Monday, March 30, 2015

You're not a real writer...and other oft repeated lies by Jo Wanmer



I have banished the accusation!

It comes from the accuser and I'm not buying his lies any longer. I'm going to walk in the truth.

"Did God really say...?" From the Garden of Eden until today it is still Satan's favourite lie. He loves to sew seeds of doubt which, in turn, feed on our insecurities until they become full blown paranoia. Then his purpose is achieved. We give up, turn away, ignore the voice of God.

A couple of weeks ago a teacher at our disciple training school made a simple statement. For me it was one of those golden sentences, a 'ah-ha' moment or as my husband would say a BFO (blinding flash of the obvious.) He was talking about hearing the voice of God. He must have been looking inside my head cause he described it accurately.

        'As soon as you ask 'Was that me or God?' you lock the door to revelation. You can no longer hear God's voice.'

I can hear you arguing with me. Every thought must be tested, taken captive and made to obey Christ. The Bible says so. The Bible also says we walk by faith, we know His voice and if we ask of Him, he will gives us treasures stored in dark places. Any question that raises doubt is anti-faith.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?" Luke 11:11

If I ask God to speak to me, I know he's not going to send the snake. However the serpent will slither in and cast doubt if he can. From now on he's not getting any air time in my head. I'm believing everything I hear is from God. I will record, test it and ask for confirmation. I can delete it later if necessary. But no longer will I allow a thought to be aborted before it has been given time to fully form.

Likewise, this week, I have banished the lie, 'You're not a real writer.' I've been haunted in the middle of the night by rules telling me a real author writes at least 15 minutes everyday, reads a book a week in their genre and reads other genres widely. My concern about not achieving this guideline gave the enemy fertile ground to plant his seed of doubt.

So let me confess. Until yesterday I hadn't read a book since holidays in January. I haven't looked at my edits since the February Omega Writer's meeting where I said I'd edit a certain amount six days every week. I'm grieved about this and I apologise to the rest of you in book world.

But when I pushed past my remorse and talked to God, the fog cleared. He's never as judgmental as I am on myself. He pointed to the truth.

I have read a least four books of the Old Testament, countless snippets of other biblical passages, many prophetic words re our times, blogs, emails, Facebook and the ingredients lists on food packaging. I have written pages in journals, drawn illustrations, typed countless messages, texts.... And I have taught at the ministry school and watched as understanding of His love dawned in student's eyes.

So what if my edits are behind and ideas burning in my head aren't written down? Soon the season will change and these books I'm passionate about will emerge. I am a writer, a real writer...but I may move to the beat of a different drum. And therein lies the wonder and diversity of the body of Christ.

What about you? Do you have lies the enemy uses to close the door to revelations from God, or to discourage you, divert you?


Jo Wanmer is the author of Though the Bud be Bruised, published by Even Before Publishing in 2012. She loves to write stories about real people, bringing the God of love and wholeness into real-life messes. Meanwhile she is a pastor, bookkeeper, grandmother and a few other assorted things as the Spirit requests.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Comedy in Writing

By Jessica Everingham




Someone just whispered the secret of comedy to this monkey.

Unfortunately I don’t speak monkey (despite what my housemates may claim.) So my only consolation is this adorable photo, and the inspiration to go find the secret to humor myself.

Let’s face it, good comedy in writing is difficult. Good comedy in Christian writing, where everything is squeaky-clean, is even harder. So what is an author to do?

A great place to begin is with the experts. Find a book, a podcast, a blog—any professional funny-bone tickler willing to share their secrets. The American Christian Fiction Writers conference session recording called Humor in Fiction is what got me started. (You can view their conference recordings in the sidebar at this link: http://www.acfw.com/conference)

Once my eyes were opened to the analytical side of humor, I began to observe and study it. Real life and TV gave me plenty of material to jot down a list of ‘what makes stuff funny’. Hilarious books were another goldmine—Jenny B Jones is a stand-out in Christian fiction, while Sophie Kinsella is great for a giggle in the mainstream market.

Then I practiced.

I’m still unpublished, so I have a lot more practice ahead of me. But as I’ve put my mind to it, the feedback has grown increasingly encouraging.

Comedy in writing isn’t for everyone—not all novels are meant to be funny, and not all readers want light-hearted books.  But if you’re keen to give it a whirl, here is a list of thigh-slapping crack-ups I’ve observed in the world of writing.

1.      Hyperbole is the most amazing form of humor EVER!!!!!
2.      Sarcasm. Jenny B Jones does not use this at all.
3.      Using specific nouns, e.g. “Kate knew she was the picture of class, jogging down Johnson St in $3 Target thongs, Broncos footy shorts and her Elders Rural cap.” (OK, I used sarcasm there too but it was better than, "Kate knew she was the picture of class as she jogged down the street wearing her daggiest clothes.”)
4.      A serious character in a ridiculous situation. (Or a ridiculous character in a normal situation, e.g. Thor taking the train in Thor 2.)
5.      Physical comedy (with the exception of anything banana-peel-related.)
6.      Under reaction. (The character of Phil Coulson in ‘Agents of Shield’ is a champ at this.)
7.      Over reaction. (Think the dad out of ‘King of Queens’.)
8.      Any case of ‘that escalated quickly’.
9.      Good old-fashioned insults.
10.  Unexpected honesty, particularly from a young child or older person. (Again, Ms Jones is a legend in this area.)
11.  Ridiculous situations, particularly ones that don’t occur by co-incidence but by a series of decisions the character made. (Sophie Kinsella does this like a boss.)

So what about you? What’s the funniest thing you heard or saw this week, either in fiction, film or real life? And what are your tips for comedic writing?



Jessica Everingham loves God, romantic comedies and writing, and is combining the three in her work-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters. She loves to connect with fellow readers and writers via Twitter (@JessEveringham), Facebook (www.facebook.com/jessicaeveringhamwriting), email (jessicaeveringhamwriting@gmail.com) and her website jessicaeveringham.com.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Giving Birth

My new book is released today. The lead-up to this has left me thinking about the similarities between launching a book and giving birth to a baby.

Like a baby, this book has been part of you for many months (in this case, years.) You alone have nurtured and protected it. You alone have known it as it came to life, took shape and grew. It carries your DNA, the very essence of yourself, of who you are. There is a bond between you and it that nobody who has not had the experience could possibly understand.

However, you cannot hold this baby within you forever, or it will die. The time has come to push it out into the glare of the world, where it will face the scrutiny of strangers. Does it really have the requisite ten fingers and ten toes? Do all its functions operate as they are supposed to? It is a bitter-sweet experience, seeing your baby for the first time “in the flesh” yet at the same time knowing that it is not longer exclusively yours.

Of course, you will still lavish love, care and attention upon this child. But more and more, like a baby growing to childhood and on to adulthood, it will have to stand on its own two feet. It will be judged according to its own qualities, not according to yours. People will not come to know it by knowing you, but rather will come to know you by knowing this child you have produced. The opinions they form will depend upon how successfully you have instilled your values into it.

Essentially, giving birth - or releasing a book - is the beginning of a long letting go: setting this child/book free into a world that may either accept it or reject it, and knowing that ultimately it will stand or fall according to what it is, not according to who gave it birth.

Read more about my new book at http://rrr.lynnbfowler.com

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tools of the Trade

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Writing can be as simple as inscribing thoughts on a scrap of paper. Yet as we progress along the writing journey, we often need more than pen and paper to jot down ideas, brainstorm, plot out structure, write our stories, keep track of characters, relationships, timelines, settings and research insights. 

Just like an artist or a carpenter, a writer benefits from the right tools of the trade.

So what tools do you need? 

Only you can say- for what works for one writer may not work for another and vice versa. After all, writers come in all different, shapes and sizes. Some of us are plotters, others are pansters or ‘tweeners. Some prefer pen and paper, while others of us are at home with a keyboard and the digital world. 

I’m still exploring the possibilities, trying to find what works for me. Here are some tools I've stumbled on that you may find useful.

The Basics


Pens or sharpened pencils with reams of paper, note books, files and journals.

Word Processor such as MS Word (PC) or Pages (Mac) or Open Word.

While I generally type my stories, I like to have a notebook handy to jot down ideas wherever I might be. I usually have a separate notebook for each project I’m working on. Some writers have scrapbooks in which they record snippets of dialogue, descriptions, photos, drawings or mementos of place (a dried leaf or flower, a ticket stub, a scrap of fabric) that can be used to stimulate memory and ideas. In addition, journaling can be a good way of working through specific writing issues like writers' block or a tricky plot problem or applying insights from other writers or theorists.

Additional programs


MS One Note
Notes can also be kept electronically. Programs like MS One Note or EverNote can store text, diagrams, images and links to webpages. I particularly like MS OneNote which has a journal-like structure – major topic areas can be put in a titled “journal” which has major sections and pages within the sections.

With Pinterest it is possible to set up specific boards and ‘pin’ images or websites relevant to characters, settings or specific books. Boards can be public or private. I have a public one for my Tamrin Tales.

Mindmaps can help with brainstorming and planning. They are visual schemas/drawings that arrange concepts in a nonlinear organic fashion. The first mind maps were on paper but these days there are many digital mind mapping programs that can also include images, audio-visual files, web links etc.  

Other programs may help you draw diagrams, tree structures or even genealogies and maps.
Spreadsheets like MS Excel can you keep a record of your submissions or chart plot structure and timelines. Time management systems like Todoit or Trello are helpful to keep track of the different tasks, competitions and submission opportunities.

Then there are sites that provide royalty free graphic and digital programs that help manipulate the images.

While the more sophisticated programs can be expensive, many useful ones are available free of charge, give a free trial period or are available for a minimal price.

Specifically for Writers


There are also specific programs designed for writers. While yWriter provides a distraction free text pane for typing; Scrivener, WriteWay or WriteItNow include a basic text editor with sophisticated organizing and formatting functions.

These programs usually have:
WriteWay with Character pane open
  • a basic text editor,
  • basic templates for different types of writing
  • a tree structure that allows you to access and arrange your file into chapters and scenes
  • cork board and card system that allows you to arrange and rearrange scenes or chapters easily
  • character sheets to record vital information about characters (I like how character information accessible through a character window pane in both WriteWay and WriteItNow)
  • a place for research links that can be attached to a relevant place in the document.
  • formatting options (that can help with converting to e-book formatting etc)


Tailoring it for your own use


All this might seem a confusing array of possibilities, which may or may not be relevant to your current needs. However, it doesn't hurt to experiment to find out what works best for you.
For instance, one problem I find with Scrivener and related programs, is that research links are tied to a single project. This is limiting for me as I am writing many stories in the same world and often with the same characters and settings. A website (something like my own Wikipedia) would be perfect for the task but I obviously don’t want all the details of my unpublished work accessible to the public.

So far I've tried Realmworks – a database system for storing character, setting and story lines for role playing games. While it has many of the features I want, I found it complicated to use and too rigid.

Another possibility might be a wiki like Docuwiki or Twiki – while this is often used as a collaborative website and requires some technical knowledge,it would allow me to have an offline site with hyperlinks to store, link and access the variety of information about my world. Some parts of which I could make public at a latter date. 

So tell me – what are the tools of the trade you use or would recommend to others? Why do you like using them? Do you think there might ones you haven’t tried that could be useful for you?


Jeanette has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  Her short story, “The Herbalist’s Daughter” was published in the Tied in Pink romance anthology at the end of last year. She has almost finished her Master of Arts (Writing) at Swinburne University and continues to work on her Akrad's fantasy fiction series.  You can read some of her short fiction here.

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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

To plan or not to plan....

When I was at high school, I was frustrated during English classes as my teacher told me how I should be writing. We had to write a detailed plan, then a draft, followed by a 'good' copy that would be submitted. Along the way, the teacher wanted to see the plan and draft, in that order. The plan had to match the draft, which had to match the 'good' copy. If it didn't, then we would be marked down.

This never worked for me. I would quickly write a draft, then the plan, so my first draft was actually my second draft. If I tried to write the plan first, the draft would never match as the story would always take me in another direction.

There were other kids in my class who loved this method, and it was the only way they could write.

My 13 year old is having similar struggles at school with his English teacher and finds it hard to write a plan that will satisfy his teacher before writing the story. On the other hand, my 11 year old finds the plan very helpful and, generally, once he has a plan, the story comes easily.

In the last few years, I've found that having a rough plan works for me. I like to have an idea of where the story is going and where it will end, but it's not a detailed plan by any means. I have friends who can't start a story without the most detailed of plans including character profiles and maps of the world they are creating. I also have friends who just start to to write and follow the words wherever the story takes them.

One thing I've learned is that we need to do what works for us. It takes time and practice to find out the method that works best. If planning works, that's great. If something else works, that's great too. There is no "one size fits all" formula that works for everyone.

As I write, this, I'm in the middle of writing the first draft of my next chapter book. I know how long I want it to be and have an idea of where I want the story to go. It's exciting to see where the story is leading me, already it's starting to take a slightly different shape to the story I started with. This method works for me. What works for you?



Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne and writes in between working as a bookkeeper and being the mother of two active boys. She is a blogger and author of flash fiction and children's books. Her first book, Swallow Me, NOW! is now available.

Follow her writing journey at www.melissawrites.com.au andwww.melissagijsbers.com

Monday, March 9, 2015

Behind Closed Doors by Nicki Edwards


As a child I grew up reading Enid Blyton’s “The Twins at St Clare” then “Trixie Belden” books and “Anne of Green Gables”. From the earliest age I either had my nose in a book or I was thinking about the characters in the book I had just read. When I got older I discovered a wide variety of books in different genres from authors such as Danielle Steele to Lee Child to Nicholas Sparks to Harlan Coben. Then I was introduced to Karen Kingsbury and a whole new world opened up to me. The world of Christian fiction. Now, I’ll admit I’m not a fan of historical or Amish-themed books so that limited my reading somewhat, but I devoured all the Christian books I could find. And I loved them.

When I was prompted to write my own book at the start of last year I automatically figured I’d write Christian romance. After all, that’s what I enjoyed reading so surely it made sense to write one myself. But there were a few big problems with this. Number one, the market is very small, especially in Australia. Secondly, the book I wrote was a 'come-to-the-altar-and-get-saved' type of book. (In retrospect it was so evangelistic I wouldn’t have read it!) And number three was, if I wrote Christian fiction, then it needed to be sanitised. Especially when it came to romance. Didn't it?

There are many things consistent in a romance novel. Love (obviously). A hero and heroine. Passion. Tension. Sex (usually). And ultimately a happy ever after ending. But writing a mainstream romance novel as a Christian presented me with a big challenge. Namely when it came to the sex bit. Writing it. Talking about it. The hero and heroine actually doing it. How was I going to get around that? I wanted to write real-life romance with real-life characters but how was I going to do that if I had to “colour between the lines” and keep it clean? In other words, keep sex out of it? After all, as a Christian, I'm aware that whatever I write must glorify God and be consistent with my beliefs.

So I had a dilemma. I could either write Christian or mainstream romance. After much prayer, I decided to write for the mainstream market, which I did. I was thrilled when it was accepted for publication with the first publisher I sent it to.

Intensive Care is my debut novel – a medical romance set in regional Australia. It 
touches on issues of infidelity, grief, abortion and loss, and focuses on the need to forgive before you can move on. It has plenty of medical scenarios, plenty of emotional moments and a happy ever after ending without my hero and heroine ending up beneath the bed covers. 

It’s been warmly received so far and is currently sitting at #2 in it’s category on Amazon Australia (Western/Rural romance), but I’ve been challenged by some readers that the lack of sex in the book is unrealistic. And you know what? In hindsight, I tend to agree.

But what are your thoughts? Should Christian authors write romance with 'behind closed doors' sex scenes or leave sex out of it altogether? 

Intensive Care has been published by Momentum, the digital imprint of Pan MacMillan Australia. It was released in January as an e-book and is available where all e-books are sold. Nicki has recently finished writing the follow up to Intensive Care, titled Emergency Response and has just started her next book in the series, Life Support.


Blurb for Intensive Care:

Escaping to the country was meant to be easy…

On the surface it looks like busy Intensive Care nurse Kate Kennedy has it all: a long-term relationship, a great career and a sleek inner city apartment. But appearances are deceiving, and in one fell swoop everything comes crashing down around her. In a moment of spontaneity, Kate leaves her city life and takes a new role as Nurse Unit Manager at Birrangulla Base Hospital, but her dream move proves harder than expected.

Local cafĂ© owner Joel O’Connor finds himself increasingly drawn to the gorgeous new nurse, but like Kate, he’s been scarred by love and isn’t looking to jump into anything. Yet their chemistry is hard to deny and after a near fatal incident, Joel and Kate find themselves opening up to one another.

Just when Kate thinks she’s found love again, their fragile relationship is thwarted by their pasts. Can they both let go of their guilt and grief to move on to a bright new future?

To read the first chapter, click here.

To purchase, click here for links.About Nicki Edwards:


Even twenty-five years of marriage, travel, children, study and work wasn’t enough to keep Nicki busy. In January 2014 she woke up and decided to fulfil a lifelong dream – to write a novel.

Nicki calls herself a city girl with a country heart. Unfortunately the only way she can escape to the countryside of her dreams is by living vicariously through the lives of the characters in the rural romance novels she loves to read. If she could spend her days dressed in jeans and boots out on the farm surrounded by horses, dogs, cows and sheep, she’d be in her element.

When Nicki isn’t dreaming, reading or writing about rural life, she can be found in her scrubs in the Emergency Department or the Intensive Care Unit, where she works as a nurse.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Episodic Storytelling - A New Type of Book

There’s a new form of story-telling that is slowly gaining popularity. I'm going to call it episodic fiction. These stories are not novels or short stories. They’re something else. These stories are based on the sensibilities of television. Terms such as episode and season tend to be used. You have a cast of characters that appear in each episode (essentially a novella). Each book can be its own story but they combine together to tell a larger story arc. This is more than just serialising a novel in pieces. The episodes combined do not follow the same structure of a novel. They follow the structure of a television season.

I think there are two factors that have inspired this kind of story-telling. The first is the eBook revolution. Novellas were not popular for a long time. It was not financially sustainable to print and sell them on shelves - but they are perfectly suited for electronic media (not to mention the shorter attention span of busy modern people). The other factor is what has come to be known as the ‘second golden age of television’. We are seeing a lot of well-written scripted stories appear on TV. This charge seems to be being led by the premium cable networks in America. These stories have inspired writers to pen the same kind of fiction in written form.

Two of the pioneers of this type of book are Sean Platt and Jonny B Truent. Some examples of their series are the fantastical and somewhat comical Unicorn Western (yes you read that right), and the extremely edgy cyberpunk thriller The Beam (big content warning for this one).

 

Christian authors are also getting in on the action. In the speculative arena you’ll find multi-author series such as Colony Zero and No Revolution Is Too Big. Each author will generally be ‘cast’ as a character and write their episode from their character’s point of view. It’s not all speculative though. Christian author Tracy Krauss has released a series she calls Neighbours (no not the Aussie TV show) which follows the exploits of a group of people living in an apartment block.

   

It seems to mainly be indie authors who have blazed the trail with this type of story-telling, but some bigger names are now getting in on the act. Big name Christian authors Bill Meyers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt and Alton Gansky are currently working on a supernatural thriller series called Harbingers.

 

Episodic storytelling offers some interesting new opportunities for Christian writers. Novels generally have a single protagonist. In a Christian novel a spiritual journey is often part of the protagonist’s arc. This type of arc can sometimes come across as 'preachy' to non-Christian readers, no matter how much we might argue that it isn't. The Christian message is perhaps too front-and-centre for them to handle. Interestingly, recent TV shows like Falling Skies and The Walking Dead have shown that mainstream audiences will happily accept Christian characters in the mix of a larger cast. This gives us an opportunity to do the same. Not every episode need be "Christian fiction" but through one or two characters we can bring a Godly worldview and perspective into a story.

I have actually been interested in this type of episodic writing for decades. I just didn't realise that readers would accept it in written form. The pioneers of these stories have shown that they will. I am currently developing a series that I call The Remnant. It is an episodic space opera featuring a mix of characters living in an extraordinary and difficult situation. I'm targeting the story at a general audience, but like everything I write it will still be influenced by my Christian world view. I'm in the midst of writing the pilot episode as we speak and it’s proving to be a blast. I'm still working on my novel, but this new frontier offers up just another way to express ourselves creatively, and that's always a good thing.


Adam David Collings is a writer of speculative fiction from Tasmania. His novella Lynessa's Curse is soon to be published in the Medieval Mars anthology.

He hosts a show on youTube called Stories with Adam Collings.

Connect with him at adamdavidcollings.com

Monday, March 2, 2015

God's Plans by Julie Auld


"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare (peace) and not evil, to give you a future and a hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11, ESV)

God can show us so many things when  we allow ourselves to be in a place where it is only us and God.  When we allow our hearts to be still, be prepared to listen for his voice removing the distractions of this world, giving God first place that he deserves then we can hear him speaking.
Recently I did a road trip with 3 small dogs and a cat in the back seat of my 4WD from Longreach to Brisbane ( without radio or cds), taking in the amazing landscape and small country towns along the journey.  We live in an amazing country that is yet to be explored and documented.  Living in the city all my life I never understood the beauty of Australia and how we can take the small things for granted. Moving into an outback town I have seen how tough it is to really survive on drought stricken land, but I am also amazed with the colours of the sunsets and sunrises the outback can give us. 

 God had shown me that from each town I visited or drove through there is a story for me to write.  The stories that I write will be an encouragement to others that have gone through a similar journey to me.

My hearts desire is to serve God in missions, to write my book, to be able to  travel overseas and Australia.  I have  also learnt that I need to  surrender all my dreams totally to God so that it is not my doing but God's and he is the one where my success will come from.  

 I have wanted to go to bible college for several years now and in 2015 I have been accepted to study a  Bachelor of Ministries at bible college by distance.
 My road trip to Brisbane meant that I was able to meet with the bible college lecturers and other distance students. 
 The next three years will be an incredible journey as I take my walk with God to a deeper level studying the bible, understanding and trusting what he has planned for me and  be able combine it with my writing. 
I know God has a plan for me and each of us, a plan that he designed for me before I was born.
God  gave me this love for words.
God gave me the desire to want to serve him.
God gave me the desire to want to write.
My life is like a jigsaw puzzle and God is the one who will put all the pieces together the way he planned.
Right place Right timing.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Words and words are all I have... by Anusha Atukorala


I wake up in my hotel room at the Changi airport. The time is 4.40 p.m. Groggy and disoriented, I walk to the bathroom. My eyelids are half closed. I splash cold water on my face. A cup of tea would be nice. I plug in the kettle and make myself a cuppa. I sit back on my bed and sip it slowly. Mmm. That feels good. Very good.

I wake up. I remember. I am here waiting for my connecting flight back home after Mum’s funeral. Without any warning, tears begin to rain down my cheeks. My blouse gets soaked. Mama is gone. My beloved, wonderful, amazing, one of a kind Mother is no more. I miss her so. I can’t reach her. Never again on earth. Never is a sad word. Never is never! I put the cup down. I rush to my overnight bag. I pull out a book. A slim volume with a light green cover. I open it.

“This book is for Anusha when I’m gone. 4/5/07” AA

It’s the journal my Mama left for me. Slowly, I turn its pages and begin to read. The tears continue to fall. But Mum’s journal comforts me, a warm fire on a dark sad winter’s night. Quotations, poems, verses; many in her own beautiful familiar hand writing. What a treasure trove! I read on. I am blessed. Her presence is with me.

That was 6 weeks ago. It’s now almost 2 months since my beloved Mother passed away on the 4th of January 2015. Mama hadn’t been sick for more than a few days, so her death came as a mammoth shock to us her family. We’d been hoping to celebrate her 90th – all 34 of us children, grand children and great grandchildren – only 6 months on. We could hardly believe that we’d been cheated of that special celebration for Mum. She was eagerly looking forward to it and so were we.

In today’s blog I honour the extraordinary woman who was my Mum. Because you see… if not for her, I would not be part of CWD. Mum was a writer. I imbibed my love of books and reading and writing from her. She was a journalist for 72 years – right until she died at age 89. Her Christmas article was published in the newspaper 10 days before. In 2014 she was given the award of Lifetime Achievement in Journalism. Mum was also a counsellor and a speaker and a friend of many. She touched hundreds of people. She used words. To bless and build. To challenge. To build a better world.
The Journal she left me is now my most prized possession. I discover inside an excerpt from an email I wrote to her in June 2007. “I have some good news about my writing. I got my first Aussie acceptance. Isn’t that wonderful? I had a letter yesterday from Strand Publishing. My story ‘A dream realised’ will be printed in a book called ‘Australian stories to inspire the heart…” It touches me now that Mum pasted it in her special journal. She was the "ever-present, totally-for-me" cheer-leader of my writing journey. When I sent her a link to my Amazon Author page just a few weeks before she died, she responded immediately:

Goodness gracious me! I AM vastly impressed, darlintest of authors.
Your devoted fan,
Anne A.


Mum wrote fearlessly to change systems. She challenged injustice and stood up for the downtrodden. Her writing made a difference. Today, though sharing with you a little of her professional career, what I’d like to highlight is something different. For almost 16 years, Mum and I wrote a long daily email to each other every night. Today, the 5093 emails (yes, that many) she sent me over the years comfort me. Her journal blesses me. Mum kept closely in touch with her seven children and their spouses, her eleven grandchildren and their spouses and her 4 great grandchildren. That is a lot of us! Mum was a prolific email correspondent with many people all over the globe; young and old, men and women, people from all walks of life. She was a writer! Not only professionally but all the time.
We writers have one major tool that we use over and over again. Words. Words matter. Words build and create. Like bricks to a builder or paint to an artist, we writers have the time of our lives splashing words about in life's ocean, don’t we? But here’s the question. What of the words we use in our spare time? Are they being put to good use as much as our professional writing? We writers have the ability to touch lives. Do we use words to that end? Are others enriched by our words? All day? Every day? Whom can you bless today through your writing? An email? A snail mail letter? A card? A poem? A few words on Facebook? A status message? A story – not just for publication but to encourage a friend? May you and I continually colour our world with words – words that bless, anoint, encourage, challenge and inspire.

And just as Mum’s journal continues to bring healing to my life – may you and I use words to heal and restore. Are you up for the challenge? And while we are about it – do you have stories of how your words have blessed another? I’d love to hear them.

Anusha Atukorala is a writer with a song in her heart and a message to proclaim. The love of Jesus is her anchor, her strength and her song. Her first book ‘Enjoying the Journey’ is a collection of little God thoughts from every day life. She has been enriched on her writing journey not only by God’s wisdom and inspiration but also by many amazing writer friends just like yourself! You can connect with her on her weekly blog and website Dancing in the Rain. Do drop in to say G'day.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Lent - Give up or Take up?

Photo courtesy of Common Grace
/Bible Society
“So what are you giving up for Lent?”
Up until two years ago, I’d never given Lent much thought. For some reason, I know not why, I’d thought it an outdated practice that Catholics observe. Typically, it appeared to be reduced to the question above. In my overly judgemental moments I found it strange that apparently non-pious people chose to participate in such a “custom”.
Two years ago I felt the nudge in my soul to explore Lent and one of the studies I followed introduced me to the notion of “spring cleaning of the soul” which particularly grabbed me. We spring clean everything else, so why not the soul?
Yesterday I was cleaning out a cupboard that we used to store odds and ends and invariably I came across stuff that at one time was useful but no longer. Similarly, I’ve found junk in my soul that needs throwing out as I’ve refocused my walk with Jesus during the past two Lent seasons.
Fasting is an important aspect of our daily walks allowing us to let go of our dependence on certain things (food, TV shows, internet, etc) so we can filled by the Lord as we rely on Him. It’s a practice I grapple with and it’s this challenge that makes it worthwhile to keep doing regularly.
However, I’ve also found it important to actually take up a new practice during Lent. Activities that change my focus in my daily time with Jesus.
 “Embrace this God-life. Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you.” (Eugene Peterson)
This year I chose to take-up two activities:
1. The Bible Society has teamed up with Common Grace to focus on the Lord’sPrayer. I find it such a great prayer in aligning my spirit to focus on God. In a year where I’m seeking to “adore” God more, the Lord’s Prayer is an excellent way of starting my day.
2. I follow Margaret Feinberg’s work and she brings thousands of people around reading the Bible. Two years ago we read the entire Bible (yes, in six weeks!) and last year, the New Testament. This year, we’re reading the Gospels. But Margaret also introduced us to the idea that a friend showed her of using the Colour Method for reading each passage. I love this as it forces me to linger longer on the words and the message. I won’t do it everyday but I hope to do it 3-4 times a week. Try it.
Photo courtesy of Margaret Feinberg.com
I hope we all draw closer to Jesus during these next six weeks as we prepare for Easter. 
What are your thoughts on Lent?

Are you giving up or taking up something for Lent this year?





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, February 19, 2015

Qualities of a Christian Writer by Nola Passmore



What qualities do you think are needed by a Christian writer?  In asking this, I'm not only thinking of work that has specific Christian content, but anything a Christian might write with a view to publication.  It could be novels, non-fiction books, poetry, devotions, blog posts or a myriad of other material.  Here are some things to think about.

Heart attitude – What are your motives for writing?  Is it to glorify God and help others draw closer to Him?  As noted above, this doesn't mean that everything you write has overt Christian content, but it should be consistent with a Christian worldview.  God gave us our abilities for a purpose.

Your own devotional life – Are you spending quality time with God?  Do you study scripture regularly?  How’s your prayer life?  You need to have water in your own well in order to impart it to others.

Responsibility of a teacher – If you have aspirations of teaching others the word of God, make sure you know it well.  Study it, pray about it, ask God for revelation and insights, read commentaries.  God holds teachers accountable for what they teach (James 3:1).

Integrity – Are you practising what you preach?  None of us is perfect, but we can’t expect to help others follow God more closely if we’re not seeking to be more like Him ourselves.

Transparency – We’re often touched by reading honest accounts of people who’ve struggled with different issues.  However, it costs you emotionally to lay yourself bare.  If you have deep, personal stories that have caused you pain, they are worth sharing so that you can help others.  But seek God’s wisdom in knowing how much to share, with whom, and when.

Patience – There can sometimes be a long time delay between sending your work off and receiving that acceptance or rejection letter.  Some journals and magazines include the expected time delay on their web sites.  Always give them more than that time.  If you haven’t heard by then, you could send them a query.  Sometimes, you’ll never hear.  Once it’s accepted, there can also be a big time delay before it appears in print.  Waiting is part of the game.

Perseverance – (Luke 8:15) - Anyone who tries to get material published is going to get the odd rejection letter (maybe hundreds of rejection letters).  Famous authors get those letters too.  You may have written a really great piece, but have had it rejected because there were hundreds of submissions and they only picked ten, they already had other similar works, it was in a different style to the type they usually choose or ... it wasn’t very good.  If it’s the latter, there are lots of things you can do to improve.  But sometimes, it’s just a matter of polishing it up and sending it off somewhere else.  Don’t give up.  Perseverance is necessary if you want to see your work in print (e.g., 2 Pet. 1:5-8).

Humility - Do not despise small beginnings (e.g., Zech. 4:10) – All of us would like to have an article published in a magazine that has millions of readers.  It’s also nice to get a cheque for your work.  As a general rule of thumb, however, the magazines that pay and the ones that have large circulations, also attract the most number of submissions.  You’re in a much larger pond and have less chance of being accepted.  Don’t be afraid to start small.  Even if you only have a paragraph printed in the church bulletin, you’ve already reached 100 or more people. 

Teachable spirit – You never stop learning and growing while you’re on this earth (Phil. 1:6).  You need to be open to the Holy Spirit’s prompting when writing.  You need to be able to accept feedback from others graciously and discern which comments to act on.

I wish I could say I have all of these qualities nailed.  The truth is that I struggle with a lot of them, but that's okay.  It's all part of the learning curve.  How about you?  Do you agree or disagree with any of these?  Which ones do you struggle with?  Do you have any other qualities that you think should be added to the list?  I'd love to hear from you.



Nola Passmore is a writer of shorts, a would-be novelist, and the originator of many a hare-brained scheme that she inflicts on family and friends.  She loves exploring different facets of creativity and 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: www.thewriteflourish.com.au


Monday, February 16, 2015

Unlikely Places by Nola Passmore



Have you ever wondered whether your writing was worthwhile?  Maybe you’ve been diligently penning a weekly blog and the only people who comment are your Mum and your best friend.  Maybe you’ve had lots of bits and pieces published in your church newsletter but the only person who ever talks to you about it is the resident Grammar Nazi who always finds the typo you missed.  Sometimes it can be discouraging, but take heart.  You never know where your words will end up.

For the last few years, some friends and I have contributed to an American daily devotional book called Penned from the Heart.  There are about 140 authors from all walks of life, though a significant number are retired people.  The other day I turned to the designated devotion and found a poem written by a fellow called Duane.  It was a beautiful piece based around Matthew 6:19: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal”.  I turned to the back of the book, thinking that Duane might be a kindly grandfather type.  Instead I read that he was a prisoner on Death Row who’d been given donated copies of Penned from the Heart and had become a believer.  I immediately felt teary.  Wow!  A prisoner on Death Row wrote that poem expressing his love of God?

I don’t know the story of how Duane came to believe in Jesus.  There would most likely be a chaplain at that facility.  Maybe there’s a prison fellowship and Christian volunteers who visit the inmates.  Somewhere in the mix, however, he was also reading a book that included some devotions written by our small writing group.  When I was submitting my pieces to the editor, it never occurred to me that they might end up on Death Row.  Now one of the people who has been blessed by the book is writing Christian poems to bless others.  If you’d like to see one of Duane’s poems, look on the first page of the Compassion newsletter, a publication that prints material written by Death Row prisoners.

If God has placed a message on your heart, never underestimate the effect that it can have.  That paragraph you wrote in the church newsletter about an answered prayer may encourage someone else in the same situation.  That blog post that no-one commented on may have been shared countless times with the click of a button.  God uses many means to reach others with His message of grace, but how wonderful to be able to share His words with a hurting world. 

Has your writing turned up in unexpected places?  I’d be interested in hearing your stories.



Nola Passmore is a writer of shorts, a would-be novelist, and the originator of many a hare-brained scheme that she inflicts on family and friends.  She loves exploring different facets of creativity and 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: www.thewriteflourish.com.au



Thursday, February 12, 2015

FaithWriters - An Oasis for Christian Writers

Way back in time, when the Internet was still new, dial-up reigned supreme (albeit slowly), and a blog sounded like a plank of wood in a mud hole, I was introduced to Themestream—a huge site where writers could share their work, get feedback, and develop their skill. For the first time ever, I looked at something and thought, Hey, I can do this.

Being someone who has always hesitated to try new things for fear of failure (do I have any brothers and sisters out there?), this was a dramatic step, and one for which I am very thankful. The Holy Spirit pointed me in the right direction and I jumped straight in. For two years, I wrote inspirational articles almost every day, gaining a large following, confidence, and skill. Which was just as well because Themestream went down the drain in April 2001, a victim to its own success.

By the time tumbleweeds were blowing down the old Themestream streets (say that six times fast), I had a website in place and a growing subscriber base. Another reason to thank God. Even so, there was a void. I missed that community of writers, encouraging and equipping one another. As a loner, it was something I never expected to miss—but I did.

Many other writing sites popped up post-Themestream, but they didn’t last. That’s when FaithMania arrived. Scott Lindsay, a young entrepreneur, saw the need for a site where Christian writers could share their work in a safe, encouraging environment, and he was right.

The demand for space on FaithMania very quickly outgrew the site’s ability to cope. That’s when Scott took the leap and created the much larger FaithWriters.com. That was well over a decade ago, and under current owners Mike and Bea Edwards the site continues to provide an oasis for writers to hone their skills, test the waters, develop their confidence, and enjoy community with likeminded people.

FaithWriters - an oasis for Christian Writers

So passionately did I believe in the need for this type of environment that I started working alongside the owner in 2003. Since then, it has been a constant joy to see countless nervous newbies develop into polished and professional wordsmiths.

There are many ways to participate in FaithWriters, and a quick exploration of the site can be overwhelming, but after all these years, here are my top spots:

  1. The Writing Challenge. This is, without question, the backbone of FaithWriters, and that’s not just because it’s my baby. New prompts are posted forty times each year (ten topics each quarter), and members are invited to write to topic, word count, and deadline. The top ten entries each week are eligible to be published in future Mixed Blessings anthologies. Free Silver members of FaithWriters are able to enter the Challenge four times to test the water. Be warned, though, it has been known to be addictive.  

  2. The Regular Articles. This area is open to any member to write and share their articles, poems, short stories, etc, and possibly receive feedback from their peers. 

  3. The Critique Circle. This area is for upgraded members, and can be an excellent way to receive deeper critique on works in progress. 

  4. The annual Page Turner contest, which is a manuscript contest offered by Breath of Fresh Air Press and FaithWriters each year to Platinum members, with the winner receiving a cash prize, editing, and the promise of publication.

From experience, I know the incredible value of FaithWriters for Christian writers. If I didn’t believe in it, I wouldn’t still be a part of the community after all these years. God definitely used it to change the course of my life in ways I would never have anticipated. I’ve seen the same unfolding in countless others as well. Maybe it’s time for you to rise to the FaithWriters’ Challenge, too.



DEB PORTER is a publisher (Breath of Fresh Air Press), writer, editor, and popular public speaker, with a particular gift for communicating in a way that is both enjoyable and easy for readers and listeners to understand. Deb has been the right hand person at FaithWriters.com since 2003, and is a regular speaker at conferences, but prefers to spend one-on-one time with authors at these events. As the Coordinator of the FaithWriters Writing Challenge since its inception, Deb has helped shape this weekly contest into arguably the most popular aspect of FaithWriters.com, and she now publishes the winning entries in the Mixed Blessings book anthologies.