Thursday, June 22, 2017

Writers’ Boot-camp

By Linsey Painter


This past month, I’ve been doing a 30-Day Creative Writing Boot-camp.


The idea is that you get into the habit of writing whether you feel like it or not. Like an exercise boot-camp for your body, it’s only with consistency that you can achieve your fitness goals, build up those muscles, walk further, cycle faster and lift those weights.

Only writing when you feel inspired doesn’t produce much of an outcome. Writing consistently means that you build up your ability to type out more words everyday, get better at saying what you want to say and see the vision for your book down on the page.

A big motto for the boot-camp is, 

‘You can’t edit a blank page’.


I look forward to my daily email telling me how many words I’m supposed to write or where I’m supposed to write or what I’m supposed to brainstorm for the day. 

Even my kids have been getting excited about how many words I’m going to have to clock up. They like to play a guessing game, although the guesses usually range from 1 to 10,000 million words (Yikes! Don’t think my writing muscles will ever be that strong).

I’ve been surprised at the results of this daily word count. At the end of 30 days the goal is over 10,000 words. I’ve just crossed the halfway mark in my days and I have already surpassed the end word count goal.

Writing begets writing and it seems the more you get words down on the page the more the words flow.


One of the things that I’ve gotten out of this daily habit of writing is that my writing goal doesn’t always have to be a stunning word count. The word count each day is different. On some days the challenge is to get 250 words down and then just stop and walk away.

That was a good lesson for me to learn. 

Part of my problem is thinking that whenever I sit down to write, if I don’t get at least 500 words, then it’s been a waste of time.


There are also different challenges; writing late in the evening, writing in a different place to where you usually write, writing 500 words in 30 minutes or taking a day to plan out your story.

At the end of every email is thought for the day from different writers like Stephen King or Margaret Atwood, to give you an extra boost.

I think the variety has been key for me. Having easier days helps balance out those high-word count goals.
I’m hoping that after this boot-camp I’ll have built up my writing habit and writing muscles to continue with consistent writing and thwacking out words on the computer or in my notebook.

I have been doing my boot-camp through The Australian Writer’s Centre, but there is nothing stopping you from creating your own challenges for each day.

Well, that is my 500 words for the day.



Linsey Painter loves to write stories for children and young adults. Her stories focus on growing young hearts, challenging assumptions and exploring courage in the face of life’s difficulties. You can find her at linseypainter.com

Monday, June 19, 2017

"Tall Poppy Delusions," by a disgruntled daisy.


So, this isn't my finest moment perhaps, but I need to confess something: I am a text book tall poppy cutter-downer. Shocking isn't it! It gets worse, though; nothing makes me want to reach for my rusty secateurs more than talent show videos. I know! I'm awful! But, I really really dislike them. As in, I literally GOL (groan out loud) and roll my eyes when I see them on my FaceBook feed: "Look at little Johnny! He's only 3 and can already recite the entire works of Shakespeare!" Or the A Capella group whose voices were more than likely hand-crafted by God himself, from heavenly spindles of gold and silver threads that adorn the angels' robes. And they all could have stepped out of Next Top Model. And they have PhDs in quantum physics.  

Okay, perhaps I'm not quite that bad, but I cannot deny sometimes turning a slight shade of green when I see the people with skills and talents that far outweigh my own...I believe it might be called Envy?

Envy. Such a horrible word isn't it. Envy is a noun:

a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck.

Envy is also a verb:

desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable thing belonging to (someone else).

The thing with envy that really gets me, is its ability to lay dormant for so long, and then rear its filthy head when I least expect it. Yes, watching Australia's Got Talent might be one such time, but it also strikes much closer to home, perhaps when a friend achieves something awesome. And even more so when it's something awesome that I have desperately wanted. 

The real trouble with envy is that there is absolutely nothing positive about it:

1. It takes our focus away from God.

2. It distracts us from what we are meant to be doing.

3. It undermines our confidence in our God-appointed abilities.

4. It stirs up resentment between people, possibly destroying friendships.

Envy says, "what you have, am, give, or can do, is not good enough."

Ah yes. There it is. The feeling that my writing, or singing, or art, is not as good as others' and I therefore feel dis-counted from participating.

As with most negative emotions/feelings, if we allow it to grow and fester within us, it will eventually kill the thing associated with it; no more writing, no more singing, no more art. It's not easy to stop though. We live in a time where being "the best" is not just celebrated, but the be-all-and-end-all; just look at the number of TV shows that seek to find "the best" singer, talent, chef, etc. No wonder there is so much pressure on us to perform, to out-perform, to shine brighter than anyone else. 

I have always been one who wanted to be "the best," to the point of not participating for fear of not being the best. But I am coming to realise (yes, still working on this!), that "good" is actually enough. Sure, we can commit to learning and growing and getting better, but ultimately, a "good" story, or song, or photograph, is still worthy of being written, sung or taken! Who is it who determines their worth anyway?! The Simon Cowell's of this world?! Perhaps it has become that way, but I say no more!

I love that when we give our work to God, He takes away the innate need within us to compete with others, and qualifies us for the job. Remember that verse in Colossians 3:23-24:


Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

You might be feeling like a daisy in a field of tall poppies right now. That's fantastic! Keep on being the beautiful, unique, incredible daisy that God created you to be; you may not be noticed by the masses, but that is okay! You are still contributing to the overall beauty of the field.

Remember that God is the one who gifted you your talents, and He is the one who will reward you for your faithfulness in using them...I just hope there's a shower of glitter confetti when I get my reward in heaven. Glitter confetti is awesome. 

Blessings,

Helen...the slightly less disgruntled daisy 😇




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Birthing a Book – by Ruth Bonetti

Two weeks ago I became a doting grandmother to little Archie.
Two months ago I birthed a book after a decade's gestation. I muse...

AGONY AND ECSTASY

The arduous process, false contractions, anxieties and hard labour culminates into sheer delight to hold a baby for the first time. Nature sends a wash of amnesia over the pain so mothers front up for more.

REALITY CHECK

Now the real work begins.
Birth sets parents on a lifelong path to nurture, care and guide.

So we authors must lead our new book into the wide world.

OVERNIGHT SENSATION (Losing weight so fast!)

Identity issues accompany streamlined figures. Last month’s groomed capable superwoman fades into a hausfrau who craves sleep and a minute’s bathroom privacy. As the florist bouquets wilt, some mothers befriend cabbage leaves. They become camels, humping prams and nappy bags.

Authors invest in larger handbags to carry a few books in the hope of tempting impulse buys. They feel pressure to be seen with a successful image in the crowded market place. They must morph into media tarts, push themselves all over social media, hoping hungry overkill doesn’t repel.

THE LAUNCH PAD

Like a baby’s christening, a launch introduces your book to the world–and can attract publicity. Frock up for photographs to splash around social media.

Preparing a launch is a huge job, so delegate to your loyal team. Trying to be MC, stage manager, tech crew, speaker and star at an event causes headless chook furrowed brow. Email a clear, detailed run-sheet well before the event.

Be available to greet and chat. Breathe. Smile. Be grateful to those who bought books, supported–and for left-over gourmet food that saves cooking next day.

BLOWING OUR OWN TRUMPET

Many authors are shy introvert types, reluctant to push themselves or their barrow of books. They might prefer to change a dirty nappy rather than front a panel discussion, book reading or talk at a writers’ festival. And yet they crave attention to market their baby, so they must surmount insecurity and ‘pick me!’ pitch to program conveners, hoping to break that glass ceiling for an invitation.

OR SILENCE?

A baby draws instant attention–away from the mother. Books compete with trillions of competitors and are easily overlooked. We’ve lived with our story all through its gestation and now long to hear validation. Please, NOW! And then…Silence.
But most people haven’t had time to read or digest it yet. Few realise that a sentence of feedback on Amazon or Goodreads would make that author’s month.

ANTICLIMAX

Midwives know the four-day blues. For authors, it may be four-week blues. We poured every ounce into perfecting our words, characters and structure. We edited and proofed, polished.
Print is final; we can’t fix that pesky typo on page one that even an objective proof reader missed.

At such times it’s easy to fall prey to doubt and self-sabotage. Maybe it’s not worth pitching to that festival, they won’t take indie publications.

Even luminaries like Kate Grenville admit rejections and frustrations. She avoids downers by simmering several projects at a time. Submit one, turn to another.

But you’re SO exhausted? It's no surprise.
Rest. Be still. Enjoy the fulfilment of your goal and hard – er, labour.

Read other authors–for enjoyment. Don’t let vulnerability bury your gift in the ground, but do trust the seasons; allow some time to lie fallow. Come spring, your new seedlings may sprout. Believe in your gifting and honour it. When the time is right, the green blade of your creative sap will rise again.



Midnight Sun to Southern Cross is Ruth Bonetti’s second book in her historical biography/memoir saga of local stories. In the tradition of great family migration stories, it continues the saga of the Back brothers’ flight from Russian-occupied Finland to Australia as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth. Available: Amazon and her webstore at www.ruthbonetti.com Follow Ruth’s blog:


Earlier books are in her primary field of performance–of words and music–and education. Ruth founded Omega Writers in 1991 when her youngest son was a toddler.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Unusual Writing Journey of "The Lord Jesus Christ: Fully Man and Fully God"


by Margaret Lepke

Hi Everyone … this is going to be the fastest blog post I have ever written. Unedited, unfixed, unadorned. Not by choice, but out of necessity. It's late and I am sooo tired, and I desperately need some sleep, but tonight’s the deadline for this post...

The reason for my tiredness? My husband had open heart surgery 2 weeks ago, then a stroke, and by God’s grace I brought him home last night. I spent all day every day at the hospital – plus two and a half hours’ drive each day. And even having him home again (which is wonderful, and for which I am very, very grateful) is hard work. But for this, I have Jesus. He is there during the good times and the hard times, and He gives strength and peace and does amazing things.  

By the way, I have discovered that hospitals provide great opportunities for speaking with people about Jesus. On the morning I was waiting during the five hour operation, I was reading a commentary on Paul’s Letters to the Thessalonians when a woman sat down next to me and started a conversation because of what she had seen me read. I ended up giving her the book because I sensed that she did not have the same hope (although she believes in God). And then there were opportunities to hand out tracts my husband had written some time ago. He was a very good patient and everyone was amazed that this stroke victim had written such a beautifully presented tract. They happily received one. I even had opportunities to give my own book to people who will hopefully gain a deeper understanding about Jesus and develop a relationship with Him when (or if) they read it.

And that brings me to the main purpose of this post: the unusual writing journey of this little book. I am so glad that God sometimes pushes us to do what we are reluctant to do, even after we find a hundred thousand reasons why we can’t do it. Sort of like Jonah. Let me tell you what happened…

The Lord Jesus Christ: Fully Man and Fully God
One day last year the discussion in our Bible Study group focused on whether Jesus was truly God. Both June (my best friend and closest sister in Christ) and I had previously spoken with people who didn’t believe so, or weren’t sure, and both of us had been on personal quests to settle this question for ourselves. So when the topic resurfaced, we searched for a book that would present a biblical view, was focused on Scripture rather than lengthy theological debates, and was reader-friendly yet comprehensive and concise. A book we could hand to someone who was seeking answers. When we couldn’t find anything suitable we decided to write out own (that was my task). 

June came over and dictated all of her notes so that I would have them in typed form (she still hand-writes everything!). The mountain of unsorted bits and pieces was growing before my eyes and, together with all the research I had previously accumulated but never sorted, it seemed too much and I felt overwhelmed. I knew that the need for the book was great because many new Christians don't really grasp who Jesus really is, and even older Christians can’t always give scriptural reasons for their beliefs. And then there are all the people of other faiths who believe that Jesus existed, but they don’t know the biblical Jesus and therefore don't have salvation. Yet in spite of these incentives and my promise to pull our materials together and write the book, I kept stalling. As I said, a hundred thousand excuses. But then God stepped in...

During August and September last year I kept getting the flu, which is very unusual for me. Then, in October, I fell from a ladder while hanging up balloons for my husband’s birthday and damaged my coccyx. Something else was damaged requiring an immediate operation and, long story short, I could not sit down for almost five months. The first weeks were spent in bed while reading everything on my book stack and more, but then I began to feel restless, bored, missing my keyboard. So I rigged up a long fruit box on top of my desk, lifted my screens and started typing while standing up. My conscience had grown more and more restless and finally got the better of me. Was it my conscience, or was it the Holy Spirit? I believe it was the latter.   

Have you ever had to do everything standing up? Standing for hours, days, weeks? It’s hard (but also seems to burn more calories - yeah).  Yet somehow it helped me to collate, sort and group the biblical evidence, find a logical sequence of presenting it all, and finally design a cover everyone loved. In April this year, our little book finally went to the printer and became respectable.  We got great reviews from Dr. John Ecob (Editor of the Herald of Hope, Australia) and Dr. Gene Jeffries (Liberty University, USA), and a third of our print run has already flown the coop. 

But if God had not allowed all of my health problems – and I will be forever grateful for this time of drawing especially near to Him – I would still not have started writing our book. And without His constant prodding, I would not have finished it. Born out of pain, it now yields the glorious fruit of biblical evidence and takes the reader on a journey of discovering the greatest treasure they could ever find – the true identity of the Lord Jesus Christ; the biblical Jesus who died for our sins and who has the power to give eternal life. Was Jesus fully GOD and fully MAN? Does it matter? The answer to both questions is a definite YES! It matters because our salvation depends on it.   

You can download the free PDF eBook or purchase a print copy from http://www.biblicalpublications.org/the-lord-jesus-christ-fully-man-and-fully-god-ebook.html   
 
Margaret Lepke
Margaret enjoys being a wife, mother, grandmother and friend. But even more so she loves advancing the cause of Christ as  a mentor, speaker and writer. Her professional training includes natural medicine, counselling and mentoring, communication and human relations, research, adult education, theology and biblical studies. Margaret  blogs at Dr. Margaret's Treasure Chest and openly shares her testimony on her site www.DrLepke.com.au

Monday, June 5, 2017

Exploring Genres - Free Verse and Verse Novels

by Jeanette O'Hagan

In the last Genre Post - Valerie Volk ably spoke for the value and place of poetry. (You can read her post here.)  Before we move on to another genre, let's explore a little more the possibilities of poetry.



Often when we think of poetry, we think of rhyming couplets, but there are, in fact, a wide number of poetic forms and traditions. There are traditional forms like couplets, sonnets and ballads; humorous forms such as limericks; or more challenging forms like villanelles and sistenas. There are also Japanese forms such as haikus and tankas, Arabic or Burmese forms etc and modern forms like found or shaped poetry.

Today, I'd like to explore two - the verse novel and free verse.

Verse Novel


As Valerie reminded us, the verse narrative (a story told in verse) is as old as story telling, itself.

The Epic of Gilgamesh, Homer's Iliad and Beowulf are all ancient stories told through poetry.  While much of the Bible is in prose - Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations and most of Job are told poetically. Hebrew poetry relies more on structures such as parallelism, chiasmus (x-type pattern), assonance (similar sounds) and word puns, than rhyme and rhythm. Chaucer and Shakespeare used poetic verse. At a popular level, local stories were expressed in ballads - such as 'The Man from Snowy River'.

Since the eighteenth century and the rise of the novel, prose has replaced poetry as the preferred way to tell stories.

However, in recent decades, the verse novel has emerged as a popular genre, particularly in young adult literature. In a verse novel the narrative is told either entirely, or in part, by poetry. It also includes characters, point of view, dialogue, narration, description, and other features appropriate to writing a novel. The poetry may be traditional form with strict rhyming and meter, but it is often told in free verse.

Calvin Miller's powerful trilogy - The Singer, The Song, The Finale - is an allegorical and poetic retelling of Jesus' life, death and resurrection that helps one see this pivotal story with new eyes.

More recently, Michelle Dennis Evans has published Sink, Drift or Swim - a young adult, free verse novel about Rina's fishing trip with her dad. It an engaging and dramatic tale told from Rina's point-of-view in her distinctive voice.

Why not just tell the story in prose? By choosing free verse, Michelle Evans brings both a vividness and a focus to Rina's experiences and thoughts. It enables Michelle to tackle a serious subject with a light hand. I think it adds to the impact of the book.

So, what is free verse?

Free Verse


Usually, when English speakers think of poetry, we think of rhyme and meter (or beat), e.g. 'I'm a poet, and I didn't know it.' As I mentioned above, other cultures use different devices. The Hebrews especially liked parallelism, Japanese poetry often focuses of syllables. However, with English poetic forms we also have blank verse (meter without rhyme) and free verse (which may include rhyme, but isn't tied to a particular meter).

Free verse uses other elements such as assonance, metaphor, image, alliteration, the senses, themes, pacing, white space and other visual elements such as changes in font or how the letters are aligned to convey meaning and emotion.

While there is both a discipline and indeed a refining process in using a particular poetic form like a ballad or a villanelle - there is a freedom in free verse which I particularly enjoy.

Often poetry is a way of expressing the inexpressible, of allowing deep emotions eloquence and crystallisation. Free verse gives freedom to vary the rhythm and pace. Also, I find an element of play and fun with free verse.

Here is an example from my own work - but I'd also urge you to check out poets such as Michelle Dennis Evans or Cameron Semmens 10 Poems that can really help you through a tough spot and his other books or perhaps some of the poems in Glimpses of Light, especially Sue Jeffrey's 'Sight' or Mazzy Adams 'Journey' for great examples of free verse.



Thunderstorm

The teacher’s voice drones on
Futt, futt, white dusty blades whirl
the fan rotating overhead
listlessly pushing the hot humid air
around the temporary aluminium heat box.

At last the sonorous school bell rings
Books slap shut, chairs squeal, pushed backwards
“Class dismissed” “Homework due on Monday”
and we jostle and stream out into the turbid air.

Moisture beads on my upper lip,
my forehead and armpits drip.
Overhead white cotton candy clouds tower.
I adjust the strap cutting into my shoulder
and daydream my way home.

Clouds roil and collide
stacking ever higher
their underbellies bruised in aubergine tones.
The sudden hush of bird song,
a fitful wind stirs
harrying leaves along gutters
eyes seared by silver flashes
sonic booms reverberating
watery missiles pelting down
stinging arms and face
water sluicing through flattened hair
burrowing past turned up collar
flowing in plump streams
pooling and gurgling
overflowing in the gutters.

My shoes squelch
with each liberated step
until laughing and gasping
I hug my slick school bag
and run as I laugh
attempting to chart a path
between the silver rain drops
flying towards home.

Jeanette O'Hagan ( First published, Judge's choice, Poetica Christi Inner Child, 2014)

So - if you have an inkling to write poetry - but have always got bogged down in meter and rhyme - why not give free verse a go?

***This is a cross post with Australasian Christian Writers.***

Images and poems © Jeanette O'Hagan


Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

Recent publications include Heart of the Mountain: a short novellaThe Herbalist's Daughter: a short story and Lakwi's Lament: a short story. Her other short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl. Jeanette is also writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (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.

Find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites  JennysThread.com or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes . if you want to stay up-to-date with latest publications and developments, sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan Writes e-mail newsletter.  

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bubbling Along


Have you ever seen a Bubbler Crab at work? These tiny creatures hide in their burrows during high tide and emerge at low tide to feed. They scoop sand underneath their bodies with miniscule nippers, suck the microscopic nutrients from the grit, then discard the unusable portion in ball shapes behind them. 

They focus on sucking each little ball of sand in the hope of a tasty meal, then move on to form another ball. They work with great efficiency every second of low tide. When the water comes to wash over them, they burrow in to rest for the next eight to ten hours, after which they will do it all again on the next out. I compared their twelve-hour cycle to my twenty-four and wondered if I was making as much use of my waking hours as they were.

As I walked along the beach, I marvelled at the work ethic of these creatures, spending all their waking moments on the time-consuming and labor-intensive task of collecting food. Each bubble of sand represented part of the forage for their daily meal, and there were millions of little balls. These mass of balls formed intricate patterns in the sand. The sand bar was covered in bubbly pictures, some so perfect in design, I imagined that not even the most visionary artist would be able to replicate them.



Then I realised that, as grand as these patterns were, art was not their main priority: eating is. The beautiful patterns I see on the beach are only a delightful side effect of their labor. I wondered how the Bubbler Crabs could be so oblivious to their grand design, and then I realised they never saw the bigger picture. Only we humans, standing high above them could view the magnificence of their handiwork.

It didn't take me long to understand the connection I had with these minute creatures. At times I feel as though my work is lacking, that it isn't enough, or hasn't made an impact. I wonder if my small contribution to the world ever makes a difference, or if my ministry finds the targets the Lord has set for it. Seeing those little Bubbler Crabs hard at work put a few things into perspective for me.

These creatures work tirelessly all their lives, oblivious to the stunning larger patterns their work represents—just like I might be oblivious to the larger pattern of my life. There is One who is not oblivious. Looking down upon me, the Lord sees me hard at work, gathering each little ball and throwing it out to the world. As I do so, He places it in the pattern of my life. I wondered if my job was much like the crab's job— to do the work and let God complete the pattern. I will not see the bigger picture until I stand with Him and He points out the swirls and contours of my life.

This is not the only realisation I came to as I watched the Bubbler Crab. I realised that not only does this animal work to capacity, but it often works under great stress. The sea birds flying high above me see a different big picture. They see dinner, and they swoop in from great heights to randomly pick these little crabs from their workplace. The only defence Bubbler Crabs have is to keep their wits about them, and to literally have one eye looking up at all times. How alike we both are! Keeping a present mind and one eye above is vital to the crab, and to me.



As I looked back to where I had walked along the sand, I saw my footprints had made an unsightly path through the beautiful patterns. But one little crab had already ventured out from its’ sandy hollow to set about filling in the indent my foot had made. Little round sand balls were already being pushed to the side of my destructive path. No stomping human was going to stop this little crab—he (or maybe she) got to work filling in the messed-up sand with new patterns. He would work this pattern to completion. I admired his tenacity and spirit, and thought about how I could apply such a driving force to my life.

It is a marvel to me at how the Lord puts simple things in my path to teach me great lessons. In theory, the Bubbler Crab and I don't have anything in common, but in reality we both dance that delicate balance between existence and purpose, reliance and faith. And I am thankful to the God who created us both for the gifts He has given us, both the ability to work to feed ourselves, and the talent for giving pleasure to others.



Rose was born in North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her Resolution series.

Two of the three Resolution novels have won Australian CALEB awards. She has also released The Greenfield Legacy, a collaborative novel highlighting the pain of Australia’s past policy of forced adoption, as well as standalone novel, Ehvah After. Her most recent release is A Christmas Resolution, which is part of the novella box set, An Aussie Summer Christmas.

Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and her desire to produce stories that point readers to Jesus. Rose holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, and resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband and son.

Visit Rose at: www.rosedee.com