Thursday, January 22, 2015

A timely reminder - Jo-Anne Berthelsen

I stood at the counter of the Christian bookstore, fuming. Not a good scenario, whichever way one looks at it! Before leaving home, I had checked on the store’s website to make sure the book I wanted—one of my own earlier novels—was in stock. I had none left and needed a copy in a hurry. I also decided I would see if my current novel, of which the store seemed to have plenty, was on display.

At the store, I discovered that the one copy left of my earlier novel was already set aside for another customer. Sigh. I then went to find my latest novel--but alas, it was nowhere in sight.Yet there were supposed to be fifteen in stock. Where could they be? A staff member helped me look for a bit but then gave up.

‘You’ve come at an awkward time,’ she informed me. ‘Our books are being moved around our different stores and we’re also tidying up after the sale.’

I understood totally on both counts. And I think it’s a good idea to shuffle those books around the different stores so they are available across the country. Still, it seemed odd there were no copies at all to be found in this large, busy bookstore in the meanwhile. There was nothing I could do about it, however, so, in very grumpy author mode by now, I gave up and left.

I drove home—and then a long way to another bookstore, after discovering two copies of my earlier novel still available there. Soon, self-pity set in big-time. How come that staff member could not find those copies for me ... and also did not seem too worried about it? How can my books sell if they aren’t even on the shelves? Clearly too, I was just some crazy old author lady to be humoured but not taken seriously! Humph!

After a while, as I covered those kilometres to the other bookstore at just under the speed limit, I began to calm down a little. Then I heard that gentle whisper of God somewhere in my spirit.

‘Firstly, Jo-Anne ... isn’t it a good thing someone had already ordered that only copy of your earlier novel remaining in the first bookstore? That novel came out almost seven years ago—that’s amazing it’s still selling at all. Secondly, while that young staff member couldn’t locate those stocks of your current novel, the fact they are in the process of being moved around different stores is surely a good thing too? Could you perhaps look at the positives in all this and be thankful?’

I took a deep breath. Yes, I decided, I could. I needed to forget my gripes and grumbles. I needed to be thankful the bookstore in question has stocked my books for years now. In fact, I needed to remember all the blessings of my writing journey—and be so thankful for it all.

How about you? What things are you thankful for in your writing journey?
Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thess 5:18
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit

Monday, January 19, 2015

No such thing as 'The Best'

Jane Austen wrote the following paragraph in her personal papers, about people's reception to her books. I loved stumbling upon it on an Austen website.

'Cassandra liked 'Emma' better the 'Pride & Prejudice' but not so well as 'Mansfield Park.' Mrs A. found 'E' more entertaining than 'MP' but not so interesting as 'P&P'. Mr Cockerelle liked 'E' so little, Fanny wouldn't even send me his opinion. Mrs A Bramstone thought 'S&S' and 'P&P' downright nonsense, but decided 'MP' is the worst.'

Having written nine novels at this stage, I found I could relate to her. If I relied on public opinion to help me decide how I'm going, I'd be very confused. Some people have said they prefer 'Picking up the Pieces' to anything else I've written, because of the strong forgiveness theme. Others think 'Best Forgotten' is the best, for the mystery thread, while a few even choose 'A Design of Gold,' including one man who was touched by my hero's past as it was similar to his own. Others say my latest, 'Imogen's Chance' drew them in more than all the others.

The only clear conclusion is that 'the best' is subjective. I follow a reviewer from America whose opinions I often agree with, and she shocked me last week by writing a harsh review about a book I loved. To add to the confusion of opinions, any person's feelings can change down the track. I once read Beverly Cleary's 'Ramona' books with my kids. I remembered them as a series I vaguely enjoyed as a kid, when I identified with the heroine. To my great surprise, years later I found myself identifying strongly with the mother as well as both daughters, and loved the books!

Differing opinions may be explained partly because all readers process books according to their own unique attitudes and life experiences. Last year, I read a memoir by a lady named Rebecca Mead who followed the footsteps of George Eliot. She wrote, 'My 'Middlemarch' is not the same as anyone else's Middlemarch', and not even the same as my 'Middlemarch' of twenty-five years ago.'

It would seem that in spite of what we may expect, the experience of any given book isn't something that simply strikes a generic impression into every heart. Life would be pretty simple if this was so. What if each reader brings part of his or her own personality to the experience of reading our stories? That's why differences of opinion can be poles apart. It also means that not only the writer's character and way of expression is responsible for good impressions, but the reader's too. This leaves us free to simply shrug and accept random reports that a particular person hated our work. We needn't believe that we're bad authors just because we didn't strike a chord with Jane Doe.

On the flip side, I'm well aware that whenever a reader thanks me for a good read, it's more than just a throw-away compliment. It means that while they read my novel, something deep in their heart responded to something in mine. Imagine if somebody with admirable, heroic qualities ever attribute them partly to reading our books. There's a thought for another blog post.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, please visit her blog, It Just Occurred to Me. You may also like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review where she also interviews other authors.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


by Jeanette O'Hagan

Image courtesy of John Kasawa at

When I was in my early twenties, I sat down and wrote a novel – late at night, in lulls between seeing patients, on scraps of paper and notepads. It took perhaps a year to finish the first draft, longer to do the second and third. A friend (thank you Wendy) typed it up for me and I sent it out to a couple of publishers. I got a strong nibble but, naive as I was, I had no idea that didn't normally happen so quickly, so I quibbled. And then my writing got shoved in a drawer as a new career, ministry, marriage, family and more study took over my time and creative energies.

So when, at the beginning of 2012, I dusted of my writing dreams and enrolled in post-graduate studies in writing, I also dusted off my old manuscript and plunged straight back into writing novels and searching for publishers. Writing long fiction feels natural to me – if I’m not careful my shorts become novels and my novels become series.

Four and a half manuscripts on – and I’m still looking for that elusive publisher.

Which is why the last couple of months have been so exciting. No, not because of my books (though they still ignite my imagination).  I've had some success with a couple of shorts; a placing in Faith Writer’s flash fiction challenges, the acceptance of a 5000 word story in the Tied in Pink anthology (released last month) and the acceptance of one of my poems in another anthology. Just baby steps but exciting nonetheless.

It has been a steep learning curve as I’m not a natural short story writer. It took me three stories to get within the 5000 word limit for the Tied in Pink anthology. (On the plus side, I now have three stories not one.) 

Short stories can of course be submitted to competitions, magazines or even published as e-books, on their own or part of collections. Meredith Resce, for instance, has recently published a short novella Where’s There’s Smoke. Incidentally, she along with Anusha also have stories in the Tied in Pink anthology with a number of other writers from different walks of life and philosophies.

So what is an anthology and is it worth getting involved?

An anthology is a collection of works by different authors that share a common theme. The works might be poems, devotionals or inspirational true stories, essays or fiction (or some mix of these). The theme might be related to a genre, a subject, an idea or a target audience.

Anthologies may be commissioned by a publisher if they feel a certain theme is not well represented in the market. It may come about by the collaborative efforts of a group of authors or even from a single author inviting others to contribute.

Anthologies are a great way for different authors to showcase their writing style. They provide an opportunity for new writers to be noticed and for established writers to keep their name visible while working on their longer works.

Writing short stories require some different skills and strategies than long fiction – just because they are short doesn't mean they are easy to write. However, they usually can be written in a shorter time frame than a novel and can be more easily discarded if they don’t work out. They provide the opportunity to experiment with ideas, style or genre. It is easier (though still hard) to get a short story published than a full length novel.

As anthologies generally have a number of contributors, they provide an opportunity for fans of one author to discover they enjoy the work of others within the collection. For authors, this may mean new fans – for readers, the discovery of new authors to follow and enjoy. Also, hopefully all contributors will be involved in promotion of the anthology.

If your story is not accepted, you can submit it elsewhere (with or without changes).

Be strategic. Most of my stories tie in the fictional world of my novels and are connected in some way with each other. In this way, I hope they are a natural springboard into my novels. I also envisage including them in a collection which I could self-publish at a later date with new material.

It’s not all sunshine and oranges

Anthologies don’t always sell as well as novels.  Readers may not like anthologies because they aren't as immersive as a novel and have a certain element of pot luck about them (you may know and like one or two authors, but not all). Alternatively, you can think of them like a box of chocolates – perhaps you don’t like hard (or soft) centres but you are just as likely to be delighted as disappointed. And it’s easy to read a story in one sitting.

According to Literary Rejections, Chicken Soup for the Soul received 140 rejections headed ‘Anthologies don’t sell’ before finally being accepted for publication and has gone on to be a best seller.

Still, you probably won’t make a fortune from an anthology even if you receive royalties.  With the Tied in Pink anthology, all time and skills were donated and the profits are going to breast cancer research. As an author it is still a viable way of getting your name known and attracting new fans.

An anthology includes a range of authors and stories. With a secular anthology, this will include many with different values and philosophies. The guidelines will give some indication of what might be considered acceptable – but interpretations may vary. The Tied in Pink anthology included a few more risque stories than I or many of my friends would normally read or write which has meant that I have had to been more cautious about how I promote it (say in church circles). On the other hand, many of the stories are moving or fun to read.

As with publishing a novel, you need to beware of vanity publishers. Some publishers rely on the fact that the contributors are likely to buy multiple copies to give to friends and family. Multiply that by the number of contributors and they can make a profit at the expense of their authors.They don’t need to ensure the quality of the anthology and put little or no effort into promotion. For more info, check out this link.

Follow the guidelines. Make sure you know the submission requirements – the type of story, word limit, any exclusions, when and how to submit etc.

Be clear about what rights, royalties (or payment) and obligations (are you expected to buy copies etc). I prefer anthologies that ask for first (serial) rights and/or non-exclusive (or exclusive for a set time period – say 6-12 months after publication). This means that you can sell (or self-publish) your story as a reprint after the specified period. Look at whether digital, print, worldwide and/or audio are included.

Here is just a small sampling of anthologies you might consider submitting to:

Faith Writers challenges –  Breath of Fresh Air press plan to publish the top entries in a series of Mixed Blessings books.

Chicken Soup for the Soul is always looking for contributors. 

Like a Girl anthology is looking for submissions. This is a charity anthology, with profits going to boost education for girls through Plan Australia. Submissions deadline is July 12 2015, the 18th birthday of Malala Yousafzai.

Glimpses of Light Anthology - in conjunction with Christian Writers Downunder  

2015 is the International Year of Light. I've been considering the possibility Glimpses of Light anthology – with (fictional) stories and poems tying in with the theme or symbolism of light – with ALL profits going towards an accredited charity that helps people in developing countries (such as Christian Blind Mission, Tear Fund or World Vision). This anthology could be done in conjunction with Christian Writers Downunder – giving an opportunity for selected CWD writers to showcase their work. Details are yet to be worked out (title, charity, deadlines, guidelines, submission and selection process, publishing process etc).

There are a number of ways of participating   Please prayerfully consider your involvement. We would love you to join the Glimpses of Light Facebook group – either direct message Nola Passmore or myself (Jeanette O’Hagan) or click on this link and request to join.

So maybe in 2015 we can get anthologising :)

Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She is currently caring for her children, enjoying post-graduate studies in writing at Swinburne University and writing her Akrad's fantasy fiction series.  You can read some of her short fiction here. She is about to have a short story published as part of the Tied in Pink anthology next month (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research) . 

She is actively involved in a caring Christian community. 

You can find her at her Facebook Page or webistes or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .

Monday, January 12, 2015

Permission to just stop....

In our house, the lead up to Christmas is especially busy. As well as the usual Christmas and end of year activities, my younger son has his birthday a week before Christmas. I had a couple of manuscripts that needed editing sitting there and calling me to get to work. By the time Christmas came around, I was exhausted.

This year, we did something a bit different to what we normally do the week after Christmas. We did nothing!

That's not completely true, we did do things, but nothing we had to do. I didn't even do any writing or editing. I left it all in their files and didn't touch it. I even spent time just lying under a tree and thinking about nothing.

Image Source
For me, and many writers I know, it's sometimes hard to just stop for a while. After the crazy times we had in December, having a complete rest from writing and other things I had to do, was just what the doctor ordered.

This rest helped clear blocks to getting writing and editing done and the ideas are flowing once more. I'm excited about revisiting manuscripts I was polishing in 2014, and jotting down ideas for new projects for this year. It has also helped me focus on my writing goals for the coming year and I have a plan for the projects to start working on. 

I know there's a lot of advice out there that says to be a successful writer, you need to write every day, but there are times when you just need to give yourself permission to stop for a while. It's amazing how much fresher you are when you come back to writing again.

Giving myself permission to stop is something I'm getting better at, especially when I really need a break. Before Christmas, 2015 was looking overwhelming. I'm now really looking forward to 2015, it's great starting the year refreshed and ready for the year to come.

Melissa Gijsbers is a Melbourne based author and the mother of two boys. She has had flash fiction stories in five anthologies and published her first children's book, Swallow Me, NOW! in October 2014.
Follow her writing journey at and visit her website at

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Broken Stars

by Dianne Riley

There seems to be a theme running in the recent I thought maybe I should write something different, but no inspiration came, maybe there is a message for us all from God......what do you think?

My girlfriend Ang and I decided to do some Christmas cooking. 
I love to cook and my gal Ang loves to have a go.  
So Christmas star cookies were the object of our adventure together in the kitchen.  
Settling on a date became a task all by itself, let alone getting our aprons on!  Back and forth the texts went as we tried to match up a time before Christmas day drew near, too near for baking cookies.

Finally the Sunday before Christmas we had Ang over for a family dinner.
Then the cooking began. 
Wish I had taken a couple of photos, the concentration on her face was beautiful, not to mention the little dancing action she was getting on as she stamped the cookie cutter into the pastry.
Tray after tray went into the oven.  

Finally with more pastry ready in her hands, she asked “have we made enough?” So, we had made enough.

It was fun. We laughed and chatted, then we dusted our little stars with icing sugar and it was time for Ang to go home with her share of the cookies packed into a snap lock bag.  Great plans we had for those cookies. Off to work they would go with us the very next day to share with our respective colleagues.

Then the text arrived.  ‘My stars are all broken’.  We laughed together at all the effort coming to crumbs and no cookies to share.
I messaged her ‘There has to be a sermon in there somewhere’.
And for me there was a God inspired message.  
My stars of writing have been broken.  Somewhere along the way I fell off the writing pathway. I have a folder of unfinished and unedited stories, just like Ang had a snap lock bag of bickie crumbs….and nothing to share.

Somewhere inside me I know I have something to share.

When our stars are broken, no matter what those stars might be, we do need to look to the Saviour.

Thankfully Christmas does come around every year, the reminder of God in flesh coming to us, meeting us.  I write on my gift tags every year ‘Wise men still seek Him’, and those wise men followed a star.  The star brought them to the Saviour.

My star cookies, in fact Ang’s broken star cookies, brought me to the Saviour again.  To seek His guidance to show me how to find my way back onto the writing pathway.  So I won’t be a spectator in the year to come, I will be taking a fresh page and writing, writing, writing.

PS My gal Ang has decided I can show her how to make gift tags next year; we’ll hang up our aprons for our next adventure in the kitchen…

You can find out more about me here..... I have self-published a book to encourage girls to find their significance in Jesus.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

From Resolutions to Actions by Nola Passmore

Have you made some New Year’s resolutions?  “This year I’ll lose weight, get more exercise, write that novel, marry Prince Harry.”  Sadly, only about 8% of people actually keep the promises they make to themselves.  One of my goals for 2014 was to finish the first draft of my novel, but I fell way short of that mark.  It’s easy to beat ourselves up when we don’t meet our expectations, but that doesn’t mean we give up.  Perhaps we need to set more achievable goals or come up with a better plan for achieving them.

In my former life as a social psychologist, I came across a theory that might explain why our resolutions don't always lead to actions.   According to the Theory of Planned Behaviour, there’s a correlation between our intention to perform a behaviour and what we actually do.  No surprises there.  However, our intentions are affected by three things: attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control.  Okay don’t panic!  Let me give some examples to show what each of these mean and how they apply to our writing goals.   


If you feel there are more positives than negatives associated with a particular behavior, you’re more likely to do it.  As you’re reading a blog from a writer’s group, I’ll go out on a limb and assume that you’re already favourable towards writing.  Creating something fresh gives you a buzz.  You like the sense of accomplishment that comes from completing a manuscript or receiving positive feedback from a reader. However, it’s not always fun.  It can be hard slogging your way through the middle section of your novel without any guarantee that you’ll find a publisher. 

While it’s important to be realistic, we need to recognise that the negatives are not always the barriers we perceive them to be.  Yes, it is harder to get published these days.  Yes, most writers don’t make a lot of money.  Yes, cleaning the oven would be more fun than editing the mess you wrote yesterday.  However, don’t use the negatives as excuses to give up.  If God has given you a desire to write, He’ll enable you to do it.

Subjective Norms 

Subjective norms are based on what significant people in our lives think and also the values that society places on a goal.  For example, if writing is seen as something worthwhile and our family and friends encourage us, we’ll be more likely to write. 

If you’re already feeling discouraged because the people around you aren’t as supportive as you’d like, your dreams don’t have to stop there.  You can surround yourself with like-minded peers who do value writing.  Groups like Christian Writers Downunder, Omega Writers, FaithWriters and Australasian Christian Writers can provide the support and encouragement you need to pursue your writing goals.  There are also many genre-specific groups that will adopt you as part of the tribe, whether it’s romance, science fiction, creative nonfiction or Amish steampunk. In the cyber world, you never have to swim against the tide alone.

Perceived Behavioural Control 

Perceived behavioural control refers to our beliefs about whether or not we can perform a particular behaviour.  Can we actually write that novel, screenplay, magazine article or biography?  It’s important to note the word “perceived” here.  Our intention to pursue a particular writing goal doesn’t depend so much on our actual ability, but on whether or not we think we can perform the behavior and whether we have the resources and opportunities to do so.  Perhaps spelling and grammar aren’t your strong points or a significant person was critical of something you’d written.   Maybe you have seven unfinished novels in your drawer and have lost confidence. 

The good news is that we can always learn and improve.  Try subscribing to a writing magazine or joining a critique group.  Go to workshops in your area or enrol in one online.  However, as Christian writers we also have a huge advantage. We have God on our side.  Nothing used in His service is ever wasted.  If you have a desire to write and you step out in faith, the Holy Spirit can nurture your gifts and guide you in your journey.

Be Specific

Although attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioural control can all affect our intention to write, intentions are more likely to translate into actions if we’re specific.  If your New Year’s Resolution is to write a book, try breaking it down into manageable steps.  For example: “I will attend the workshop on ‘plot and structure’ being offered by my local writers’ centre (or enrol online).”  “I will buy some index cards and use them to jot down ideas for different scenes.”  “I will write X words per day or per week.”  You’re more likely to do it if it’s something concrete and manageable.

Don’t be dismayed if your plans for 2014 didn’t quite work out.  It’s a brand new year with a whole new set of possibilities. Let’s stand alongside each other in prayer and cheer each other on towards our writing goals for 2015.

What are your hopes for the new year?

Nola Passmore has had over 140 short pieces published, including poetry, devotions, true stories, short fiction and magazine articles.  She's currently writing her debut novel and loves encouraging others to develop their God-given talents.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her writing tips blog on their website

Monday, December 29, 2014

The Ripples of Knowledge Go On, and On, and On... by Janette Pepall

In my previous blog I discussed how my life changed with the adoption of 5 children in the 1970s and 80s (from Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and Australia) to join a birth son, and briefly how God took our family to Hong Kong as missionaries. This was the catalyst for my life now as an international trainer, consultant and author of children’s books and training packages, targeting those who work directly with children at risk.  I am joined by a wonderful team of 13 volunteers in 8 countries (Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, USA, India and Macau).

It was the writing of the module Care For Orphans and Vulnerable Children for Crisis Care Training International (USA) that promoted me to consider how He could use my personal parenting and social worker experiences in Australia and  Hong Kong,  to benefit those who care for God’s most vulnerable…..children at risk! The refugee, orphan, child prostitute, child soldier, child with HIV/AIDS, of abuse, with disabilities and the 8 million institutionalised children!

Many individuals, governments, non-government organisations and ministries, especially in the ‘developing world’, are struggling to come to terms with providing best care practice for these children.  While some training is available, it is often targeted to managers, administrators or social workers, and as such is too theoretical and impractical for child caregivers and others who may have limited literacy and and/or child care experience.
Our team’s motto is Child Caregivers are Our Heroes!
Our aim is to support and educate child caregivers and others directly involved with children, by providing skills training and resources, and to ultimately equip national trainers who will conduct training in their own language. 

My latest training packages are ‘National Training: Understanding and Responding to God’s Vulnerable Children’ (for churches, ministries) and ‘National Training: Understanding and Responding to Children At Risk’ (governments, non-government organisations).  
The modules cover foundational topics related to children in crisis, such as needs and rights of children, loss and grief, care models, communication with children, managing behavior and positive discipline, child development and  counseling children in trauma. We use role plays, case studies, and individual, small and large group exercises, culturally contextualized and all planned to be easily understood

As our ultimate aim is to see the material used by nationals, for nationals, we are training local social workers and others, and the modules are being translated from English into Chinese, Burmese and Thai. I am constantly asked, “Do you have the modules in African French, Hindi or Spanish?”

It took me three years to write the latest training packages. Why do it? Who would want the material? Wasn’t there enough training out there, so why more? God, there is only me (I didn’t have a team then). But I had a real sense of purpose, a burning in my heart and spirit that this is what He wanted me to do!

Now the resources have been used or are being taught in 17 countries, and we have trained over 3000 people in 13 countries. And as I write this blog, I am preparing for our 44th conference, this time in Sabah, Malaysia. 

Yes, I am of a ‘mature’ age, but God can and does use us all, male and female, children, adolescents, young adults and seniors, of all nationalities and experiences. 

Our team’s prayer is we that are joined by more volunteers; prayer partners, translators, trainers, sponsors and marketing people, all with a heart to make a difference in the lives of the children, by training and supporting their child caregivers.

We know firsthand that the ripples of knowledge go on, and on, and on.

You can check out our websites at www.nationaltrainingforchildrenatrisk and

Thursday, December 25, 2014

OUR CHRISTMAS LAMB by Rita Stella Galieh

I heard a true story recently.

A young man shared how he worked on a farm in Paraguay. The farm had various crops and a few sheep. Now the ewes had just lambed and the farmer chose one and gave it into the young man's care. The farmer said as long as he fed and petted it, the lamb would follow him everywhere.

The farmer named it Navidad which is Spanish for the word Christmas. Sure enough that little lamb followed the young man everywhere and he grew very fond of it. He thought it must have been a special pet that the busy farmer had no time to look after. He formed a real bond with Navidad - similar to a man and his dog.

Time passed and as the end of the year approached, the young man had a disturbing thought. Had there been any particular reason why the lamb was named Christmas? Then the sad truth sank in. It all made sense now. Navidad was to be offered as their Christmas dinner. His little lamb to be killed just so they food to eat? He was truly saddened. Because the farm was poor, Navidad the little Christmas lamb must die ... so that they might live.

For the first time in his life he understood something of how God felt when His Son died on the cross taking on Himself the penalty of our sins. Jesus truly died that we might live. How deeply it cut the Father's heart to offer His own Son Jesus.

Mercifully the little lamb didn't know what would happen as it went quietly to be slaughtered ... but Jesus did and His suffering was great. Earlier in His ministry, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming and cried out, 'Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.' His amazing sacrifice was foretold by the prophet Isaiah in the Holy Bible. ( Isa.53:5-7.)

This is the reason why Jesus was born in that manger so long ago.

We wish you a blessed Christmas from all your friends at Christian Writers Down Under!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Risky Writing

By Charis Joy Jackson

Being creative is what I live for. Whether it’s writing, acting or making movies. I love it and I’m blessed to work in a film office where I get to do these things.

One of my responsibilities is to supervise the film interns in their writing. I give them feedback on their screenplays and over the last few months the feedback has been the same on every story. It got me thinking, these are important things for every writer to know so I thought I’d share them with you. It’s not an extensive list, but I think it will challenge more than just your writing.

1. Take a risk - Make it personal
    Christmas is only a few days away and every year I can't help but think of the risk Jesus took in coming to earth as a baby.  Talk about being vulnerable. We should be vulnerable too.

    Whether you are writing fiction, non-fiction or a screenplay make it personal. The more vulnerable you are in your writing the more appealing it is to read. It helps the characters you write to feel fleshed out and whole, less like two-dimensional pieces of cardboard. It adds complexity to your story and helps you find lots of little subplots to keep your reader engaged.

    If you’re writing a work of non-fiction don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself and share embarrassing stories. It allows your reader to be vulnerable too. It gives them that “Ha!-I-totally-do-that/ I-thought-I-was-the-only-one type of moment. Your reader is more likely to want to hear what you have to say because who wants to listen to a know it all who never does anything wrong!?

2. Take a death-defying jump - Bring something new

    Every single one of us is unique. No fingerprint or snowflake is the same and no writer is the same.

    No one can tell a story like you.

    Working with Youth With a Mission I get asked to teach on different schools and topics. One topic was Intercession - the act of standing in the gap through prayer. I really didn’t want to study more into the topic. Intercession often seems stale and boring, sitting for long hours in a stuffy room while people repeat the same prayer over and over again. When I sat down to prepare my teaching I knew I had to change my perspective and this question popped into my head, “Why was I asked to speak about this and not someone else? What unique way do I view the world?”

     I speak through stories and symbolism.

    Thus began a long search for how I could show the exciting and even a little frightening side of intercession. In the end I showed the class a short video of a waterfall in Africa where people go to jump into the flowing water right at the edge of the falls. The place is called the Devil's Pool. It’s totally a death-defying experience. The current is strong and if you aren’t careful you will fall over the edge, but under the water there is a ridge that acts like a railing of rock to keep everyone safe inside the pool. The wall of rock literally stands in the gap. Just like we do when we intercede.

     This waterfall analogy is an example of how each of us adds something different to story as well. We could all sit down and write the story of Cinderella and on the surface they’d all be the same "waterfall". Yet in the details (under the water), my version would look different to yours, just as yours would look different to another author.

    My point of this list?

   The best way to be brave in your writing is to be brave in life.

   Take more risks, it kills fear. I’m always afraid I’ll get my characters stuck in a situation I won’t know how to write them out of, but when I’m brave enough to take those risks, I find my story is actually more appealing.

   What are some risky tips you’ve used to help your readers engage more in your work?


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.