Most Thursdays this year 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: Ruth Embery
Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from.
I am currently living in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, with my husband and dog (we are empty nesters these days). I have lived in a number of areas in country Victoria over my life, including Horsham and the Macedon Ranges, before moving into Melbourne as a young adult.
I have a background in teaching (was a maths/chemistry teacher in a former life), which more recently I have realised is very closely linked to my passion for learning. Teaching is so innate I have to remind myself to turn it off occasionally. (My younger brothers bore the brunt of this when I was about eight and made them take lessons during school holidays.)
I strongly believe in the transformational and healing nature of the Gospel message, particularly its essential value to our life journey as believers, both as individuals and as the Church. I can get pretty enthusiastic about this, so will leave it at that for now!
Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?
My writing career (if I could even call it that!), has been somewhat accidental in its birth and development. Growing up in a family where facts were valued far more than feelings, creative writing seemed like something of a waste of time. However, looking back to my childhood, I always loved words, and as a teen, dabbled in poetry as a way to express my feelings in private. I remember one of my favourite pieces of work from year 12 was a descriptive essay, where I let myself go, pushing aside the austerity of fact. It was eye opening to me that I could do it well and that it was not just accepted, but praised.
I started journaling in my late 20’s and I think this probably was a foundation to the way I write today – from experience and my personal journey with God. As someone with a passion for teaching and preaching, I have also used writing as an outlet when there weren’t other opportunities. Blogging has been a great medium for this, although I have long struggled with the lack of the immediate feedback you get when speaking. However, all this has helped to hone the way I prepare for speaking, especially in the realm of really sticking to the point and not getting side tracked.
My first book, “Handing Back Control” was very much something given to me by God in one of those suddenly moments. I really didn’t think I had a book in me. It still took me about five years to finish, but perhaps I had more journey to finish first!
After that, I had a number of people encourage me to write another book. I had no idea of what that might look like until again, I started getting ideas that all pointed to a consistent concept. And once more, it has been a painful, battling process to get it out. This book is quite different, in that it is far less personal – more of a discourse on society and how we view the world. In essence, it is exposé on the concept of what truth might look like in our post-truth world.
For the future, I would love to write two biographical books of family members. One about my grandfather who pastored a church in London during WW2. We have many letters between my grandparents during that time as well as his journals, which, to me, make fascinating reading. The other is the story of my great-grandfather and the call he had to be a missionary in far north India (now Pakistan). He started the journey in 1901 with my great-grandmother, two weeks after they married! (My great-grandmother gave birth to eight children while they were there – I would love to know more of her story, of how she coped, given my great-grandfather would often go on trips up into Afghanistan and so on, leaving her home alone. However, I think they were very stoic and just got on with it.) My great-grandfather wrote quarterly newsletters to folks back home, which I will have to travel to England to retrieve from a library where they still store over twenty years of hardcopies some 100 years on.
I also have a couple of other ideas in the pipeline, one an interactive journal using some psalms I have written alongside some of my photographs, with space for the reader to write their own psalms. The other idea is very recent and is around gathering and presenting stories of other people’s Jesus encounters.
Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it?
I have had numbers of people from diverse backgrounds read my blog and book, and it is always the responses from strangers that impact me the most. I love it when God uses my experiences and thoughts to help others on their journey and they let me know of it. Of course, I would like everyone to read my work – as a teacher, I am also something of an idealist, in that I want everyone to get “it”, whatever my “it” of the moment is. Whether it is relevant to their journey is another thing.
Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
|With my walking companion|
Process, in the strict definition of the word is not my strong point. I am quite haphazard and tend to need uninterrupted space to focus. However, I am also very good at allowing myself to be distracted easily (I think it is called procrastination – although Ted Dekker wrote a great article on the importance of procrastination in the writing process, which I actually think has more truth to it than I have realised: time to ruminate!). Walking my dog and gardening work very well as my muse.
When I go somewhere different specifically to write, such as the local library, where there are people and activity I don’t have to engage with, I am much more focussed (even though my writing space at home is idyllic). More recently, a friend has offered her prayer room as a space for me, which has been very productive – none of the “at home” distractions. I have realised that, as an extrovert, the energy I gain from just being around people is helpful, even (or maybe especially) when I don’t know them.
Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why?
Confession time – I haven’t read any books on writing, other than the APA Style Guide, which was part of my compulsory reading when I studied psychology some twenty years ago. Occasionally I have read blogs and picked up helpful bits of advice in places such as CWD. Alongside that, Google is my go-to for finding that “just right” word or quote. My writing was honed and developed by necessity over a three year period of writing a weekly piece for my church newsletter. It taught me how to be succinct and to identify what was essential, as I had to be able to get the message across in less than 500 words.
Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?
The first person who springs to mind is Anusha Atukorala. She is always such an encourager and so filled with positivity, both within her own writing and in her personal responses to me. Her gentle manner and kind words make me feel as though I am adding value, which, as we all know too well, is not something we necessarily get much affirmation in when writing. I really do appreciate all those who take time out to encourage and give me input in this group. The instantaneous acceptance has been such a balm to me.
Question 7: What are your writing goals for the coming year? How will you achieve them?
|A sample of the ever changing view from my desk|
I really want to get my book finished and published in the next few months. I have been invited to speak at a healing conference in the US in May, which is a great incentive to have it ready to sell there. Some strong discipline in writing and in biting the bullet and preparing my manuscript to send out to some beta readers is an important (but scary!) step. Setting aside writing time and not allowing the needs of others to get in the way is a challenge I continue to grapple with.
An online “Planning for 2020” activity I have just completed has landed me with a commitment to finish the first draft of my book in the next thirty days, though, so I fully realise the only way this will happen is to set aside a day a week (at least) to write, and to make it an unbreakable appointment. If writing this book is not my top priority, it just doesn’t happen!
Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
As my previous answers probably reveal, my faith is integral to my writing. It very much directs the course and substance. Early on in my writing, I was sharing material that was extremely sensitive to my journey, but it was amazing how God gave me words so that I didn’t feel too exposed while remaining transparent and honest. My writing also shapes my own faith, as it makes me dig deep and reassess what I really believe. I am learning the value and importance for me to be deliberate in praying and asking Holy Spirit for the words before I start, which I find makes a huge difference and makes the process easier.
You can check out more about me at www.ruthembery.com