Monday, November 24, 2014

Writing Competitions, Monsters & the Honourable Pursuit

by Charis Joy Jackson

It was the perfect competition.

My favourite genre.

I spent five months working on the story. The characters were sassy, gruff & deeply layered. The countries I created were mystical & unique & the theme of my story was profound.

I was in love with my creation & if I’m truly honest with myself… I had become narcissistic.

It was my first competition. There’d be five winners & I knew I’d be one. How could they not love my story as much as me? I was a perfect match for their competition & already basking in the glory.

Then came the awful truth. If I entered the competition & won, all the work I’d done, all the characters I loved, would be signed away. The publisher would have FULL copyright rights & license to my story. I was flabbergasted. How could I sign the form? I couldn’t. Yet, I’d spent months plotting & writing specifically for THIS competition. How could I not? Gah!

What was I to do?

I asked fellow writers if this was common for competitions, I asked what they would do in my case & I got several different answers. Most, however, told me the submission form was not author-friendly & urged me to stay away. Still I struggled, with all the work I’d put into the project, was it now all for nothing?

I mean I was supposed to win this. I was going to be published!

During one discussion a friend urged me to finish what I started.  “You’ll love the next one just as much.” He said & I heard his challenge… but the "What if's" still struggled away. What if I won the competition & a film producer read it & and what if that producer wanted to make it into a film? I’d have no control over the project. The publisher would have full ownership to say “yes” or “no”. It would be heart-breaking because I’m not just a writer. I’m a filmmaker too. I couldn’t watch my story get turned into a big blockbuster success & have no control over it. No. I wouldn’t enter the competition.

Absolutely not.

It was then I realized how out of control I had become. I was being prideful. Narcissistic. The chances of my little novella being seen by a producer & turned into a feature film were slim to none, but I had reached the point it WOULD happen. I’d blame my over active imagination like I had no choice in the matter, but it wouldn’t be true. Looking back, I can see where I let good, healthy admiration for my story turn into something vain. Ugly.

I was in the wrong.

I had let my God-given talent become a snarling, terrifying monster. Ironic considering the story I wrote was a retelling of Beauty & the Beast.

In the end, I decided not to enter the competition, but it took some long, hard soul searching to be sure I was making the decision for the right reasons. I needed to protect my creative equity not for vain, selfish gain, but because I wasn't finished with the story. God still wanted to teach me something through the characters He was co-creating with me. Which leads me nicely to the moral of this little tale. Be proud of what you write and keep it safe, but don’t let it grow into something monstrous and narcissistic because then your beautiful work will become ugly.

What about you, have you ever let your love for story become a hindrance to your God-given talent?

 ~


Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series. 

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder. 
Welcome to the adventure.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Terrible Titles

Have you ever come across a phrase and thought, 'that would make a great title for a book.'? It happens to me all the time, not that I can recall many of these snippets of genius. I’m told that if you are an author you will certainly have these moments.

I recall one suggestion, made when we were all sitting around the campfire with a desire to eat toast but without the required toast-making equipment. So we improvised, jamming a stick through a piece of bread, then securing it upright in the ground, just close enough to the fire to brown.

'It's vertical toast,' someone observed. 'That would make a great title for a book.' I agreed with enthusiasm—who wouldn't want to read 'Vertical Toast’? The idea was quickly disregarded, but today I was issued a title challenge on Facebook that I thought was great fun when an author friend, Jeanette O'Hagan, tagged me to participate in a writing game called Eight Terrible titles.

The rules: You have to let your cursor fall onto a spot within your manuscript eight times. Each phrase it falls on becomes a (usually) terrible title that we can all have a laugh over.

Here are my two favourites from Jeanette's 'Terrible Titles.'

     She Handed Her a Torch (kind of terrible).
     The Days Before the Wedding (kind of intriguing).

And from author friend, Paula Vince:

     The Pale, Blotchy Face of a Girl (certainly on the terrible side).
     A Sample of What You'll Get (I like it—this title would surely make me pick up the book).

But my absolute favourite title would have to be Meredith Resce's:

     At the Fancy Dining Table (not only would I read it, I want a seat there).

So here are my Eight Terrible Titles, taken from my current work in progress:

     1. The Other Three Men.
     2. His Background Was Shady.
     3. Not Phobic.
     4. On an Upturned Bucket.
     5. A Second to Appreciate.
     6. Suffering in Paradise.
     7. On this Chook Chaser.
     8. Through Palm Trees.

I can see some great adventures in these titles. So, come on, author friends, add a few of your own 'Terrible Titles' to the comments below. You never know, one of them may become a great source of inspiration. I have to sign off now so I can construct a story plan for 'On this Chook Chaser.'

Chook Chaser:
A clapped out motorbike. A trail or motocross bike. Taken from motorbikes used on farms used to 'chase' chickens.

www.urbandictionary.com

Author - Rose Dee: http://rosedee.com/
Rose, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree, was born in North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her first novel, Back to Resolution.
Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and desire to produce exciting and contemporary stories of faith for women.
Beyond Resolution and A New Resolution are the second and third books in the Resolution series.
Rose’s debut novel Back to Resolution won the Bookseller’s Choice award at the 2012 CALEB Awards, while A New Resolution won the 2013 CALEB Prize for Fiction.
She has also released The Greenfield Legacy, a collaborative novel, written in conjunction with three other outstanding Australian authors.
Rose resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband, young son, and mischievous pup, Noodle.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Whose Image?

He mixes his tints
with age-learned patience,
blending the hues with tenderness
that nature might envy.
His brushes,
extensions of himself,
caress the canvas;
his measured strokes
cover the white
with the colors of his soul;
and shape on it
the image, not of what he paints,
but of himself.

I wrote this poem, titled “The Artist,” when I was 24 - more than half a lifetime ago. When I was thinking about what to share in this article, it occurred to me that what I wrote then is also true of us as writers. No matter what genre we write in, our work will inevitably reveal something of ourselves. Of course, our voice will be different if we are writing a serious work of non-fiction compared with a lighthearted romance, but it will still be our voice.

In fact, finding our voice and developing it as a true expression of our self is a very important aspect of our growth as writers. Our readers are not just interested in words on a page. They want to make a connection, to feel that somehow they know the author. The whole reason why we “love” some authors and “can't stand” others in not just their skill or otherwise with the use of the English language, but also that part of themselves that is painted on the canvas of their pages, and the extent to which that resonates with our own concepts and standards.

For us, however, there is something more to consider. We are not simply writers, we are Christian writers. Whether we are writing a tome on theology, a romance, a poem, or a story for children, the image we paint with our words should never be just our own. We were created in God's image, (Gen. 1:27) and we are being restored into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29.) Our purpose in all things is to manifest Him to the world. As with the rest of our lives, our writing should always bear the stamp of His image, even if it is not aimed at a specifically Christian market.

Perhaps the best test of this is to ask ourselves, if Jesus were to stand and read this piece before the whole host of heaven, would it receive applause, or just embarrassed silence?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Trusting God by Julie Auld


Philippians 4 verse 6 (Amp)

Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything , by prayer and petition (definite requests) , with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.
                  ********************************************************

Writing has been an innermost desire and passion of mine since I was a little girl but over the years I lacked one major thing that would be stop me from getting my work published and that is  - CONFIDENCE.

I was always amazed when  I read the work of other writers and then I would convince myself  what could I write  that would make a difference when others have said it better than me before . God had been opening doors for me to write in the past but until I could take down this thick veil over my eyes these opportunities came and went and I would then be pulled down into my pit once again.

In 2012 I had found myself starting life over at 50 and again God  was opening doors for me to take my writing seriously but my confidence was still lacking. I had a part time job but I wanted to write to supplement my income and finally become that writer / author that I only dreamed about.

Until a few days ago I was unsure what I would be writing, then God pointed out to me about a piece of artwork that I had done at a ladies camp a few weeks ago.  I had no idea what the finished piece would look like and I had to put my trust in God to be my hands as I created this flower onto the canvas. God showed me through this piece of art work that if I step out in faith each time He would give me the words to write my story.  When he opens the door of opportunity to write I do not need to be anxious but instead to step out of my comfort zone and let him be my guide.

Monday, November 10, 2014

God's Provision - A Tale in a Writer's Journey

First came the announcement of 9-day fortnights. The rest of the company are doing it so we have to as well. Then the rumours of more redundancies. I spent the day sitting at my desk with my heart clenching. Yes, these are uncertain times, but it’s times just like these that God teaches us and shows us opportunities.

The rumours that had me so worried turned out to be inaccurate. My job was safe for the moment. Still, times are tough at my workplace - probably yours too.

With the difficulties and struggles at my day job I've been realising that more than ever I need to get my writing career going. I’m under no illusions that I’ll get rich off writing books, or even make a living off it, but it might help supplement my income. I've heard it said that it’s wise to have something on the side these days, and for me, the obvious choice is to use my writing gift. In order to make it work I’d have to step up my efforts. Despite my busy life I’d have to give my writing more regular and consistent effort.

With the news that I’d have to take three days off before the end of the year (either annual leave or unpaid) came the realisation that the very thing that worrying me was an opportunity. I would treat these days like normal work days - except instead of going to the office and developing software, I’d spend eight hours on my writing. I’d edit my novel and I’d write some more first-draft material to practice my craft. If I could get a novella together I could self-publish it. My idea could be expanded to a series of novellas - each one each one building momentum for the next.

It turns out that this setback was the shove I needed to help move me up to the next level in my writing journey. It was time to stop talking about approaching it professionally, and start actually approaching it professionally.

As all of this was happening it dawned on me that NaNoWriMo was just days away. What better time to try building a new habit and upping my level of commitment to my writing? I’d be joined by millions of others around the world doing the same thing. After a months of writing every day it would start to become second nature right?

In the midst of all this, my wife has just started working as a nurse - fulfilling her life’s dream. That has been a long journey and is a story all its own. If things go badly for me next year at least she’ll be making some income to help us get by. God’s timing?

As I pondered what I would blog about for this article today, I began to see the hand of God around me. He never promises that our lives will be free of trouble, but I can see how he has been putting things in place. Unexpected and undeserved blessings.

I've haven’t got it all down pat yet? I still have my times of doubt an anxiety about the future. I really don’t know what’s going to happen next year. I haven’t written every day, although NaNoWriMo is helping me to up my game and you don’t give up just because you fall over once or twice.

Really, I should be more worried than I am, but I just can’t help thinking that somehow, all will work out as it should. I wonder where I’ll this time next year.


What about you?

What challenges are you facing, and are you seeing the opportunities and blessings from God?

How are you 'upping your game' in your writing?

Can you reach a point where you've got your process down pat, or is there always room for improvement?


Adam CollingsAdam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction and video blogger. He is actively working toward becoming a published author. He lives in Tasmania, Australia. Adam discusses books and movies on his youTube series Stories. You can find Adam on-line at collingszone.wordpress.com or his Google+ Profile

Thursday, November 6, 2014

THREE HEARTY CHEERS by Anusha Atukorala


Nola asked me a few weeks ago if Nov 6th would be a good date for me to blog on CWD. I said 'Yes' at once, thinking I'd have a lot to share. Usually my head buzzes with a million ideas (especially after a conference). But this time was different. Yes, I did have several ideas but none of them seemed right. So here I sit today, staring at a blank screen, fingers poised over the keyboard, on the day before my blog is to be posted. I have run out of time. I am pondering, asking, reflecting, wondering, thinking. Seeking God on what He wants me to share.

And…..Eureka. At last I know. At last I know.

I think it’s time to say THANK YOU to those who ran our recent Writer’s conference. It was a gigantic job with no remuneration and plenty of hard work. Susan Barnes and her able team of two – Heather Monro and Jenny Glazebrook came up trumps and delivered the goods. So here I am holding a banner up that says:
Congratulations Girls. Awesome Job
(Can you see it?). Because it sure was an amazing job.


As in previous years, I was very excited when the conference was announced earlier in the year. As in previous years, I was not disappointed. The location was more than I’d hoped for. Throw in a lake where I am, and I am in Writer’s Heaven. Throw in a crazy (ahem) bunch of writers into the mix and there you have it. My Paradise.

All the sessions I attended were informative and helpful. Well done to all the Presenters. I wish I could have attended every session. The food was delicious and abundant; the staff friendly and helpful. Connecting with others who loved God and were passionate about writing is always life giving. Conversations with many intelligent (even if a little unusual - we are all in the writing business - remember!) beings gave me much food for thought. Yes, I learnt lots.


The view from my room was perfect – and guess what. The river was right outside. Bliss! Even the weather had been especially ordered – my perfect weather (and I trust the others enjoyed it too). I loved the idea of having prayer on Saturday night – because after all, prayer should underpin all we do as Christian writers. The worship service on Sunday was well planned and very meaningful. Heather, Andrea and Nola’s musical skills enhanced our time of worship, didn’t it? Thanks girls. Jenny Glazebrook’s message was exactly what we needed to hear. A beautifully crafted message from God’s heart to ours. Bless you Jenny.

It was lovely to hear of and see the books our amazing authors have published over the past year. Well done Authors. The bookshop run by Rochelle Manners and her team drew us like bees to the honeypot and fed us well. Thanks Rochelle. I mustn't omit the hilarious game we played on Saturday night led by the capable Heather. I laughed a lot and it was good for my soul.

Perhaps you are wondering,…. was there any room for improvement? The one change I’d make (if I could) is having more time to connect with other writers. The days passed by in a happy blur – since it was full on, with insufficient time for connecting (as often happens at conferences). There is much to pack in, isn’t there? I keep thinking of those I wished I’d spent more time with. I’m not sure how that could be changed – perhaps 60 or 72 hours of conference rather than 48 hours?


I take my hat off to the team of three and to all others involved who gave us a "three days-to-remember" by the lovely Lake Dewar. It was an excellent conference and our biggest thanks go to Susan Barnes who took on the job willingly and did a wonderful job. I could see you were using your God given skills, Susan. God bless you for all you did.

And so I extend THREE HEARTY CHEERS for Susan Barnes, Heather Monro and Jenny Glazebrook. And also for many others who did their bit in diverse ways. Looking forward to the Conference in 2015 (Oct 23rd - Oct 25th 2015 at Lake Dewar Lodge) – and expecting to see you all there. If you’ve never been to a conference – now’s the time to start saving up. If you are an Australian or New Zealand Christian Writer – this is for you.



May God use the time we shared together – to grow us as Christian writers – to deepen our connections with one another – and to bring glory to Him as one voice that shares His amazing love with the world.




Anusha Atukorala is a writer who has been blessed. Blessed with many connections with an awesome group of Aussie and New Zealand writers. Please drop in to say G'day at my blog and website, Dancing in the Rain.

And while we are about it, a very special thanks to Nola Passmore who is doing a terrific job of running CWD. Thanks Nola.



Monday, November 3, 2014

When Not To Listen - By Natalie McNee



My daughter was reading “The Trouble with Larry” from the Mess Detectives series to me tonight. This particular story focuses on listening to God, your parents and teachers etc and highlights that trouble occurs when you don’t listen or pay attention. I thought to myself how true that statement was for when you don’t listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit – trouble seems to flood towards you. I thought that this would be a good subject to write about but then God flipped it and showed me when I should not listen and who I should not listen to – the voice of the enemy. 

His voice loves to pop up and it likes to shout louder than any other voice, sometimes his voice is so loud that you wonder if God is even talking to you at all because you can’t hear it through the racket inside your head. Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and they will not follow the voice of the stranger. He pre-warned us that His voice is not the only one we would hear. We would hear the stranger’s voice too but that we are not meant to believe what the stranger’s voice is telling us.

Unfortunately we tend to believe that strangers voice all too often and it becomes familiar to us and then we find it hard to distinguish who is actually talking to us. As writers we tend to be very critical of our work in the first place, added to our own criticism is the judgements of critique groups and publishers. We tend to take to heart any negative criticisms that we receive and believe that they must be true. The enemy loves to play on this negative feedback, he will often tell you things like, “You’re not qualified to write that” or “Are you sure God called you to be a writer because that was terrible?” or “How can you write about something of which you have no experience?” and so on. He likes to create doubts in our own minds causing us to question whether we really are good enough to be writers.

So how do you determine whose voice it is you are hearing? For me it comes down to two things; is the voice producing fear in me or is the voice filling me with love? The enemy’s voice says that I’m a terrible writer, that I won’t amount to anything and that everyone is going to ridicule me. I don’t want to be ridiculed or be labelled as a bad writer – I fear what others think of me. So clearly this is not the voice of God.

God’s voice encourages you, He guides you and even if you do not quite make it to the standard that you believe you should be aiming for God is proud of what you are doing.  I’d like to remind those that may question their validity to be a writer that God called you to this position. He gave you the gift to write. He qualified you to be a writer. Your validity doesn’t come from the last pay check you received or the last award you won, your validity comes from God who created you and gifted you to write. You are worthy because God says you are worthy. Even if no other person reads your writing, just know that because you wrote it out of a love for God and believing that God told you to write it you are qualified to be titled as a writer.

Photo by: freedigitalphotos.com
By stockimages, published on 17 November 2013
Stock Photo - image ID: 100218374



  
Natalie is a freelance copywriter and ghostwriter servicing the Christian market. She is also proudly a Child Advocate Network supporter with Compassion and volunteers for the Street Chaplains in her free time. To connect with her on various social networks please visit her website www.nataliemcnee.com

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Have We Gotten Used to Speed Dating?


 By Jessica Everingham

Copyright Creationswap, by Richard Wong

Romance-junkies, which relationships do you find most engaging—those in television, or those in movies?

As much as I love movies, for me the answer is definitely TV. And as an aspiring romance novelist, that holds implications for the way I develop my stories.

The biggest difference I see between the relationships in TV shows, and those in movies, is time.

 In a show it can take six seasons for characters to declare their feelings. By this point they’ve built up a strong friendship, probably endured some life-and-death experiences together, dated other people, gotten jealous, fought, made up, and sacrificed for one another. And then, finally, they’ve both admitted their love.

In a movie, two people see each other. Five to fifteen minutes later, they’re soul mates, and spend the rest of the movie fighting the bad guys or their respective inner demons.

Nothing wrong with either method. But personally, I find television far more addictive. Which raises the question; have us novelists (or aspiring novelists, in my case) gotten far too used to speed dating?
Imagine for a moment, if there was a book version of Castle? The Mentalist?  Or [insert your favourite TV show here]? Dozens of shows capitalize on the slow-burn-friendship-turned-true-love. And while the ‘instant heat’ method is a proven success for books, is the alternative an under-utilized tool?




Jenny B Jones has pulled this off with flair in her novel, Save The Date. There’s heat in the book from the start, but Lucy and Alex’s relationship is built on shared experiences and a whole lotta sarcasm, over a period of several months. By the end of the story you know this romance will survive anything— whether it’s temperamental teenagers, a political rat race, a family tragedy or outrageously embarrassing relatives. Because they’ve already done it all.

Another great example in mainstream fiction is Veronica Roth’s Divergent series. Four and Tris have very realistic insecurities that affect their relationship, yet they’re mesmerizing together. They fight, they doubt, and they fear, but above all, they make the decision to stay together. The third book, Allegiant, contains the most romantic line I’ve ever read, spoken by main character Tris:
“I fell in love with him. But I don't just stay with him by default as if there's no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.” 

Doesn’t that just make you go, “Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww”? Wouldn’t it be fabulous if a love like this was not so rare, even in fiction?

It’s a little outside the box. It’s a little unique. It’s a little scary. 

But it’s a lot of fun.

P.S. To all Castle fans, after writing this I discovered that there IS a book version. J J J




Jessica Everingham is a 23 year-old Australian who writes about God and love, and often combines the two. Her novel-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters, is a prime example.
Check out a sneak peek of her book through her website, jessicaeveringham.com, or connect with with Jess on Facebook, (www.facebook.com/jessicaeveringhamwriting) and Twitter (@JessEveringham). 


Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Blog: 10 Minute Daily Retreat by Susanne Timpani

Photo by C.Timpani

I have just arrived home from the Christian Writers Conference and my mind is spinning with a wealth of material to improve my journey as a writer.

 In one session, children’s author, Penny Reeve, shared her experience of marketing her work. It’s a part of the trade not too many writers enjoy. Most of us would much prefer to be locked away tapping on a keyboard than out on a platform telling the world why they should buy our books. What Penny did say was to narrow down the marketing mediums to reflect our uniqueness.

This is something I certainly thought long and hard about when I was developing my author website and blog. How could my blog reflect who I am as a writer? 

My decision to create the 10 Minute Daily Retreat was a scary one. I’ve been praying with scripture in this way for many years now, and it has completely revitalized my relationship with God. But prayer is deeply personal. Who wants to share their spiritual journey with the world? Yet isn’t that what Christian writers are called to do? Using our gifts and talents to bring others closer to Jesus was definitely a theme of the weekend.

The Gospel story that best describes the elements of the 10 Minute Daily Retreat is ‘Mary and Martha.’ Luke 10:41-42  It’s so easy for most of us to get caught up in the frantic pace of everyday life and forget to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.

I like to think of life as a journey, or a quest. Stories of quests have fascinated readers for generations. Tales such as the The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings show the characters overcoming incredible hurdles to achieve a specific goal.  I think that what transforms our ordinary life journey into a meaningful quest are the reflective stops along the way. Even the Greek philosopher, Socrates, pointed out that, ‘the unexamined life is not worth living.’

If you had ten minutes to set aside today, perhaps you could reflect on Jesus’ response to Martha’s busyness. Sometimes I set the timer on my phone if I feel a bit edgy that I might run late for something.  I usually spend the first five minutes reading and reflecting on the verse. It’s important not to speed read, but to savour the words, allowing them to enter deeply into our heart. Sometimes I’ll talk to God during this time, sharing my thoughts or asking Him questions.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed-or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”(Luke 10:41-42 NIV)

During the second five minutes, stop talking to God and listen. It’s in these few minutes that we make room for God to speak to us in any way He chooses.

I have a great team of people who contribute their prayerful reflections to the 
10 Minute Daily Retreat blog. You are welcome to visit my page and join us in this adventure of daily quiet prayer.

Susanne Timpani

Monday, October 20, 2014

His Hand or His Face?

Photo courtesy of David Castillo/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One of the things I pray a lot about is seeking direction; or for confirmation that I’m doing the right thing. Do you do that?

My work life tends to be lumpy. The life of a consultant tends to be like that, however, in recent times there have been less lumps, meaning less projects and less income. I’m continually seeking God for clarity regarding my career.

As most of us writers know there are very few of us who are earning significant enough monies from our efforts that we’re able to go without other employment.

And what about all the clarity we seek with our writing? Do I keep pursuing publication, but isn’t this my calling, do I go the indie route, why won’t this story come out the way it should, well that $7 royalty cheque sure makes it all worthwhile, and on on we can go.

Clarity 

A while back I read this story about Mother Teresa that provides some great perspective. Many of you may be familiar with it. It goes something like this:

John Kavanagh went to Calcutta to work with Mother Teresa. While there, he asked her to pray for him. “What should I pray for?” she asked.
“Pray that I may have clarity,” he replied.
Mother Teresa responded, “No, I will not pray for that.”
“Why?” he asked.
“Clarity is the last thing you cling to,” she said. Kavanagh then remarked that she always seemed to have clarity.
She said, “I have never had clarity. What I always had is trust. So I will pray that you trust God.”
Too often I’m got caught seeking His Hand, rather than His face.

If God always gave us the answers, we wouldn’t need Him. Yes, clarity is wonderful but sometimes when we have it we head off and start running the race by ourselves rather than leaning on the Lord. We can find too much comfort and security while trusting in God requires us to continually come to the Cross seeking Him.

He’s interested in the journey, teaching us more about Himself and helping us to better understand ourselves. We’re all probably familiar with the line or one of its many variants:

“God is more interested in who we are becoming than what we actually achieve.”

Many of us love the story of Abraham. God told him to up and leave his homeland without giving any instructions as to where to go. Yes, God gave him a wonderful blessing at the same time but he still had no clarity as to where he was supposed to take his little family.

As that great Proverb says:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6)

If you’re going through an unsettling season of change or indecision, may I encourage you to seek Jesus, seek to be in His Presence, not for what He can do for us.




Ian Acheson is an author and strategy consultant based in Northern Sydney. Ian's first novel of speculative fiction, Angelguard, is now available in the US, UK, Canada and Australia. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Tuscan Writing Retreat by Elaine Fraser


Creativity flourishes when we slow down for a while, take time out of our regular routine and responsibilities and focus on nourishing our creative souls.

In September,  I arrived at the Borgo Caiano to join The Art of Writing retreat. The other participants and I were seeking a place to pause, reflect and to be inspired.

We found it in the Casentino region of Tuscany, a place of meditation, historic farmhouses and medieval sanctuaries. Dante and Francis of Assisi found something special in this region too.




If you ever watched Under The Tuscan Sun and dreamed of running away to your own Tuscan adventure, you’ll know how excited I was to be in this fabulous place.

As we sat around the table and introduced ourselves on that first night, it was obvious that everyone had a story and something they wanted to produce—short stories, memoir, novels, blogs and poetry. 

We were here to pause for a while and concentrate on our writing, guided by our tutors Lisa Clifford, Jane Corry and Conrad Williams.


Each day was an exercise in creative growth. In this quiet retreat, we were far away from shops, cafes, traffic jams, jobs, family—anything that would draw us away from the reason we were there. It was a pilgrimage of sorts as we sought to unlock the writer within.


Our only excursion was to a castle and then a sheep farm. At the farm we milked sheep and watched as Lorenzo formed the milk into cheese. 

This was a welcome break from the tutorials and critique sessions. The richness of the surroundings and hospitality warmed our hearts and inspired our minds.



I think a few odes to tomatoes may have been written after dinner with the Cipriani family.



In this quiet pause, each person discovered something the story within, birthed something new, or discovered the courage to complete a work begun in their hearts and minds long before the retreat.

The fellowship between the participants was beautiful. It as if we had all been destined to be there at that particular time, with that particular group of people. It was meant to be.

In setting aside a week to be mindful in our writing, we also became mindful of our surroundings. Each moment became an inspiration, a spark and memory that will enrich our lives and creative work.

I’d like to think that I brought some of this mindfulness home with me. I’m trying to slow down, pay attention to the moments and see the miracles in the every day.

The Bible tells us to be still and know that He is God. Being still, unless we are asleep, is not a common state most of us live in. We are so busy rushing and doing, that we forget to just be.


I found that in this beautiful pause, I had time to be still and let the creativity in me flourish. Stillness and intentionality in our everyday, even in the shortest of pauses, is worth pursuing.











Elaine Fraser
Author at Beautiful Books
Find out more at: www.beautifulbooks.co