Thursday, November 2, 2017

So many writers, so many stories

In recent years, I have been to many writers’ conferences, seminars and workshops. I remember attending my first ‘writery’ event at the NSW Writers’ Centre in 2004 and wondering what I was doing there. How did I ever think I could write a book worthy of publication? Everyone seemed so much more knowledgeable about the whole writing endeavour. Everyone seemed so much more confident and talented. Everyone seemed so much ... er ... well ... younger!

Photo courtesy Margaret Holahan
Last weekend, I attended the Omega Writers’ Conference in Sydney. It was a large conference, with almost a hundred attendees on the Saturday—for an excellent conference report by Narelle Atkins, please see her Australasian Christian Writers' blog. Again, so many knowledgeable and talented authors were present. Again, there were those more confident than others. And again too, so many seemed so much younger than I am—I remember telling someone there I felt about 110! But did I feel intimidated and out of place, as I had at that first ‘writery’ event I attended? Not at all.

Of course, thirteen years have passed since my initial foray into ‘writery’ circles. In that time, I have had eight books published. And this conference was about the sixth or seventh Omega event where I have been a presenter. But I believe there were also other reasons I experienced such a wonderful sense of belonging rather than those awful feelings of being a fraud or an interloper, sneaking into a place where I should not be.

For a start, I felt a great, inclusive warmth everywhere, that I hope each delegate experienced as well. People seemed genuinely interested in one another. People were friendly and helpful. People freely shared knowledge and expertise. People cared. It seemed to me that the whole Christian ethos behind this Omega event permeated everything and made such a difference.

Photo courtesy Margaret Holahan
But I think it was also the great diversity of writers present that enabled me—and hopefully everyone
—to feel at home. There were delegates present from almost every state in Australia (plus one New Zealander!), from both city and country regions and backgrounds.  Among these delegates were some at the very beginning of their writing journey, still thinking about whether this is what God has for them to do next, while others were multi-published authors. There were many different Christian denominations represented, although there was no real need even to discuss such issues. Yes, again there were many eager young faces everywhere, speaking of so many stories yet to surface and so much giftedness to share with the world. But there were also the more mature faces, speaking of deep experiences and insights gained that need to be heard and celebrated and valued.

I came away from the conference with the image of a beautiful, glistening opal clear in my mind. It has so much depth of colour that seems to glow and pulsate with promise, revealing itself differently from each and every angle. So ... may you all as writers, whether you attended this conference or not, know you belong, that your writing is valuable, that you add depth and colour to this unique opal and that you are part of something wonderful God is constantly fashioning and polishing to bless and reveal the Creator’s loving heart to the world.


Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and two non-fiction works, ‘Soul Friend’ and ‘Becoming Me’. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com

21 comments:

  1. God bless you, Jo-Anne! Yes, love knowing that God has us all creating in different seasons, but with the purpose to honour Him. Omega Conference is great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much, Carolyn--and God bless you too in this very busy writing season of your life. I am currently reading 'The Elusive Miss Ellison' in the occasional moments I get to sit and relax, now that conference is over. But I am still a little peeved my workshop was on at the same time as yours so I couldn't get to hear you!

      Delete
  2. Beautiful post Jo-Anne. Conference sounded fabulous. I've always enjoyed being at your sessions and learning from you. I'm sorry I missed out this year. Loved the reminder you give us that all of us belong. That need for belonging is so important - praise God we can all be part of God's body as Christian writers. How blessed we are. Thanks Jo-Anne for refreshing my heart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad that what I wrote refreshed your heart, Anusha, as I seem to remember you are moving house so must be in a very busy season of your life. As I said in my Facebook comment, we missed you and your lovely, smiling face!

      Delete
  3. I was a first timer and sensed that same belonging in the midst of diversity. There wasn't any unhelpful competition - everyone and every story was valued!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so good to hear you felt that sense of belonging too, Tam--and it's particularly good you did not experience any unhelpful competition but instead felt your writing was valued. Sadly, I can well remember experiencing that unhelpful competitive spirit at the first couple of 'writery' events I attended--and it was almost enough to make me give up altogether. But God spurred me on--and I'm so glad.

      Delete
  4. Thanks for your post Jo-Anne....I met you in 2010 (?) at a conference and went home feeling really blessed to have met so many delightfully warm 'real' authors.
    I always enjoy the CWD family feel of the blog site too.
    So many opportunities to pray for one another...so important for the road trip of life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember the conference where we met, Di--I think it was run by Faithwriters out at Penrith but I can't remember the actual year either. Maybe 2008? And I agree CWD has that great family feeling you mention, so thanks to all the organisers of and participants in this 'blog family' of writers!

      Delete
  5. Thanks for that Jo-Anne. The conference did have a lovely inclusive feel to it, and I think the pastoral care by Jenny and her team shone through. I had conversations with a number of newer authors, some who were only at the start of putting some ideas down on paper, and it was so good to see their enthusiasm and hear their stories. All of them had something very worthwhile to share. It's easy to look at all the people who seem so much further along in their journeys than we are, but God has given each person stories to write about, whether it's fiction, nonfiction, memoir, poetry, or devotions. It will be amazing to see what happens to all of those beautiful seeds that God has planted. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to hear it wasn't just my imagination that caused me to see this conference as so inclusive and encouraging. And yes, that whole pastoral care aspect, with the host groups, did make a big difference. Thanks for your comments, Nola, and it was good to see you again, even if we got to chat only once the whole weekend!

      Delete
  6. Hi, Jo-Anne, last year I was one of those freshies, feeling intimidated and nervous. I got so overwhelmed at one point, asking myself why I was there, and practically hyperventilating, when you came across me, touched my arm and spoke kind and reassuring words. With a little more confidence, I came again this year. But I will always remember my first "writerly" event and the impact you had on me. Thanks! Jaye Cox

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you didn't give up after feeling so nervous last year, Jaye, and braved it again! Well done to you! And I hope this year was quite a different experience for you all round.

      Delete
  7. Beautifully put, Jo-Anne. I love that picture of an opal. Thank you so much the big part you played in conference. Your humility and graciousness are always such a blessing. Everything you do is done well and all that you share is such a treasure. We always know we can depend on you. I have learned so much from you. May God continue to use you to bless many!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww thanks, Jenny! That makes me happy that you feel you can depend on me--and I was glad to help out at conference in the various ways. I do believe that picture of the opal was God-given--I can still 'see' it in my mind. So I wanted to pass it on, as sometimes we can remember those images more easily than words that might say the same thing.

      Delete
  8. Lovely post, Jo and I also am encouraged by the comments. So glad we all found it so very worthwhile. I arrived home and got to work immediately, it had that effect!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, Rita--you sure have more energy than I do, as I think I am STILL getting over conference! But someone in my host group said the same thing ie that they just wanted to get home so they could work on their book, which is wonderful!

      Delete
  9. Great post! It was great to see everyone again, and I think I've almost recovered from my record lack of sleep!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Iola. I'm still recovering a little (not old age ... is it??), not so much from lack of sleep but just from talking to so many people all at once. As you say though, it was great to see everyone and meet new folk too.

      Delete
  10. Thanks Jo-Anne! It was a beautiful and inclusive weekend. What stood out to me was the complete asbence of elitism. It might have been a weekend of guru-worship but instead everyone was gracious and open and willing to share of themselves. I think it speaks to the beautiful people who were there, and the beautiful kindness of God that was so apparent in our midst!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Beautiful post, Jo-Anne. You’ve captured the essence of the conference and why we’ve all come home feeling encouraged, inspired, and a little bit exhausted, lol. It was great to have a chance to chat with you in person. :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. What an encouraging post, Jo-Anne. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete