Showing posts from 2019

Beating a Retreat by Jane Clamp

As a new departure, I recently had the privilege of leading a retreat for writers at a Christian hotel. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect, with stunning views from the front rooms, warm hospitality and excellent food.

The group soon settled in and we quickly jelled around ice-breaking activities on the first night. The next morning, the course began in earnest with morning sessions focussed on an aspect of the writing craft followed by free afternoons in which to write or relax. After our delicious three-course meal, each evening offered the chance for us to share with each other what we had produced. The pieces were heart-warming, well-crafted and made us both laugh and cry.

I remember well the first ever retreat I went on. Led by the very funny, talented and prolific Nick Page, that week changed my life. Not only did I meet people who have become firm friends, it marked the point where I could say, albeit in a slightly wobbly voice, that I was a writer. Having the opportunit…

A Literary Genius Becomes a Human Being: First Draft Revelations - by SC Skillman

Do we sometimes pause to wonder about those literary masters whom we admire almost as if they occupy a rarefied level of existence above the rest of us?  Shakespeare, for instance, or Homer?

How different might this be if we were to see their first drafts?

I love Jane Austen, and believe 'Pride and Prejudice' is close to being the perfect novel, for many reasons. I know people exist who don't agree with me, but for the sake of argument let us say here, that for me Jane Austen the novelist is a rarefied being.  So recently I feel as if I have seen her in a new light, in a light I might even identify with; I have had an insight into her first draft.

The first draft I'm talking about is, of course, Chapters 1-12 of her last, unfinished, novel, 'Sanditon', which the screenwriter Andrew Davies has recently  adapted and completed for ITV as a very successful and enjoyable drama series.

Even Andrew Davies says of the material he had to work with: "It reads like a…

Questions about quills - by Fran Hill

Sometimes I hanker after a quill such as Shakespeare must have used: that rhythmic dip-shake-scratch-scratch dip-shake-scratch-scratch that gave one time to think in between phrases and clauses.

Yes, I realise about the blots and the unevenness and the general ink-onvenience of it all. But it doesn't stop me wondering whether those weren't the good old days for writers.

Have new technologies been of as much benefit as we think?

I'm a teacher now, but before I trained in my early 40s, I was a medical secretary in the NHS. So, I learned to touch-type when I studied for the Diploma of the Association of Medical Secretaries. I don't think this qualification exists any more, perhaps because it takes so long to say and produces unwanted spittle. 

My typing classes in the late 1970s at Warwickshire College involved learning on manual typewriters in the first year of our two-year course. Here's a picture of one in case you're a young 'un who's never heard of such a…

10 Reasons to Market your own Book by Lucy Rycroft

I sense a tension whenever book marketing posts are discussed in the Association of Christian Writers Facebook group (or, indeed, other online forums of authors and publishers). 
Much responsibility is placed on today's writers to market and sell their own books. Yet those who have been releasing books for decades remember a time when their publisher did it for them - nay, in some cases, even offered (wait for it...) an ADVANCE!! Yes, a real, live financial sum of money to tide them over whilst writing the book. It seems like a fantasy to those of us just starting out in 2019!
Rather than mourn the golden age, I thought it would be good to look at the positives of marketing your own book. I'm just at the end of a three-month period marketing my first book, Redeeming Advent, which has sold twice the number of copies I was hoping it would sell. 
Undoubtedly, a positive, 'can-do' attitude towards book marketing has been at the foundation of my book's success, so here&…

Christmas Presents by Wendy H. Jones

As I write this, Christmas is fast approaching. Trees are starting to go up, children are excited and the Christmas buying frenzy has well and truly begun. When it comes to books, a lot of them are published in November, ready for the Christmas buying season. Whilst other gifts soar and wane in popularity, books endure. When buying a book for someone, it is such a pleasure searching out the perfect one, knowing that it will bring joy to the recipient. For me, there is nothing like unwrapping a book on Christmas Day. But, I hear you say, what if they’ve read it? There is always that possibility. However, seeking out something more esoteric and opening someone’s eyes to new possibilities is exciting. I have found great new authors that way. 
While I am here, can I encourage you to use your local bookshop be it chain or independent. Not forgetting your local Christian Bookshop. I want to give a shoutout to two of my favourites - CLC Dundee and GLO Motherwell. Both are outstanding stores w…

Take a Break

There comes a time in every writers' life when you having a bad day/week/month/year and nothing seems to work. It could be due to physical health problems, mental health problems, issues with the family or any other reason.

When these things happen, accept them. Some days you can push yourself, on others you can't.

Just sit back and read this poem...

Stay true to yourself, look after yourself, live to write and create another day.

History In Stories

Do you like history? I do.

I love historical fiction. My favourite remains The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey which crosses history with a detective story. (Worth checking out if you’re interested in Richard III).

One thing I love about flash fiction is because it must be character led, I can set said characters wherever I want. I’ve written historical flash fiction pieces and implied history with other stories. I’ve also written tales which give nods to famous historical works. Even if you don’t know the characters or background to those works, my stories still make sense. They make more sense if you do know.

Even with a fantastical flash tale, I’ve implied the history of the fantastical character or setting. A line or two is enough usually to give a flavour of the setting, which is all that is needed here.

Whatever we write, our characters have a history, though not all is shown in the story we present to a reader.  I have to outline my characters and know some of their history b…

Making Celebrations Personal by Trevor Thorn

One of the joys I have found in writing is when there is an opportunity to write for a small group of people who share a relationship or experience that can be affirmed or fostered by the writing. I have had a recent opportunity to do this for an 18 year old grandson, Thomas, who, until recently, had been amazingly faithful to a somewhat gruelling weekend job at a local pub. That got celebrated by the following verse which was the third verse of five in a song which was singable to ‘While Shepherds Watched’ - and sung at his family birthday party.

He’s practiced at the Pike and Eel With water cold and hot. There he’s washed several thousand plates And knives and forks and pots.

There was a particularly touching back story to writing this particular song. When Thomas was much younger, I had written a similar type of song for his mum when she turned 40. On the evening of his mum’s celebration, Tom was not at all well and while the song was being sung, he sat himself on his own in the middle …

So that you may know by Tracy Williamson

Last night my beloved Hearing Dog had another epileptic fit.
His third this year.
And I feel shattered and sad.
How are things going to work with my itinerant lifestyle when my dog seems to be getting worse in his condition?.
You may say 'he's only a dog' but he is my friend who constantly gives me unconditional love and hears for me every day.
How does he feel when he fits, is he even aware?
And this whole thing makes me think of the mystery of knowing how it is for others...
What is it like to be me?
What is it like to be you?
What does it feel like to be in constant pain?
Or to live a life disconnected from personal contact?
To know the wonder of a new life being formed within you?
To be in the centre of a loving family or group of friends?
To lose through illness or disability the thing that brought you most joy in the world?
When one friend's face lights up with joy as she describes her son's achievement, and another grieves because of her son';s mental i…

Pushing Through by Nicki Copeland

A week ago my husband had a full knee-replacement operation. It’s a major operation and he’s still in some pain, but he’s recovering well.
This has come at a time when we’re already facing a number of challenges (aren’t we all?!). I was feeling quite apprehensive, and that there’s a lot on my shoulders at the moment. But God is good, and as I was praying about it all, I ‘saw’ him standing right behind me. His shoulders were so much bigger and wider than mine, and able to carry so much more. And they were just a little bit higher than my shoulders. I felt him say to me that he’s there, he’s got my back, and while he isn’t going to take the load from me, he’ll carry it with me.
I was so encouraged by this picture, and it has sustained me through the week. It’s not easy to see someone you love in pain. He’s obviously going to need a lot of support over the coming weeks, and I’m grateful that I work from home so I can be available when I’m needed.
I know this is a season we need to go …

Writing across the generation gap by Eileen Padmore

When this 60s photo from the chapel of Leeds General Infirmary popped up on facebook I did a double take.  No, this wasn't from the dark ages – it was my age!  I started nursing in the mid 60s.  It could have been me!  Difficult to remember that times were ever like this, with services broadcast to the wards.

Now this photo of my grandparents taken at around the end of WW1 – a quaint reminder of bygone times – doesn't seem much more ancient than my era.

So what's the problem?  Only that things have changed enormously and are continuing to do so at an unprecedented pace: the way we communicate, language, punctuation, spelling, grammar, culture.  It has led me to reflect on when is the best time to put down the pen, admit electronic defeat, accept my language is too old fashioned and that the young and even those in middle years may not be able to relate.

I have a book of memoirs in draft – memoirs with a twist, because my life has been unconventional and it is only now that I …

Truth and Post Truth

What is truth?If we Christian writers are asked what business we are in, I think we should reply, ‘the truth business.’ No matter what we write, even if it is fiction and therefore not ‘true’ in the most literal sense, we are always trying to reflect things as they really are. This is in itself a valuable ministry, and it is actually a species of witness, for a witness is a person who reflects something as it really is or was.
Our Lord told Pontius Pilate that he had come to bear witness to the truth, in other words, to reflect to human society things as they really, ultimately are. Pilate’s reply ‘what is truth?’ shouldn’t be automatically be taken as dismissive. It’s actually rather penetrating. We know what ‘the truth’ signifies: it means the array of things that are true, the things of God, ultimately unknowable but mediated in assimilable form by Jesus. But it’s worth thinking about what ‘truth’ without the ‘the’ means.
The earliest meanings of ‘true’ and ‘truth’ (in English) were …
Commitment by Rebecca Seaton

Commitment. My dictionary says to commit is to ‘promise or engage, especially oneself, for some undertaking’ or to ‘dedicate oneself to a cause etc. from a sense of conviction’.

In the Bible, it is clear that we should be committed to God, as He is to us. The sense of conviction is also important. Although there are plenty of examples, especially in the Old Testament, of people dedicated to God by others, like Joshua, Samuel and Samson, today’s believer is called to choose God out of their own conviction. As it says in Joshua 24:15, ‘Choose this day Whom you will serve’. The benefits of this are also clearly stated.

Most of us would also consider we have made a commitment to our writing. Often, ACW is a big part of this. It looks different to different people – for some it’s a dedication to achieve a particular word count, for others it’s to cross off chapters and plan particular sections. It can even be about our commitment to events or other writers. Like…

Famous to God by Emily Owen

One of the joys in my life is my nieces and nephews. An added joy is their love of books. This year, for Christmas/Birthdays, they have, almost without fail, asked me for books (I say ’almost,’ because I won’t mention the ‘unicorn that walks’ request, which bucked the trend rather).

It’s my niece’s birthday this week, and she will be receiving a Pippi Longstocking set of books. I was very delighted when she requested books I loved as a child!

The children have enjoyed books all their lives but, as they grow older, they realise that their crazy aunty, who invents songs and stories just for them, and comes up with silly jokes to make them giggle, actually, um, writes books as well.

Recently, my mum overheard a conversation between Josiah (6) and Abbie (nearly 8, see above):
J: 'Maybe we'll be famous because Aunty Memem (me) writes books.'

A: 'Maybe we're already famous because she put our names in her last book.'

(The last refers to the dedication in God’s Calling…

The voice of the Lord

The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters   
The voice of the Lord is powerful, 
The voice of the Lord is majestic 
The voice of the Lord strikes with flashes of lightening
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert  Psalm 29: 3,4,7,8

These words were highlighted to me in March and how His voice, and the power in us, can be in writing, song or speech.I thought of the written legacy of people in the Bible.I doubt Paul and others dreamt that 2,000 years later we would still be learning from their letters.In our desire to serve the Lord He has given us the Holy Spirit and the ability to help us counteract the sin, anger, negativity and depression that abounds in our world and bring hope.
United Christian Broadcasters celebrate this year 25 years of the Word for Today (WFT) and 10 years of being on National DAB radio. What a testimony of a God who envisioned Ian Mackay to begin broadcasting a Christian message of hope from his …