Showing posts from October, 2016

Harvest and Hallowe’en by Susan Sanderson

Having been assigned the 31st as my date to post something here, I realised immediately that the date is a controversial one in October.  Celebrations of Hallowe’en are regarded with anything ranging from acceptance to horror by different Churches and individual members of the Church.  Merchandise connected with Hallowe’en appears in shops before the start of the autumn term.  More and more families and businesses are putting up decorations.  Here in the UK it is not as prevalent as in the USA, but it is growing.
By 31st October many churches will have celebrated a Harvest Festival or Harvest Thanksgiving.  There is no set date for this.  It is not a Red Letter Day.  By contrast Hallowe’en can be placed in the Church's calendar.  It is the day before All Saints’ Day.
Celebrating and giving thanks for the Harvest is a long tradition.  In the lands where the Bible stories were lived out there were harvests of different crops at different times of year.  In the story of Ruth harvest…

The Christian as Writer

As I look through my own writing I find myself asking this question a lot. What kind of writer am I? Am I a Christian writer whose work is mainly about Christian themes and how they apply to the world around us (my definition), or am I writer who happens to be Christian, in that I write generally, but am a Christian.
Is this important? To me, certainly.
I wouldn’t class myself as a Christian writer. given some of the things I write about, but there are parts of writing that I avoid due to my faith. Sex scenes and swearing are two examples.
Asking myself whether, as a Christian, I should be writing detailed sex scenes, if any at all, is something natural. Sex happens all the time in relationships, while it’s commonly used violently by men who want to control women via rape. Because it happens do I HAVE to write about it?
An answer given to me by another Christian was, ‘if you want to get published, yes.’ Really? As Christians, do we bow before commercial need, or should…


I’ve worshipped God in inner city and country churches, cathedrals, abbeys and, as part of the Baptist Caravan Fellowship when I was growing up, during services held on a field!  The latter were lovely if the weather was right.  We moved indoors if not.  This was usually inside whoever owned the biggest caravan awning!  

One of my favourite memories from that time is of an Airedare cocking its head and howling  when the trumpet was played.  Music critics get everywhere…

Of course true worship isn’t dependent on the building but I was taken with my church’s recent Harvest Festival service.  

I suppose it’s because there is farmland around the village where my church is located so I literally see the connections between farming and food.   It’s too easy not to see how blessed we are. 

The fact there is a greater distance between seeing food produced and it ending up on plates isn’t good.  There is less appreciation for farmers, distributors and so on.  Nothing can take away from the miracl…

A Profound Shock, a Puzzle and Prayer for Healing. by Trevor Thorn

The Shock Since I last posted here a month ago, our world has been upended and we are still in some degree of shock. A protracted cough with accompanying breathlessness lead to a series of scans and a diagnosis that I had Lung Cancer – treatable but not curable, said the doctor. Suddenly everything is a puzzle; everything is an anxiety. Shock abounds, made all the more baffling by the fact that I had never, ever smoked; not even an exploratory teenage puff!
However, A further investigation (bronchoschopy with biopsies) revealed that the condition is not Lung Cancer but Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. So, still a cancer necessitating chemotherapy and probably other treatment, but, we are told by the medics, and through hearing of other peoples’ experiences, that this is both treatable and curable. Treatment started within days giving a profound sense of relief, that there is hope extending beyond just a few months - or even, just weeks. What a difference!
As we have reflected on the uncertainties …

Writing Prayers as Resources, by Lucy Mills

A prayer is a prayer, right?
Some people don't even think that written prayers should be shared publicly; it draws too much attention to the writer. However, in this post I'm not talking about the 'praying on street corners' scenario (some feel that this has some relevance to social media, and I've talked about that here).

But there are people who are looking for prayers as resources - whether for personal use or in a public setting, for a one off or for repeated events. Or, you might include a prayer at the end of an article you've written - I sometimes do this.  Some editors/publications like this, others don't.  I always say it's an optional extra they can use if they want.

Worship resources usually contain prayers. If you're writing for a publication producing such resources, you'll need to do some shaping and honing.

So what makes a good, usable prayer for others to use?  These steps might help:
Give yourself time to reflect and pray 'on…

Justice is Served

By Fiona Veitch Smith
Earlier this month I had the honour of being at an awards dinner with the crème de la crème of British crime and mystery writers. My debut crime novel, The Jazz Files, had been nominated for the Crime Writers’ Association Endeavour Historical Dagger – awarded for the best historical crime or mystery novel published in the United Kingdom in 2015-16.
I was supported by friends and colleagues from my publisher Lion Hudson. We had a fabulous evening, dressed up to the nines and served a top-notch meal, before the business of the night got underway.
The main speaker of the evening was James Runcie, the author of the Grantchester Mysteries, about a vicar who is an amateur sleuth. It is now a TV series. James pointed out that as a genre crime offers an opportunity to morally examine humanity - at their best and worst. Religion, as we know, also deals with the stuff of moral transgression and the resultant need for the world to be put to rights. My publisher, Andrew Hodder-…

Warts and All, by Fiona Lloyd

Anyone else recall the thrill of being given a new exercise book at school? All those neatly-lined pages - hopefully with margins already accurately marked - wrapped in a smooth, colourful cover. To me, they spoke of a fresh start, unencumbered by past mistakes aggressively circled in red pen. A new book bristled with possibilities, and I always felt slightly cheated at the beginning of the academic year if our teacher insisted we complete last year’s book before starting a different one.
And for the first couple of days, I’d do my best to keep my work fault-free, hoping that the red pen marks would come in the form of ticks rather than crosses. Sooner or later, though, my attempts at beautiful handwriting reverted to my usual spider-scrawl. Careless errors resulted in ugly crossings-out and pages plastered with Tippex, while covers became dog-eared through being pulled in and out of my bag. My perfectionist streak was – as usual – disappointed.
As I write this, I’m wearing a silver ba…

Back to Normal

I wrote last month about how J. R. R. Tolkien’s hopes for a bright future—creative, academic, matrimonial—were dashed in 1914 by the unexpected descent of Europe into chaos and carnage. His biographer, John Garth, tells us that Tolkien confided to a Catholic professor friend his feeling that he had received a ‘profound blow’—‘the collapse of all my world’, as he later called it. The professor coolly replied that ‘this war was no aberration: on the contrary, for the human race it was merely “back to normal”.’*
The Catholic professor’s view seems to have been that greed, anger, aggression, conflict, violence, cruelty, and callousness are the norm of human society, while generosity, patience, restraint, peaceableness, kindness, and gentleness are the aberration. What a terrifying thought!
There is a photo from the Conservative Party conference going the rounds. The Prime Minister has her arm raised exultingly. Her hand covers the three prongs of the capital letter ‘E’ in the slogan behind …

Anecdote: Pine Cone - by Helen Murray

Sometimes, God does things for no other reason than to make us smile. Don't you think so?

Take the other day, for instance. God knows that I love pine cones. He knows that I can't walk past a pine cone without picking it up, and if it's in good condition I can't help but bring it home.  As a result, we have a pile of pinecones in the rockery, more on the bookshelves and still more hanging about on various window sills.
There's something about a pine cone. Long ones, thin ones, fat ones, big round ones - they're just lovely. The shape of them, the shadows, the texture, the fragrance. Some of them remind me of the place I picked them up; sentimental value. Yes, I have a thing for pine cones. 
Let me tell you a little story.

I was small, maybe six or seven, and I was on holiday with my family. Where, I don't remember. We were walking along a path and there were pine-cone-trees right and left. There was dappled sunlight and lots of pine cones on the floor, and …

Upside Down Stories

It’s been a rough few months in the house of Robson. In the forefront has been trying to sort out support for our daughter who is both gifted and has additional needs, which feels like it’s been a long, hard slog. Getting diagnoses has been a bizarre mix of relief and sadness. Dyslexia, autism, sensory processing disorder, gifted - these words have played a larger part in our conversations recently than we ever imagined they would, and have at times seemed overwhelming.

But the more reading and talking and midnight research we’ve done, the more we’ve heard the voices of people saying, what if these things we fear and labels we’ve been given aren’t actually bad? What if they just make her different? What if the negatives can be turned into positives?

With Amelia, this is glaringly obvious. Not being able to write legibly belies her ability to plan pictorially or using mind maps. Her inability to convey her thoughts on paper pales into insignificance when listening to her talk about he…

He knows the desires of our Ruth Johnson

“It shall also come to pass  that before they call,  I will answer;  and while they are still speaking,  I will hear.”      Isaiah 65:24
The Lord is always with us on our life journey, and in these days many of God’s people have a sense of expectancy.It comes with the belief He’s not just in control, but in the background is preparing for us to know and experience Him in ways we’ve not yet known.
Our personal journey continues, the crossroads are past, the way ahead is going beyond the trees (earlier crossroad picture) into sunlight.  I sense a hill to climb, nothing too strenuous, but it will give us a view, perspective and understanding of what lies ahead in this next phase of our lives.Like me, many reading this will have unfulfilled desires and are still waiting on God's promises to be activated. But as our heavenly Father loves to bless us he can do so before we call.  Our friends of forty years announced they were moving from Yorkshire to Bristol near where we live. Their house…

Endings and beginnings by Sue Russell

Over the past few years I seem to have acquired a small group of very elderly people with whom I try to keep in contact, either by phone or visit, from time to time. Two ladies were close friends of my mother's,
and I resolved when my mum died to keep in touch with them, however infrequently. This was more for my benefit than theirs, a way of keeping some kind of contact with my mother and her world. Ella, at just turned 90, is the youngest and fittest of the bunch, still living in her immaculate bungalow, mobile and reasonably healthy. Doris, on the other hand, is crippled with painful arthritis in knees and hips and has almost completely lost her sight. However, until very recently she was sharp and well-informed and full of good humour, and was one of the people for whom I regularly brought back wine from France! A favourite quote from Doris, who in better times loved to go out for lunch with friends: 'I don't mind, just as long as I can get out of the  car and into the…

A very mature student, by Veronica Zundel

Previously on More than Writers: In the last episode, I was waiting to hear whether I'd got on an MA course in Writing Poetry, run jointly by the Poetry School in Lambeth Walk, and Newcastle University. The story continues...

Well folks, I got into the course, and have now been on it three weeks, although I didn't get the formal offer till after the induction day, and haven't been asked for a single penny in payment yet! (long may it last...). So my weekly routine now includes a trip to my old stamping grounds in Waterloo and southwards therefrom, for a seminar with 10 other students of all ages and backgrounds (I'm glad to say I'm not the oldest in the group), to be quizzed on our reading from the week before and given the reading for the next week, as well as other tasks: last week the tutor asked us to write a ballad in 15 minutes, either based on a traditional ballad or inspired by an item in the news. Not a method to be recommended for producing great poetry!

20 ways to help you beat the blank page by Joy Lenton

There it sits - blank, clean, virgin-white - a new page on which to write. A fresh start. New work waiting to be expressed. So why does my heart palpate, find the blankness icily chilling instead of inviting? It's such a small thing to halt a writer with hesitation.

All those what-ifs scream out our previous failures - ink-blotted scribbles, deficient daubs, lackadaisical prose and inability to colour well within the lines of art.

It must be overcome, of course, or we would never start our potential masterpiece, beguiling blog post, pretty poetry, or just our everyday ordinary showing up to offer a faithful labour of love at the altar of creativity.

All art begins with a mark. all creativity invites us to start with something. So where to begin to leave our mark when a mind feels bereft of thought? It's a dilemma whether we're staring at a blank screen or pristine page. Fear of making a mess can stop us in our tracks, because who wants to screw up before we've barely begu…