirits - the Ghost of Christmas past, the Ghost of Christmas present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come - in which he is reminded of love and friendship of the past, is shown the joyful family of his clerk despite their poverty, and then gets a preview of his bleak, cold, lonely future if he doesn't mend his ways. Scrooge has a change of heart and rushes to show the Christmas spirit to Bob Cratchit and his family. As Little Tim says, 'God bless everyone.' (Another Doctor Who Christmas special gives a A Christmas Carol retelling.)

3. Little Women by Louisa Alcott (1868/9)

This classic book starts at Christmas time. The four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and their mother face the first Christmas of a long year ahead without their father and husband. Having lost his wealth, Mr March is faraway as a army chaplain in the American Civil War, and the girls and Marmae must somehow survive (and thrive) without him.  

Incidenttally, Geraldine Brook's award-winning book, March, imagines the story of the girl's father during the year of his absence. 

4. Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St John

Chrismas celebrations and themes weave their way through this classic story of faith and forgiveness. Annette loves Christmas time in the Swiss Alps. It is especially poignant as the day when her mother died giving birth to her little brother.  Following a terrible accident, Annette struggles with forgiving her next door neighbour, Lucian, while Lucian is crippled by guilt. Over the year, both children learn something of God's grace and forgivenss.

5. The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter

The mayor of Gloucser commissions a waistcoat for his wedding on Christmas Day, but the poor tailor falls sick and is distraught that he can't complete it. When he arrives at his shop on Christmas morning he finds a small miracle from some grateful mice.

6. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

A young couple very much in love have little money to buy each other Christams presents. Each sacrifices something precious to them to buy each other the perfect gift.


7. Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Each December J.R.R. Tolkien wrote and illustrated letters from Father Christmas to his children. The letters tell the goings on at the North Pole (from goblin wars to an accident prone polar bear), interwoven with answers to the children's questions and current events - a loving gift of a father to his growing children.

8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

This is a well-known classic, another 'Scrooge' tale in which the Grinch is annoyed about the noise and bother of his neighbours' Christmas celebrations. He decides to 'steal' Christmas but in the process learns an important lesson about sharing.

9. When Santa learned the Gospel by Simon Camilleri

In this lovingly illustrated picture book, Simon ponders the different between Santa's Christmas message and that present in the gospels. The book is in verse and uses humour to get the messsage across.  You can also enjoy an audiovisual version here. 

10. A Christmas Star Disaster by David Adam Collings

Another prequel of the Jewel of the Staris series - Cruise director, Glen Price's tries to rescue Christmeas when his planned celebrations for the passengers come unstuck due to a ship-wide power failure. 

A brand new Jewel of The Stars Christmas story. Read it completely free on Wattpad - and Adam is offering it free on Wattpad.

11. The Gospel Stories

Of course, we also have the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke's gospels, each focusing on different aspects of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, the promised Messiah. Luke focues more on Mary's perspective (and her cousin Elizabeth) the birth of John as well as of Jesus, and the shepherds. Matthew focuses more on Joseph (Jesus' step-dad)'s point of view and tells us of the Magi and the Flight to Egypt,

Either way, it's an amazing story, of the eternal God, the Logos, the second person of the Trinity coming to earth as a human being. Not just created fully formed adult with all his faculties and enjoying a position of wealth and prestige as a king. Rather, he is conceived and knit together in Mary's womb and is born (with all the mess that entails) as a baby, without a place to stay, sheltering with the animals.

Yet this, baby is the creator of the universe and will bring about peace - shalom - between God and humanity, between God and the cosmos.

Christmas stories celebrate family and friends, giving, reconcilation and hopes for a brighter future. At the centre of it all is a baby and God's love and gift, that extends to every mundane and messy corner of our lives.

Wishing you all a blessed and joyful Christmas and peace with God and your family and neighbours.

And in the spirit of Christmas (and Doctor Who Christmas specials),  I'm offering a short story Treasure in the Snow.  While it's not exactly a Christmas story, it does have mountains of snow and some parallels with the Christmas. Let me know if you can find them :) 

Find your free copy (until the 2nd Jan 2020) here.

Jeanette spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs. She has published over forty stories and poems. Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Find her on:


Monday, 23 December 2019

Spreading Christmas Cheer by Ruth Bonetti

‘Tis the season to be jolly. 

Define jolly:
"Someone who is happy and cheerful in their behaviour. Synonyms: bright, funny, lively."

Let's celebrate the season...

Rather than focus on the day. After all, December 25 owes some poetic license to monks and Roman calendars. Let’s value and enrich time with loved ones, whatever the date. 

Lifeline help calls peak over the festive season. Credit cards max. Many over-indulge and over-imbibe. 

Hair fractures can split relationships. Split families haggle over time—quantity amid hopes for quality. Trying to prove and outbid love by choosing ideal gifts, aided by Chinese sweat shop imports.  As families scatter across the globe, offspring spread their wings into their own nests, Christmas can become fraught with in-law negotiations. 

This time last year I told how such scattering of dates meant we shared our home on Christmas day and dinner with four unattached, grateful people. Thank God for prompting me to ask my son “Can you think of anyone at a loose end who’d like to come?” Indeed, he did. Glad you suggested it. 

He brought his mate –let’s call him Jack—who was alienated from his family, whose colleagues didn’t understand his offbeat wit. Shunned by peers jealous of his formidable musical genius. 

We invited another lonely soul who struggled to form and keep friendships. Again an exceptional talent, but given little credit or encouragement for that. Bad experiences had recycled, spiralled to trigger action fight or flight responses that further alienated others. We’d done our best to support him through workplace bullying, not too overt for the boss wielded the cutting word axes.

Jack could talk for hours on any topic; philosophy, physiology, ornithology, religion (and misuse of it), the state of the world. After-life or nothing-after. His sharp mind played with ideas, his nimble fingers played anything that made sounds. In rehearsals Jack’s deadpan black humour sometimes got people off-side. Why should he care? He didn’t fit into institutions, didn’t want to. No boxes could contain him.  Jack spoke his mind–too well. Just as that sharp tongue slashed through staccato riffs. 

And six months later he died.
How tragic that Jack’s alienated family
didn't organise a funeral to farewell friends, to celebrate his life and gifts. They didn’t give him the time of day, even one hour. But we gave him his day. 

Reflect before we point fingers

What phone calls could we make, to reconcile with others? Before it's too late? Rather than see them next over--or in--a coffin, before it's to late?

Don't we all bring some pocket sized-ones demons to our festive gatherings? Submissive ones? Do we dodge that argument (green/left vs. deplorables, anyone?) by activating our mouths with more pavlova or alcohol?

Do we skirt around loved ones who refuse eye-contact, unable to a risk a debacle by ramming through decades’ long impasse? Another drink, anyone? Do we wound with criticism (veiled of course), judgments, directives? 

Grant us Thy peace.  

One discordant note is enough to jar interpersonal harmony. 
Be the one to resolve discord with a healing cadence. 
May your Christ-mas time be blessed with God’s love, joy and understanding. 
And may you pass His peace to all you meet.

RUTH BONETTI wrote about her wintry Christmas experiences in Sweden and Finland in Burn My Letters, winner of the 2017 CALEB Nonfiction award. She sends love and prayers to all who battle fire in this tough summer season.

Follow her blog and FaceBook pages:

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Fifteen Great Picks from 2019

Throughout the year, on Mondays and Thursdays, we post a blog -  it may be inspirational,  a story of writerly struggles or triumphs; tips about the writing life and writing craft, or an interview of one of our members. Sometimes it's moving, or funny or thought-provoking or all three.. Always, it's the result of thought, research, experience, passion, creativity.

The CWD Admin team would like to give our blogteam a huge thank you for your contributions throughout 2019(and over the last decade).

As we near the end of 2019, we thought we'd honour our bloggers' contributions with a pick of 15 blogposts that have inspired us this year (in no particular order). Out of over 100 posts, it wasn't easy to choose and there are many other posts equally deserving of notice. We have a wealth of information and inspiration on the blogsite - accessible on multiple subjects and themes.

1. Christmas Stories & Fairytales by Charis Joy Jackson

Once upon a time, I wrote a short story about a girl who wanted a Father because Father's are good at providing for their families and because the girl needed to be provided for. It was allegorical and fantastical in nature. The girl travels to Faerie and finds a Wish Box and wishes her father into existence.

I wrote it because I'd forgotten what my Heavenly Father was like as a Dad. I'd conformed to the world's idea and my relationship with Papa God was suffering for it. Read more HERE

2. Talents? What talents? by Melinda Jensen

In more recent years, though, I’ve noted that not all devoted and genuine Christians hover as closely to the poverty line as I have always done. At first, I thought God had simply chosen to bless them in this manner more than He has blessed me…and I’ve been okay with that. The wind blows where it will, after all. (Alright, let me be perfectly frank, there have been a few times when I’ve pitched headlong into a full-blown pity-party, at least for a few minutes, but I do try awfully hard to snap out of it.)

After a fortuitous conversation with a beautiful Christian woman several weeks ago, it dawned on me that I’ve been missing something vitally important all these years. And it all boils down to a deeper understanding of scripture, specifically, the Parable of the Talents. Read more HERE

3. Any Old Donkey by Rose Dee

A wise and faith-filled lady once told me the Lord could use ‘any old donkey.’ I’ve never forgotten that. While I understood at the time she was referring to herself, I’ve often wondered about that saying: any old donkey.

I’ve recently come across several Bible references to donkeys that have made a real impression on me, and given me insight into what she may have meant. Read more HERE

4. Just Write Something by Linsey Painter 

Before Christmas, I was in a bit of a writing frenzy. I was trying to write two short stories and I had deadlines for both.

In the midst of all the editing I ground to a halt with one of my stories. I had to do a whole lot of work on the structure of it.

Structure in stories is the part that I struggle with the most.

I knew what I had to do, thanks to my frantic reading of books on structure. It was going to be hard work. Read more HERE

5. Doing Deep Work by Elaine Fraser

The monotony & solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind. Einstein.
I often wish I could just go into a cave and write and write and write. However, my life only allows me to do that for a couple of hours a day–unless I go on a writing retreat.

In order for me to do my best work, the kind of deep work you have to do in order to go deep into the topic, deep into the research, deep into the thinking, with long cycles of reflection, I need to make sure I get to my version of a cave as often as possible.

That’s how I develop ideas. That’s how I do good stuff.

After a busy couple of years of travelling, I was beginning to forget how to get back into the wellspring of the deep, quiet solitude of work. Read more HERE

6. Whatever could go wrong? A pantster tale by Jo Wanmer

It was a great idea. Whatever could go wrong?

‘I’ll make your wedding cake. Would you like a two-tiered cheesecake decorated with fresh flowers.’ It was my idea. The bride loves my cheese cake so jumped at the offer. At least we had one thing organised for the wedding that was bearing down on us. A wedding organised by a pantster! Read more HERE

7. Five Things Wimbledon Can Teach You About Writing by Nola Passmore

Did you spend more time watching Wimbledon in the last two weeks than working on your manuscript? If you’re feeling guilty, fret no more. All that ‘tele-tennis’ can actually help with your writing. Here’s how. Read more HERE

8. Trust and Obey by Anusha Atukorala

“Trust and Obey”. A simple way to live—the only way really. Several years ago, I decided it was time I wrote a novel. I had published one non-fiction book and ten short stories in anthologies. Two manuscripts (one of which was a children’s fiction book), had made it to being finalists in two writing competitions. I was on a roll. I decided it was time delve into writing fiction. Read more HERE

9. What’s in a Theme? by Julia Archer

What life theme might drive a hero – real or fictional?

‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,’ wrote the imprisoned apostle Paul to his friends far away in the Greek city of Philippi.

As a theme for a life, it’s hard to beat.

Fiction writer and teacher James Scott Bell may not share Paul’s theology, but he is just as passionate that life-or-death stakes must drive your fictional hero.

‘The stakes have to be death – physical, professional or psychological’, he writes at the outset of His lively and instructive book Conflict and Suspense. Read more HERE

10. Indie Publishing anyone? by Jeanette O'Hagan

In the past there were two main routes to publishing - through a traditional publisher or through a vanity press. With the advent on e-books, print-on-demand, and online sales, it's become more and more viable for authors to become their own publishers. This means much more than finishing a book and then banging it up with a cover and no editing or proofing on somewhere like Amazon (though that can happen). A serious Indie publisher is committed to producing a quality book with professional covers, with well edited and structured content that will connect with readers. Read more HERE

11. Learning about Honesty Writing about Honesty by David Rawlings

My new novel is out next week. A second novel, another modern-day parable hot on the heels of The Baggage Handler, which I’m humbled to say was named as the best Christian debut novel of 2019. (My publishers make me say that …)

It's called The Camera Never Lies.

I wanted my next modern-day parable to cover the issue of truth. We live in a post-truth world where honesty can be sometimes subjective, and sometimes denigrated. And the best place to explore the concept of honesty – in a context that is most relatable to us all – is in our closest relationships.

What would you do if your secrets were revealed to those closest to you? Read more HERE

12. The Danger of Words by Jenny Glazebrook

Dare I write this post? It could be misunderstood … and held against me for years to come.

Words are dangerous.

They can set a forest on fire; they have the same power as a small rudder which changes the path of ships (James 3:3-9).

They can be so positive but they can be equally harmful.

Words are powerful and that’s what makes them dangerous. Read more HERE

13. Our Patron Saint of Fangirls by Paula Vince

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. Read more HERE

14. Going Big, Going Small, Making the Most of it All by Mazzy Adams 

... We’ve all been there, longing to gather with like-minded souls, fellow creatives who understand the word-driven psyche. We desperately want to participate, contribute and make the most of any and all opportunities to connect, learn, promote, celebrate, and, er, commiserate. Let’s face it—there’s a unique blessing that comes when chatting to someone who UNDERSTANDS. When I say to a fellow writer, ‘He says, “Just put it up as an ebook”,’ and her spontaneous laughter tells me she KNOWS there’s no ‘just’ about it. She KNOWS it’s not that simple.  Read more HERE

15. What Do You Think He Meant? by Meredith Resce

... None of them expected the promise to still be on track—poised and waiting to break forth.

What do you think Jesus meant when he talked about overcoming the world? Where are you situated this coming Easter? Are you poised with your mobile phone ready to record the miracle? Read more HERE

And a couple of Bonuses 

The Exploring Genre posts in conjunction with ACW. Like Cecily Paterson's post on Memoir
After three years, these have now come to an end. Next year the cross-posts will focus on Omega Writers. 

And the popular, Meet Our Members posts. For instance, Carolyn Miller or Anne Hamilton and many, many others. MOM posts will continue in 2020.

We'd like to thank all our active CWD members and bloggers who interact, comment and support each other and the group  - and to wish you all a blessed and joyful Christmas as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour and Lord.

Monday, 16 December 2019

Christmas Stories & Fairytales

by Charis Joy Jackson

Once upon a time, I wrote a short story about a girl who wanted a Father because Father's are good at providing for their families and because the girl needed to be provided for. It was allegorical and fantastical in nature. The girl travels to Faerie and finds a Wish Box and wishes her father into existence.

I wrote it because I'd forgotten what my Heavenly Father was like as a Dad. I'd conformed to the world's idea and my relationship with Papa God was suffering for it. Especially in the area of provision.

It was winter in Alaska, and we were a couple weeks away from Christmas. I'd been lying in bed, complaining to God, when a sudden stirring filled me to write. It was already near midnight, but I crawled out of bed, and the comfort of warm blankets, pulled out a notebook and pen and began to write:

Ava watched the hail pound on the thin sheet of glass and wondered if the window would hold against the relentless assault. Far on the street below fairy lights danced in the storm, silent reminders of the Christmas season. Ava tucked herself back under the covers but couldn't lie still, the events of the day filled her young mind with worry.
Today, more than anything, she wished she had a Papa. The landlord had come and Ava heard him tell Mama that they needed to come up with this month's rent by next Friday or he’d be forced to have them evicted. She’d seen the look on Mama’s face and knew unless there was a miracle, they would be spending Christmas on the streets.

Within a short time, The Fairytale Child was finished, and I settled back under the covers, escaping the chill of the room, and fell into a deep slumber. Dreaming of my story and the revelations God had taught me in those wee hours about Him being a Father, especially one who provided for His children.

All this happened about fifteen years ago now. Strange to think I'm on a similar journey, and needing, yet again, another reminder that Papa God is a good provider. Funny how we sometimes have to learn things over and over again. I think that's why Jesus told stories because we can read them again and again and glean new lessons each time.

Other than reading The Fairytale Child aloud to a small group of women about fifteen years ago, who wept and thanked me for the powerful words, this story has been buried under a mountain of snow, aka - lost in a digital field of white and blue folders in my writing files.

That is, until one Australian winter day ...

At the beginning of the year, God spoke to me about 2019 being a year of renewing hope. Renewing my understanding, giving me hope for the Big Story He wanted, and still wants, to tell with my life and pushing me to join the adventure of hope by joining the world of indie publishing.

So, I toyed with the idea of releasing my novel, The Rose Of Admirias, as an indie author. But as I researched how to do this, I was soon lost in a world of new vocabulary and technology. And overwhelmed by how much editing my novel still needed. The whole process became daunting. Terrifying. And I found excuse after excuse to not follow through.

But Papa God was whispering to me, telling me to be brave. To hope for the future He had for me. Reminding me of little Ava and the terrifying adventure she faced one lonely Christmas.

Then a friend of mine released a short book as a means to gain more readers before they release their book next year. Something about this stirred me to action, and the next thing I knew, I was piecing together a collection of original short stories to indie publish. And Too Bright: And Other Stories Inspired By The Dreamcatcher's Journal was born.

And ...  

The Fairytale Child found a new home. A new place to shine.

As I began to edit the collection together, I was reminded of the lessons learned along the way. Co-creating worlds and characters with Papa God, weaving space operas together alongside high fantasy. Each story a creation, each story inspired by life lessons. Especially little Ava's.

The Christmas season is one filled with joy and celebration. But life's obstacles don't wait for holidays to come and go before bringing trouble, and for many, this season will be filled with hardship, tears, and heartache for the closeness of family, among other heavy burdens.

While it would be easy to allow the weight of uncertainty pull us down, we can find hope in the stories around us. Whether that be in creating a new short story, novel, or watching a film. We can look for God in every word and ask Him to teach us the important lesson Ava learned:

That night after Mama tucked her in, Ava thought of Papa and his promise to take care of them. She smiled, knowing he'd shown up today. He really was faithful.

Perhaps it's because it's the holidays, but I'm reminded of the hardships another family endured long ago. A small family who shared the warmth of a stable, while a chorus of angels sang of Papa God's provision to the world. Despite their difficulties of having no room after a long journey, I like to think Mary and Joseph,  still smiled and rejoiced while shepherds came and angels sang.

Only God knew this story would end at a cross, and yet He still sent his angels to sing, still planted a star (a thousand years in advance to that day) to shine for wise men to come and celebrate the birth of the King of hope.

Whatever you face this holiday season, whether it's the joy of being surrounded by family or pushing through a season of heaviness, I hope these glimpses of stories, some true and some inspired by true things, help you find new hope and new reasons to rejoice. And new stories of your own. Imagined and dreamed and created with the Creator. Because through the thick and thin Papa God is right there and always will be, a faithful provider who gives good gifts to His children.

Charis Joy Jackson works as a full-time missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in Queensland. During the day she mentors young adults, teaches on several topics including worship, intercession, and how to makes movies. In her spare time, she spins stories of speculative fiction and captures her crazy dreams in print. 


Monday, 9 December 2019

When You Are Disappointed

It may not seem appropriate to think about disappointment as we approach this Christmas season, but disappointments abound. Perhaps it was the year you hoped to be published, republished, published again, or some other writing goal wasn’t achieved. Perhaps other career or personal goals didn’t eventuate either.

Some are disappointed they won’t be spending Christmas with their loved ones. Perhaps they live overseas, perhaps they have passed away during the year or perhaps they don’t think getting together at Christmas is a priority. Perhaps you are disappointed with other aspects of your relationships. Perhaps your children aren’t Christians or married to an unbeliever.

I’m finding people in our churches are struggling with issues they haven’t had to face before. Christmas can bring a clash of values, culture and traditions that make it a stressful time. We have Christian friends who struggle ethically with the requests their children make of them. Perhaps their children want to bring their unmarried partner with them at Christmas and stay at the family home in the same bed. Or bring alcohol into a home where there has never been alcohol, or act in other ways that disagree with the values they were taught as a child.

Zechariah and Elizabeth

This Christmas season, I’ve been thinking about Elizabeth who lived with a great deal of disappointment: “Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6-7).

In Jewish culture not having children wasn’t just unfortunate, it was seen as a disgrace. We see this later when Elizabeth discovers she is pregnant: “‘How kind the Lord is!’ she exclaimed. ‘He has taken away my disgrace of having no children’” (Luke 1:25).

Jewish wives were expected to produce children and if none were forthcoming, it was a valid reason for husbands to get a divorce. Children were important to look after aging parents, to pass on property and continue the family line. If a wife didn’t have children, the family name didn’t continue in the genealogy records. It was like being obliterated. Children were a blessing from God, and childlessness was seen as a curse or punishment, and a sign of God’s disfavour.

Luke states that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were from priestly lines (Luke 1:5), but also tells us that they didn’t live in Jerusalem (Luke 1:39). This godly, priestly couple chose to live away from the centre of religious worship. Why would they do that?

It may have been because of shame. Many would have felt that Elizabeth was guilty of some secret sin, and since Zechariah stuck by her, he must be guilty too. To complicate matters, we know from archaeological discoveries that the priests in Jerusalem were wealthy and corrupt, but wealth was seen as a sign of God’s favour. Meanwhile Zechariah and Elizabeth, “were righteous in God’s eyes,” but lacked the obvious sign of God’s favour.

It made no sense. Life hadn’t worked out the way Zechariah and Elizabeth anticipated.

Then, Elizabeth gave birth to John and there was much rejoicing. However, it seems Zechariah and Elizabeth died before John reached adulthood and John himself died young and childless. He wasn’t able to do any of the things that parents hope for: look after his parents, pass on his inheritance or continue the family line.

A Hope Greater Than Disappointment

The writer to the Hebrews talks about people like Elizabeth, “All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it” (Hebrews 11:13).

Elizabeth didn’t live long enough to see all that God fulfilled through the ministry of her son John the Baptist, and later Jesus. Nevertheless, she saw it from a distance and welcomed it. She rejoiced in the prophesies that she saw fulfilled and the answers to prayer that she did see. While she didn’t see all that God promised, what she did see, gave her hope for what she could not see.

Likewise, our hope in God overcomes our disappointments. We may not see or understand all that God is doing in our lives and in the lives of those we love, but we know God keeps his promises. Our hope rests on the character of God. We know he is a faithful God who loves us and acts in our best interests. Our hope in God is a “strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls” (Hebrews 6:19).

Anchors are needed in rough weather to keep us from being swept away in a storm, but they are also needed in calmer times to stop us from drifting. Our hope in God keeps us connected to his promises in the crises of life and in the times of relative calm. He promises to be with us, to care for us, to strengthen us and to never forsake us.

Elizabeth shows us that it’s possible to live a life of faith in the midst of disappointment. It’s possible to love and serve him, even with a broken heart because we have a gracious God who fills us with a hope that is greater than our disappointments.

Susan Barnes is a writer and pastor. She loves to challenge people's thinking and regularly blogs at Visit her website if you are looking for free devotional articles for your church newsletter, ideas for Bible Studies or sermons, book reviews and more. Receive her free ebook, 10 Things My Children Taught Me About God, by signing up for her monthly newsletter via her website.

Thursday, 5 December 2019


by Jeanette O'Hagan

Christian Writers Downunder - Who are we? What do we stand for? What do we offer?

CWD has been going since 2009 as a Yahoo Group, then as a writers' blog and Facebook group since 2010. I joined in 2012. I still have a clear memory of being invited into the group by the lovely Paula Vince (who I'd recently met at the World Word Conference - the progenitor of the Omega Writers Conference).

Both the conference and joining CWD transformed my writing journey - in terms of networking, mentoring, encouragement and friendships.

Over the last couple of years, CWD has highlighted and interviewed some of our members (e.g. Meet Our Member posts on Thursday). So far we have interviewed 52 great writers, editors & illustrators out of our more than 1100 members. We're a diverse bunch, from different backgrounds, different life experiences, different genres and different writing goals, but all with a love for Jesus and for writing,  and are connected in someway to Australasia.

Since 2009 (and the very first blog post in 1 September 2010), we've published an anthology - Glimpses of Light. We've become an affiliate group of Omega Writers (along with our sister group Australasian Christian Writers). Our members have published or are on the journey to publish or just staring out, writing their first pieces. They have won prizes, taken workshops, organised retreats, book fairs and conferences. We still have a writers' blog (i.e. this one) and, though the Yahoo group is long gone, our Facebook group remains a supportive place for Christian writers from Downunder.

In 2014, our previous fabulous coordinator, Nola Passmore, wrote about the aims and mission statement of CWD:

"Through the CWD Facebook page and the bi-weekly blog, we seek to encourage each other, provide tips, share prayer points and circulate news relevant to Christian writers."

She then goes on to propose our mission statement.

CWD's mission statement:

To glorify God with our writing

As Nola says:

"This doesn’t necessarily mean that every piece we write has a specific Christian message." 

While many CWD writers write Christian fiction, many of us write for the secular market. Whether explicit or implicit, our fiction and non-fiction is influenced and undergirded by our Christian worldview, by Christian values, themes and choices. How this plays out will read differently for each of us as God has gifted us and led us on our own faith journeys.

As Nola reminds us, it's not just what we write but how we live that glorifies God.

"Honouring God in our writing also means that we endeavour to live a life that is consistent with His Word (e.g. demonstrating a servant attitude, ethical behaviour, love, forgiveness, patience, perseverance, generosity, gratitude)."

Christian Writers Downunder wishes to glorify God through affirming Christ and faith in him, and by providing a community of grace and generosity. This means holding to what is true while respecting each other in humility and grace even when we disagree, recognising that we are all fallible and, on occasion, mistaken, and in constant need of God's grace and provision.

To develop our God-given creative gifts.

Nola says:

 "God has given each of us gifts to be used in building His Kingdom, including creative gifts such as writing.  However, we still need to hone our gifts to be the best we can be at our craft."

Christian Writers Downunder aims to help Christian writers, editors and illustrators to develop their creative writing gifts through practical tips and encouragement on the bi-weekly CWD blog. And through celebrating achievements and providing opportunities to blog and contribute in different ways. Posts on Writing Craft on Genre or Marketing help our members to hone their skills, while inspirational blogs inspire and encourage members to 'fan the flame of God's gift within you.' (2 Tim 1:6)

To encourage other Christian writers 

1 Thess 5:11 exhorts Christians to encourage each other and build each other up. In fact there are 59 'one another' verses in the New Testament, showing how important Christian community is.

We don't need to see other writers as competitors, rather we are stronger together when we support each other.

We can encourage other fellow writers, editors and illustrators by:

  • sharing our own journeys (including the hard parts), 
  • cheering each other on, celebrating each others' victories, commiserating & praying when things get tough. 
  • answering questions & sharing our acquired experience
  • providing constructive, balanced and honest critique as beta readers and critique partners,
  • buying (or borrowing), reading and reviewing others' books (on Goodreads, Amazon, our blogs) - especially those in our genres or target audience, 
  • recommending (or buying) other authors & books to our fans, friends and family, 
  • praying for other writers and writing groups, 
  • mentoring less experienced writers or sharing great resources we've discovered,
  • being supportive and interactive on social media - through commenting on blogs, liking pages and posts, replying to tweets etc 

Christian Writers Downunder aims to encourage its members through the bi-weekly blogs - inspirational and practical posts from our dedicated blog team, Meet Our Members posts & the Highlights posts that celebrate the achievements and diverse journeys of our writers. 

The CWD Facebook group is also a place of encouragement - a forum to ask questions, to share your journey or your tips or resources. Share Wednesday provides an opportunity to interact with other CWD members and to support them through social media and in other specific ways.

The blog and FB page act in tandem, like two hulls of a catamaran - to provide knowledge, support and encouragement to our members.

Working together with other Christian writing groups

Nola concludes:

"The goal of encouragement doesn't just apply to individuals, but to our support of other Christian writing groups.  We all have a part to play, just as Paul and Apollos each had different roles in partnering with God (see 1 Corin. 3:5-9).  Let's work together as a community of Christian writers, editors, publishers and illustrators; knowing that we can achieve more together than alone.)"

Christian Writers Downunder has been delighted to work with and support other writing groups. In particular Omega Writers and Australasian Christian Writers. CWD has done this through cordial relations with the different admin and the cross-posts with ACW and Omega Writers. Each group has a slightly different focus and provides different things  - together we work for God's Kingdom (not our own) and pray that Christian writers will be encouraged and strengthened and published.

How did you hear about CWD? What has been your experience? What do you like best? Are there things you would like to see more - or perhaps - less of?' Let us know what you think.

Jeanette O'Hagan is currently the coordinator of Christian Writers Downunder. She works along with a great team - Mazzy Adams, Sue Jeffrey, Kirsten Hart and Paula Vince.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Exploring Genre | 2019 Roundup and Master List

We've come to the end of another year of genre crossposts between Australasian Christian Writers and Christian Writers Downunder, so it's time for one final summary post.

Jeanette O'Hagan kicked off 2019 with an excellent roundup of all our previous posts.

We then moved into some exploring more genres in fiction, from well-known Westerns to newer genres like slipstream.

Jessica Kate discussed romantic comedy—the history, some writing tips, and recommendations of her favourite Christian rom-com authors.

Amanda Deed and Jeanette O'Hagan discussed fairytale retellings, which can fall into the romance genre (because every good fairytale ends with a wedding) but also have elements of fantasy.

Christine Dillon discussed women's fiction—issues-based fiction that's not just for women (and which may or may not have a romantic thread).

Roger Norris-Green discussed his prolific career writing Westerns, where the hero is a good man (or a man who is changing for the better), who treats women properly, and who always gets the girl.

Jeanette O'Hagan explored the history of dystopian fiction, and current trends in the genre in the Christian and general markets (and it's interesting how even general market dystopian often has a religious underpinning).

David Rawlings introduced us to slipstream, an elusive mix of fantasy and literary fiction, set mostly in world we know, but introducing speculative elements.

We then moved into nonfiction.

Anusha Atukorala shared an excellent post on writing devotionals, with plenty of links to some great resources.

Cecily Patterson discussed why she loves reading memoir, types of memoirs, and three tips for those writing memoir.

David Malcolm Bennett discussed writing biography, a genre that appeals to him because of his love of history.

We're currently discussing what we'll cover in 2020.

Quick Links

Meanwhile, here are quick links to all our genre posts:

Why Genre Matters by Iola Goulton 
Genre and Marketing by Iola Goulton 

Collaborative Writing by Jeanette O'Hagan 


Short fiction: flash fiction to novellas by Jeanette O'Hagan 

Biblical Fiction by Susan Preston 

Dystopian by Jeanette O'Hagan 

Fantasy: Secondary World and Portal Fantasy by Jeanette O'Hagan
Fantasy: Steampunk and Gaslight by Alison Stegert 

Mystery and Suspense: Introduction by Virginia Smith 
Mystery: Crime Mystery 

Romance by Iola Goulton 
Romance: Novellas and novelettes by Narelle Atkins 
Romance: Regency and Historical romance by Carolyn Miller 
Romance: Rural and Medical Romance by Nicki Edwards 
Romance: Romantic Comedy by Jessica Kate 

Romance: Fairytale retellings by Amanda Deed and Jeanette O'Hagan 

Speculative Fiction by Iola Goulton
Science Fiction: Space Opera by Adam David Collings
Supernatural Fiction by Ian Acheson 

Suspense: Writing Tips by Sandra Orchard

Westerns by Roger Norris-Green 

Women's fiction by Christine Dillon 


Creative Nonfiction by Nola Passmore 
Biography by David Bennett 
Memoir by Cecily Patterson

Poetry: Introduction by Valerie Volk 
Poetry: Free verse and Verse novels by Jeanette O'Hagan 

Devotionals by Anusha Atukorala 

Books by Age Range

Picture Books and Chapter Books by Penny Reeve 
Young Adult Fiction by Cecily Patterson 
New Adult Fiction by Jeanette O'Hagan