Thursday, March 23, 2017

Stories of Life (Sue Jeffrey)

This picture is of me (on the right) with the legendary, Catch Tilly, at the Stories of Life award ceremony and the launch of the anthology, A Chicken Can Make a Difference


Early last year I heard about a new writing competition. Stories of Life was calling for 500 word and 1500 word life stories that were personal testimonies of faith. As God has done so much in my life and made himself ‘present’ to me in real ways again and again, I thought I’d have a go and see what happened.      Not long after winning I was asked to take the reigns of the Stories of Life social media pages to promote the 2017 competition. This has been a huge learning curve for me. I’m learning as I go – focusing mainly on the Stories of Life website and Facebook page.

     My first attempt at an entry was okay but it lacked ‘zing’. I shelved it and went about life until I realised it was one week until the deadline. I’m an ENFP – that’s a type of Myers-Briggs personality profile. ENFPs are usually creative but they also respond well to deadlines. 
     I wrote one story that day (for the short category) and edited it during the week, happy that I had a work that I could submit. That story, Lucky Underwear, reflects a conversation I once had with a friend about cricket, luck, superstition and underwear, and how that discussion led me to start seeking Christ πŸ˜€Then on the following Sunday – the day the competition closed – I decided to write another story about my dog, Hero: a canine gift from God. 
     I Prayed For a Dog made it into the competition anthology, A Chicken Can Make a Difference, but I won the ‘short’ category with Lucky Underwear.
     I was excited. I was told weeks before the presentation that I’d won something but I didn’t know where I’d placed. My good friend, Catch Tilly, had also placed in the same section (also with a story about underwear - I sense a theme with the judges) and I was sure she had won. But to my great surprise it was me who topped the category πŸ˜€.
     Another adventure involved heading into the 107.9 Life studios to record both of my stories for broadcast on radio, among the twenty chosen to be read on air during January. It felt strange to hear my voice on radio but I loved the fact that so many people could hear me tell of my faith journey. There was a huge response to all of the stories aired, with many people requesting to hear certain tales again. 
     It’s interesting that while I’ve had good personal feedback on Lucky Underwear, it is I Prayed For a Dog that has made listeners cry. You can hear the recorded stories on 107.9 Life at 6.30pm every Sunday evening and one author is featured each week on the Stories of Life website.
     The Stories of Life competition opens again on April 1st, 2017 and I’d like to encourage you to enter.  You have plenty of time to ponder and write, as the competition doesn’t close until the 31st of July. This year you can write your own story or the biography of another person, with their permission, of course. Click here to see the categories and prizes. I don’t know of any other Australian competition that can give an author the level of exposure that Stories of Life can - and give them chance to impact the world with their words. Not only were stories from A Chicken Can Make a Difference broadcast on radio but some writers are now contributing to the Eternity Matters column in newspapers. 
     People love story and this is a chance to tell yours. The website is still being modified to accommodate the changes to the competition in 2017 but feel free to check out our work-in-progress (click here). The audio recordings of my two stories are live on the site this week if you’d like to listen (click here)  and feel free to check out and ‘like’ the Stories of Life Facebook page (click here). Every click helps us to gain a wider audience. And, if you are intrigued as to why ‘underwear’ and faith were linked by two authors, hop on over to the book store (click here) and pick up a copy of A Chicken Can Make a Difference.
     In the meantime, think about your faith journey and about what you might like to write. Where has God met you in your life? How did he change things for you? Is there a quirky angle that gives your storytelling the X-factor? Underwear might have run hot as a theme in 2016 - what do you think will be popular in 2017 πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€?
     What story will you write? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments below πŸ˜ƒ.


Sue Jeffrey was born in Scotland but moved to Brisbane, Australia with her family when she was just a wee lass. After a childhood spent reading, drawing and accumulating stray animals, Sue studied veterinary science and later moved to Adelaide where she worked as both a vet and a pastor. After a sojourn of several years in the Australian Capital Territory, Sue returned to Adelaide with two dogs, a very nice husband, and a deep desire to write. Sue has a MA in creative writing and her short stories and poems have appeared in several anthologies including Tales of the Upper RoomSomething in the Blood: Vampire Stories With a Christian Bite, Glimpses of Light and A Chicken Can Make a Difference. Sue won the 'short' category in the inaugural Tabor Adelaide/ Life FM 'Stories of Life' award and her e-book, 'Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story,' is available from Amazon.com. Sue also paints animal portraits.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Spotlight-Paula Vince


Each Monday and Thursday, Christian Writers Downunder's faithful and talented blog team contribute blogposts to inspire and inform aspiring and established writers. In 2017 we will be adding Tuesday Spotlights - posts that spotlight both writers and organisations that contribute to the writing scene Downunder. 

The last two posts in 2017 has highlighted members of the CWD Administration team: Anusha Atukorala and Jeanette O’Hagan.

Today’s spotlight is on the third member of the team, Paula Vince.

Paula is a homeschooling Mum and one of our veteran authors. Her first book The Risky Way Home was published in 2000. Since then, Paula has written many books, including award winning Picking up the Pieces and Best Forgotten. Her books are mostly New Adult (aimed at 18-25 year olds) contemporary dramas set in South Australia. She has written a fantasy trilogy, a collaborative book, The Greenfield Legacy and contributed a non-fiction piece to Glimpses of Light anthology. Paula has a creative and intriguing book blog, The Vince Review, and is working on a non-fiction historical book, the story of her grandfather, The Amateur’s Son. She is an invaluable member of the CWD team and an inspiring example.

Jeanette: Paula, you’ve had published 9 novels over the last couple of decades, one collaboratively (The Greenfield Legacy). How did you get started as a writer and where do your ideas come from?

Paula: I've been writing all my life. There were a few manuscripts from my teenage days which thankfully never saw the light of day. Around 1999 to 2000, when I was working on The Risky Way Home and Picking up the Pieces, there weren't many Australian Christian fiction authors to be found. I introduced myself to Meredith Resce, who was later one of my co-authors of The Greenfield Legacy, hoping she'd offer me some advice on publishing Picking up the Pieces, and discovered she'd already read my earlier story, The Risky Way Home. That was quite surprising, since I'd only printed a very short run. She agreed to help me publish Picking up the Pieces under the banner of her already established Golden Grain Press. Those were exciting times, which feel a bit like pioneering days in my memory.

As for ideas, I find they come from many sources. It might be a dream, a news article, song lyrics, other people's books, or just random things I observe in nature.



Jeanette: You books often feature young people in their twenties facing challenging situations and you don’t shy away from controversial subjects such as date rape and divine healing. What is it that draws you writing about this age group and the issues you explore?

Paula: To be honest, I think I was initially drawn to this age group because I still considered myself part of it. In those days of writing Picking up the Pieces and The Risky Way Home, I was still in my twenties. All that angst that goes with choosing study courses, forming relationships, and considering vocation paths wasn't far behind me. And I often pondered even bigger issues in those days. Writing about people who are working through them seemed a good way of processing questions such as, 'Why would this happen?' and, 'What might be a suitable response?'

It's been interesting to watch my own kids grow up during the time I've been writing. It's still an age group I find fascinating, although I admit it would take a lot more research now, because I find the millenials harder to understand than my own Generation X. It might be more correct to say that I find it hard to understand all the stuff the millenials find so easy to understand. 

Jeanette: You’ve been writing and publishing longer than most of us. What changes have you seen in writing and publishing in Australasia over that time and what challenges do you see us facing in the near future?

Paula: Back in those days, we seemed very few. I met Meredith Resce and Mary Hawkins, and we three seemed like the sum total. No doubt all the good CWD members were each plugging away from their own homes, but connections had yet to be made. Since then, there's been a wonderful explosion of new faces on the Australian Christian writing scene, all offering valuable support to each other.

The digital age for books has snuck upon us and opened many new vistas too. In the nineties, when somebody said the name 'Amazon', the first thing that popped into my mind was a huge South American river. Back then, ebooks were something only a few brave, tech-savvy writers were experimenting with, and normal print runs had to be around 2000 to 3000 copies to make unit costs reasonable. I'm excited by how much more accessible the rest of the world seems to Aussie authors since the introduction of the kindle, and how much cheaper it can be to get our work out there. However, it's been a bit of a two-edged sword, since sales in hard copies have plummetted as book stores have felt the pinch.

The one thing that seems to remain constant is the challenge it is for Aussies to be competitive in the international market, and to prove that we have what it takes to provide great reads consistently.

Jeanette: They do sound like exciting times. I always enjoy your thoughtful reviews and particularly your overviews of literature (Like cats in literature, or stories that feature umbrellas) on the Vince Review. When did you develop a love for reading and what do you love about books. How essential do you think being a reader is for writers?

Paula: I could already read in my earliest memories. They include lying on my dad's chest while he read books with me, which was surely when I learned. There is so much I love about books. When it comes to non-fiction, we can take other people's ideas on board without the hard work of having to learn or think of them ourselves. When it comes to fiction, we have a chance to get out of own headspaces for a short breather and enter someone else's. In both cases, we can be armchair travellers in a world which becomes much smaller to us. I think being a reader is essential to being a writer. Not only does it broaden our knowledge base, but also sparks our imaginations, as we form inner pictures of the authors' words. 

Thanks for your warm words about my blog. I've got to say, I took up the challenge to write the sort of blog I like to keep visiting myself, and looking out for stimulating ideas for it is one of my favourite pastimes. It's the sort of blog which aims to help people put up their feet, relax and read.



Jeanette: And I think you have achieved that. In your latest project, you’ve moved away from New Adult (18-25) fiction to a non-fiction historical book. What motivated you to start this project and how has it been different to write than your previous projects?

Paula: Wow, here goes. Some time ago, my dad was researching his family tree, and I was typing his notes out for him. He had so much fascinating information about his own father, Charlie 'Red' Mitchell, who was quite a celebrity of his time. Not only was he the welter weight and middle weight boxing champion of South Australia, but an ANZAC hero with a Military Medal to boot. I thought the colourful true tales about him were just crying out to be written in the form of a story many of us can enjoy. I wasn't sure I'd be the right person to do it, since I'd never written such a genre before, but then I thought, 'Well, who better than me, with blood ties to the hero.'

So I've finished draft one of Charlie's story. Instead of making it all up from my own head, I've stuck to Dad's parameters of truth, and simply tried to put people in the picture of Edwardian Adelaide, so to speak. Hopefully I've brought back to life a lovable young hero with big ambitions and bright red hair. My father, Bryon, was Charlie's only remaining child, and early in February, he passed away suddenly. Since it was just a few weeks ago, my family and I are still dealing with that fresh grief of missing him. It's easy to burst into tears at sudden moments, because Dad was one of my favourite people,  but I'm thankful he knew I working on this key story that helped form his own personal background.  

Jeanette:  We really appreciate you taking time to share with us when yours and your family's grief is still so raw. Praying that you are wrapped in God's comforting love.  

And having a sneak peak of The Amateur's Son - I think you have brought Charlie and his era to life. Lastly, but never least; how does your faith and your family impact on your writing?

Paula: I think faith and family undergird every word an author writes, regardless of the subject matter. I'm thankful to God, who I attribute with so many new ideas I've had over the years, and guidance in writing them down, and also to my husband Andrew, and children, Logan, Emma and Blake. They've been good kids, to allow me the time it took to write nine novels, since they've been homeschoolers, always around the place. When I first started plotting The Risky Way Home in 1997, I remember watching my older son trying to pull himself up on the briefcase I used to store the manuscript, as he learned to walk. Now he's twenty-two years old. I owe my dad for all the background material for my current project.  And of course I've been thinking more than ever of a long line of departed family members who haven't walked this earth for several years, but have influenced my stories and who I am nonetheless.

Jeanette: Love that Logan was pulling himself up on the briefcase with The Risky Way Home manuscript. Thank you Paula, for being on the CWD Admin team, for your encouragement and enthusiasm, and for taking time to talk to us. Wishing you all the best for your latest project and  in what God has for you, your family and your writing.

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

Monday, March 20, 2017

Write a Story


I usually wave my beloved off to work each morning, perched on a large rock on the side of our steep driveway, then run indoors to have breakfast with a good book for company. Recently as my breakfast-time-reading I enjoyed “A Praying Life” by Paul E. Miller. The book taught me, fed my spirit and got me thinking. I usually receive dozens of prayer requests from family and friends. There are times though (I must confess) when I struggle to pray sufficiently for all of those needs. (Discipline, Anusha. Discipline!)

A tool which I’ve found helpful in intercession is my little prayer diary, one which I carry everywhere with me. On its leaves, I list prayer needs sequentially. When I reach the last page, I copy all the unanswered requests into a new prayer diary and repeat the process. The system has worked really well for over 25 years, but lately, my prayer life had become a tad jaded. Paul Miller blessed me with a fresh cocoon of an idea; one which made my heart thump with excitement. Paul uses prayer cards not lists, jotting down the name of a person or topic per card—unsaved friends, people in need, sick folks and the like. A brilliant notion.


I rummaged through my pile of notebooks and found the perfect little diary. I opened it to the first page and wrote my son’s name on it, listing his prayer needs and chose a Bible verse that was just right for him. Next I added family and friends’ names, allocating a few pages to each and including a relevant verse for every person or group. I used four pages to record my own needs, dreams and Bible verses, selecting another two pages for my writing journey.

My sagging prayer life bounced back with a freshness it had lacked for a long while. (Thank you Paul Miller!) I spoke life, hope, health, joy, freedom, purpose, salvation into many hearts and lives. It was interesting to note that the cover of my newest prayer diary had an unusual title. “Write a Story” it declared boldly. Perhaps by talking to God on behalf of others, I was re-writing their lives? What do you think? My night-time reading a few days later was ‘Praying Circles around your Children” by Mark Batterson. It was thrilling to discover that Mark Batterson had the same idea too. Surely God was speaking to me?


 The perfect way to predict your future is to create it.” Abraham Lincoln

Psychologists ask us to envision the future we desire and to create it through visualisation. But that’s a new age concept isn’t it? How does visualisation work? I have no idea. But prayer is different. Prayer works because God is sovereign and cares for His world on a moment by moment basis. Prayer works through the power of the Holy Spirit as He guides us, the body of Christ, to partner with Him as He wills and carries out His purposes in our world. What an honour to be included in God's plans!

You and I will agree that most of our stories are crafted via our computers as we write with our Creator and for Him. But stop for a moment with me and dream a different kind of dream. Perhaps … just perhaps … another kind of story is being birthed, every time you and I pray? Those are the real life stories, being fashioned through intercession—stories whose characters are walking and leaping around the stage of life. Each of these novels might even reach their happy endings because of your prayers and mine. Isn’t that encouraging?


I love writing stories, don’t you?
Tell me about your stories, please, all of them.
I’m listening.
And don’t forget … God’s listening too!


Anusha Atukorala is a writer and speaker with music in her heart and a message to proclaim. The abundant love of a faithful God is her theme song. God’s call to writing in 2007 led Anusha on a Grand Adventure which continues to surprise and thrill her. Anusha loves to build the body of Christ and to encourage others through the written and spoken word. Her first book ‘Enjoying the Journey’ is comprised of 75 little God stories. 


She has twelve short stories published in Anthologies and lots more in the pipeline. Do drop in to say G’day at her website Dancing in the Rain. She’d love to meet you.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Launches—Eat, Pray, Love, Entertain and Give

 – by Ruth Bonetti

Our book baby is birthed, swaddled between covers. It’s time to party!

And what better way to party than with a book launch? But it's not always that easy.

If we self-published, funds are tight until sales happen. Unless we’re Kate Grenville or Tim Winton, mainstream publishers say ‘There’s little budget and rarely do book launches increase sales.’

Even Oxford University Press, my first publisher, were pained that a small pebble on their strand had the temerity to ask for funds. They gave a nominal token when I booked Queensland’s then First Lady, Senator Flo Bjelke-Petersen, to launch it. Like authors, politicians crave favourable PR ops.


So what makes a successful launch?

ENTERTAIN

Send your book into orbit with a flourish. I enlisted students to play excerpts from Enjoy Playing the Clarinet. For Taking Centre-Stage, I played clarinet, wearing a red dress and orchid. Or, play a sound track of relevant music.

MUSIC

But words and music are my fortΓ©s, so live music happens at my launches. A worker is worthy of his/her hire. My good sons will sing for their gingerbread; I won’t ask their colleagues to do so. Relief. My crowdfunding ran above my target so I was able to pay Greshka gypsy band.

Is a launch worth the effort and expense?


EVENTS create SIZZLE

Many jostle for a slim mention in limited PR space. An EVENT has a chance to hook media.

EATS

Enlist helpers to prepare food that’s relevant to the book, like gingerbread for my Finnish sagas. Bianca Kasurinen, who worked with Jamie Oliver, is a Godsend to prepare Finnish pastries for my launch of Midnight Sun to Southern Cross on 23 April. If cheese and bikkies fit your budget, so be it.

What if we slaved at the stove so there’s lavish food and people don’t come to the banquet? Or the letters ‘RSVP’ were ignored and the food runs out?

PRAY

We pray that enough people will be interested to attend. That they will buy books. Try this line: ‘One for yourself, and one to lend to friends, because you know loaned books aren’t returned!’


SET THE SCENE

I allow my great-uncle–who died in 1962– to snatch the photo limelight from me. His pics reinforce the story, as does ‘his’ Facebook page ‘Burn My Letters; Karl Johan Back’ for a book published in 1920.



Place scribbled proofs pages on seats as teasers.

Present a SHORT PowerPoint presentation.


LOVE

Spread the love around. Thank people who helped along the way with relevant gifts; a bamboo for Anne Hamilton as she encouraged with the word that a bamboo suddenly flourishes after latent years; a seed in a matchbox for descendants. Small but special.


HELP MATES

Thank those loved ones who man the credit card swiper, MC, or carry trays.

Today, on our wedding anniversary, I thank my husband who travelled the paths with me, carried my bags and my baggage, who supports me in my writing journey.

Before Skype and emails, during our long distance romance, I waited weeks for Antoni’s first missive, which consisted of a cross word puzzle centred around my name. What wordsmith could resist that?


FAITH

Believe in our God–given gifts, and the enabling of our hard work to reach fruition.

Have you run or attended a book launch? What tips would you give?


About Ruth Bonetti


After publishing in her primary field to help presenters of Words and Music to perform with confidence, Ruth turns to her heritage. Her two-part saga, Midnight Sun to Southern Cross is completed with the launch of the second book at St Lucia Uniting Church, Brisbane on 23 April at 2pm. Bookings essential: ruth@ruthbonetti.com.


http://www.ruthbonetti.com/burn-my-letters/

Monday, March 13, 2017

Fighting Discouragement

Jenny Glazebrook

How is your writing going? Are you discouraged? I find discouragement slips in so quickly and easily.

I've been trying to work out why.

And I got to thinking that if Noah treated his project of ark building the way I sometimes treat my writing project, he would have become discouraged and never completed building the ark.

Noah built the ark because God told him to. Noah was a righteous man who wanted to please God above all else.

Likewise, God has burned words into my heart. He has given me a love of writing; it is a form of worship. He has commanded us to use our gifts to build up His body and worship Him.


So I have to ask myself, when did I start listening to those who say the value of my writing is dependent upon sales and profit?

When did it become about numbers? About money?

When did it become about pleasing people and receiving a positive response?

For 100 years, Noah received no profit from building the ark. His building would have cost him. How much did it take away from profitable projects; from his every day job? How did he feed his family?
I wonder if anyone came to him, awed by his skills, and asked him to come and work for them; make something 'useful' and profitable?
The truth is, it wouldn’t have worked, because whether people believed it or not, the exceptional, complex design of the ark was given by God. It was never designed by Noah; he was just the workman who carried it out.
I suspect the same about my writing. 
Sure, I’ve developed skills and experience along the way, but the true genius; the part that has potential to have an eternal impact, is all God’s.

The only people Noah convinced to come on the ark were his own family.
What if the only people who read my books are my own husband and children? Or what if it’s not my target audience who actually respond? Noah’s target audience were humans. He got lots of animals. The ones God brought, not those people he actually tried to reach.

People mocked Noah. There was no positive response. For 100 years. Did he ever doubt? Did he wonder if he’d misheard God and wasted all that time and effort? I'm sure I would have.

We need to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. The one who gives the gifts. The one who asks us to use them for Him, in His way, even if we don’t see the results the world expects us to reach for.

Faithfulness. That’s what we need.

Yet in saying this, I've learned I need to make sure I am faithful to God, not just my own dreams or ideals. I need to listen to others as they give advice, especially if they are believers. I have to accept that sometimes I don’t hear God, but instead hear the voice of the world or the selfish desires of my own heart. I need to listen and always bring everything back to the One I am living and writing to please; my loving Father God.

I'm learning to bring it all to God. If someone criticises my writing, if I get a bad review, if someone suggests I should be spending my time on something else, if I seem to be getting nowhere, rather than allow discouragement to take hold, I bring it to God. And when I do, it’s amazing how quickly perspective, purpose and clarity of thought return.

Thankfully we are not usually like Noah. We do have victories. Yet I admit that often after a ‘victory’ I am like Elijah after Mount Carmel. I run away and hide. (1 Kings 19).
Why?
Maybe because I think I can’t ever top that one … that I will never have another moment the same. Maybe I’ve put so much into it that I’m exhausted and just need some time of refreshment. Mostly I think it’s because I’m scared. I suddenly see so clearly that everything I achieve is completely dependent upon God. No matter how much of myself I put into it, nothing would have worked without God. 
But what if, next time, God doesn’t come to the party? Can I trust Him? Truly?

The truth is, unless the Lord writes the book, we type in vain. Unless we bring it all to Him, work with Him and do it for Him, we are like those people in Noah’s time who made beautiful, skilled, profitable furniture while Noah built the ark … it was all washed away and only the ark remained.


May God encourage you in your writing today. May it be His voice you hear; Him you feel looking over your shoulder, approving, encouraging, inspiring. May He use your faithfulness to impact eternity in His way, in His time. 


Jenny Glazebrook lives in the country town of Gundagai with her husband, Rob and 4 children along with many pets. She is the published author of 7 novels, 1 traditionally published, and 6 self published. She writes because words burn within her. She is an experienced inspirational speaker and loves to encourage others to walk closer with God and hear His voice each day. She has a Diploma of Theology and has been a CALEB finalist 3 times. Jenny’s website is: www.jennyglazebrook.com

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Prayer

by Linsey Painter
For many, this time of year is a time of Lent and focusing on prayer. I’ve written a prayer for this community. It’s not a complete prayer. Please add your own prayers in the comments so that we can lift up one another and encourage each other.

Prayer


Abba Father you are the ultimate in creativity. We can create because you have made us with imagination and the ability to appreciate and put into writing the complexity of this world that you have made.
Thank you for the gifts that you have given us. Help us to share your love through written words.
Help us as we work to be fuelled by your Spirit and inspired by you. May we have courage to speak the truth.
Thank you for this community of writers who love and trust in you. Thank you that we can to bring glory to you through the words that you give us.
Help us to encourage one another, to lift one another up to you and cheer each other on as we walk together.
Thank you for the generosity of spirit and the joyful sharing of knowledge that happens within this writing community. Help us to out—do each other in loving and doing good.
May the words that we write and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to you.
Give us wisdom in how we write and what we write. Give us wisdom as we seek to share with others what you have laid on our hearts.

Help us to remember that this world—a----nd recognition in this world—is not the ultimate goal—b----ut seeing your Kingdom come.

Linsey Painter loves to write stories that focus on growing young hearts and exploring joy and courage in the face of life’s challenges. She and her husband work with Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) and live in Cairns with their two rambunctious boys. Linsey grew up in Indonesia and is an expert at rolling her ‘r’s and eating nasi goreng. She has since lived and worked in Papua New Guinea— yes she has seen a bird of paradise and Arnhem Land— no she didn’t encounter any crocodiles. www.linseysusanne@blogspot.com