Thursday, 28 May 2020

CWD Member Interview - Debbie Roome

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 Debbie Roome

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

I’m a wife, mother of five, mother-in-law to two and grandmother to two, with another due in July! I was born in Zimbabwe and lived there until I was 25. My husband and I then spent a number of years in South Africa before moving to New Zealand with our children in 2006. It was a massive change for us but the best thing we’ve ever done. I decided when we arrived here that this was a chance to concentrate on my writing.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing. What do you write and why?

My main focus in the past has been romantic fiction as well as assorted nonfiction topics. The nonfiction titles were all inspired by life experiences. My book about cyberbullying was the result of a prolonged cyberbully attack after the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011. Loving Leanne is the life story of my sister who was born with mental and physical disabilities and passed away six years ago. Fly With Me is an inspirational book based on my experiences in the skies. 

I have also published several picture books. The one that has done very well is called What in the World is RTS. This is a story with pictures that explains the genetic condition my sister was born with. It has been very well received by the families with children born with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome.

Other titles include four fiction books, a series of three travel books, a pictorial account of the Christchurch earthquakes and some books of short stories.

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

Family, friends and strangers have all read my work. The most positive feedback has come from my picture book about RTS. It has given families a simple yet visual medium to communicate the basic facts of their child’s condition. I’ve heard stories of children taking it to school to explain what their sibling struggles with, and families sharing it with friends. 

I would like a large cross section of people to read my work and be inspired and encouraged by it.

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

I normally get a story in my head and then jot down a basic outline. Each book has been different. Some I’ve started at chapter one and written the chapters in sequence. Others, I’ve jumped around and written chapters in no logical order and then fitted them together later in the process. With the picture books, I wrote the story and then worked with my illustrator to get the perfect pictures for the book.

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

I’ve read a number of writing craft books but to be honest, I don’t have a favourite. I believe each has contributed to my skills. 

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

Adele Jones was a great source of encouragement to me during a difficult time a few years ago. She kept in touch and made me feel it was worthwhile carrying on with my writing. 

Question 7: What are your writing goals for this year? How will you achieve them?

I won the FaithWriter’s Page Turner Contest 2015 with my fiction entry, Twisted Ribbons. Unfortunate circumstances and an upset made me lose my desire to write for an extended period of time. However, I have been working on the book for the last few months and aim to have it completed before Christmas this year. I’ve reached 52,000 words so am confident I can do it!

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

My faith is central to what I write and in all my books, I uphold my values of honesty, integrity and clean speech. I always imagine that I’m standing before the Lord, reading my work to Him. I ask myself if every word is thought provoking, interesting and whether it will encourage and inspire.

I am happily married to Kevin and have five wonderful children. Two of these are married and I have the best daughter-in-law and son-in-law I could wish for as well as two gorgeous grandchildren. I was born and raised in Zimbabwe and later spent 15 years in South Africa before moving to New Zealand in 2006. I work as a freelance writer and novelist and try to bring honour to God through all I do and write. When I'm not sitting at my computer, I enjoy photography and taking my dog for a walk. My husband and I recently pastored a church for five years but are now heading in a new direction as the Lord leads. Music is also an important part of my life. My favourite instrument is piano but I also play guitar and bass guitar. I'm a self-confessed travel addict and spend a fair amount of time wandering around New Zealand and further afield.

Monday, 25 May 2020

She plays the guitar. He runs with the wolves.

How many of you spend hours and hours researching what vegetables commoners would be able to afford during winter in the 18th Century, or how bad the storm was in January of 1956, in Sydney? What about how long the average person can hold their breath?

As a writer, we are always researching something, whether you’re a romance author, historical-fiction author, non-fiction author or fantasy author. 

Photo by Te NGuyen on Unsplash

Why do we do research? Are we trying to answer the hard questions? Sometimes, maybe. Are we trying to create a world where our readers feel like they’re living and breathing the story we’ve created within the pages? Absolutely.

In order to make your story believable, we need to research as much as we can. You don’t want to see my Google history … really! But sometimes, I think research can only take us so far.

I write mainly Fantasy and Science Fiction. A lot of the things I’m creating in my story, I have to imagine. No one can say they know what it’s like for a dragon to breathe into your face or what its scales feel like. These things can only imagined, but sometimes taking examples from our experiences can help bring these to life.

As writers, we need to go out into the world and experience as much as we can. I would never have known the satisfying pain of accomplishment you get in the tips of your fingers if I never started learning to play the guitar. I thought it was just about learning the chords, but it’s hard to get your fingers into those positions when you’re not used to it and after playing for ten minutes (I’m still learning), the strings dig into your fingers. I now have this wonderful experience I can write about.

If you’ve never watched True Memoirs of an International Assassin, you really should. He’s the type of writer I want to be. I want to make sure my story rings as true as it can and in order for me to do that, I believe I need to experience as much as I can. You can only empathise with someone if you’ve gone through something similar, so wouldn’t it be the same writing a book?

You’re not going to be able to experience everything, I mean as much as I want to know how painful it would be to get shot in the arm, I’m not going to go out looking to get shot. 

If your character likes to ride horses and you’ve never ridden one, go and find a place where you can learn to ride. If she paints, make a day of it. Experiment with oil paints and watercolours. If he’s a hacker, there are always some courses on the internet to teach you how to code. 

Don’t just research your stories. If you can, why not make that big batch of jam your nana is making in your story. You’ll experience the heat from the pot and the sticky, sweet aroma first hand. You’ll know just how sore your arm gets from stirring and pouring all that jam in the jars.

Go on. Get out of your chair and stop relying on Google so much. But before you do, let me know what amazing talents and experiences you already have in the comments below. 

What is one thing you’re going to experience to help your WIP come to life?

K.A. Hart is a born and bred Territorian who moved to Queensland and had no choice but to stay after her assimilation into Toowoomba's infamous, collective known as Quirky Quills.

Since then, K.A. Hart has had two short stories published. Stone Bearer, appears in Glimpses of Light and Tedious Tresses, in the As Time Goes By Mixed Blessings anthology. She is currently working on a fantasy novel.

Thursday, 21 May 2020

CWD Member Interview - Catch Tilly

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.

Todays interview: Catch Tilly 

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from. 
I come from Sydney. Up until this year I was always a bit scornful of S.A.’s lawful tendencies but since Covid19 I’m loving it. Lawful good people really come into their own in a pandemic. 
I get emotional. Like really emotional. I once had a lecturer tell me that if I got any more enthusiastic, I’d need chemicals. Combined with a generalized anxiety disorder it makes for a rollercoaster of a life. That’s where faith really helps. I once read that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt it’s control and I think that’s true. I’ve learnt to let go of any attempt at control and to trust God when I get anxious. That and prayer (mine and others) gets me through the dark times. And the good times are ‘dancing down the street’ amazing. It’s an amazing world we live in. 
I live in my imagination. I created a Facebook page for an imaginary person before I created one for myself. I can tell you the Hogwarts House for the mc of Shadowalker (Gryffindor despite being the Death Lord’s daughter) but I’ve never bothered to do the online test for myself. My second youngest daughter was named after a character on Meldin (where Shadowalker is set). 
And my name. I’ll tell you the story I don’t tell anyone. People ask me where the name Catch comes from and I tell them it’s an old nickname I adopted officially and that’s it’s based on the book Catch 22. And that’s true. What I don’t tell people is the person who’s nickname it is doesn’t officially exist. It was Danielle Warwick, the narrator of a book I started in my teens who—like me—loved the bitter irony of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 whose nickname I adopted
That’s who I am, a person whose real name belongs to an imaginary person.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?
I want to write genre fiction. I’d love to be able to write exceptional Mills and Boon. And not for the money, though that would be nice, but because I’d love to conquer the craft of writing to a formula and making it good. (It’s like writing a sonnet). I’ll do it one day. But what I write now is YA. I guess I’m stuck being a teenager (see above question on who I am). 
My two published books are both YA. Shadowalker was published by Stone Table Books in 2017 and the sequel Abomination is finished and will come out later this year (God and pandemics willing). Actually, you meet the four horsemen at the end of the second book, so I guess it’s topical. I wrote this because I wanted to share Meldin. I wanted to introduce people to four different types of dragon (five if you count Uriel’s ice cream eating cousin). To take them to regency balls and laser turreted castles and lifts made of Light and air and the bones of the dead. 

The second book is Otherwise known as Pig, published by Wakefield Press last year. And that one I wrote because I had to. It’s a violent, sometimes profane book about bullying with Christian themes (the turn around point is a book of martyrs and turning the other cheek). Christianity and the f-word, I never thought it would get published but I knew God wanted me to write it, so I did. Then, nine years later, Wakefield took it up and it’s a Glam Adelaide Pick of the Year and Katherine England at the Advertiser described it as ‘a brilliant novel. Lesson one as a writer: Trust God.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it? 
I want everyone to read it, of course. Because Stone Table is a small press it’s hard to get books out into the general public so Shadowalker has been read mostly by people I know but I’m hoping with the ability to create an eBook and the increase in online purchasing we can get it out there more. So, if you’re reading this and you like dragons and laser swords and a girl who walks through death then check it out. (But if you are in Australia go to Booktopia, everyone else is shipping from America.)

With Otherwise known as Pig I don’t know who has read it, a number of teachers, I think but the people I really want to read it are teens. I want anyone who’s been bullied to feel validated and heard, to know there are people out there who do understand. The review I am most proud of is a 15-year-old who wrote ‘the sense of satisfaction was overwhelming for a novel’. And I want the rest of us to read it and feel compelled to act when we see injustice, to help create a culture that says no instead of yes to bullying. 

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? What helps you the most?
I must write in the morning. If I don’t my day is a waste of space. I don’t write fast so about 500 to 1,000 words in a day is good for me. My ‘day job’ is looking after my daughter (autistic, non-verbal) and she will usually leave me alone in the mornings, so I get quite a lot of time to write. 
I think my biggest challenge as a writer is how far I get into the character. When I wrote Pig I spent 10 months thinking (and swearing) as a 14-year-old boy from one of the roughest parts of Adelaide. It’s good for voice but it means I have to drag myself out of character to understand what’s happening from outside. It’s probably why I always write in first person (a challenge in fantasy).
And confidence. Do we all have that problem? That’s where I learn on faith. My faith that God wants me to do this. God’s faith in me. And my husband who had lots of practice reminding me I am a good writer and I can do this.

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 
I tend to write instinctively and only stop and think when I run into problems so my favourite craft book (apart from Mr. Google) tends to be the one I’m reading. Right now, that’s the Master Classes on writing. I’ve just finished Neil Gamian and Margaret Attwood and am part way through Judy Blume. When I did my Master of Creative Writing, I relied heavily on Bell’s Write Good Fiction: Plot and Structure. 
I’ve just purchased Rosanne Hawke’s Riding the Wind and am about to pick up Mark Worthing’s The Sacred Life of Words and considering how much I learnt from them both at Tabor I’m expecting those to become my next favourites.

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be?
That’s a hard one. There are so many people I’ve been blessed to know. My first list was nine people long, so this is the short one.
Rosanne Hawke:  God knew what he was doing when he put Rosanne at Tabor. I learnt so much from her about writing children’s fiction, she was so apparent in her faith and yet she never restricted her students. It was one of my proudest writing moments when I broke the HD barrier and received 85% for my first four chapters of Pig.  And to sneak in two more, I want to mention Claire Bell (who has the amazing gift of editing for both voice and grammar and who was so much a part of making Pig worth publishing  and Mark Worthing, who made poetry so interesting that I did advanced poetry and I am not a poet. And who also published my first book (thank-you).  
Wendy Noble: I really like Wendy’s writing and we share a love of intelligent, unexpected dragons. I also admire her tenacity. But I think the reason I wanted to shout-out Wendy was the way she writes. When asked: “why are the griven in your book so negative about everything?”, Wendy answered: ‘because that’s the way they sounded in my head’. Now that is a response I can relate to. 
Sue Jeffrey: Sue and I were born in the same year. We both did YA novels on bullying for our Master’s (same year) and were invited by Rosanne into CWA together. We then both started working on fantasy books. We both wrote short stories about underpants for the first Stories of Life and both won prizes. (Sue came first, and I came second). In the last couple of years, we’ve been working on different projects, but I still think of Sue as my writing twin. 

Question 7: What are your writing goals for this year? How will you achieve them?
Write more. 10 years ago my husband was geeking out and asked me what would writing at level 50 (a role playing term) look like for me. I answered it would be writing the books God put on my heart and let him worry about the rest of it. I keep needing to remind myself of that conversation and just write.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?
See above: God made me a writer; I am as sure of that as I am of any other aspect of my faith and when I write well it’s an act of faith, of letting go and trusting him. 
I also hope my faith does shape my writing. C.S. Lewis said when he started writing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe he wasn’t trying to write Christian literature that’s just what came out. Allegory doesn’t seem to be my thing, but I want faith to come out in my stories. In Morgan’s response to a book on martyrs or in bones encased in crystal being slowly redeemed by Light. I don’t wrote ‘Christian literature but I hope and prey I write literature as a Christian. 

Monday, 18 May 2020

Stories of Life: Narrative Form with Poetic Commentary

It's contest time!

On Monday, Katy introduced the 2020 Australian Christian Teen Writer Award and Young Australian Christian Writer Award. Click here to find out more.

Entries to the 2020 CALEB Award close this week. Click here to enter (you'll have to click the yellow Book Now button).

We're also looking for more judges for the CALEB. Click here to volunteer.

And today I'm delighted to welcome May-Kuan Lim to the blog, to introduce the 2020 Stories of Life contest.

Baxter with his family at the 2019 book launch. Baxter won second prize in the Youth category.

In the Tanakh, or the Hebrew Bible, various biblical books of the Old Testament are arranged as two narrative sections separated by poetic commentary. From Genesis to 2 Kings, the first narrative section covers creation to the exile of the Jews. The second narrative section, Daniel to Chronicles, covers the exile to the rebuilding of the Jewish temple. In between these two narrative sections are psalms, prophetic books and wisdom literature. This section has been called poetic commentary. Here, God often speaks in the first person, and we get to feel his heart, his emotions. In many ways, I think that narrative form with poetic commentary is a good description of the kinds of stories that we seek at Stories of Life.

Stories of Life is a short story writing competition that seeks out true stories of faith and testimony.

Stories of faith are primarily stories: something happens to someone. In our 2019 anthology, Papa’s Shoes and other stories of life, we read various short stories: a child losing his mother, a woman pushing away food, a man forced to use the women’s toilet because a church hadn’t made provisions for his disability.

What makes it a story of faith is that God shows up, working sometimes in small and quiet ways, at other times through dramatic intervention. But these stories go beyond the testimonies I used to tell – those factual straightforward stories where I had a problem and Jesus solved it. Instead, these stories draw readers into the heart of the writers to experience terror, relief, grieve, joy, or any of the complex feelings that make us human.

And somewhere in the 500 to 1500 words, God shows up. It is through his response that we understand something of his heart – a faithful grandmother crying with the child, an assurance to the young woman that her body is a vessel designed by God, a man who reads of Jesus intentionally engaging with people with disabilities; this is what divine love and faithfulness look like.

There may be many writers here who do not consider non-fiction their primary genre.

Nonetheless, if God has done something in your life, would you consider writing up and submitting it, so that your story might be published in our annual anthology? While we encourage all people of faith to write in, there is no doubt that the contribution of serious writers, who are followers of Jesus, lifts the overall quality of writing and it’s always good to see Christian Writers Downunder and Australasian Christian Writers have their stories published in our anthology.

We are starting a new initiative this year: Feedback Month in June.

Throughout the month of June, you will be able to submit your draft online via our website, and one of our editors will give you personalised feedback. What you do with that feedback is entirely up to you. Adherence to the feedback does not guarantee publication, but we hope that it will be helpful to some. But if you’ve written your story and you’re happy with it, you can submit it straightaway, and we are accepting submissions from now until 31 July 2020.

We have three categories and a different judge for each category. In each category, there will be a first prize (AUD500), a second prize (AUD300), and a third prize (AUD 200). The categories are:

Eternity Matters Short Stories of Life (500 words and under)

AUD 10 entry fee
2020 judge David Rawlings

Immortalise Young Stories of Life (500 – 1000 words)

For writers aged 17 and under, no entry fee
2020 judge Corrine Townsend

Tabor Open Stories of Life (1000 – 1500 words)

AUD 10 entry fee
2020 judge Nola Passmore

All submissions will be appraised as anonymous entries, and prize winners will be announced at the launch of the anthology in November. Some stories will also recorded and broadcast on 1079 Life. Stories of Life has been running since 2016, and we have published four books to date. These have been very well received, and we have become a family of sorts, whereby we try to help with the promotion of books of any of our past contributors through social media.

True stories of faith are a way of acknowledging God.

They help us remember how God has been good to us in the past, and this gives us confidence to trust him in for the future. In these uncertain times, we believe that stories of faith that bear witness to God’s active grace in this world are powerful.

Will you write us a story?

May-Kuan Lim is part of the Stories of Life team. She is also a freelance writer, studies part-time at the Bible College of South Australia and co-edits Word of Mouth, the Oral History Australia (SA/NT) newsletter. When she is not burrowing through text, crafting sentences or untangling them, she finds great delight in her eclectic (read: rather messy) garden.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

CWD Member Interview – Rosanne Hawke

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: Rosanne Hawke 

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

1 Hi, I am a child of God who writes for children and YA in the Australian general market.
2 I am a mother of 3 and a young grandmother of 7 children. They give me lots of story ideas.
3 I live in rural South Australia in an 1860 Cornish farmhouse with underground rooms that my husband has restored. It has also inspired stories.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing. What do you write and why?

I began by writing cultural identity as I spent 10 years in Pakistan and the UAE with a mission agency. My children grew up there and wanted stories set there, e.g. the Beyond Borders series. I also write Cornish themed titles e.g. Zenna Dare because I am a fourth-generation Cornish descendant and I believe it is important for young people to know their ancestry. It gives them a better sense of identity and helps to eliminate prejudice. I also write about children not heard so that readers can understand children from different walks of life from themselves, e.g. Shahana: Through my Eyes. I like writing history too like Mustara and The Tales of Jahani.

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

My books are included on The Premier Reading Challenge lists and many are used as texts in schools, so I hope lots of kids, teachers, librarians and parents read them. Only 2 of my books have gone overseas, to USA and to Holland, but I’d like children in Pakistan to read my books too.

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

Once I have an idea I always start developing the idea by beginning with character. For me the character underpins the whole process. I use physical journals to draw mind maps for characters and plot line or story maps. Research will go into the journal too, notes and ideas, snatches of dialogue, images. Once I have a basic outline I start a draft. I may have many zero drafts or parts of drafts until I get a full zero draft which will transform into a working first draft. I try not to edit during this time and just try to get the story down. I try to do my own structural edit and rewrite many times. Some of the copy editing gets done in subsequent drafts. When I’m sick of rewriting it I let it sit for a month or so (if I don’t have a deadline). Then I rewrite again, then keep reading for copy editing mistakes. Structure and plot used to be my challenge. I’m getting better at plot lines and often draw a diagram to see if tension is rising steadily etc. What I miss in good structure my editor picks up by saying, for example, ‘Lovely first chapter but it sounds like your third – how about swapping them?’ And she’ll be right. I’m learning to have less problems for the editor to find, but there is always something that can improve my story and writing. One of the things I learned from my most recent structural edit is, if a scene doesn’t sound quite right when I first read it, put a note in immediately to rewrite it, because after I’ve read it 6 times it can sound okay. I’ve found it really helpful to write about my writing process and the things that I have learned in my journal. I’ve written extensively about my process in my writing book, Riding the Wind: Writing for Children and Young Adults, based on my lectures at Tabor Adelaide.

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

The ones I used the most in my lectures were Self Editing for Writers by Browne and King and The Lie that Tells the Truth by John Dufresne. The first one shows how to rewrite your first draft successfully, though if you read it during or before writing your first draft it will help your first draft to be better. Dufresne’s book (probably comprised of his lecture talks) is well worth the read.

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

A difficult question, as there are so many. Nola Passmore for her gentle and expert editing, Penny Reeve for her potential to teach creative writing, Cecily Paterson for her entrepreneurial skills. Is the fabulous artist Lara Cooper on CWD?

Question 7: What are your writing goals for this year? How will you achieve them?

1) I have just finished the structural edit of a children’s book coming out next year with a fabulous editor. I have learned so much from brilliant editors. The copy edit will come soon. I also need to plan the launch of that book before the end of this school year as it will come out in February. 

2) I need to finish the first draft of an adult novel about domestic abuse and get that ready for submitting in a few months. 

3) I have just received a Covid-19 grant (make sure you apply for these from your state Art council or the Australian Arts Council) to write a new children’s book set in rural Australia. I’m starting the research for that now. My goals don’t usually include PR platforms as I deal with those as a new book comes out or as a publisher requests.

I aim to achieve my goals by breaking them down into smaller goals and by giving myself enough time to achieve them. 

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

This a big question for me as I believe my faith and my daily life and work cannot be separated. Since I have a relationship with the Lord and this is my identity as being a child of God, whatever I do, including writing, will be influenced by his faith he gives me. This affects my writing practice including focus, setting obtainable goals and praying about topics. In my writing process, decisions that I or characters make in planning and in the story will be influenced, even the structure of a story, e.g. I believe there will be hope for the characters, even if they don’t achieve at the end what they set out to in the beginning. Often, I feel God prompting me to write about a certain topic like when I wrote Marrying Ameera dealing with forced marriage or Mountain Wolf dealing with child trafficking. The Truth about Peacock Blue was inspired by Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian on death row for blasphemy. It’s a partnership with the Lord and I generally just participate in what he suggests. The honing of the words is up to me and so are the mistakes. 

Rosanne Hawke is a SA author of 30 books for young people. She has been a teacher, an aid worker in Pakistan & UAE, and a lecturer in creative writing at Tabor Adelaide. Her books explore cultural and social issues, history, mystery and faith. She often writes of displacement and reconciliation and tells stories of children unheard. Her novel Taj and the Great Camel Trek won the Adelaide Festival Award for Children’s Literature and was highly commended in the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards. Rosanne has a PhD in creative writing and is the recipient of 4 fellowships, the Nance Donkin Award for a woman author who writes for children, and a Bard of Cornwall.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Bred and Born in a Briar Patch

Mazzy Adams

My mother claimed that her three primary reference books were The Bible, The Australian Mothercraft Book, and Yates’ Garden Guide—in that order. Of course, she read far more widely than that, and she encouraged a love of reading in her children, but those three books perfectly sum up her priorities.

My happiest childhood memories include the hours I spent listening to Mum as she read to me which (at my pleading) she continued to do even when I was perfectly capable of reading the story or book myself.

I still asked her to read to me because I loved the sound of her voice.

And I loved the connection, that wonderful special bond created as I snuggled in under her arm and pressed my cheek against her chest, so I could feel the vibrations of her voice as they resonated through her being into mine.

I not only enjoyed many delightful and exciting stories this way, I absorbed spiritual and moral guidance, lots of useful information, and my mother’s tender love and care in abundance. She prepared me well for my future roles as a mother and a writer.

And a grandmother 😁… 

It’s been hard social distancing from my children and grandchildren (including our newest granddaughter who was born just after the current pandemic distancing regulations were instituted). While I’m generally happy to be a stay-at-homebody, I’m eagerly awaiting that first hug and cuddle when it comes … It’s tough being stuck in one place. 

It’s also tough being stuck for ideas. Honestly, I’ve struggled to do anything that's writing or self-publishing related for weeks. Even when the computer calendar reminded me it was my turn to write a CWD blog, I still felt …


Until I remembered that yesterday was Mother’s Day. Straight away, I could hear my mother’s sweet voice in my head and in my heart, reading stories to me. Stories about Scuppers The Sailor Dog, and The Little Red Caboose

And Tales of Toyland (a gift from my Granddad that came with a rag doll dressed in a blue sailor suit) …

(Photo of page 26 from Enid Blyton's Tales of Toyland, (1963) Dean & Son Ltd, London)

Even tales about Brer Rabbit …

(Photo of page 184 from Enid Blyton's Brer Rabbit Again, (1963) Dean & Son Ltd, London)

Oh my! That feisty rabbit got up to all kinds of mischief. And landed himself in all kinds of trouble. Like the day he fell for a wicked trap set by the wily Brer Fox. Brer Rabbit got himself well and truly STUCK that day—stuck in a very sticky situation.

“Brer Fox went ter wuk en got ‘im some tar, en mix it wid some turken-time, en fix up a contrapshun what he call a Tar-Baby, en he tuck dish yer Tar-Baby en he sot ‘er in de big road, en den he lay off in de bushes fer ter see wat de news wuz gwineter be.” (Joel Chandler Harris, 1904, The Tar Baby and Other Rhymes of Uncle Remus)

Now, at this point I could skew onto a tangent about the pitfalls of trying to reproduce dialect in writing (short answer: don’t do it for a whole host of reasons—I’m quoting this particular version of Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby because it’s old enough to be in the public domain).

What I will share is the encouraging nudge I got from the Holy Spirit as I remembered this story.

There’s Brer Rabbit, happily bouncing forward along the road one moment, stuck fast to a tacky tar-baby the next. As I pictured him there, unable to move forward or backward, I felt a strange affinity for the little critter; numerous times in my writing and self-publishing journey, I've felt well and truly stuck.

Stuck with writer’s block (That blurb still refuses to cooperate!).
Stuck with time pressure overload (Even though I love the day job!).
Stuck by an insolent lack of cooperation afforded by the latest technology (Wouldn’t it be nice if everything worked first time?!).
Stuck by my own lack of knowledge (Upskill, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Oi vey.).
Stuck by circumstances (pesky virus pandemic), rejection letters (it’s okay, really, I’ve moved on), finances (dang, only two months till the annual Adobe CC subscription is due again. Where did the year go?) …

Whether your sticking points are similar or different to mine, I’m guessing you, too, have experienced the frustration of feeling stuck at some stage in your creative, writing, ministry, or other life endeavours.

Here's the thing: Brer Rabbit got himself into a sticky situation because he let frustration get the better of him.

Uh-oh. Light bulb moment!

I realised that letting my frustration get the better of me makes me my own worst enemy when it comes to peace, productivity, and progress. 

“Den Brer Rabbit talk mighty ’umble.”

Point taken. I needed to repent (and I did).

God is so gracious, isn’t he? As I talked to him about my predicament, he reminded me that, although the enemy of my soul seeks to destroy both me and the creative ministry God has called me to, my heavenly father is far greater and wiser than that wily fox.  

I also remembered Brer Rabbit’s response to Brer Fox. Given that Brer Rabbit repeated it for each dastardly, deadly demise Brer Fox devised to despatch the wayward bunny, I could hardly forget it. 

“‘Hang me … drown me … skin me, Brer Fox,’ sez Brer Rabbit, sezee, … ‘But please don’t fling me in dat brier-patch.’”

Now Brer Fox, (figuring to inflict the very thing Brer Rabbit feared most), “cotch him by de behime legs en slung ’im right in de middle er de brier-patch.”

At this stage in my chat with God, I'm cringing just a little, wondering what particular 'briar-patch' I might still have to endure before I can finally escape my stuck state.

Thankfully, Harris's (or Uncle Remus's) tale ends on a high note when Brer Rabbit, who was “Bred en bawn in a brier-patch” uses the knowledge he gained from that experience to escape the fox’s clutches. 

Life isn't always a bed of buttercups. Or daisies. Or even rice with stir-fry beef and veges in sweet and sour sauce. But for many authors (including me) our most satisfying, and perhaps effective writing emerges from the trials and tribulations of adversity. In the midst of life’s brier-patches, we discover, and learn, how to survive and thrive.

What lessons have you learned from life’s tempting tar-babies and sticky situations, and the unlikely briar-patches that have helped to set you and your creativity free? 

Quotes taken from Joel Chandler Harris, 1904, The Tar Baby and Other Rhymes of Uncle Remus retrieved 10th May, 2020 from

Mazzy Adams is a published author of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. She has a passion for words, pictures, and the positive potential in people.