Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Does “More than” include Multimedia?

Regular readers of this More than Writers blog will have read about Scargill House, where some members of the Association of ChristianWriters (ACW) congregate for an annual weekend of inspiration about writing.

I am fortunate to have been there for the last three of these weekends and also for a water-colour painting weekend last summer. The ACW weekend took place three weeks before the painting weekend. Thoughts from the former were still trundling around in my head when I should have been sleeping on the first night of the latter.

I was half awake, thinking about the theme of the writing weekend – Dodging the gatekeepers. The gatekeepers had been presented as being those circumstances or people, who try to prevent us from making an impact through our creativity. They do not even need to be external influences.

My thoughts led to an idea for something I wanted to paint, but did not believe I was skilful enough to do justice to. (I hadn’t done any water-colour painting for years.) In spite of my lack of confidence, I decided to try.

The following afternoon, when there were options for walking or painting indoors or out, I took my painting kit to the walled garden, found a bench to sit on and began. Another course member was sitting painting farther into the garden. When I had finished we compared our paintings and had a chat. I told her about the gatekeepers. She told me about how she had felt held back by her early experiences of the education system. Sometimes putting things like that into words can be part of letting them go and moving on.
The gatekeepers

Almost a year on I showed a photo of my painting to Bridget Plass, who had been one of the leaders on the dodging the Gatekeepers weekend. She recognised it as being the walled garden with two figures one outside and one inside. I hope it is fairly obvious what they are supposed to represent. I used the old design of the gate, rather than the new accessible electrically powered one, because I liked the idea that the garden (representing paradise, perhaps) was completely hidden from the outside.

Thinking about it now, the gates can provide their own illustrations. The new gate not only allows more people access, but also gives a glimpse from outside of what wonders are in store. How many ways can we find a glimpse of something more than this life?
Inside the walled garden in June 2018

I illustrate my posts here with my own photos, but I have waited a year to post this painting. Perhaps I am more confident about my photography having been taught by Dad, who was a keen amateur photographer.

What holds you back from being creative and sharing your creations with others?
Have you any tips for dodging the gatekeepers?

(For a proper explanation of "More than" please read Andrew Chamberlain's recent post.)

Monday, 30 July 2018

The Heatwave

For those of you who haven't noticed, we've had a heatwave in the UK.

Some people have been out enjoying the sunshine and the heat, some have wished it could be hotter (yes those people do exist), while others, like me, have been melting.

Really warped people have used it to get a tan and spend time outdoors in what they laughingly call 'fresh air'. [spine shivers]

People are different.

Comedian Paul Merton wrote a small piece giving advice to those who want to be comedians. Amongst his advice is a statistic that made me think. As a panelist on Have I Got News For You, he reaches about 5 million people weekly with his humour. In Paul's words that means that 60 million people in the UK have no idea who he is.

Then there are the comedians that Radio 4 listeners will know, such as Milton Jones, John Finnemore and Lucy Montgomery who have even less exposure, but are still known by tens of thousands and unknown by the vast bulk of the population.

It's the same with authors.

A few will be known by millions, some by hundreds of thousands, quite a few by tens of thousands and a significant number by a few thousand.

All of it can change in a matter of months.

A TV show (Miranda), a best selling book (JK Rowling), a film of your book (Life of Pi) or a TV show (Me? I can dream)

Don't worry about how many or few people know who you are. Write good books, grow your audience and take a chance when it's offered.

You could end being known by millions or just by a few thousand.

Whichever happens, you're still doing well.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

On Criticism

How do you handle criticism?  I don’t handle negativity well and have never understood how anyone can be a troll.  Why the hostility?  Answers on a postcard… hang on, maybe not.  (Might need more than a postcard!). 

Say it on a postcard, then again maybe not.  Image via Pixabay

Being a fairytale fan, I always did like how the biggest of the Billy Goats Gruff tackled trolls but the method used was not Christian, forgiving, or available to most annoyed writers!

How do your characters handle criticism by others in your stories? Getting depth into a story means it needs layers and well developed characters are key to this.  How they react to being criticized will reveal so much about them to your readers.  I build my characters up a piece at a time.  Yes, you can have layers in flash fiction.  There is always more to my characters than appears at first reading! 

Do your characters think things through before reacting to criticism?  Do you?  Image via Pixabay
Firstly I have a rough idea of what their major trait is, secondly I work out appearance, what clothes they wear etc, and lastly I know their relationships.  I also know what state those relationships are in.  My characters’ attitudes will be key to whether those relationships stay the same, improve or decline.   Isn’t that true for us all?!

With flash fiction, most of what I know about my characters never makes it into the story.  There isn’t the word count available but this preparation still helps as it isolates those crucial points the reader needs  so I know what I must include. I still need to know why a character has this attitude to something or someone before I can write the story showing you that.
A clean sheet can lead to fascinating characters as you develop them.  Image via Pixabay.
I put what I’ve written aside before I evaluate my story.  I ask what would readers make of this?  One advantage of flash fiction is you must grab people’s attention quickly and “hit the ground running”.  Unlike a novel, you’re not in for a marathon, or a standard short story where I’d say the reader was in for a “sprint”.  With flash, it’s the dash and that’s it but the story must still grip people for long enough.
When you review your own work, you need to be as objective as possible.  Image via Pixabay.

The elapse of time makes it easier for me to see my story as if I was reading it for the first time.  There must be a psychological reason for this - any thoughts on that please comment, I’d love to know - but the gap means I pick up things missed on first read through.  As you read through your story, ask yourself is this too wordy? Does the reader absolutely need this?

Will your story have the impact on your readers the way you think?  The images they conjure  up may not match yours! Image via Pixabay.
I have found when I’ve done this and the story is out there, online or in a collection, criticism from others, where it is well written and thoughtful, helps me improve what I do for next time.  There is always room for improvement for next time!  As for criticism that puts other writers down, as long as YOU know you have put your all into what you have written, nothing else matters.

Happy writing!
Judging your work objectively enough means giving yourself enough time away from it.  Image via Pixabay

Friday, 27 July 2018

The Missing Element - Where's the cream in my raspberry turnover? by Tracy Williamson

My friend Marilyn and I are on holiday at the moment and  have indulged a little in various naughty offerings! However, above all other temptations, the best is the  raspberry cream turnover sold by Morrison's.  It is yummy, even nicer than the cakes in all the fancy bakeries and tea rooms that proliferate in this seaside town.
At first we resisted temptation, but Morrison's is literally just across the road from where we are staying...Three days passed then we  cracked.  On the pretence of getting some milk I ran down the road and soon found myself paying not just for a litre of semi skimmed but a pack of two delectable looking raspberry turnovers.
We thought we'd be very good and share one between us instead of a whole one each.  So I got out the plates, cut one turnover in half, made the tea and we sat down to enjoy.  Marilyn took one bite and said in a heartbroken tone, 'where's the cream?'  I thought she meant it had less cream than usual so I tried my own, only to find there was no cream at all.  We were eating a creamless raspberry cream turnover!
We still ate them and they were ok, sort of nice but nothing like the luxurious indulgence we'd anticipated.  Something was missing and the lovely pastry and sharply sweet raspberry filling just didn't make up for the lack of that most important element, the cream. 
As I mourned our loss, the thought came to me - how often do we miss out the most important element, both in our writing and even sometimes in life?  If the lack of cream makes such a difference to a cake, how much more if we somehow miss out the very thing that will make our writing or our lives come alive?

But can this really happen? 
Well, sometimes I've tried so hard to finish, for example, a series of Bible notes by the deadline, that it's all become focussed around finding the right words, adding some pithy insights and  a bit of personal story to make it 'real'. Then relief, another one done, correct word count, bible passage  explored, one down, thirteen to go!
But somehow I've missed something.
The most important thing.....

The point of a raspberry cream turnover is that you indulge.
And surely the point of a Bible reading is that you inspire?
But suppose in all my deadline meeting efforts to get the right passage, insights and 'feel', I've missed the actual Source of inspiration Himself?
Or what if I'm writing my own story?
Surely the point of a good memoir is that in engaging with someone else's story we feel more empowered to live our own?
But if I've focussed so much on all the details and facts will I be missing out the cream, that vital element of reality and empathetic sharing that will empower and inspire my readers?
What makes a thriller thrill?
Or a comedy truly side splitting?
Or a Christian teaching book, life changing?
Or a poem, searching?
Or a life truly lived to the full?

What creates the cream and provides the missing element?

With our turnover tragedy I'm glad to say that Marilyn and I found a wonderful solution.  We had a tiny amount of double cream in a jug and decided to whip it up.  It made the equivalent of 2 heaped dessert spoonful's.
Just enough to spread a nice bit into each half of the other turnover.
It was yummy!
So much nicer than the first one!
All it needed was a bit of cream and it was perfect!.

We added it in ourselves, that missing most important element.
And I thought,  What do I need to add to my devotionals, bible readings, stories, life....? 
And I realised, if I want to inspire, nothing can equal letting the Lord inspire me first.
If I want to make others laugh, I need to let the Lord open my eyes to life's humour and learn to laugh myself.
If I want to write a thriller do I understand what scares me or makes me live on the edge of suspense?
If I want a reader to enter into my own story and be helped by it, have I taken time to encounter myself and the Lord in the deeper areas of my life first and so share my story from that real place?

The Lord and His life transforming encounters with me provide that missing element.

We took our cream and added it in and the turnover came alive.
So what do I have, what have I experienced, what is my life about?
How does the Lord bless me?  What do I miss and long for? what makes me laugh, cry, scream , guffaw, love, give up, climb mountains, persevere, write, live, have faith?
What impassions me, what gives me joy and hope?

I am sure now that if I can spend time with the Lord finding these elements and letting all I am and all I do flow from them, then the turnover of my writing, my life and my ability to inspire and influence will be full, overflowing and yes, yummy!

Tracy Williamson is an author and speaker working together with the blind gospel singer songwriter Marilyn Baker for the charity MBM Trust -   Tracy, who is deaf and partially sighted shares a home with Marilyn in Kent.  Tracy has written several books on hearing God's voice and being inwardly transformed by His Spirit.  Her latest book, The Father's Kiss will be published by Authentic Media on 7th September.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Any elderly carers out there ....? by Eileen Padmore

This is my third blog.  The more observant will have noticed I am not averse to tackling tricky subjects like dead goldfish or the less than beautiful face of Jesus Christ.  This time I'm going to write about the caring role - or rather, the less talked about side of that role - from a third age perspective.

I'm well qualified.  Half my forty years of marriage have been spent as main carer for elderly grandparents and parents - and I claim relevant professional experience as a former member of a multi-disciplinary elderly care team: my remit to facilitate hospital discharge and prevent readmission.

We are all living longer, with many predicted to score a century.  An emerging demographic sees elderly folks attempting to care for those in extreme old age.  I retired a decade ago, and all of that time have cared for parents in their eighties then nineties.  Dad died five years ago at ninety-six and now Mum has achieved the same age.

I count it a great privilege (most of the time) to be able to care for parents who were self sacrificing, caring and put up with an awful lot of hassle from me - notably in teenage mode.  Role reversal time. Formal recognition of this came when they arrived on my doorstep one Mothering Sunday, offering a large bunch of flowers with,  'We're your children now'!

It's a family tradition to care for our elderly at home - a way of living out the Christian faith in everyday life?  My mother managed it - at great personal sacrifice I realise in retrospect.  She was released at age sixty-two when Grandma died.  I am a comfortable decade on from that.

My distant nurse training has helped me manage the role up to a point.  I remember long lists of signs, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment: neat identification of problems with attendant solutions.  There was a certain pride in recognising or anticipating Dad's issues and coming up with a fix every time.

But the day came when we crossed a line ....... when he strayed into the foggy world of dementia and neither Mum nor I was able to cope with his needs.  It broke our hearts when we ran out of answers and had to place him in a nursing home.  Recently I crossed a line with Mum when her function took a downturn with a stroke.

Memoirs about a life spent in looking after the elderly will need to be parked whilst I concentrate full time once more on the role itself, mobilising support to keep Mum at home.  No space here to talk about the knotty problem of managing the carer role whilst maintaining good relationships with siblings - a minefield for the unwary.

Perhaps more some time?

Does this blog fulfil the brief to cover Christianity and writing?  Not sure.  I'll leave you to decide.......

Eileen Padmore has retired from a life spent in health care and academia, having worked in Sierra Leone, Zambia, Eire and Northern Ireland (in the troubles) as well as inner city Birmingham and Leeds.  She has had articles published in 'Woman Alive', Christian Writer' and recently contributed to the popular ACW Lent book.  Married for forty years to a professional musician, the family includes a feisty springer spaniel and a large African tortoise.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The Shape of Things to Come

From almost the beginning, Christianity has had its very own science fiction, fantasy epic genre: End Times Prophecy. As we all know, it’s a heady concoction, brewed from the apocalyptic teachings of Our Lord in the Gospels, the Book of Revelation, the Book of Daniel, and 2 Thessalonians chapter 2. And as we also all know, it all culminates in a mysterious and terrifying key figure, Antichrist: the crucial contribution of 1 John chapter 2. Countless writers, from Justin Martyr in the second century to Hal Lyndsey and others in our own times, have tried to turn this welter of prediction into a coherent programme of events and to work out, if possible, who the terrible figure of the Antichrist will be.
Embed from Getty Images

If you and I had been Bible-believing Christians living in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, and maybe even later in some parts of these islands, we would have had no doubt whatever about the identity of Antichrist. On the Reformation view, his current incarnation is that peace-loving clerical gentleman from Argentina who goes about Rome in a white cape and a skullcap, known as Papa Francesco. Yes, the Pope was Antichrist and Antichrist was the Pope. As the excellent article on Antichrist in Dr William Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Volume I, 1875, says:

That the Pope and his system are Antichrist was taught by Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Melancthon, Bucer, Beza, Calixtus, Bengel, Michaelis, and by almost all Protestant writers on the Continent. Nor was there any hesitation on the part of English theologians to seize the same weapon of offense...The Pope is Antichrist, say Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Hooper, Hutchinson, Tyndale, Sandys, Philpot, Jewell, Rogers, Fulke, Bradford. Nor is the opinion confined to these 16th century divines, who may be supposed to have been specially incensed against Popery. King James held it, as strongly as Queen Elizabeth.

It was not actually made an article of faith, but the ordinary person found it much easier to grasp than many of the obscurer of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. On 5 November every year an effigy of the Pope is still burnt alongside that of Guy Fawkes in Lewes (admittedly, an effigy of Paul V, the Pope in 1605, not Francis).

Now, there are some curious paradoxes involved in this. The first paradox is how odd it is, when you think about it, that something like this could become an accepted doctrine of the church. Doctrines are normally about timeless spiritual truths rather than the identity of  particular people. The Creeds mention only two people apart from the Lord: his mother Mary and his crucifier Pilate, and they are only there to support the doctrines of Christ’s Incarnation and Passion. There are no doctrines about Judas or Caiaphas or Herod or John the Baptist.

So why was the doctrine that the Papacy is Antichrist so attractive? There are two possible reasons. Firstly, the Reformers had boldly rejected a sizeable catalogue of Roman (Catholic) beliefs and practices. People might have taken these to be just a random set of misguided heresies that had accumulated over the centuries, and might have questioned whether there was any logic behind this wholesale rejection. The Reformers’ case would be greatly strengthened by the idea that they were an interconnected web of mischief all emanating from a single dark source, one foretold long ago, even before the coming of Christ. And secondly, there already existed a Catholic doctrine about an individual person: the doctrine that St. Peter was the Rock on which the global Church was built and the first Bishop of Rome and hence his successors were the head of the whole Church. Branding them as the Antichrist neatly disposed of that claim.

The second paradox is that whereas the Reformation sprang fresh from the New Learning of the post-medieval era, with its better understanding of the historical background of Scripture, the identification of the Pope with Antichrist is actually medieval. Joachim of Fiore first suggested that a Pope would be the Antichrist around 1200, and soon thereafter the idea that the Papacy itself was the Antichrist began to get about and became popular with many groups, some orthodox and others more or less heretical. So this particular article of belief was not a discovery of the Reformers—they borrowed it from medieval Catholics.

The third paradox was revealed to me in reading Dr Smith’s article already referred to. It takes all the relevant Biblical passages at face value—there’s not a hint of liberal theology or Biblical criticism. It works its way very clearly and convincingly to certain conclusions. John’s Antichrist is Paul’s Man of Sin, and is also the Second Beast of the Apocalypse, the false prophet. Daniel’s Little Horn is the First Beast of the Apocalypse; it is not a person but what Smith calls a ‘polity’; it lasts for three and a half ‘times’; it is in fact the corrupted church denoted by Paul’s ‘apostasia’ or ‘falling away’ (in 2 Thessalonians); it is not the Antichrist. Babylon is the harlot riding the First Beast (the references to the seven hills, among other things, make it clear that Babylon is indeed Rome), so Rome is seated upon the corrupted church. Don’t worry if you’re confused; what matters is Dr Smith’s conclusion: since Babylon is destroyed in Revelation 18, but the Antichrist, the Second Beast, is still active in Revelation 19, the harlot Rome cannot possibly be Antichrist.

Dr Smith says:

Indeed there is hardly a feature in the Papal system which is similar in its lineaments to the portrait of Antichrist as drawn by St. John, however closely it may resemble Babylon.

Whatever faults the Papacy may have or have had, being Antichrist is not one of them. All that trouble the Reformers gave us could have been spared if they had not followed their medieval predecessors so blindly!

So who does Dr Smith think the Antichrist will be? He says:

It would appear further that there is to be evolved from the womb of the Corrupt Church, whether after or before the fall of Rome does not appear, an individual Antichrist, who, being himself a scoffer and contemner of all religion, will yet act as the patron and defender of the Corrupt Church, and compel men to submit to her sway by the force of the secular arm and by means of bloody persecutions. He will unite the old foes superstition and unbelief in a combined attack on liberty and religion. He will have, finally, a power of performing lying miracles and beguiling souls, being the embodiment of satanic as distinct from brutal wickedness. How long his power will last we are wholly ignorant, as the three and a half times do not refer to his reign (as is usually imagined), but to the continuance of the apostasia. We only know that his continuance will be short. At last he will be destroyed together with the Corrupt Church, in so far as it is corrupt, at the glorious appearance of Christ, which will usher in the millennial triumph of the faithful and hitherto persecuted members of the Church.
So, an irreligious, lying scoffer, empowered by prejudice to attack liberty, and relying on the support of thousands of Christians whose lifestyle and attitudes are dubiously Christlike.
Does this remind you of anyone?

Sunday, 22 July 2018


Today is my Grandma’s birthday, and she’s going to have a surprise. I think it’s fine to write about it in this blog, even though the blog will post before her surprise has happened. After all, if my Grandma checks Facebook/the internet, I’ll be the one getting a surprise!

Grandma thinks she is going out for lunch with a few members of the family.  What she doesn’t know is that, in fact, almost her entire family will be there, including all her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

All the family are different.  Some more chatty than others, some funnier than others (or so they like to think), some more active than others…you get the point. But we all want to be there to celebrate Grandma.

It made me think of ACW.  When I joined, I thought it would be nice to connect with some other Christian writers.  What I didn’t know is that a whole community would be there.

I know we are all different.  We write in different styles, different genres. Some of us are more chatty than others, more active than others. But, in my time as an admittedly less chatty member, if I had to sum up in one word the sense I get from the ACW Facebook group, ‘support’ would come very close.  
But it wouldn’t quite win. 
‘Celebration’ would pip it to the post.
People’s achievements are celebrated, every day. 
We rejoice with each other.

We also commiserate with each other. 
Writing can be tough and there are down times as well as up.  
So should I change my ‘summing up ACW’ word? Perhaps celebration isn’t quite right. 

Or perhaps it is. 

One of the joys, to me, of ACW is that, through each other, we are enabled to realise that the down times aren’t the end of the world.  There will always, more than likely, be someone who can say, ‘yes, I’ve been there, and I know it’s tough, but it doesn’t last forever’.  
And I think that’s something to celebrate, don’t you?!

I hope my Grandma likes her surprise even half as much as I like the surprise of discovering the ACW community.  More than that, I hope she is blessed as we celebrate her today, just as I am blessed through ACW.
So thank you all, so much.  Let’s keep celebrating each other’s ups and downs, knowing that we, too, are celebrated.

What one word would you use to sum up ACW?

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Godly assignments

 For this commandment which I command you today is not too mysterious for you, nor is it far off. 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”       Deut 30;11 & 14

My June contribution was written before going on holiday in the belief that having reached 250 reasons to bless the Lord I’d continue that assignment on holiday.  But that didn’t fit in with the lazy, hazy, days of sun, sand and Sangria, and I felt guilty on my return.   I consulted the Lord but didn't feel stimulated or inspired to make the thousand.
I’d no idea that next day I’d have a new assignment to join with hundreds of people investing prayer and money in a friend now in US for ground-breaking DNA cancer treatment. Her grapefruit size tumour shrank to an avocado before she contracted sepsis and pneumonia. Hearing that I'd a revelation about resurrection life and faith to believe for it.  Within days she was awake eating porridge, but I still felt to contend for her life.  Three days later she relapsed, the doctors about  to switch off the life support machines had shivers run down their spines when her eyes opened and since she’s making a remarkable recovery.
On 30th June  I read this excerpt from UCB’s Word for Today: “When you know what your God-given assignment in life is, and that God is on your side, you become virtually unstoppable. Here are fourteen helpful questions to ask yourself:

1) What desires have been living in me most of my life?
2) What motivates me to work hard and be productive?
3) What keeps me going forward when I’m worn out?
4) What makes me refuse to quit when I meet with resistance?
5) What do I do that doesn’t seem like work?
6) What do I do that brings a positive response and support from people?
7) What am I doing or what’s happening in my life when doors seem to open automatically and effortlessly? 
8) What do wise leaders and godly counsellors think about my work?
9) What makes me feel good about being who I am?
10) What makes my creative juices flow?
11) What am I willing to sacrifice in order to accomplish it?
12) What am I doing that I’d be proud to offer for God’s approval?
13) What would I do without being paid for it if I could afford to?
14) What would I be willing to withstand Satan on, in order to accomplish this?”

When sharing this at my Life Group we only got to Question 1.  It quickly became apparent that God put desires in our hearts from a very early age, and long before we made any commitment to Him.  Our ages are around seventy and we'd seen God outworking desires in our lives, some had outgrown our expectations, others still awaited fulfilment.   

Peter wrote that we are living stones being built into a spiritual house. God-given desires come with the gifts, talents, skills and ability to fulfil them.  It’s in unity God says He’ll command the blessing and I'm seeing as His people support and promote one another our desire to build the Kingdom of God on earth will be unstoppable. 
                                                                        Ruth Johnson

Friday, 20 July 2018

A Call to Work

I’ve been working hard on getting some stories ready to publish.
And, as much as I love it, it is hard work.

My Writer's Survival Kit
I’ve been wrestling with point of view (POV) a lot. I’m working on a story that starts from the perspective of a young girl. She doesn’t know all that has happened, and some of the stuff she does know, she doesn’t understand. So, I’ve been trying figure out how to change the POV if I need to, without distracting the reader.

Someone asked me why it matters, what difference it makes who the story comes from. This person is an avid reader, but not a writer.

I launched in to my speech on the work of a writer. I’ll share it with you, but before I do, I must tell you… it’s not something I came up with myself.  I picked it up from a combination of sources. You’ll recognise a few of them as I go, but here’s how I put it together.

It is the writer who must do all the work. The reader should have no work to do. It’s my job as the writer to craft a tale that will be seamless to read. At no point do I want my reader to have to work to get what I’m saying. They may not agree with me, they may be uncomfortable with the storyline, but at no point should the actual reading of it, be difficult for them. The work is for me to do. As the writer, I wrestle with the complications of POV so that the reader doesn’t have to.

I have a story whose main character is 8 years old. She needs to talk and act and think like an 8 year old. She will hear things that she does not appreciate the implications of. The adult reader may get it, but the character is too young to. So, even if the reader has worked out what that conversation or incident relates to, the 8 year old will process it another way. 
At no stage should you as my reader think, ‘she’s a child, she wouldn’t say that/know that.’

We work for months, sometimes years on a book. Someone buys it and reads it in a week and then sends an email asking when the next one is out. It’s a joyful and challenging experience.
And so, we go back to work. Back to our desks to graft it out again. Wrestling with our storylines. Making our character’s voices authentic and true to who they are.

The harder we work on the writing, the easier the reading is.

It’s the least we can do for our readers; and our characters too. Don’t we LOVE our characters?
So, let’s work hard making them real, doing them justice and in so, giving our readers the best story we can.

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' She is working on a second collection due for publication in 2018, and a non-fiction book about being an overweight Christian called, 'Have mercy on me O Lord, a slimmer.'

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

What Inspires You? By Georgie Tennant

When I was in Year 9 at school (“the third year,” for those born a little earlier than me), I had an English teacher called Ms Griffiths. Already harbouring a deep love for the subject – writing especially – she fostered it and grew it.  She made us learn stanzas of “The Raven,” off by heart – I loved the way it sounded as it slipped from my tongue.  She made us stand on desks and recite, off by heart, the speech of Marullus from “Julius Caesar,” unable to stop herself from guffawing with us, when one of the boys declared, “You blokes, you stones, you worse than senseless things…”  When she wanted us to write creatively, her balance of challenge and encouragement was just right, and I can still remember some of her effusive, praise-filled comments on final versions of pieces I had spent painstaking hours, re-writing to perfection. She even took me to local poetry festivals, fanning my love for the genre into flame.

In short, she inspired me.  She was part of my early writing journey – someone who spotted what was within and helped draw it out. In our Local ACW Group last month (Brecks, Fens and Pens), the ever-inspiring Jane Clamp asked us all to bring something that represented inspiration for us.  I chose my exercise book from that time (Georgina Stead, Form 9JA) and spent a happy half an hour beforehand, flicking through, remembering some of the pieces I’d written so proudly, under her guiding hand.

The discussion that ensued in the group, was touching, enlightening and inspiring in itself; ‘objects’ brought ranged from motivational coasters (“We’re not messy, just really creative.”) and a motivational pen jar (“So you want to be a writer, But you don’t know how or when, Find a quiet place, Use a humble pen,” – Paul Simon), through books and ornaments, to not-quite-bringable things, like love and the wind.  As we mused about inspiration, generally, we each wrote something on the subject and shared it for…well…further inspiration.

Sometimes, in our writing lives, inspiration doesn’t strike.  Sometimes, I believe, retracing our steps back to what got us going on our writing journeys in the first place can remind us of those early days, those first flushes, our ‘raison d’etre,’ and get us inspired all over again to get up and get writing, with fresh impetus and joy.

To finish, I include, below, my own musings from our group meeting and those of our lovely ACW treasurer, Christina Clark.  We hope they inspire you  – or at least amuse!


Can’t think. Struck dumb.
Inspiration will not come!
Rotten paper! Rotten pen!
I’ve finished. Amen.” Unknown

And so, when inspiration will not come
Despite much invitation to the muse - 
My pen is still; ears deaf and mouth is dumb
And “should” the word the ushers in the blues…

…I seek to rest; to wait; to catch a thrill
Of that one thing; internal or without;
To listen to The Voice so quiet and still
Until, at last that voice becomes a shout -

And then I write!


Feeling Positive?  Sun in the sky?
Lots of time at your disposal?
You may have stepped into a parallel universe –
So embrace it, before the portal closes –

Feeling flat?  Forecast uninspiring?
Rushing from school run to swimming run?
Sinking beneath the stacks of sandwiches, still only half made?
Take ten minutes anyway – make a cup of tea –

Feeling broken?  Storm clouds raging?
If you weren’t so British, you’d throw something, punch something?
Emotions raging?  Unleashing words feeling like a bad idea?
Grab a sturdy pen (for the furious, stabbing full-stops) and some tissues –

Feeling better?  Clouds clearing for the dawn?
Words on the page now, instead of in your muddled head?
Remind yourself of this catharsis –
And next time, instead of hesitating –

Georgina Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive.  She is married, with two sons, aged 9 and 7 who keep her exceptionally busy. She feels intimidated by having to provide an author-biography, when her writing only extends, currently, to attempting to blog, writing the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local paper occasionally, and having a poem published in a book from a National Poetry Competition. She feels a bit more like a real author now the ACW Lent Book is out and she has a piece in it! Her musings about life can be found on her blog:

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

When writing is therapy By Claire Musters

I know there is a huge variety within this group; writers who produce fiction, others who write poetry for pleasure, still others who are copywriters – there is no end to the differences in our experiences with writing. But I know one thing we have in common: a real love for writing; a need to do it.

I have found that need become much more personal in recent days. I do feel called to write out of my life experiences and what God has taught me, in order to help and encourage others. And yet I now have a file on my computer that I am pouring myself out into. I have an inkling God will use some of it, in a very different format, in the future but, for now, it is proving cathartic and therapeutic for me. 

You see, we lost a dear friend recently. A young mum in our church family died after a fairly short battle with cancer. It has rocked our church, due to her age and the young family she leaves behind. But it has also brought us closer together in renewed unity and support.

My husband and I had the huge privilege of walking alongside her and her husband, particularly in the last few months of her life. As her pastor, my husband was asked to provide communion, pray, anoint her with oil – simply be there for her. And we have seen, since she died, that we have needed to do that for many other people, as her death has brought up a lot of past hurts and grief.

This has all made me realise that not only am I grieving myself, but together we are leading a community of people through grief. As I head up our worship teams, I have been heavily involved in looking at the songs that we’ve sung in our meetings since and how they can help people process. 

So I now have a file entitled ‘leading others through grief’. In it I am splurging to God what it feels like to walk through that numbness and pain myself, but also support others. A lot of tears have been shed, but I’ve also found an immense relief as I’ve expressed my thoughts in written form. Sometimes the very act of writing has enabled me to understand what I’m actually feeling, in those moments when I’m overwhelmed and struggling to get myself together enough to meet with another grieving friend.

Writing, for me, has become therapy in this season. A way to connect with God, unburden myself and dig deep into His wisdom, love, grace and mercy. As someone who has regularly journalled, I know the beauty in writing my emotions down and inviting God into them. But the words I have put down into this new file have taken it to a new level. So much of it is raw and exposed - but it feels vital and necessary. It's become a real lifeline.

I am so grateful to God for the gift of writing – sometimes our motivation in getting our work ‘out there’ is to help others, but it is so amazing when God uses it to minister directly to our hearts.

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 also writes Bible study notes. To find out more about her, please visit and @CMusters on Twitter. 

Monday, 16 July 2018

Waiting for the Likes, by Liz Carter

I’ve always spent far too much time worrying about what people think of me.

When I started writing in earnest, this tendency in me simply upped itself even more, leading to epic proportions of me analysing every word said about a blog post, every ‘like’ and more critically every absence of ‘like’ (or why did they like it but not love it? Or why the laughing face? Does the angry face mean they’re angry with me or agreeing with what I’ve written about some injustice or other? What about shares? Why no shares? Aaaagh! So many emotions in these innocuous little emoticons for us to get ourselves knotted up in.)

As writers, and as people, it’s so easy to invest too much in our perceptions of what others are thinking, isn’t it. Even when we are feeling particularly confident and happy with a piece of work, we still descend to shivering-wreck state when we are waiting for comments. In the last few weeks some very kind people have been reading my book in order to endorse it (or not!) so the publishers can include some commendations. I’m incredibly grateful for their time and effort, but oh boy, do I worry about what they might be thinking and what they might say! All kinds of things have flown through my head: They probably hate it. They probably think I’m a fraud. They must think I’m really bad at writing. And so on, and so on, until I work myself into all of a lather of anxiety about it.

I was doing a little of that the other day, when this still small voice pushed through my wild ponderings. ‘Trust me,’ the voice said, and my anxiety fled in that moment. This book I’ve written is for God’s glory, so it’s kind of up to God, and I have no right to take it all back and forget to trust God for all the extras. Plus, I could trust people a little more – these people I respect and admire very much. Trust me, said God, and in the liberating light of those two small words I shed my worry and made a decision to put my mind and time to better use.

Those words don’t always mean that things will come together in the way we think they should, or that everything will be fixed and well, but that we can trust God anyway in the midst of where we are and what we are worrying about. We can trust God in our messiness and our insecurities as much as when everything seems to be coming together – and, in fact, when we trust in the harder times, we come to a more profound understanding of God’s nature and love which we are able to take with us into other difficult times we will face.

So I let these nagging insecurities go, and I went through these waiting days with more of a sense of peace. Whenever worry started to nag at me, I just said the words ‘I trust you’, and put it aside. Saying these words reminded me of Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

I love these freedom words. We don’t have to lean on our own understanding, or take the burden of our own anxieties. 

Writing is a funny old thing, especially when we’re writing something that others will read, because it exposes part of us, sometimes the most vulnerable and raw of parts, and letting others into that part can feel like a very scary thing to do. It’s no wonder we scour the comments and the likes, searching for responses which build and encourage, and any that are more negative knock us down. But if we can learn to put our own need for validation aside and learn to sink all that we are into all God is then perhaps our writing will shine with even more authenticity as we lay ourselves down. 

‘Trust me’, God said to me, so clearly, in the midst of a moment of confusion. ‘Trust me, whatever happens.’

The most incredible thing is that it isn’t in what actually does happen where we find our peace and flourishing, but in the act of trust itself. It's in that act where we find our liberation and our encouragement. Where we find that big red heart emoticon we are so desperately waiting for – one that means we need no more, for God is always, ever, more than enough.

Liz Carter is a writer and blogger.

You can find her website here:
Great Adventure

Liz's first book, Catching Contentment, will be published by IVP in November 2018.

Article Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash