Monday, February 8, 2016

Twice stolen by Susanne Timpani

Are you Aboriginal?
This is the most common question I am asked after describing my novel. 

Twice stolen is a work of Inspirational Fiction. The main character, Dimitri, discovers he may have Aboriginal heritage. The story provides just enough historical and cultural information to pique the readers' curiosity to go away and discover more for themselves. 

I am not an Indigenous Australian and this novel reflects the journey I have undertaken to learn more. Dimitri grew up with as much - or little - knowledge as the average Australian child. When faced with the question of his identity, he is forced to look and learn. Regardless of the outcome of his search, the richness it brings to his life is invaluable.

The first book launch I ever attended was the autobiography of Aboriginal author Doris Kartinyeri, with Kick the Tin. Doris was stolen from her crib in a SA country hospital when she was less than one month old. The launch was held on the empty grounds of the Children's Home where she grew up. The Home had gone and the land returned to its natural scrub, protected as national park. In my spirit I heard the children's laughter. And felt their pain.

I felt shame at my ignorance of our nation's dark history. As an Australian writer, I needed to know more, and I needed to write about what I found.

As well as personal research, I have been blessed by Aboriginal people willing to share snippets of their and their families' life story. 

I wish to acknowledge the generosity of Lyn Lovegrove Niemz, award-winning Ngarrindjeri artist, in painting the stunning border on the front cover of Twice stolen. Like myself, Lyn works in the health and welfare field and I treasure the insights she has allowed me to have into her world and the world of her people.

I have taken a risk in writing this story. As a non-Aboriginal some may say it is not my story to tell. But I have listened to my heart. If just one reader learns something new and gains deeper respect for the resilience and commitment of Aboriginal people to overcome our nation's dark past, the risk has been worthwhile.

The characters in the genre of Inspirational Fiction face life's challenges through the eyes of their Christian faith. Dimitri and Leah fall in love with the biblical Song of Songs (or Solomon). A Blog post with 
Adele Jones tomorrow explores this perspective of Twice stolen.

Twice stolen won the CALEB prize for an unpublished manuscript. It is due for release on Valentine's Day weekend in South Australia. The book is published by Armour Books and Susanne will have the honour of the publisher, Annie Hamilton, travel to SA to launch the book.

Further information on Susanne's website:
or Goodreads

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Spend time with Me

by Pamela Heemskerk

A few months ago I came back from Christian Writers’ Conference all excited and inspired. And some attendees shared with me their writing ideas prompted by a weekend feasting on words. I was surprised, even shocked, by the size of the projects God has placed in some hearts. When I heard the ideas some shared, I thought, ‘Wow! That’s huge. How will s/he find time for that?’

But I know that God’s plans for us are huge. He sees far more potential in us than we ever see in ourselves. Then He enables that potential so we achieve what He sets for us to do. What’s more, He can organize us creative, disorganized types, to achieve it in a set time-frame.
I had just a taste of this a few weeks before the CWC where our minister claimed this empowering for the church in the coming week. His prayer went, ‘…and those of you who have deadlines this week, you are going to meet them.’ I had two in 48 hours and I thought, ‘No chance.’

I met them both. Without stress.

I’ve been reading Lisa Bevere’s Out of Control and Loving It recently (where would we be without books!), and she talks about who we are in Christ. We are not just barely saved, we are not fringe-dwellers in the Kingdom, but we have our feet firmly planted in Christ. We have access to our Father for all the power of Heaven in Jesus. We can ask for all that we need to fulfil His purposes for us, and know that He will provide. After all, He promises to equip those He calls.

And yes, I have been afraid too. Especially when it is making something as personal as writing public. Yet the Bible teaches ‘Remain in my love’ and ‘Perfect love casts out all fear’. I wasn’t ‘given’ a specific post-conference project. I strongly feel God has been saying instead: ‘Spend time with Me’.
I’m learning to overcome my fear of vulnerability by placing my confidence in God and in His love. It is less about my goals and plans and more about His. And I can only achieve those by staying close to Him, following His timing, and resting in His care.

How big a part does God play in your creative ministry? Do you wait on Him? Offer your work to Him? How does God empower you to reach His goals? How much of yourself will you let God have?

Do you, in the midst of your busy-ness,
spend time with Him?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Starting with Platform

by Jeanette O'Hagan

In a spirit of cooperation between Christian Writers Downunder and Australasian Christian Writers will be doing a series of cross-posts (posted on both blogs) on the first Monday of each month during 2015 and beyond.  The posts will be teasing out different aspects of marketing and promotion, looking at author platforms, social media, blogging, launches, and other ways to bring a book to the attention of our readers.

Why Marketing?

For many, marketing is a dirty word. After all, didn’t Paul say the love money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:10)? Shouldn’t we leave it up to God to decide who our audience will be? Isn’t it selfish and prideful to want a large audience? Isn’t it enough that our writing touches the hearts of a few individuals, especially if we see our writing as ministry? (Of course, writing may be our career rather than as a calling (or as both). Christians in business, trade or professions have no problem with advertising their services).

As more and more books are published, it is hard to be noticed in the ocean of offerings. I agree that the size of our audience isn’t the most important thing. While Peter had the opportunity to preach to thousands, the Israelite slave girl, as far as we know, had an audience of two (Naaman and his wife). Yet God used her courage and willingness to speak.

So why marketing? Trusting God with the success and impact of our writing doesn’t exclude promoting our work. To use another Biblical reference, let’s not bury our ‘talent’ out of fear (Matthew 25). In today’s world, writing the book and getting it to publishable standard is only part (though a vital part) of what it means to be a writer. Whether a book is traditionally published or indie published, you will be need to be involved in promotion of your book. If the readers who would be moved by your book don’t know about it, how can they read it? To paraphrase Paul again, ‘How can they know if they do not hear?’ (cf Rom 10:14)

Most publishers, agents and pundits suggest that the sooner you begin building connections with people who would be interested in what you write (your platform) the better. And that this is a ongoing process that should start months or years before your book is first launched.

What is an author’s platform?

A platform is the sum total of the connections you have, your social imprint and reputation. A platform makes you visible to your future readers. This could consist of:
  • Family, friends, colleagues, etc
  • Special interest groups you are involved in that are connected to your topic or genre (e.g. clubs, societies etc)
  • Public profile – as a speaker or on mass media or because of your position or credentials (politician, elite sportsperson, celebrity etc).
  • Being considered an expert in a field (through media or blogging or youtube etc).

 If you write non-fiction, blogging on your subject area, being a media expert or being a prominent speaker all help build a platform.

However, having a platform is also important for fiction writers, thought the nature of the platform is different.

How can you connect with readers (especially if you’re not published yet)?

Think about who you are (primarily) writing for - children, teens or adults; men or women, as well as your genre or area of interest? Consider ways of connecting with these future readers and ways you can make yourself visible/findable.
  • Think about your (pen)name – is it unique or common. Have an intriguing tagline or identifiable look.
  • Consider having a website as a home base
  • Maybe you could write short stories, poems or reviews, and share them with your audience – on your blog, on social media or in magazines and journals. Enter competitions.
  • Blog or write on areas of interest to you and your audience that are connected to your books – on your own blog, guest blogs, or media.
  • Interact and support other writers, go to conferences and workshops
  • Be active on at least one or two forms of social media – eg Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Youtube etc
  • Start building an Email subscription list
  • Join groups – writers groups but also groups that connect to your books and future readers.
  • Pray for guidance about connections or the best use of your time.

Traps to avoid

  • Don’t be in a rush, building a genuine platform takes time. Quality is better than quantity.
  • Don’t be a pest, don’t make about you all the time. Many pundits suggest limiting direct promotion to 10% of your output (though there maybe be an increase around certain events – like book launches)
  • Give your followers something of interest and value to them and encourage interaction
  • Be honest and genuine – but avoid venting or bashing - and think carefully about you and your family’s privacy (you don’t need to reveal everything)
  • Don’t try to do everything or you will be overwhelmed. Maybe take up one new avenue (e.g. website or Facebook) at a time and make sure you feel comfortable before moving on to the next one.
  • Find what works best for you – not everything is going to be a good fit. It’s better to enjoy your involvement and make genuine connections with people.
  • Don't just take, support other writers
  • Don't be inpatient or discouraged, remember, it takes time.

What things have worked for you in building an audience or platform? What things didn’t work so well? If the idea of having a platform is new to you, do you have any questions you would loved answered?

Here are some links if you want to learn a bit more about platforms:

Jane Friedman ‘A Definition of Author Platform’
Dan Blank ‘The Dirty Secret of Author Platform’
Joel Friedlander ‘Author Platform: What are you waiting for?’

On March 7, Iola Goulton will be talking to about author websites. Hoping you enjoy and join in the discussion.

This post was also published on Australasian Christian Writers 1 February 2016

Images: copyright Jeanette O'Hagan 2016

 Jeanette O’Hagan enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of LightAnother Time Another Place and Like a Girl.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The First Author

I sat in my office praying for the break I needed for this post. I knew what I wanted to write about, but I had to have the right way to say it. In other words,  I prayed for those God given words. You know what I mean. The words that ONLY He can provide. After talking (pleading) with the Master, I had a breakthrough.

The First Author. Yes. Now we're talking. And I praised Him again. He is the first Author. The Author of all things. He wrote the biggest most complex novel ever. The novel titled Humanity.

So when I complain, when I grumble about choosing that exact word I need to remember something. The Author of the Universe is listening to me. I read something the other day.

"God is in the hearts of all, and they that seek shall surely find Him when they need Him most." ~Louisa May Alcott, "Through the Mist," Work: A Story of Experience, 1873.

Seek and you shall find. My story of finding the right words for this post is something writers do every single day. We search, fidget, pace, doodle, examine, chase and poke. We're always looking for that perfect word. We could never do this without Him. He gives us the tools that we need. All we have to do is ask. How many times has he carried me through?  How many times have I seen only one set of footprints?

I thought about this post, and I realized that the days when I struggle with my writing are the days when I neglect to ask Him to bless my words for that day. God the Father―my breakthrough.

And yes. Some successful writers have never accepted Yeshua. What then? We don't really need Him? Of course, we do. There are times in my life when I could never make it without Him. Those writers don't realize that the Author of the Universe gave them their gifts. They could do so much more. If only they knew Him.

So let us remember to bow before the Greatest Author ever and ask Him for the words that He would have us to use in this new year. The Author of all that is wonderful, of all that is lovely, of all that is peaceful, wants to show us a better way to write. In His loving hands. With His loving words. And for His loving goodness. I for one have learned a lesson (He orchestrated this). I'll try not to write without Him again. And I won't, and please don't you forget to thank Him at the end of each day. Thank the Father for your words. For the one set of footprints. Praise Him always.

I'll let you know how 2016 goes. I'm sure I'll slip back into my go-it-alone ways. He'll remind me of my need for His great Authorship. Maybe someday I'll get this right.

The Author of the Universe has us in the palm of His hands. He wants to help us. All we have to do is ask. God is our refuge. If He sent His only Son to deliver us then giving the right words is a piece of cake.
Thank you for reading. Thank you for the fabulous posts you wrote in 2015. Let's learn from each other. I love being an honorary Aussie. :-)

“Immediately He spoke to them and said, 'Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.'” Mark 6:50 NIV

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Are you looking to meet with a small group of Christian writers?

Omega Writers has recently seen a burst of wonderful people volunteering to lead small groups. Here is a list of groups now on offer, including groups affiliated with Omega Writers, and the people leading them:

Geographically based

  •        Adelaide has two affiliated groups. Author.docx is aimed at those still learning the craft of writing and is led by Drs James Cooper and Mark Worthing. For published authors, CWA offers prayer and support, with Wendy Noble and Rosanne Hawke acting as facilitators.
  •          Sydney’sOmega Chapter, led by Raewyn Elsegood, meets every couple of months and often has a guest speaker.
  •          A Gold Coast Chapter is about to start up at the end of February. Michelle Evans plans on holding meetings every second month.
  •          The original Brisbane Chapter will continue to meet monthly at St Francis College in Milton. Their first meeting will double as the AGM and boasts a couple of excellent speakers.
  •          Toowoomba’sChapter began half way through last year and already Nola Passmore and Adele Jones have hosted a half-day workshop and weekend retreat! They have big plans for 2016.
  •          New groups in Melbourne and north Brisbane (Redcliffe) will soon be under way so stay tuned!
  •          Our friends in NZ Christian Writers have a heap of groups listed on the Contact page of their website.

Genre based (online via Skype and Facebook)

  •          I’ve been leading our screenwriters group since halfway through last year. In 2016, we’ll be critiquing member’s scripts and using them as a springboard to discussion of screenwriting principles.
  •          The sci-fi/fantasy group’s Facebook group is already flourishing. They have their first Skype call tonight and will be joined by a Canadian publisher. Thanks to Cate McKeown for stepping up to co-lead.
  •          A non-fiction group will start a Facebook group very shortly and we’re investigating the possibility of a group for children’s authors.

Look on the Omega Writers website for event or contact details, or to stay up to date with the latest developments.

Omega Writers exists to educate, support and inspire Australasian Christian writers towards excellence. We want to work with existing groups so if you know of any that have a compatible mission and would like to be listed, drop me a line. I’d also love to hear from anyone who would like to help lead a group for their genre or location, either in the comments below or via email.


Simon Kennedy is the current president of Omega Writers. He has won national awards for poetry and short story, is developing a TV series with production company Matchbox Pictures, and has a first-look option with Wickham Park Productions on a feature film screenplay. His YouTube channel, Songs with Simon, was recently signed with Broadband TV, and has had over 2 million hits in the past month alone.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Briefly on Creativity

Today's post encompasses two essential elements of writing: brevity and creativity. I'll write briefly with a challenge for you to practice your creativity.

Everything you need to know about creativity is found in a single quote by G.K. Chesterton:

"Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a coloured pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling."

Your challenge is to lie in bed, stare at your ceiling and imagine what you would draw. Feel free to put your ideas into practice.

Today's Lesson? With writing, as with life, if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right.



Thursday, January 21, 2016

Five Facts for Every Author

by Charis Joy Jackson 


My dream holiday, as a writer, is finding a cabin in the middle of the wilderness where I can sit and write for days.

So at the end of last year, when I knew I was coming home for the holidays, the land considered the "Last Frontier", I thought I'd found the perfect place and I day-dreamed of days and days of writing.

But it hasn’t happened.

In fact, I've spent very little of my holiday writing. At first I felt guilty. Why was the idea of writing my novel so overwhelming? Why was I procrastinating? I love to write. I love my story, so what in the world was wrong?

And then the self-doubt started… If I'm not committed to writing every day, does that mean I'm not a writer? Has all the love and passion gone? Will I ever get my novel published? Am I really a writer? Or am I just a fake?

I needed a broader perspective - the cold hard facts and I knew I wasn’t the only one who wrestles with doubts so I made a short list of facts to hold on to in the “dry” moments.

Fact 1 - We need rest

When I came home for my holiday I was sick. I spent the first two and a half weeks lying on my blue fainting couch, barely taking in the tv shows and conversation going on around me. I couldn’t even form coherent sentences, let alone try to write from one of my characters povs.

Sometimes we need to rest from the work and creativity to replenish our supply. In my case, I literally needed to recuperate and get well, but sometimes it may mean taking a day off from my computer.

It’s good to give ourselves a break from the world of our characters, because it allows us to see things differently when we pick up the story again and maybe we’ll suddenly have solutions to story questions that our over tired brains couldn’t find before.

Fact 2 - Being an author doesn’t mean you just write

The truth is, even when I was feeling better I wasn't writing my novel, but I was spending a lot of time building my author platform. Taking part in a blog tour and promoting Glimpses of Light, an anthology recently published with one of my short stories.

There’s a tremendous amount of other things an author needs to do, so many ways we build our audience.

Writing blogs, updating our author pages on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Wordpress, website, etc. These platforms are not just busy work, but valid, important sites to keep updated so we can continue reaching new readers.

Fact 3 - Reading more, makes you a better story-teller

One thing I’ve been doing a lot on this holiday is reading. Re-reading old favourites I knew would wake the “something” in me that seemed lost. Reading new novels that were recommended to me, reading my own copy of Glimpses of Light and being blown away by all the talented story-tellers I get to share the pages with and even branching out to other genres I don’t normally have a desire to read.

The best writing resource for any budding author is to read more.

I remember someone telling me to read everything I could in the genre I wanted to write in - the good, the bad and the ugly. When I asked why I should read the bad, I was told, "Even the bad ones teach us what not to do."

Fact 4 - Spending time with God is the secret weapon of the creative

One of the reasons I haven’t been writing much is because I’m hanging out with God. Reading devotionals, journaling, spending time in worship and prayer.

I’ve discovered that after times of deep immersion with the ultimate Creator, my own creativity and love for story takes on a fresh new life. Every word becomes richer and more profound.

In order to grow in a specific thing, you must learn from those who know it better. Well, who's better to learn from, than the One who created my story and yours?

Fact 5 - Don’t become a critic, keep your wonder

I recently finished reading Frank Peretti’s Illusion and one of the themes that stood out to me was the importance of keeping your wonder. In the case of Peretti’s story it was keeping their wonder as magicians, but I think it can apply to any creative - especially the author.

I like what Robert Frost says on the subject. “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

In other words, be in awe of the stories and characters you dream up.

And more importantly, be in awe of the God who wants to see you make up these worlds of adventure, daring sword fights and great romances. It’s what He created you for and the more time we spend in self-doubt the less we live out the truth of what He put in us.

The other day my mom and I were walking to the car, we'd just finished doing some shopping. It was cold and the sky was blanketed with a thick mist, blocking the majestic mountains that surrounded us. I was just about to hop into the car and get away from the dreary weather when I glanced up.

The mist had broken in some places and revealed the hidden glory there. I snapped a picture on my phone and even though it wasn't the best photo, it soothed something within me. Reminding me that even the darkest days are filled with glory if only we take the time to look.

So, what about you? What are some facts you’ve found helpful to keep doubt away and hold on to the truth?

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.

Monday, January 18, 2016

What are your writing goals for 2016?

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles/
I read recently the results of an American survey that outlined less than 5% of people set goals, write them down and track their progress.

This surprised me somewhat so I ran my own small poll amongst some loved ones, which essentially validated those results. I typically am a goal setter and will sit down at the beginning of a year to map out a series of goals. For some reason or another I didn’t do a very good job of this last year.  Life was meant to be all about starting out again in a new city, Melbourne. This didn’t eventuate after many dreams, much effort and commuting especially by my wife.

When I spend insufficient time on documenting and tracking goals, like last year, I don’t make as much progress. And this particularly applies to my writing.

So I’ve made a conscious effort of spending quality time in these first weeks of 2016 on both reflecting back on 2015 and establishing goals for this year. We should do this with the Lord. We’re all probably familiar with Proverbs 16:3:

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” (NIV)

Sometimes we can read this to believe God will establish what we want. But as my pastor said recently when referring to this verse, the Lord’s likely to mess with our plans for a while and then He’ll tell you what He wants and what He doesn’t want you to do. And then, and only then, will the Lord establish them.

But the first steps are both giving our goals to God and also listening to Him.

Dream BIG

Goals often fall out of our dreams. For example, I want to be a published author? Some people will call this a dream, others a goal. God wants to hear our dreams. The exciting thing is we can’t out dream God so it’s a great place to be in when we’re meditating with Him on what our dreams and goals can be for any given year.

Our dreams will remain forever just that, dreams, unless we engage specific activity to propel them forward. Many of us aren’t working to publisher deadlines rather self-imposed ones and because we’re all busy it’s easy for our writing to take a back seat at times. We’re all familiar with the old adage what get’s scheduled gets done so I find it important to schedule specific time each day to achieve that goal.

Three of my writing goals for this year are:

  1. Complete the edit of my work-in-progress by 31 January 2016
  2. Complete the draft of one 50-page short story by 30 June 2016
  3. Complete one writing craft e-course by 31 March 2016

I consider it important to write specific goals that are time-bound otherwise I will put them off. Yes, stuff comes up which may make it difficult to achieve but put a line in the sand now and deal with the stuff if it happens.

Holding on too Tight

God loves to interrupt us. Whether it’s in our prayer times, in asking us to do something we wouldn’t expect, or something big or small unexpectedly occurs, like the mid-year change I mentioned above. He’ll do that with our writing plans too. Susan’s post last Monday is a great example of it.

And remember these comforting and convicting words from the Lord:

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 NKJV)

Do you set writing goals and if so, what is one of your goals for 2016?

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. Angelguard won the Selah Award for Speculative Fiction in 2014. You can find more about Angelguard at Ian's website, on his author Facebook page and Twitter

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Inspiration From Across the Road....

Dianne Riley

When you are a writer,
there are story skeletons no matter where you go.

The framework, the back bone, the idea
can pop up in places you would never know.

Over that basic framework
the characters and situations become dressed,

with editing and rewriting the piece will be polished to be its best.

......OK so I'm not really a poet!
But I do love to write.

Monnie, the old lady from across the road, passed away and her home was bought by a family who fancied themselves as renovators.  The old house stood so bare, all the life lived there with Monnie's family, her husband and their three sons, had finished, ended and a new chapter was unfolding. The creative me had to get a photo.  The  old house was begging to be written about.

I have been watching our would-be-renovators for some months now.  I want to share with you the lessons I have learnt from my observations.

There is nothing to be gained from wondering if you can do it.  Whatever your 'it' in writing is.  Do you have the framework for a novel, a play or a poem swirling around in your mind or on a scrap of paper?  Look for an opportunity to edit and polish, to put your writing somewhere someone can read it.

(maybe you might take the opportunity to write a sentence or two in the comments - "My first idea for writing was.....")

Not sure what the neighbour's day jobs are, but they certainly don't involve building!  Yet there they are renovating and rebuilding Monnie's home!  Good for them for having a go.

Don't be afraid to sign up for a course or a conference.  My first CWD conference introduced me to some lovely people, some 'real' authors!
I have also done an online course, it helped me no end.

Our renovators need some help - but who is going to tell these new neighbours?  Clearly they ran out of paint before getting to the front of the house, it isn't looking like a chic painting technique.  It looks like they ran out of their paint colour.  And the roof line has more dips than a '70's party!

Susan's post from Monday says it all.  Who is your audience?  Perhaps your writing is for an audience of one.  Maybe you aren't destined for the New York Best Sellers list, perhaps God's calling you to write for an audience you don't even know.
So keep writing!

Our renovators across the road haven't given up.  They have kept going, living between two homes as they laboriously make ready their new home.  The work isn't to my liking, but my opinion doesn't matter, it's not for me.

My husband is a great at encouraging me to write.  He sent me a link today about famous authors and how many words they try to write each day.  (2000 words - really? Who does that author's washing and ironing?)  Some only 500 words a day, seems obtainable!

I am hoping my poem, or the house across the road is an encouragement for you dear reader to have a go, get some help and to seriously not give up! 
You can find me at my day job through the week. In Customer Service there are plenty of opportunities to find the hero and heroine for the next story.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Would you?

If God told you to write a book for one person, would you?

I was challenged by a friend who asked this question (not to me in particular, but in a general sort of way). My first response was to immediate answer, "Of course. Of course I would do whatever God wanted me to so." But there was a niggling doubt in my heart.

As I thought about the difficulties of finding the exact words to express my ideas, experiences and emotions; the time it would take to write and rewrite; the cost of going to conferences to hone my skills and pay for an editor. Would I do it for one person?

I found myself adding provisos. Yes, I would if that one person's heart was so changed that they in turn touched another and another and another. Yes, I would if that one person was the next Billy Graham or D.L. Moody. Yes, I would if that one person was overwhelmingly appreciative.

Yet I know God doesn't add provisos. He didn't add provisos when he sent Jesus. God didn't say, "I'll only allow Jesus to die if enough people repent"; "I'll only allow Jesus to die if they prove their commitment"; "I'll only allow Jesus to die if enough people live godly lives." When I analysed my reasoning I have to acknowledge that if God asks me to do something, I can't add conditions. I have to accept he knows best.

I thought I'd finished this post but then I read, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and she talks about the book she wrote after her father died of a brain tumour and another book she wrote a couple of years later when another friend also died of cancer. She writes: "I just wanted to write a book for my father that might also help someone going through a similar situation… I got to write books about my father and my best friend and they got to read them before they died. Can you imagine? I wrote for an audience of two who I loved and respected, who loved and respected me."

Whether our audience is large or small, we write believing God will use our words to touch another.


Susan Barnes likes to write devotional thoughts on Bible passages, book reviews and inspirational articles. She loves to challenge people's thinking and regularly blogs at She is also a librarian and pastor's wife.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Passing on the Baton

It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. 2 Cor 3:5 (NLT)

On Monday, Nola announced she was stepping down as coordinator of Christian Writers Downunder, though she will remain on as a member of the committee. She has passed this role (that she has fulfilled so admirably) on to me.  I have some big shoes to fill.

Reading through the responses from Monday’s blogpost, I know you all will join me in thanking Nola for her gentle, wise and Spirit-led leadership and her faithful and humble serving behind the scenes of CWD over the last couple of years. From arranging the blog calendar, sharing links to the blog twice-weekly, accepting new members, encouraging, commenting in the FB group, and negotiating the occasional tricky situation, Nola has acted with wisdom and grace. In recent times, she has co-opted first Anusha and then myself to share the load of these various responsibilities.  We would love her to continue in her role in CWD but God is calling her to focus on other things.

For myself, CWD has had a significant impact on me when I returned to writing a few years ago. Suddenly, I was part of a virtual but very real and active community of like-minded writers who were willing to share what they had learned, to encourage, pray and laugh together, even though we often came from different traditions and perspectives. While clearly valuing faith in Jesus and Christian values and worldview, there has been has also been a willingness to look outward, to consider how we might best engage creatively with the world. 

I’ve appreciated the opportunity to blog regularly on CWD blogsite, to connect and network, to discuss and group together for common goals (like the NaNo Camp July cabins & FB groups or the Glimpses of Light anthology). I like that CWD is primarily a support group for Australian and New Zealand Christians who are writers or associated with writing (as publishers, editors, illustrators). There are opportunities to promote or share one’s triumphs, but CWD isn’t primarily a promotional group where everyone is trying to sell their wares and no one is listening. 

All these are qualities that I hope we will be able to preserve and cultivate in the future.

CWD has more than doubled in size since I joined as a rookie member in 2012. It is perhaps inevitable with a large group, that some members are much more active than others. Maybe this is because not everyone is on FB as often, or maybe because some of you are shy and reticent to participate.  One thing I’ve found in life is that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it.

Let me encourage to be active in the group — join in on discussions, congratulate or pray for each other, read the CWD blogs (they’re good value) and comment on them, join the blog team, get behind the anthology, support each other’s works through sharing links, writing (fair and honest) reviews.  Another writer’s success doesn’t make ours less likely. By supporting each other, we become stronger together.

While I have a few small ideas percolating away, my main aim is to continue what has been started. I appreciate your prayers and support and would like to thank you all for being such a vibrant, encouraging and inspiring group.

Jeanette (Jenny) O’Hagan

7 January 2015

Jeanette O’Hagan enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. She is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of LightAnother Time Another Place and Like a Girl.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and, more recently, a Master’s in writing. She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .

Monday, January 4, 2016

Changes and Gratitude by Nola Passmore

The beginning of each new year is a time to reflect and a time for change.  I’d like to do both of those things in this post, but let me start by announcing a change.  I’ve been the coordinator of Christian Writers Downunder for almost two years and it’s been a wonderful experience.  However, I’ve felt for awhile that God was directing me to take up some other opportunities and that it might be time to hand over the leadership.  I’m thrilled to announce that Jeanette O’Hagan (aka Jenny) has agreed to take over the reins.

Jenny will be familiar to you already, as she is the one who posts the blog links up every Monday and Thursday and has also been the driving force behind our first CWD anthology ‘Glimpses of Light’.  It’s been a blessing having her on the committee and I know she’ll bring a lot of energy, compassion, faith, wisdom and creativity to the coordinator role. One of the main tasks Jenny will be taking over is the coordination of the blog calendar.  I’d like to thank her for the tremendous help she’s been behind the scenes.  I’ve benefitted greatly from her expertise and friendship and I know she’ll do a brilliant job as coordinator.

I’d also like to thank our other committee member Anusha Atukorala for her incredible support and wisdom during the last couple of years.  Although CWD runs fairly smoothly, there has been the odd occasion where tricky issues were bubbling behind the scenes.  Anusha is a tremendous encourager and prayer warrior and I value all of the input she’s given.  One of her new tasks will be to introduce the blog posts on the Facebook page on Mondays and Thursdays.

I’ll still be on the committee, but we’ll be looking at adding another two or three people to the team. We’d appreciate your prayers as we think and pray about that.

I’ve learned such a lot in the last two years and it’s been a privilege to play a small part in facilitating a group involving such a wonderful bunch of writers, editors, illustrators, publishers and readers.

One of the things we did during my watch was to develop a mission statement for the group.  We decided that the main aims of the group were to:

  • Glorify God in our writing
  • Develop our God-given creative gifts
  • Encourage other Christian writers and those in related fields

You can read a longer post about those aims here.

I think we’ve come a long way in working towards those goals.  I am continually blown away by the faith, talent, creativity and encouragement evident in the group.  We don’t always agree with each other, but I love the way we are able to discuss issues in a loving and respectful manner.  Each member is an important part of the whole and I appreciate all of your contributions. I’ve also valued the way in which we’ve been able to develop stronger links with the other Christian writers groups, particularly Omega Writers, Australasian Christian Writers and FaithWriters.  Thank you to the leaders of all of those groups for your enthusiasm and support.  We are truly stronger together than apart and I appreciate all of you so much.

I’d like to thank our previous coordinator Lee Franklin for entrusting me with the leadership and showing me the ropes. We wouldn’t have CWD if not for her initial vision.  I’d also like to thank our amazing bloggers.  I’ve really appreciated your willingness to step up and share your hearts and knowledge with us.  If you have some free time during the coming weeks, why not scroll back through some of the posts? We’ve had over 500 posts since CWD started in 2011, covering a wide variety of topics.  I am truly blessed by all of the amazing insights that have been shared and I look forward to that continuing for many years to come.

So what will I be doing?  I’ll be spending more time in face-to-face mentoring and workshopping opportunities, particularly with the Toowoomba branch of Omega Writers which I co-lead with Adele Jones.  I’ll also be putting more time into the freelance writing and editing business I run with my husband Tim (The Write Flourish) and I’ll be endeavouring to finish my novel.  I’m also currently enrolled in the Queensland Writers’ Centre online course ‘Year of the Edit’, so that will keep me busy.

I’m sure you’ll join me in welcoming Jenny as the new coordinator.  I know that the CWD ship will be in very good hands under her leadership.  You’ll hear more about her hopes and dreams for the group in Thursday’s blog post.

In concluding this season for me, I’d like to give the biggest vote of thanks to God.  He has guided us every step of the way and any good that has flowed from the group has come through Him.  There have been times when I felt I didn’t have the energy or ability to continue as the coordinator, but His strength and calm assurance has always been there.  Let’s keep Him first in our writing journeys and see what amazing things he has in store for us.

Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 150 short pieces published, including devotions, true stories, magazine articles, academic papers, poetry and short fiction.  She loves sharing what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her writing tips blog at their website:  

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Your Turn - the unfinished short story

In April 2015, I presented CWD with an opportunity to join in a collaborative writing project. I set the story outline and invited others to write a scene each. I got some excellent responses, but only for a couple of scenes. It was fun, and interesting to see how others interpreted my original ideas. Because the whole story didn’t get written, I thought I’d pitch it again, and hopefully because we are in semi-holiday mode, other writers might like to have a turn.

The rules: 1. Write according to the scene synopsis I have pitched; 2. Write in order; 3. Give your name and city/town to identify your work.

There were a couple of proposed endings which I won’t put up, as I’d like to see how the story unfolds first, before going straight to the end.
For those two contributors, Linsey and Cindy, whose scenes I will include, I have made a few minor edits. If and when the story is finished, I will publish it on my website, and give credit to the contributors. Have fun!!

Setting – small rural Australian town, mid winter

Main charactersMichele (pronounced Mick-el) named after his Italian great-grandfather, 30 year old farmer who has just taken the reins of the farm as his parents have bought a caravan to take a year travelling around the country. He agrees to take in a house mate to help the local school with a short-term accommodation for one of their temporary teachers.

Charlie – 23 years old, is named after her grandfather. Fresh out of Uni has won a short-term temporary contract at the local primary school for a maternity-leave staffer. Charlie is from the city but has been assured they will find her suitable accommodation.

Scene One – Charlie has left the city at 4am to reach her new school in time for classes, but she has a flat tyre. She Googles ‘How to change a tyre’, but the wheel nuts won’t loosen. Michele comes along, is condescending and she is offended. The tyre is changed. It is raining.

Scene 1 by Linsey

“Oh no, please don’t do this to me.”
This was the perfect time for a few choice four-letter words but Charlie bit her tongue and eased her foot down on the brake. She maneuvered over to the side of the road and flicked on the hazard lights.
The last thing she needed was a flat tyre. How in the heck did one change a flat? She’d never had one before. Trains don’t get flats. Charlie considered calling roadside assistance, but out in the country at 6.30am, was it really worth it? She’d probably be waiting for hours.
Charlie swallowed another mouthful of coffee, instantly regretting it. It was stone cold and foul.
What was so hard about making coffee? Apparently everything, judging by the horrific swill she’d been ingesting since 4am. She should have brought her own thermos.
Wrestling with her bag in the front seat she managed to locate her mobile.
“Yes, reception!” Charlie typed ‘how to change a flat tyre’ into Google search and a YouTube video popped up.
That looked easy enough. Charlie sighed and peered outside. The only light came from her headlights and rain still pelted her car. It was the middle of winter.
“I so don’t want to go out into that.”
But from the video it looked as though changing a tyre was an outside job.
“It’s okay, I can do this. I can do this.” Charlie put her hand on the door handle in what she hoped was a determined way. “I am twenty-three years old, independent, I am a teacher, and I am on my own. I am going to have to do this. And I’m going to have to stop talking to myself.”
Charlie took a deep breath and stepped outside. The rain hit her in the face, stinging her eyes and cheeks. It took a few seconds before it started to trickle down the inside of her jumper. Her coat was in the back. She ran to the back of the car and popped open the boot, this time letting a few expletives escape. It was chock full of her luggage. How could she possibly get to the jack thingy and spare tyre? Did she even have a spare tyre? She was sure Poppa must have kept one—he was very organised. Charlie began tossing her things into the backseat. At least with the hatch up she was shielded from the rain.
Success, a jack thingy and yep, there was a tyre snuggled underneath the mat. She wished she could trade places with it.
“Okay, I’ve come this far. Be brave.” Charlie slammed down the hatch.
She got down on all fours cringing as the mud rushed up to meet her jeans. This was going to be a long, long morning.
After wrestling with the jack forever Charlie stood up, groaning as her knees straightened. She surveyed her work. The back wheel was actually off the ground. The jack had done its job.
She let out a whoop and punched the air. “Yes!”
Now, to get the thing off. She fumbled around in the dark trying to find the first nut and managed to fit the wheel brace around it and pushed down hard. It didn’t budge. She took a deep breath blew on her frozen hands and pressed down as hard as she could. Her hand slipped and she almost landed in the mud.
Who had tightened this thing, Superman? There was no way she was going to get it off. Charlie straightened and screamed in frustration. She’d have to call road-side assist.
“Do you need any help?”
Charlie’s heart slammed into high gear and took off down the highway. What the heck?
“Oh my gosh, don’t do that to people.” She yelled, still staring at her car.
She turned around, hand on her still racing heart and faced the intruder. It belonged to a male rugged up in a Driza-bone and Akubra. Who was this guy, the man from Snowy River? She almost told him it wasn’t the nineteenth century. But then noticed the soaking rain was running right off him. So, maybe the jackaroo get-up was justified.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He had to yell to be heard over the engines and rain. He gestured to his ute which was parked behind her hatchback, it’s headlights spotlighting her car. How had she not noticed him drive up?
“Looks like you could use someone who knows what they’re doing?”
Charlie took a step back. She wasn’t some damsel in distress here. She’d just jacked up her car in the pouring rain, for crying out loud.
“I’m sure I can figure something out,” she said, the words jumping out harsh, but then she’d meant them to be. She unconsciously wrapped her arms around herself to try and preserve some warmth.
“I’m sure you could.” The guy replied and then raised his eyebrows as she forced her hands back to her sides.
Charlie groaned inwardly. This guy was going to make her beg for his help. If it had been any other situation, she’d have told him to get lost. But she needed him if only to get out of this weather before she began to go into hypothermic shock.
“I would really appreciate your help,” she forced herself to say between gritted teeth—gritted to stop them from chattering more than anything else.
“That a girl.”
She forced herself to ignore his condescension, though she would liked to have decked him.
‘Jim Craig’ took the wheel brace in both hands and then pulled up.

Scene two – Charlie reads instructions to Michelle’s house. When a man opens the door – the man she has already met on the road, she asks after Michelle, and he is annoyed, as he is Michele. She’s expecting a woman, he is expecting a man. Charlie says she doesn’t feel comfortable moving in with a man. He says ‘suit yourself’.

Scene 2 by Cindy Shultz, Melbourne

Charlie’s teeth were still chattering even though she had the car heater on flat out. She tried to stop her hands shaking so she could read the notes on how to get to Michelle's house.
"I'll probably catch pneumonia thanks to you." She aimed a clenched fist at the steering wheel. A car horn tooted as ‘Jim Craig’ sped off. He’d finished changing her tyre and then helped her re-pack her boot.
"Arrogant self-righteous male," she yelled after the disappearing taillights. "If I never see you again, that will suit me just fine."
She’d only just indicated to pull back onto the road, when she began to regret her outburst. Now that she was back on the road she realised she might still have been stuck in the mud and icy rain if he hadn’t stopped to help her. No other vehicle had passed them during the whole drama. It was just the smug air about him that had ticked her off. "Him with his ‘Jim Craig’ hat and coat," she groused. She had conceded defeat and sat in his car while he changed her flat tyre, already soaked to the skin. He had insisted after loosening the first wheel nut, pointing out she was wet and freezing. Stating the obvious. He had held out his keys in a condescending manner and instructed her to start the car and crank up the heater. His steely blue stare had stopped her rising protest and instead she had ungraciously snatched the keys from his hand and retreated to the dry, heated interior of his car. Watching him from the warm interior through the swish, swish of the windscreen wipers, she had been amazed at how quickly he had finished the task. In no time at all he was on his way with barely another word.
"Come on heater, get warm faster." Just the brief walk from his car to hers had been enough in this foul weather to add to her already sorry state. She sneezed violently and wiped her nose on a tissue she’d found in her handbag. Peering at her directions once again she tried to forget the roadside encounter and concentrate on getting to her destination. It was slowly beginning to get lighter around her, though the rising sun had no hope of breaking through the low-hanging rain clouds. Turning on her interior light she squinted at her notes again.
"Hurry up heater," she mumbled again. The rain was still teaming down on her car as Charlie carefully drove on. After taking a left turn off the main bitumen road, she needed to make an immediate right turn, and found the road was mud. The grip of her tyres was dicey, and she slowed down even more as she heard mud splatter up underneath the car. "Good grief, I'm in the middle of nowhere!" There was no sign of civilisation in any direction—just paddocks and wet cows and sheep, blowing trees and endless drumming rain. She pulled to a stop and snatched up her notes again. Her hands had stopped shivering now, and she was beginning to feel a semblance of warmth, despite her wet clothes clinging to her back. Peering at the road ahead she made a decision. "Ok, so I think this is the right way. I need Woolshed Lane on my right.” She put the car into gear again, and moved slowly forward. Out of the dim morning light a crooked signpost with faded black lettering appeared. She indicated, though she wondered for whose benefit. Perhaps the cows would like to know which way I’m going to turn. If she’d thought the last muddy road was a hazard, this was a whole new driving experience—Water-filled pot-holes, thick gluggy mud that caused the car to lose traction as she felt herself slip and slide along. She was now at snail’s pace carefully navigating the first section "Bet the locals all have 4 x 4's. Never mind old girl, we're nearly there. Should be on our left soon." Peering through the slashing wipers she could just make out the shadowy shapes of buildings. She almost laughed when she automatically indicated again before turning left into the driveway, and continuing down the long tree-lined drive. As her car turned onto a wide circular drive in front of a large timber homestead she felt a rush of relief. The lawns out the front were manicured and gardens well kept. Wow, this is lovely. I hope Michelle is still home.
Switching off her car and grabbing her handbag she stepped out of the warmth into the freezing rain, quickly slammed the door and navigated the front steps as fast as she could, without slipping on the wet tiles. She paused on the veranda for a few seconds to flick water off herself and pat her hair into place. She couldn’t help admiring the house as she took in the long veranda and the large carved timber front door. The brass horse-head knocker in its centre seemed to be staring at her. Swallowing her nerves and shaking off the frustrations of the early morning drama, she raised her hand and let the brass knocker rap three times. She was still subconsciously brushing rain off her clothes when the door opened.
"What are you doing here!"
Charlie was startled by the question, but more so when she saw who it was who’d opened the door. Jim Craig! Determined not to be intimidated, she put on her most polite voice.
 "Is Michelle home? I believe it’s been arranged that I’ll be staying here for a few weeks. This is her home, I assume."
A strange look crossed the man’s face. Why is he annoyed? There was a definite flash of something in his steel blue eyes.
 "The name is Michele pronounced Mick-el."
“Michele,” Charlie said, blinking in confusion. “Does Michelle live here?”
“No. This is my house, and my name is Michele, and as you can see, I’m not a woman.”
“Yes, I can see that.”
"And in any case, you can't possibly be Charlie. You’re not a man."
Charlie frowned at Michele trying to piece the situation together. He just stood there in the doorway in his dry jeans, blue shirt and boots and frowned back. Charlie opened her mouth twice, but nothing sensible came out, so she closed it again. Then she began to shiver as the cold wind against her wet clothes sent chills through her body. Michele suddenly stepped to the side and waved her inside with a sweep of his arm. "For goodness sake woman, come into the sitting room and warm yourself by the fire while we sort this mess out." The increased chill factor made the decision for her, despite the mix-up, and how they had somehow managed to tick each other off. The warmth and crackle of the wood stove drew her and for a few minutes, Charlie forgot about her reluctant host, and just held her hands out over the heat and let it soak into her bones. After a while, she remembered the man in the room with her. She stole a quick sideways glance at Michele. Now Charlie could see him without his coat, she noted he was handsome, tall and muscular. She rubbed her hands together and turned her gaze back into the fire. It had never occurred to her that someone might think she was a man. What a disastrous day this was turning out to be.
"So Charlie." Michele had sat on the couch, crossed his ankles and folded his arms across his chest. "I assume that's your name.” She nodded.  “We’re in a bit of a predicament. You thought I was a woman and I thought you were a man.” She nodded again.
“Well, my offer of a room still stands. I'm out working all day, and I guess you will you be too, so we will hardly see each other at any rate."
Charlie pulled herself up to her full height. This was not what she had signed up for. "I can't possibly stay here. It wouldn't be proper for a single woman to move in with a single man. I take it you live alone?" 
"I do now, as of recently."
"Relationship breakup?"
"No!" Michele sat forward in his chair, annoyed again. "This is my parents' house. They've just set off in a caravan for a year trip around Australia."
"Oh." Charlie didn't quite know what to think—he was definitely single, but he lived with his parents, until recently.
“Anyway, we hardly live in the Victorian era now," Michele continued. "I really don’t think relationship status is of any consequence as to whether we should live together.”
“What would people say?”
“Doubtful they’d say anything. The school asked me if I’d take in a boarder for a few weeks, I said yes. I was just expecting another bloke, that’s all.”
Charlie shook her head. She wasn’t so sure, 21st Century or not. She didn’t know him, and didn’t think it was wise just to trust him like that. “No, I don’t think it will work. Thanks anyway.”
“Suit yourself.” Michele got up from the comfy chair and opened the front door, letting the cold wind blow in.
Charlie was annoyed that he was so quick to throw her back out to the weather, but then she realised that she was the one who had refused his hospitality. Just like she’d been rude to him when he’d changed her tyre. Chagrined, but too proud to admit it, she picked up her hand bag and crossed the room. Without giving him another glance, she walked out the front door, pulling it closed behind her. The brass door-knocker rattled in protest. Perhaps she had been a bit too forceful in her staged protest. Still, she wasn’t going to go crawling back. She had her pride.

Scene Three
Charlie finds her way to the town and the primary school. She is met by the principal who gives her the details of her job, and then tells her to take the rest of the day to organise alternative accommodation, get dry and sorted. Charlie goes to the local pub. It is run down, poorly run, and the owner is a bit sleezy – as are some of the patrons. Charlie gets a key to a very run down room. She goes to have a counter meal and gets propositioned. She stands her ground, but not very convincingly. Michele has come to the pub to see how things turn out. He plays the hero and fends off the unwanted attention. Charlie is annoyed with him, as she says she can look after herself. She decides she would prefer to trust Michele than the men in the pub.

Scene four – Charlie’s second day at school. The classroom is a little chaotic.  A ten year old informs her she is Michele’s cousin, and tells Charlie all about what her mother thinks about Michele and his impossible love life.

Scene five – Charlie discovers she and Michele have something in common: they both love footy (AFL). She agrees to go watch him play on Saturday. She sits in his car, pulled up around the outside of the oval. It’s all good until he takes a hit in the head and is carted off the ground on a stretcher. She waits until his mates come to get his car. When they see her, they suggest she could take him to the hospital in the next town. She has the car and the keys, and they basically leave her with it.

Scene six – The doctor says Michele can’t drive, and someone should keep an eye on him for his concussion. Everybody makes assumptions. She sits up with him for the whole night.

Scene seven – They have something else in common: they both go to church on Sunday. Charlie drives. More raised eyebrows and assumptions

Scene eight – Michele’s young cousin if full of gossip and what her mother thinks of the situation. Charlie sets her straight, and determines to set the record straight with Michele’s aunt.

Scene nine – The six weeks are up, and Charlie has packed ready to go. She has a little farewell party with the kids at school. Michele’s cousin tells her that Michele doesn’t want her to go. He’s never said anything to her, so she is a bit confused by this. 

Scene ten – writers, choose your own ending. Let’s see what you come up with.

Have fun with this, and don't forget to check to see how the story is developing in the comments.

Meredith Resce has published 17 titles - her most recent 'Echoes in the Valley' is now available as e-Book and paperback internationally.