Sunday, 20 January 2019

Writers Face to Face

I spent a few days in Ireland recently. As well a catching up with family, I had 2 different coffee dates with writer friends. It was hard to leave my writing connections behind, when I moved from Ireland in 2014. I had to start from scratch; finding a writing community, in some cases starting one myself. I pined for my Irish writer friends and I love to catch up with them when I'm home.

As tech'd up as we are these days, there really is nothing that compares to face to face meet-ups with other writers. I love social media and I believe the online connections are important. The ability to reach out to readers and writers across the world is amazing really. I look at the stats on my blog and I'm amazed to see the different countries that pop up. And yet, for me, something much more special happens when I unplug, sit and talk with other scribblers. I share ideas or projects and suddenly the plot or plan I've been stuck on, becomes unstuck. The work in progress that I'm bored with gets a new lease of life, by just telling someone about it. Someone who shares my creative passion who can see the potential that has been disguised by my familiarity with the work.

Writers get writers. Most of us, I hope, are blessed with patient loved ones who 'bear with us' and our literary foibles, but spending time with writers can be like coming home.

Ours can be a lonely craft. Most of the time, it's about getting our butts on the chair and getting some words on the page. So in 2019, let's take every opportunity that comes for a get-together. Think about the ACW Writers' Days. Find a local group or attend a book launch. If there isn't one locally, go on a day trip to. Ring a faraway writing friend and agree to meet half way for a conflab.

I came back from my trip to Ireland feeling full. I'd had a large dose of family fun, spiritual encouragement with some old church friends, and a boost of creative vavoom after my writer reunions. I can't recommend it enough - and I charge you to go find some for yourself. x

Annmarie Miles is from Dublin, Ireland. 
She lives with her husband Richard who is a pastor in the Eastern Valley of Gwent, in South Wales. She writes short stories, magazine articles, devotional pieces for Christian radio, and blogs about her faith at Her first collection of short stories published in 2013, is called 'The Long & The Short of it' Her second collection, 'A Sense of the Sea and other stories' was published in December 2018. She is currently editing a non-fiction book about being an overweight Christian called, 'Have mercy on me O Lord, a slimmer.'

Friday, 18 January 2019

Stuck! by Georgie Tennant

Ever found yourself stuck in a rut?  Fed up with everything and everyone? Feeling like you’ll never write anything, ever again, in your whole life?  You’re not alone!

I am currently in the phase of what I like to call ‘stabbing at writing.’ Most of my time is taken up being a Mum and a teacher, church member and friend.  Writing is something I only ‘do’ when I have a deadline approaching or when my heart overflows with something I need to get down on the page.  The deadlines bit is still ticking along – I haven’t missed a post on this blog and, if I’m asked to produce something on a topic for someone, somewhere, the keys and blank screen generally comply.

The rut bit is showing itself more in the heart stuff – the inspiration simply isn’t flowing.  Life has taken me through some emotionally draining times, of late, and writing has often helped with this. As I have ridden the waves of emotion that sometimes threaten to sweep me away and walked through valleys of no emotion at all, these experiences have sometimes found their voice on the page and writing them down has been helpful and cathartic.  It has helped, too, to share and have others say they resonate with my words.

Now, though, I’ve stepped into a different season.  God has been working in my emotions, bringing a new level of healing.  I am experiencing a strange calm and stability that I haven’t for a while.  But the writing has dried up too!  I don’t know what to write.  I have no fresh ideas, no new material.  My heart has stopped overflowing quite so much, so my pen doesn’t know what to say.  I have no long-term project, nothing I can chip away at, calmly and non-emotionally.  Where do I go from here?

I decided to try to view this as a learning opportunity – after all, if I’m serious about doing some ‘real writing’ in the future, I’ve got to learn what it is to press on and write, whatever the weather or mood.  So this is the advice I am giving myself and desperately trying to heed.

1. Don’t give into sinking feelings of despair
This is something I am learning in life as well as writing.  It is so easy to be swept away down a spiral of negative thoughts and emotions – I’ll never get anywhere with this; I might as well give up; I’m useless at it anyway; it’s all, already been done,; nobody reads what I write – but if I can learn to catch these thoughts as they sprout and throw them out as far away as possible, as quickly as possible, I can press on with what I need to do, and be more productive because I’m not wasting my energy on all these niggling doubts.

2. Feel the fear and do it anyway
My husband has a fond memory of a 23 year-old me, on our honeymoon in France, declaring this very thing, as I drove down a slip road to join a dual carriageway.  He was exhausted from a long drive and needed me to take over for a bit.  The thought of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road terrified me, but I knew we wouldn’t get where we were going if I didn’t at least give it a go.  Half an hour in, he was fast asleep in the passenger seat, and I was relaxing into the experience.  Sometimes we just have to launch at it and hope our feelings and productivity follow.

3.  Know when to step back and take a break
This is crucial and something I’ve learned through walking the road of grief.  Sometimes I have to feel the fear and do it anyway.  Sometimes I have to step back and take a break from it all.  The hard thing is, learning which the right one at the right time - but it comes with practice and getting it wrong a fair few times.

This is true of our writing too.  Sometimes, we need to just give it a go, write something - bang out some words, without thinking too hard or too critically.  At others, we need to take the day off and do something far-removed from the frustrations of our keyboard and mouse.  And we need to see this, not as a failure, but as a deliberate move, part of the rest of the whole, that will rebuild our capacity and restore our strength and desire to write again.  If we can make ourselves do this, we’ll probably be twice as productive the next time we try.

4. Avoid the comparison game
It is so, so easy to wish you were someone else whom you perceive as much further ahead than you – you long for their blog, their book and their radio interviews to be yours – and you don’t even have a concept for a book yet and only manage to blog once in a blue moon.  Teddy Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  He was absolutely right.  Of course, we all long for our writing to be read, enjoyed and have impact on the world, but embracing the season I’m in is the only healthy way to keep my mind from wandering down all sorts of destructive paths.

5.  Have a bit of fun
Write something silly, don’t take yourself too seriously and keep placing your writing back into the capable hands of the One who gave it to you, as a gift, in the first place.

During the particularly stuck week, I wrote something silly, to try to heed my own advice.  If you still have a few sips of your cup of tea left and time to spare before you rush into your day, I include it below for your fun and amusement!

An Ode to the Stuck

I really am quite squarely stuck,
I cannot move from here.
Inspiration’s packed its bag
And won’t come back, I fear.

I check my laptop keyboard –
The letters are all there.
It’s not a hardware issue, more
A problem between keyboard and chair.

I daydream for a morning,
I make a cup of tea,
I dust and sort and clean the bath –
O, Muse, come back, prithee!

I have a look on Twitter,
No inspiration there.
I watch some videos of cats.
I’m sinking in despair.

Pathetic fallacy noted,
As grey clouds pass the sun,
I need some inspiration, fast –
This really isn’t fun.

Afternoon becomes the dusk
And hope is fading fast.
But just when I’m about to quit,
Something stirs at last.

A tiny little flicker –
No more than an idea,
That tickles at my fingertips
And whispers in my ear.

I grab a pad and fan until
The flicker is a spark
And the spark becomes a bonfire
That lights up this dim dark.

Stuck no more, I stoke the flames,
Basking in the glow.
The words burst forth like fireworks,
I’m fully in the flow.

Next time inspiration parts,
I’ll try harder to remember
To hold fast, stand firm, panic less
And fan that tiny ember.

I’ll daydream for a morning,
Make coffee strong and black
And trust that, when the time is right,
It will all come flooding back!

Georgie Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive.  She is married, with two sons, aged 10 and 8, who keep her exceptionally busy. She writes for the ACW ‘Christian Writer’ magazine occasionally, and is a contributor to the ACW-Published ‘New Life: Reflections for Lent,’ and ‘Merry Christmas, Everyone: A festive feast of stories, poems and reflections.’ She writes the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local newspaper from time to time and also muses about life and loss on her blog:

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Everyday inspiration by Claire Musters

We all have those moments don’t we – when inspiration seems so elusive. When we want to write but aren’t sure what to write about. I’ll be honest, when I realised my turn on this blog was nearing I didn’t have any ideas bursting forth. 

But then it came to me.

Write about what you know.

Speaking as a non-fiction writer, it is the lessons learned in the everyday that I write most often about. While I know the call to honesty is my particular motivation for writing, I also believe that it is an important thread in all our work.

As a non-fiction and fiction reader, it is the integrity and openness of either real-life people or fictional characters that grabs my attention.

Thinking back over some of the recent(ish) books that have impacted me most, they have been stories of struggles, narratives in which the writers are honest about painful journeys – how the process has brought them closer to God and what they have learned about themselves along the way. 

The books that immediately spring to mind include: Resurrection Year by Sheridan Voysey, Catching Contentment by Liz Carter, Shine by Allison Allen… Tanya Marlow’s Those who Wait knits together beautiful recreations of biblical narratives with the wisdom learned through years of struggle, and Hope When it Hurts by Kristen Wetherall and Sarah Walton provides 30 biblical reflections for those who are suffering.

The fictional series Sensible Shoes by Sharon Brown drew me in quickly and completely. It was the way the characters were portrayed – their flaws as well as strengths – and the chance to learn spiritual disciplines along the way that was life-changing for me. 

I also want to mention Fiona Veitch Smith and Claire Dunn’s fictional series (Poppy Denby Investigates and The Secret of the Journal); their beautifully crafted characters were what kept me turning pages as fast as I could.

I believe it is by reaching readers’ hearts that we engage them and hopefully capture their readership for future books too. Commenting as a non-fiction writer, I find it is often through our retelling of everyday events, even when it takes great courage to do so, that we are able to bring the gift of finding they are not alone to our readers. 

Sometimes our inspiration takes years to form. For myself, it was pretty much the most difficult period of my life, certainly the most humbling – and yes, probably toe-curlingly embarrassing too – that became the starting point of my book Taking Off the Mask. I never dreamt I would write about that time and yet, 15 years on, it was unmistakably what I was being nudged to do.

While I’m not advocating writing about every single thing going on in your life (that’s a little like posting pictures of every meal we eat onto social media), it is definitely worth pondering what it is that God may be nudging you to explore further in your writing. 

Journalling is a great discipline and helpful writing resource – Sheridan has written a brilliant piece on this. If you keep a journal, it is definitely worth flicking back over it every so often, to see the common threads and in case something timely jumps out. 

So, whether you write fiction, non-fiction, poetry and/or articles, can I encourage you not to discard the everyday but to embrace it as fuel for inspiration.

Claire is a freelance writer, speaker and editor, mum to two gorgeous children, pastor’s wife, worship leader and school governor. Her books include Taking off the mask: daring to be the person God created you to be, Cover to Cover: Ezekiel A prophet for all times, Cover to Cover: 1–3 John Walking in the truth, Cover to Cover: David: A man after God's own heart, Insight Into Managing Conflict, Insight Into Self-acceptance and Insight Into Burnout. She is currently finalising the latest Insight Guide: Insight into Managing Shame. She also writes Bible study notes and magazine articles. To find out more about her, please visit  and @CMusters on Twitter. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

The Writing Speaker? - by Liz Carter

Do you find speaking easy or difficult, as a writer?

I’ve been giving this a bit of thought, lately. I’ve been recording some radio and podcast interviews about my new book, and doing a couple of talks, but this is not a natural thing to me. Instead it’s a thing of terror, rearing up at me and leaving me with sweaty palms and a thumping heart. Because I’m not a speaker – or at least, that’s always been my internal thought process about the whole idea. Even standing up in church leading the intercessions leaves me a shaking wreck. My dad is a vicar and both my parents preached at church as I grew up, so I was set a good model, but always felt I wasn’t enough. It’s a strange thing – I feel like the words come easier for me when I’m writing, but when I’m speaking they get lost somewhere in the ether and I’m unable to retrieve them and make them dance to my tune. It’s frustrating. 

Yet as I wrote and submitted this book I was aware that publishers expect writers to have some kind of speaking platform, as well as a writing one. I was afraid I would let them down in this – not only because of my worry about speaking, but because my chronic ill-health condition forces me to lay low much of the time, therefore speaking engagements are few and far between – and more often than not I flake out of them, too sick to manage. So I wondered if it was possible to be a writer first and foremost, and an occasional somewhat reluctant speaker, or if you actually have to be a speaker with an active and vibrant schedule/ministry in order to get your work out there. 

I’m not sure I have answers to this, but I do wonder if we sometimes beat ourselves up, as writers. We think that we must undertake so much work to promote ourselves; we must keep an active social media presence, website and market ourselves and our work all the time. We can become consumed by this, to the extent that we have no time left to do the one thing we love to do: write! Perhaps for some of us the speaking and the marketing come easily and are enjoyable, but for others they may feel a burden – especially for those who are struggling with life in some way. Perhaps you feel like you can never be enough, as I have felt in the past, and therefore there is no point in continuing your writing journey. You’ll just never get to the stage others seem to get to with their shiny platforms, so you stop trying. 

Yet in God’s kingdom, matters are turned on their heads. The weak are strong, the strong are weak. There is little room for the burdensome ‘must do this’ in God’s economy, if whatever ‘this’ is is unreachable for you today, or any day. It’s amazed me how God has worked through my own book launch, when humanly speaking things seemed impossible, because I was stuck in hospital at the time. But God doesn’t do impossible, and I wonder if today God is speaking to some of you about your own writing, about where you are with it, and how you see yourselves in the larger story around writing in our society today. Maybe you need to hear the words, ‘You are enough,’ and the assurance that God is delighted with you and your writing – however erratic, however short, however unfinished, however unpolished. God loves your heart, and your passion for writing – so don’t let that become encumbered by a heavy weight of feeling you must do more. 

Of course, many of you are speakers, and wonderful ones, and it’s delightful to enjoy all the talents of this group of Christian writers. But let’s not beat ourselves up when that’s not us, or let it hold us back. I’m thankful that God is somehow getting me through these things, but it’s not going to launch me into a glittering career in public speaking 😊 and that’s OK!

What about you? Do you find speaking easy or difficult, as a writer?

I just want to write
Make words dance with delight
Soar through joyful heights
As letters speed to flight.

I just want to write
Spin dazzling tales of might
and lilting words of bright
To lift them in their night.

But maybe I'm not right
My talent just too slight
My words destined for blight
Don't want to be in lights!

Yet you set me alight
With words of pure starlight
You are my Ignite
You bathe me in your light. 

Liz Carter is an author and blogger who likes to write about life in all its messy, painful, joyous reality. She’s never known life without pain and sickness, and wonders what it feels like to breathe freely. She likes Cadbury’s and turquoise, in equal measure, and lives in the UK with her husband, a church leader, and two crazy teens.

Liz is the author of Catching Contentment: How to be Holy Satisfied, which was published by IVP in November. This book digs into the lived experience of a life in pain, and what contentment could possibly mean in difficult circumstances.  You can find it here.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Never-ending Story

Is a book, I wonder, now approaching my ninth year of taking writing seriously, ever really finished? It seems to me that I have rewritten, retouched, edited, contracted and bled out far more than I have actually put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

At the end of last year, I finished my first full length novel for adults. Having read and re-read and edited it to the best of my ability, it is now being introduced via the miracles of email to those who might take it onwards. I’m fearful in case it is rejected, I’m equally fearful lest it might be considered worth pursuing. Why? Because a publisher will want me to change bits, cut things out, kill off characters, and, worst of all, they may decide to surgically remove its very soul by the lifting out of my beloved Oxford comma. I shudder at this prospect.

I am done with the book, I want it out there being read. I’m tired already, of efforts to perfect it. And yet, I know that if I’m fortunate enough to be picked up, there will be more work to do. I sigh inwardly as I write this, because of course, I know it must be done, and I know that the other work I have rewritten is better than it was before. If the first draft were perfect, we’d be living in a dream world. And we are all aware that the getting it out of our heads onto paper or screen is just the beginning of the writer’s labour.

I do wonder though, if everything I’ve ever written will continue to haunt me in this way. Perhaps some of the veteran writers out there can tell me. I spent last November refining an old ebook of prayers, and have just begun reworking a non-fiction title that needs updating due to those pesky world events that are always happening. No-one even asked me to do it, as these are indie published titles. I just want them to be the best they can be. Does it never end? Can I, will I ever be able to say that a book is once and for all put to bed?

Maybe children’s picture books are the answer. Maybe they are so short and so finalised once they go out that you never have to update them? It could be a plan. Except that like poetry, each word needs to be exactly right and in the perfect place. The truth is, I know, whether universally acknowledged or not, that if a genius such as Jane Austen tinkered with her work right till the very end, constantly seeking improvement, then a mere mortal like myself definitely needs to keep doing just that.  

Keren Dibbens-Wyatt is a disabled writer and artist with a passion for poetry, mysticism, story and colour. Her writing features regularly on spiritual blogs and in literary journals. Her full-length publications include Garden of God’s Heart and Whale Song: Choosing Life with Jonah. She lives in South East England and is mainly housebound by her illness.

Picture from Pixabay

Monday, 14 January 2019

Drowning in words? by Letitia Mason

Once upon a time, a long time ago, before I retired from paid work, I was in the part of the civil service that deals with further education. I sat in interminable meetings about how to raise standards, particularly for adults who had missed out on schooling, or had special needs.

Occasionally the proceedings were enlightening, but more often they were an exercise in staying afloat in a soup of ‘TLAs’, three letter acronyms. We were good at these and phrases would wash over me:

  • KSA key skills attainment
  • BLM base level monitoring
  • BMR bench marked results

Acronym soup
Some people were adept at speaking this language and would set out an argument comprising four syllable words and acronyms at the end of which I would wonder ‘Was there any content in that or was it was a series of letters strung together?’ Colleagues would usually agree with the speaker, or make an additional long winded comment. At the end of two hours very little progress had been made and people would sigh over the difficulties of advancing such a complex project.
Fast forward 4 years and I am struggling to write a description of traffic entering the port of Calais, watched by migrants eager to cross to the UK. A torrent of words streams into my head – lorries thundering past, the roar of traffic, the hiss of wheels on the wet road. These are all short-hand phrases like the TLAs.  They convey meaning, but not sense. They do not explain how those particular people experience the traffic on that particular day, or what their perception of their situation is. 
Jesus never spoke in clichés.  He either quoted directly from scripture or said something original and unexpected. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kind of heaven.’ This statement is counter cultural in any language.
We are rich in words in this country.  We have a mighty legacy of Chaucer,  Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf, CS Lewis, Man Booker prize winner Anna Burns. Our language has absorbed words from countless other tongues and has changed and adapted over the centuries. New words evolve but we do not necessarily understand what they mean. Anyone for Brexit?
This is my last ACW blog, Liz Manning is taking over this slot. May God give her, and you, good words.

Letitia Mason fell in love with East and Central Africa while teaching at a harambee school in Kenya. She has published Lost Children of Cush, a novel of South Sudan. Tish works for Flame International and lives in Surrey with her husband and a crazy dog.   @TishMason1