Thursday, 29 July 2021

Never Give Up On Your Dreams

 


I’m a space nut and have a lot of books and DVDs about the space program, especially the Apollo era. (Some would say I’m just a nut, but I digress!). One of my books is The Mercury 13 by Martha Ackmann, which tells the story of a group of women pilots who underwent a series of tests in the early 1960s to see if they were suitable for astronaut training. These tests were the same that the male astronauts had undergone to be admitted into NASA, though the women’s testing was privately funded and never officially part of NASA.

Thirteen women passed the tests, some of them scoring higher than some of their male counterparts. However, they were never admitted into the space program. In 1963, the Russians launched their first woman into space—Valentina Tereshkova. It would be another 20 years before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. Another 12 years on, and Eileen Collins made history by becoming the first woman to pilot a space shuttle.

By the time that Sally and Eileen were making their flights, it was too late for the Mercury 13, but the photo below shows seven of them at the launch of Eileen Collins’ historic flight in 1995. Second from the left is Mary Wallace (Wally) Funk, the youngest of the group.



Fast forward to last week when 82-year-old Wally Funk flew into space as a passenger aboard Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origins New Shepard rocket. Wally is one of only two remaining members of the Mercury 13, the other being Gene Nora Jessen. Her 10-minute suborbital flight made her the oldest person to travel into space, beating out spring chicken John Glenn who went to space at the age of 77. Click here to see some footage of Wally’s flight, and the awarding of her astronaut wings.

As writers, we all have dreams. It might be to pen that novel or memoir, win an award, have a bestseller, create a blog that helps people, or just have fun in the process of creating. But sometimes, it seems that those dreams are thwarted. We might get negative feedback that makes us wonder if writing is really what we’re meant to be doing. We might finish that book, but have trouble finding a publisher. We might get our book out there, but sales stagnate. We might hope to reach people for Christ with our life-giving blog, but few people comment. Should we give up on our dreams?

In 1 Corinthians 15:58, the apostle Paul assures us that our ‘labor in the Lord is not in vain’ (NIV). The Good News translation says that ‘nothing you do in the Lord’s service is ever useless.’ We may not always see the results we expect here on earth, but God measures success differently. Nothing we do for him is ever wasted. Our words can make a difference in the lives of our readers.


During the 60 years when it seemed that Wally Funk’s dream would never come to fruition, she didn’t sit around twiddling her thumbs. She kept flying and became the first woman to qualify as a flight inspector for the Federal Aviation Administration. A few years later, she became the first female Air Safety Investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board. She’s been the chief pilot for five aviation schools and has helped thousands of people to achieve their dream of becoming a pilot.

If God has placed a dream on your heart, work towards it, but also trust in Him. He will complete the good work He has begun in you (Philippians 1:6).

Dare to dream!


Author Bio

Nola Lorraine lives in southeast Queensland, Australia, where she and her husband Tim run a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. Their two cavoodles love helping, and can usually be found asleep under Mum’s desk or barking for ball games when she needs a break. She has a passion for faith and social justice issues, and loves weaving words that inspire others with courage and hope. She co-edited the Christian charity anthology Glimpses of Light; and has more than 150 short publications, including fiction, poetry, devotions, true stories, magazine articles and academic papers. Her debut novel Scattered was published in 2020.To find out more, please visit her author site: https://www.nolalorraine.com.au


Photo Credits

Featured photo of lion and kitten by Leandro De Carvalho on Pixabay.
Author Photo - Wayne Logan at WRL Photo.

Thursday, 22 July 2021

The CPU of Publication and Beyond

 by Jeanette O'Hagan





The C's

Way back in 2012, when I launched back into my writing dreams, I was introduced to the 'Snowflake Man Randy Ingermanson. Randy developed a nonlinear system of plot development - the Snowflake method - but that's a post for another day (you can find out about it here).  He suggested three things are needed to get published - Content, Craft and Connections

Content


'What you know'. Randy says everyone has content that is unique to them. It might be your life experiences or story, or a skill or professional expertise, or it could be your imagination. No matter if you write fiction or non-fiction - who you are, your story, your personality, your life and your imagination will infuse your writing so that it is uniquely yours. 

Even so, it's important to refine and test your content. Make sure you have a story worth telling in a way that's compelling and impactful. 

Craft 

Knowing what you want to write is important, but so is knowing how to tell it. There's a joke about someone on a tour of (let's say) an aged care home. The director takes the guest to the recreation room where a group have gathered. One old woman shouts out 23 and the whole group falls about laughing. A man says 12 and by this time the group is in stitches. The guest turns to the director and asks for an explanation. The director says, 'This group have been together so long, they know each other's jokes, so they've assigned numbers to them to save time. A few more call out numbers, much to the merriment of the group, until a man stands up and mumbles, '34'. Dead silence - not a chuckle, not a snicker, not a smile. The guest turns to the director mystified. 'What happened there?' The director shakes her head, 'Ah, Sam could never tell a joke. He always gets the delivery wrong.'

It's not quite enough to have a good story, we also need to know how to tell it. That is the craft - learning the techniques, the strategies, the rules of writing. It includes knowing reader expectations and being aware of changes over time. If as writers, we want our stories to be noticed we need to hone the skills of the craft.



Connections

The next C is connections. This, I think works on a few levels. Randy mentions going to conferences to make connections with agents and publishers. Not that this is an invitation to stalk or hound or to button hole. Make genuine connections. 

I think connections can be much wider than that and include being part of the writer community - encouraging and supporting each other. Other writers are not the opposition. Rather, we are stronger if we support each other through many and diverse ways - maybe providing constructive feedback in critique groups or as beta-readers, buying, reading and reviewing other authors' books (especially those who write in a similar genre or area) or maybe through encouragement and prayer. 

And the other important group to connect with are readers and fans.

But it's not quite as simple as that in my experience. I would add three Ps and a U.




Add in the P's


Patience

If we plant a young mango tree today, we would be mad to expect it to provide us with a bumper crop tomorrow. Fruit trees take time to grow and often don't fruit at all for the first several years. Most authors do not experience instant results. So one of the most important tools in a writers' toolbox is patience. Allowing time for things to happen. it takes time to write a book - and then to rewrite it, to prune and polish it. It generally takes time to publish (whether traditionally or as an Indie). And it takes time to build an audience - and generally it takes more than one book. And the hardest thing is being patient when nothing seems to be happening, no one seems to be taking notice. 

Persistence

Being an author is not for the faint-hearted. It requires hard work. It can be a rollercoaster ride of excitement (typing 'The End' for the first time, holding the first book in our hands, reading a glowing review, the first royalty payment, having a bunch of sales, having a fan come back to buy the next book, winning a prize) but it is also packed with times of disappointment (getting negative feedback, receiving the umpteenth rejection letter - or no letter at all, having sales drop or getting no sales at all, discovering a scathing one star review, having hardly anyone buy your latest book, and 'crickets' - the long periods of silence). And there are so many things to juggle, so many things to spend money on for, often, so little (monetary) return. Moreover, there's a lot of trial and error - of working out what works for you and your books among the multitude of options and possibilities

If you see a successful author (however you define success) you see an author who persisted despite the setbacks and disappointments. 




Prayer

And as Christian writers, we should add prayer. Why do we write? What is our motivation? Whatever we do, we should do to honour our Lord. And in whatever we do, we should seek His guidance, His wisdom, and His provision. In the fallow times, when nothing seems to be happening, we can and should trust Him, rest on Him, wait for Him to do His work through us. And maybe, that's the hardest lesson of all. 


Then there's the U

What does U stand for? Unlimited? Unexpected? Unequalled? Ultimate? Unerring? 

It stands for YOU. 

Yes, you.  You have a unique story or stories to tell - even if it's the 1000th retelling of Beauty and the Beast - or Pride and Prejudice - you can put your own imprint on it, if told well. 

But it's more than that, because in the end, the buck stops with U.  No one else is responsible for your story. The world does not owe you a reading of your book, no matter how hard you worked on it.  

There's that saying 'If you build it, they will come.' (From the movie Field of Dreams). But just because you wrote a book, even a book the Lord has called you to write, doesn't mean you can stand in the field and wait for people to discover it. Don't stand around asking what others can do for you - rather, be proactive and consider what you can do, what you need to do to bring your dream and calling to fruition. 

Trust in God does not mean quiescence, standing still and doing nothing. It may mean waiting in active faith but it also means stepping out of the boat in the middle of the storm and walking on the waves.




Omega Writers Book Fair & the Omega Writers Conference


There are two upcoming opportunities - the Brisbane Omega Writers Book Fair (31 July) and the Omega Writers Conference and CALEB dinner (October) - opportunities to meet with other Christian writers, to learn from others and - with the Book Fair  - to connect with readers and, perhaps, sell some books. Even if your book is unpublished, it's still worth coming to the Book Fair to connect with other writers, to do the workshop or panel - and maybe to win a prize. Mark the dates in your diaries and - if you can - please come.


Jeanette O'Hagan has published and promoted two joint anthologies – Glimpses of Light and Let Sea Roar, and seven books in her YA epic fantasy world - Under the Mountain novella series, the first two books in her Akrad’s Legacy series - a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements, and a collection of short stories in Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories. Her short stories and poems have also been included in over twenty anthologies - including Gods of Clay, Challenge Accepted and Tales of Magic and Destiny.

It's one thing to write the book, another to get it published and a whole new level to make it visible. It's a steep learning curve and can often feel overwhelming but there is nothing better than connecting with enthusiastic readers.
 
She will be one of the panellists on Marketing and Promotion for Writers at the Omega Writers Book Fair, along with Sally Eberhardt and Lynne Stringer and moderated by Nola Passmore. 11:30-12:15 am, Saturday 31 July 2021. Find out more here.




Monday, 19 July 2021

What's New at Omega Writers | July 2021


There is lots of news from Omega Writers this month! We have a winner in the Realm Awards, news about the Omega Book Fair and Retreat (including scholarships), and a call for nominations for the Encouragement Awards.

Realm Awards

Congratulations to Omega Writers member Kristen Young for her double win at the Realm Makers Awards, announced last Saturday.

Realm Award Science Fiction

Kristen's debut novel, Apprentice, won the Science Fiction section of the 2021 Realm Awards, the major awards for Christian speculative fiction.

Even better, Apprentice also won the Book of the year Award. Kristen is the first Australian author to win a Realm Award. As publisher Steve Laube said when collecting the Book of the Year Award on Kristen's behalf, that makes the Realm Awards global.

Click here to watch the ceremony replay. The Science Fiction award is at 45 minutes, and the Book of the Year at 1:25.

Congratulations, Kristen!

ACFW Genesis Award

Mindy Graham is a Romance finalist in the 2021 Genesis Award.

Congratulations, Mindy!

Stories of Life

If you'd like to enter an award, there is still time to enter the 2021 Stories of Life awards. There are three categories:

  • Open Stories of Life (1000 to 1500 words)
  • Short Stories of life (up to 500 words)
  • Young Stories of Life (500 to 1000 words, from writers aged 17 and under)

Entries close on 31 July. Click here to find out more.

Omega Book Fair

Omega Writers members in Brisbane are hosting a Book Fair on 31 July from 10am to 2:30pm at Hills Church, 79 Queens Road, Everton Hills.

The fair includes author readings, door prizes, short story contest and a treasure hunt.

Entry is free.

There will also be two workshops, which are $20 each (including a $5 voucher to spend at the fair).

  • Anne Hamilton presenting The Deadly Duo (and how to beat them)
  • Sally Eberhardt, Lynne Stringer & Jeanette O’Hagan share a panel on  Marketing and Promotion for Writers

Click here to find out more.

Omega Writers Retreat

Bookings are now open for the 2021 Omega Writers Retreat. Earlybird pricing ends on 15 August, so don't miss out.

This year's event will be a retreat rather than a full conference. While there are two main streams (Pathways to Publication and Pathways to Promotion), the emphasis is connection and fellowship with other Christian writers (and after the last year, don' t we all need that?).

There will be two great keynote speakers:

  • Psychologist Collett Smart
  • Creative writing instructor Nicole Partridge

We will also be sharing the 2021 CALEB Awards dinner on Saturday night.

Current financial members have been emailed a discount code. If you didn't receive the code, please email membership [at] omegawriters [dot] org.

If you're not currently a member of Omega Writers, click here to join.

Click here to find out more about the Retreat, register, and book your accommodation. Note that accommodation is separate to the Retreat fee. Writers can choose to stay at Peppers Kingscliff (the Retreat venue), at the Mantra (next door), or make their own arrangements in the area.

Scholarships

Omega Writers is offering TWO Partial Scholarships of $300 for members attending the 2021 Omega Writer's Retreat. 

 Applications are open from 20th July 2021 to 8 August 2021. 

To apply for a Retreat Scholarship you must: 
  • Be an Australian or New Zealand resident.
  • Be a current Omega Member 
  • Apply using the Google Form provided 
  • Include a sample of your writing, up to 500 words. 
Successful applicants will be contacted by 11 August 2021. 

Any questions: email president [at] omegawriters [dot] org

 
Omega Writers welcome donations to the scholarship fund. Click here to find out more.

CALEB Encouragement Award

Nominations are now open for the 2021 Encouragement Awards.

If you’re a current paid member of Omega Writers, we would like to invite you to nominate a fellow Christian writer for an Encouragement Award. This could be:

  • A writer who has gone out of their way to support other writers (this will be a NEW CALEB award launched at this year’s Retreat)
  • A writer who you believe needs encouragement.

We have three simple guidelines for the writers you nominate for either award:

  1. Nominees must be Christian writers currently living in Australia, New Zealand, or the South Pacific.
  2. Nominees can be published or unpublished writers in any genre.
  3. Nominees do not have to be members of Omega Writers.

Please email caleb @ omegawriters.org and tell us:

  • The type of Encouragement Award you would like to nominate a writer for
  • Your name and email address
  • Up to 200 words explaining why you believe this writer should receive this prize.
  • The name and email/website address of the author you’d like to nominate (so we can contact them if they win)

Nominations close on 31 August 2021.

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Goodwill in Marketing

 


One of the reasons authors engage in marketing is that we hope there will be a flow-on effect in terms of sales. We market AND THEN people buy our books, request our books at bookstores and libraries, review our books, give our books to friends and so on. If we’re Christians, hopefully one of the reasons we want our books to ‘get out there’ is because we feel God has laid a message on our hearts that he wants us to share. If that’s the case, shouldn’t we try to get that message out to as many people as possible?

In the lead-up to the publication of my historical novel Scattered last year, I tried my best to do all the ‘right’ marketing things.

  • I did Iola Goulton’s Kick-Start Your Author Platform online course, which was brilliant and gave tons of general marketing tips as well as specific input from a Christian perspective.
  • I did Shannon Mattern’s free online 5 Day Website Challenge course and used her advice to actually get my author website up and running.
  • I designed business cards and bookmarks, started a subscriber newsletter, and created author accounts on social media.
  • I sent review copies of the book out early so that I would have some reviews on Goodreads, Amazon and different blog sites prior to the release date.

 


Once the novel was published in October 2020, I jumped on the marketing treadmill in earnest—A physical book launch, an online launch, signings at Koorong, author talks, workshops, more newsletters, blogs, social media posts. Phew!

I can’t present hard statistics to say which of those factors led to the most sales, though I think they all helped in some way. However, there was one thing I hadn’t expected—the spontaneous goodwill of others.

 

  • One friend contacted an online journal on her own initiative and asked if she could review my book on their site. This was completely unsolicited, as I didn’t find out about it until after she’d been given approval.
  • Other people posted photos of themselves on social media holding my book and saying they couldn’t wait to read it.
  • One friend posted a picture of me on my Facebook wall and said she’d just read my book and loved it.
  • People bought extra copies of the book to give as gifts.
  • People I never would have expected to read the book were contacting me to say how much they enjoyed it.

If all of these people had been close friends or fellow writers, it may not have taken me by surprise. But some of them were old schoolfriends, Uni friends or work colleagues I hadn’t seen for many years, in some cases more than 15 years. Needless to say, I was blown away.




So What is Goodwill?

The Oxford Lexico online dictionary defines goodwill as ‘friendly, helpful, or cooperative feelings or attitudes’.

A few years ago, I wrote a post called The 'Do Unto Others' of Marketing. You can read it here, but in a nutshell, I argued that if you want others to support you and help promote your books, you need to be prepared to help others with theirs. This could include buying their books or requesting them at your library or bookstore, writing reviews, ‘liking’ and commenting on their posts, sharing news about their books, subscribing to their newsletters and so on.

I’d like to think that I’ve been a good citizen in the writing community, which might explain why some of this goodwill has been returned to me. However, there is also another element to goodwill that we can glean from the world of business.

In commerce, goodwill is ‘an intangible, saleable asset arising from the reputation of a business and its relations with its customers, distinct from the value of its stock’ (Macquarie Encyclopedic Dictionary).

If we were to alter this slightly for writers, we could say that goodwill is ‘an intangible, saleable asset arising from the reputation of the author and his/her relationship with readers and other authors, distinct from the value of his/her book/s’.




Of course, this doesn’t mean that the book is of no value. If you haven’t produced a quality product, people will be less likely to give favourable reviews, buy your book for friends or buy more from you in the future. However, there is something else apart from the book’s quality or your expertise as a writer—your relationship with other people. 




Have you been actively involved in writers’ groups, not just as the person who asks a question, but as the person who answers a question? Not just as the person who advertises something, but as the person who ‘likes’ other people’s posts and comments on them? Not just as the person who says, ‘Buy my book’, but as the person who reviews other peoples’ books or promotes other authors in some way? This isn’t something you can whip up five minutes before your book launch. It’s part of the broader picture of how you treat the people in your life.

 After talking about his ministry in 2 Corinthians 2, Paul asks:

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.’ (1 Cor. 3:1-3, NIV).

 

Yes, people read our books, but they also read our lives. We are Christ’s letters to a hurting world, sharing his goodwill with others. What kind of letters are we?  Are we ‘friendly, helpful, and cooperative’ or are we more interested in what others can do for us?

Please understand my heart. The way I’ve treated others may have helped me to receive goodwill in return, but I’m far from perfect. 


Sometimes I’m selfish. Sometimes I’m jealous of someone else’s success. Sometimes I’m not as considerate or generous as I could be. But with God’s help, we can grow more and more into the people we were destined to be—letters written by his Spirit on the tablets of our hearts.

How can we foster goodwill among other readers and writers? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Author Bio



Nola Lorraine (aka Nola Passmore) has had more than 150 short pieces published, including short fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and academic articles. Her debut historical novel Scattered was published in 2020. She'd love to connect with you through her website: https://www.nolalorraine.com.au/ 
You'll find links there to her social media sites.

Photo Credits

Author photo - Wayne Logan from WRLPhoto
Featured community photo - William White on Unsplash




Monday, 12 July 2021

Uplift in Lockdown Lows – Ruth Bonetti

How are you coping with the lockdowns that rear their inconvenience on many hapless citizens? Some are still home-bound, others venture out, smiles hidden by masks. Add to this cold and rainy days at home with barely a trip to the shop or park. NSW and greater Sydney readers, we support you in care, thoughts and prayers.

Are we writing more–because we can? 

Or feeling lost in a dry Wasteland?

My mantra is “We are blessed: many have it worse.” 

With absorbing books and a pot belly fire, a quiet holiday between hectic terms was a tonic. A welcome R & R after my whirlwind of write-edit-rewrite-edit-proof-publish-launch-PR. 

Which books?

Most were by author colleagues. Many have finessed their skills over decades. Nola Passmore's debut novel, Scattered proved she’s a worthy novelist as well as editor. 

 

Several books by Anne Hamilton await my review on goodreads.com. (Do join if you haven’t already, and encourage fellow writers with even a sentence or two of commendation! You will make their day/week/year.)

  

Annie’s books are so deep they usually warrant a reread before writing a cogent review. Yet I steamed through Dealing with Azazel: Spirit of Rejection. Because, like fellow authors, I know that scene. Her Jesus and the Healing of History series of artistic, colourful books are design masterpieces, courtesy of Rebekah Robinson, of Beckon Creative Design, who captured the Art Deco style of my recent book. 


 Lighten Up!

Romcom provided ideal holiday reading. Meredith Resce inspired me with her lighthearted approach in The Luella Linley series – perfect holiday reading and showed increased finesse from her books a decade or so ago. I love how Meredith was having fun writing. That tempts me into a new genre after my past decade writing family stories with relatives looking over my shoulder. 

 

Many books, my own especially, would not have seen the light of day if it were not for encouragement, support and insights, beta reads and edits by writing buddy colleagues in Omega Writers.


Looking back over three decades, how many excellent writers were published due to just that support that I felt! And still feel. The high quality of recent books can be partly attributed to that. My team of editor, design, beta readers and supporters, have enabled me to see to fruition a far better book than I envisaged a year ago.


Is that the case for others? We read each other’s work, comment, encourage. Memo to self: next is a beta read for Jeanette O’Hagan.


Book Fair 31 July

What to read next? Book Fair will provide a feast of options. 

 

Omega Writers’ first book fair was attached to its first conference, held in a New Farm, Brisbane church. How exciting to browse through the work that had since been published. Especially as our early years of Omega Writers consisted of sitting around moaning how difficult it would be to get into print. Now we just do it!

 

The 2020 book fair went ahead amid fingernail biting. Next day came lockdown. We hope and pray that Brisbane and southeast QLD will again be clear on July 31.

 

Book Fair offers a wonderful network opportunity and a chance to see what other authors have achieved since last year.


It is also a chance to hear workshops, one from the insightful Anne Hamilton, The Deadly Duo. Annie initiated the CALEB Awards during her presidency. 


Much credit for running the book fair goes to Jeanette (Jenny) O’Hagan, who handles the lion's share of the work. Our small committee is keen but time challenged. Do offer an hour or so to assist with any options of an hour or two. If so, please contact us at omegawritersbookfair@gmail.com.

 

Book Fair is an opportunity to enjoy face-to-face with readers and fellow authors again. It is so high on my agenda, that I will drive 100 km to and fro to be there. o encourage and support. To buy Christmas and birthday presents (and avoid shopping malls). To sell some books and swap wth others when we’ve overspent our budget. 

We look forward to seeing you there!

 



Ruth Bonetti is grateful for support from Omega Writers writing buddies along the path to publish the third book (The Art Deco Mansion in St Lucia) of her Midnight Sun to Southern Cross trilogy. Available at good bookstores, libraries, online, and at Ruth's website where you can view her book launch. 

Goodreads








Thursday, 8 July 2021

Wrapped in Wise, Warm, Wonderful, Winning, Winsome Words!

by Anusha Atukorala


For over two decades now, I’ve used a small white kitchen bin. A friend who left Australia soon after we arrived, gifted me some of her possessions when she left the country and this little bin was one of them. I transferred my own little bin into our guest room and began to use hers ... until a few months ago, when I knew it was time to buy another. For one thing I hadn’t washed it often enough in the last few years, so it looked grubby even when I cleaned it. For another, I knew I’d have less frequent trips to transfer the bin bag to my wheelie bin if I had a larger kitchen bin.

 

And so I bought myself an inexpensive tall stainless steel bin. It still gives me pleasure when I look at it. And yes, my trips to the wheelie bin have lessened. The other day, I’d stuffed the bin too well, so when I pulled the bag out of its home to transfer it to the yard, a large tear ripped one side of the bag. I placed a fresh bag around it at once, but this too, being of flimsy material, gave way. Oops! I soon found just the right kind of bag that would cover them both, made of a tougher material.

 


That new plastic bag covered the torn bags with ease. And in spite of the heaviness of the load, it managed to keep all the rubbish inside. It was a picture to me as a writer of the special covering that wise words offer. Wholesome words are warm and affirming, covering the bad with good. Unfortunately words can also tear down, just as those fragile bags did. Yes, words are powerful. 


The Words of Jesus are like a firm covering over us, shielding us from the world’s vicissitudes. His Words soothe and comfort, teach and instruct. We, as believers and writers have a special appreciation of the Word of God - it’s what we lean on since it forms the base of our writing. And of course the Living Word is the One to whom we turn to daily; the One who makes our writing possible.

 


As I tossed the now firm bag (housing two weaker ones) inside my wheelie bin, I pondered on the fact that we writers have the power to do what that strong bag did. We can wrap a world gone mad with the love of the Saviour. We can do it through our blogs and our books, our speaking ministries and through every platform we use words to reach others. In addition, we can also impact our world each day as we bring encouragement and hope to each other and to those in our spheres of influence, using carefully chosen words to touch lives and bring healing to those who need it.

 

Covid seems to have splattered a battered world with new troubles, wobbles and squabbles. At the start of last year, it seemed like the world was banding together to fight the virus. Sadly, eighteen months later, the picture is vastly different. It seems like world has exploded in madness, in ways that only tear down. The Christian worldview may be viewed by sceptics with disdain, but Christian attitudes of grace and forgiveness, love that counters hate, words that build rather than tear down might be just what a sad old world needs right now.

I remember a time I was struggling through a tough season. To make matters worse, a lady I thought was reaching out to me, instead spoke harsh words of condemnation. I was badly hurt. Thankfully, that was not the end of the story. A few days later, three ladies I barely knew, spoke life-giving words over me, calling me beautiful. How did they know how badly I needed to hear their words? How grateful I was that the words of criticism which hurt me were overwritten by powerful words of affirmation spoken over me, three times over. I was healed. Completely. 


That, my friends … is the power of words.

 

Shall we too then wrap warm encouraging words around this troubled old world of ours? Shall we envelope it with language that affirms, words that bandage torn tendons and splintered bones? Words that bring smiles to faces, words that are gentle reponses to harsh criticism, hope to counter despair, peace to transform anger, joy to overcome apathy and pain? We can do it in big ways through our books and in smaller ways through our connections on social media or in person, when we listen to another, when we reach out with a smile and the love of the Saviour.

 


Let’s wrap our world in ...

wise, warm, wonderful, 

winning, winsome words! 

 


 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 ESV

 “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things through His powerful word.” Heb. 1:3

 A gentle tongue is a tree of life. Proverbs 15:4 ESV

 A soft answer turns away wrath. Proverbs 15:1ESV

 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Proverbs 25:11-12 ESV

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. Proverbs 16:24 ESV



Anusha’s been on many interesting detours in life, as a lab technician, a computer programmer, a full time Mum, a full time volunteer, a charity director, a full time job chaser, until one golden day (or was it a dark moonless night?) God tapped her on her shoulder and called her to write for Him. She has never recovered from the joy it brought her. She loves to see others enjoying life with Jesus and does her mite to hurry the process in her world through her writing and through her life. The goodness of God is her theme song through each season, as she dances in the rain with Jesus.


Her first book Enjoying the Journey contains 75 little God stories that will bring you closer to your Creator. Her 2nd book Dancing in the Rain brings you hope and comfort for life’s soggy seasons. Her 3rd book, Sharing the Journey is a sequel to Enjoying the Journey and was released in March 2020.

 


Do stop by at her two websites to say G’day. 

She'd love to connect with you.

Dancing in the Rain 

Light in theDarkness


Anusha's Facebook Author Page

Anusha on Goodreads


Monday, 5 July 2021

We Are Family

 

The proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" is attributed as a life motto from various African sources. This motto is reflected in similar motifs that I have discovered in my opportunities to study Anthropology within ethnic groups that would be recognized in the classical sense as hunter-gatherers or tribal societies.  The “it takes a village...” maxim effectively means that an entire community of people is necessary to interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. It is poignant to note that it also takes the collective energy and focus of many people behind us to help craft a well-designed, pleasing, well-published, packaged, marketed and impactful story in book or often in other forms. Perhaps we could utilize some creative license and mix our metaphors a bit by illuminating what I am saying here simply by noting: “It takes a village to write a book”. But before we get too far in this story-writing-production-village-focus, we should start with a basic beginning. We need a writing family.  Our creativity is best expressed, and best crafted when it is moulded together with the (often loving) support of others. Or to put it another way: good story tellers need a good team. This is where we can learn from those hunter-gatherer societies. They tell stories that help raise generations of children into adulthood very well.

Shane Brigg in PNG with a few friends

Hunter-Gatherers' story telling is conducted as a social contract in a mutual context, with friends and family. God has made us to be highly social beings. We like to be with other people, especially with those we know well; and we like to do what our friends do. In our ‘moderno-metroistic’ culture we long for this, we claim to be connected (at least technologically) but are living lives that are seemingly more and more isolated and where we long for closer authentic relationships. We may even be jealous of the seemingly simplistic play-oriented connected reality we might see in documentaries about hunter-gatherers who experience very social lives. Anthropologists have marveled at the enormous skill and intelligence shown by tribal societies in their hunting and gathering. The tools of hunting must be crafted to perfection; and skill in using those tools effectively must be developed through years of play with them and the accompanying stories. Hunters must also learn the habits of hundreds of different species of mammals and birds that they hunt, which the children do in part through games of imitating the animals around them, and by storytelling. They learn to identify each animal by its sounds and tracks as well as by its sight, and by telling their stories. Everything is noticed, considered, and discussed.  Likewise, the gathering of vegetable foodstuffs requires great knowledge and skill. These abilities include physical skills, honed by years of practice, as well as the capacity to remember, use, add to, and modify an enormous store of culturally shared verbal knowledge, all passed on via storytelling. The point I am making is this: Most work in the tribal villages (where we get the adage above) is done cooperatively, and even that which is done individually is done in social settings, with others around. In all this, stories are told that raise the children, empower adults, and shape their society.



As a school Chaplain of many years, I am absolutely honoured to be afforded the recognition and responsibility of being a champion for our village and an encourager of families and the broader school “Family”.  I like to think of this family as a space where everyone can gain hope through a sense of belonging, discovering purpose and even finding meaning as we journey together. In a way I am recognized as one of our school community’s chief story tellers. Like a tribal elder, I am called upon to tell a positive narrative. Not just moralistic, but one that is hope-filled, equipping and somehow wise.  I intrinsically, and humbly see my role as helping to craft the story of all the individuals, families, groups and aspects of our school life, but I hold this in awe and respect as I recognize that it is not just me who is the story maker. It takes many people to help create the narrative that builds for positive futures.


Helping people reframe their stories is positive team business. Across cultures and time, stories have proved their worth not just as works of art or entertaining, but as agents of personal transformation. The vocations of many great novelists, scriptwriters, songwriters, story tellers are developed on this premise (conscious or not). Stories can motivate us to re-evaluate the world and our place in it. New research is lending texture and credence to what generations of storytellers have known in their souls – that books, poems, movies, and real-life stories can affect the way we think and even, by extension, the way we live and move and act. As Stanley Kunitz put it: “I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I am not who I was.”  Our Parents’ get togethers are an important part of what I do as a Chappy in our school ‘village’. Each Monday morning, we gather at our Primary School CafĂ© for chats. This is a great way to help share the load, inspire, organically equip each other, and simply support one another on the parenting journey. In this we share each other’s stories and burdens and help redesign the story of people grappling with all sorts of challenges. Stories alter our thinking and, in turn, the way we engage with the world. Stories that we share can help each other. Stories that are created together have the potential to change the world.


The stories that move us shape our thought processes in much the same way that our own lived experience does. When we read a well written story about a character facing a heart-wrenching situation, it’s natural for our own hearts to pound. We argue with stories, internally or out loud. We talk back. We praise. We denounce. Every story is the beginning of a conversation, with ourselves as well as with others. In the context of our school Chaplaincy, we see this played out very powerfully in mentoring. A student being offered mentoring means that they are part of our “mentoring “family”” and this means that there are trusted adults who will be accessible for support and encouragement for students. Mentoring highlights the huge value that sharing stories plays. At a recent mentoring session one of our students communicated in front of his peers and visiting teachers that the vitality of mentoring and the sharing of his life story for him was like having a second family that was in his view more functional and nurturing than his own. It showed to him that someone cared because they listened to his story. He said that it was also helping him have a sense of belonging and had given him skills for life!


Our International Families gatherings at our school are get togethers of people from many different backgrounds sharing flavours, favours, and fabulous insights from their cultures with snacks, games, stories and more. Research shows that bringing migrant children and their families together for culturally appropriate, fun, and safe activities can significantly improve a child’s mental health and wellbeing, as well as help them to navigate school with more confidence. Groups like these also help to enhance parenting skills and develop the social networks of families who share similar life experiences. This has become such a valued time of “family” for many. It is also a good time to reflect on how people are going at looking after themselves and others in the different areas in their lives that require care (physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, social, relational and safety & security). It also empowers networks around people that helps to meet those needs.

 


Perhaps what I have been promoting here is best expressed in a very personal example.

In the writing of what seems to be my magnum opus (mainly because it seems it is taking a lifetime to frame and complete) I have engaged several of the sensibilities mentioned above.

Of eminence is an episode that brought a chapter of my story to completion, and fulfillment in how I had hoped for some time how it might bless others. I had sat writing a particular piece for some time. Writing it. Reading it. Reflecting on it. Re writing it. It was a deep expression of how my main character was coming to terms with her father’s sickness and their strained relationship. I had come to realise that her story was a way of me telling my story. But it never was fully crafted until the week I re wrote it, edited it, formatted it and gave it to my father as a gift. It was never really finished until all that was completed, but especially not done until I sat with my Dad and read the chapter to him. It was the story (like my main character) of how I was wrestling with my own Dad’s sickness, mortality, and frailty and how I loved him in the midst of all the relational challenges that had been raised between us as I grew up and now as an adult reconciling that I loved my Dad, and I knew he loved me. But I needed to get this message to him. The story did this job. As we sat crying and hugging together with my wife and my Mum and of course my Dad. I had said what I needed to say. The story helped me do that. But it also helped my Dad say what he had wanted to say for a long, long time.

 

Maybe this chapter will get published formally one day. But for me the journey to craft this bit of a bigger story has already made the impact I had hoped for. My life had been raised by loving parents in challenging circumstances. That is true and was an important part of my telling through my fictional characters. Our family -or little village- had successfully helped to raise this child. But the child in some ways could not be the man he is today without the telling of this story, and this meant a listening audience of critics who just happened to be the most important people in my life, who helped not just make the story, but helped bring it direction, clarity, meaning and encouragement to write more.

 

I guess if I am going to write more, I need to develop the team around me further. Maybe that team starts like the example above (loving family who listen, journey together, encourage, positively critique, nurture, empower and support). Of course, that team needs to be developed beyond friends and family with specialists (editors, publicists, etc) and supporters, but that is a story for another time.