Showing posts from May, 2016

'They serve him best' by Eve Lockett

Milton – on his blindness When I consider how my light is spent Ere half my days in this dark world and wide, And that one talent which is death to hide Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent To serve therewith my Maker, and present My true account, lest he returning chide; "Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?" I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need Either man's work or his own gifts; who best Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed And post o'er land and ocean without rest: They also serve who only stand and wait.” We have probably heard the last line quoted so often it has become a proverb. But do we know the whole poem? I had to learn it at primary school, which tells you a bit about my age and my English teacher. What is Milton saying? In fact, only the use of the word ‘light’ tells us he is talking about his own loss of sight. The title was added many decade…

There's a Cello on my Table, by Fiona Lloyd

There’s a cello on my kitchen table…
Well, it worked, didn’t it? A strong opening sentence that drew you in – otherwise, you wouldn’t have read this far. A good first line sparks off all sorts of questions in our heads and makes us want to find out more.
In writing terms, this is known as a hook: something that will grab the reader’s attention and motivate them to keep reading. It’s a concept that’s equally relevant to both fiction and non-fiction, and for short and long pieces. Most writing courses emphasise the importance of having a strong first line (which is probably why they’re often the hardest to get right).
A good first sentence whets our appetite for the rest of the story. It conveys information about the style of the book, but only enough to entice us further in. However, they can also be used to inspire our writing.
A few months ago, our local ACW group had a workshop on short-story writing. Being a practical bunch, we spent part of the day writing our own pieces based on one…

Gifted Christian Apologist

I don’t suppose many ACW blog readers get to see the Journal of Inklings Studies. It’s understandably quite expensive, and rather erudite. I have just been lent a copy of the April 2016 volume, which contains a wonderful article by A. O. J. Cockshut, ‘C. S. Lewis in Post-War Oxford’. There’s only space to share a few titbits, but here we go.

After setting the scene in 1945, the author describes Lewis. ‘I have never to this day seen a man of high intellectual attainments who so little looked the part’, he says. He appeared to be dressed in gardening clothes; was thickset with very ruddy cheeks,  a heavy jaw, and dull eyes; and resembled someone you might find propping up a bar. But when he spoke ‘one heard .. a great blast of sound, rapid, eloquent, allusive, and witty’.
Describing Lewis’s teaching, Cockshut avers ‘I can say without hesitation that Lewis was the best lecturer that I ever heard.’ When he lectured on medieval authors such as Chaucer and Langland he took you to the sources …

In the night and in the morning - by Helen Murray

I like sleeping, and I'm good at it.

The secret to my success is practice. I practice often, and for as long as I can. I hope that when the time comes for me to depart this world the end might come while I'm asleep, and then those who know me well will wipe away a tear and say, 'Well, she died doing what she loved doing most...'

The thing is, sleep has not been going well, lately. I've lost my mojo. Most often it goes like this: I wake in the night for no obvious reason and my head is so cram-jam full of things that I can't get back to sleep again. I lie and watch the red digital numbers on my bedside clock as they flick closer and closer to the awfulness of Getting Up Time and try in vain to empty my mind of all the stuff that's clogging it up and stopping the dreams from coming.

Here's a little story from the other night.

2:26am. Desperate shrieks from Katy's room. Surely she was being stung by a thousand wasps, or the roof was falling in, or some…

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week has been Mental Health Awareness Week, so it seems only fitting that I should write something about mental health, seeing as it’s a bit of a specialist subject of mine. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of working with people struggling with eating disorders and self harm, but I also come at it from the other side because I have bipolar disorder. I’m stable at the moment, praise God, but it’s not something I can guarantee will always be the case. 
For me, writing and my mental health have always been inextricably linked. I started out my writing career with a memoir of my own battles with self-harm, but I’ve written since before the book-seed was even geminated. I wrote about my feelings, my experiences, about life, faith and God. From a very young age writing was, first and foremost, a form of catharsis I couldn’t get from anything else. Cathartic writing is rarely for pubic reading (see my first ever ACW blog post), but writing feelings out rather than keeping them in h…

The joy of the Lord is our strength by Ruth Johnson

"You will go out with joy, 
And be led forth with peace; 
The mountains and the hills will break forth into song before you, 
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12

At this crossroads I am continuing to ask God, “What are the ancient paths we should walk in? For our land, built on Christianity, I’ve yet to see a prophetic word that believes ‘the good way’ is staying in Europe.But, when it comes to the path our lives should take, there isn’t a signpost or a clue of which way to go.Therefore I’m saying as Moses did in Exodus 33:15, “If you Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
The above verses imbedded in song over forty years ago jumped into my head.In thinking of trees clapping I first thought of Lord of the Rings where the trees uprooted and marched to the battle, and then on to the blind man’s answer after Jesus touched his eyes. “I see people that look like trees walking.” When Jesus touched his eyes again “he saw everything clea…

From there to here - part 2 by Sue Russell

I concluded last month's post with the sending of a hefty paper package to America. It was a turning point - perhaps because it represented a higher level of commitment than I'd previously admitted to, even to myself, not only in terms of financial outlay but also in having to overcome that feeling of dread ( familiar I am sure to many of you!) as you send your manuscript out into what may well be a very critical world.

Donna did me a number of favours for which I shall always be thankful. She line-edited 150 pages - beyond her brief - so that I was able to see how I'd gone wrong with formatting, especially with dialogue. Then in the taped critique she sent she gave me examples of what she called 'the screen going blank,' something I was particularly guilty of: in other words page on page of dialogue where there were few, if any, anchors in the physical world. Just inserting a line or two about what the characters were doing or some small thing happening allowed th…

Let's not hurl, by Veronica Zundel

On Ascension Day recently I attended a service based around a very impressive performance of Bach's Cantata 43,  'Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen' (God goes up with rejoicing). The service sheet contained the original German with a parallel translation - which, however, was not as impressive as the playing and singing. When we got to the alto aria, the German had these words:

'Ich sehe schon im Geist,
 Wie er zu Gottes Rechten,
 Auf seine Feinde schmeisst'

which were translated as:

'I see already in spirit
how he hurls God's righteousness
at his enemies'.

Now those of you with any German will immediately spot that this is a total mistranslation. 'Zu Gottes Rechten' does not mean 'God's righteousness' but 'at God's right hand'. So the correct translation would be 'I see already in spirit how at God's right hand he smites his enemies'. But this translation error got me thinking. How often are we guilty in our speaki…

When you're living in the overwhelm instead of the overflow by Joy Lenton

Emotional doesn't begin to describe how I've felt over the last few months. 
It's been a roller-coaster ride, with frequent dipping low to ground. 
During my dark season of the soul, I struggled to write, feel creative or be encouraged. Ironically, it also coincided with self-publishing my book. 
Talk about bad timing. :( It was accompanied by guilt for feeling this way as a blood-bought, born-again daughter of God.
As an encourager, I felt adrift, and anxious about how to help others when I was so discouraged myself. 
When I listened too intently to my emotions, life felt pretty grim, devoid of joy and peace. I struggled to find myself in the maelstrom, never mind see where God was in all of this.
Am I suggesting we shouldn't be in tune with our mental state? Not at all. It's how we experience the rich variety of feelings at our disposal, and a means of discerning deep desires that aid us in shaping purpose and plans. 
But we're not meant to live in a constant state …

Celebrating the little things By Claire Musters

If you are anything like me, you will have your sights set on that end goal: finishing your book, finding a publisher, seeing your book on the shelves of bookshops…
While I know quite a few of our members have books just out or about to be out, for many of us, that process can be extremely long-winded and can get us down. Others may be writing for a different reason and so it isn’t all about chasing that elusive publisher. The end goal may be different, but we still tend to focus on whatever it is and perhaps miss what is going on around us in the here and now.
Wherever you are at today, I just want to encourage you to celebrate the little triumphs that you have along the way.
We can be such sensitive souls, taking every knock back and every struggle over scenes in our books so much to heart, and yet we gloss over the good things that happen in our writing processes such as what we learn about ourselves through the struggle, or the pure joy when we FINALLY get that sentence, which w…