Showing posts from August, 2019

A time to consolidate

The verses from Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 are very well known. (A time to … and a time to …) The word consolidate is absent. The nearest concept to what I have in mind is “a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them”.Stones might be gathered for building or to clear a field for ploughing.
Why would anyone scatter stones? Perhaps they are skimming them on water (or skipping rocks as they say the other side of the Atlantic Ocean). Publishing blogs is a bit like throwing stones at random – it is impossible to guess where they will travel to. Making a contents list is gathering them so that they may be more easily found or built into a larger work.
I have a rather overwhelming task in mind for myself. It involves making an index of all the books I have reviewed over the past seven years and publishing it online. Although I read widely, many of the books are by Christians including some members of the Association of Christian Writers (ACW).
If I were to post links to all of those here, I …

A Little Man in Swindow

John Cleese was once asked where he got his ideas from and replied that he used a little man in Swindon. So I contacted this man to find out how he gets his ideas.

His name is Brian and he's a jolly man, overweight and very friendly. He's hoping to retire soon, leaving the ideas business to his son Simon.

After a cup of tea, a genial chat about the nature of humour and the relative merits of American spelling, I asked him how to get ideas.

"There are several ways, most of which I keep in the family. No point in being an ideas man if you let everyone know how you do it. But, there is one method I share with everyone."

Instead of telling me, he asked Simon to bring 'the folder', which he dutifully did. (Simon is as jolly as his father, though very skinny)

From the folder he removed a postcard sized piece of paper and handed it to me. On it were written the following instructions:

Think back to a good book you've read recentlyIdentify a theme that struck you.…

Appreciating Writing

How often do you take time out to appreciate writing - your own, as well as the work of others? Not often enough, I suspect, but this begs the question should we appreciate writing more? Wouldn’t we be better off just writing? I'd argue appreciating writing will help you improve your own.

Every now and again, I recall what writing has done for me. I look at what the work of others has done for me too. One novel changed my attitude to a king. (The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey if you were wondering. The way it is written is good too).

I believe in realising why you must write and its effects on you (in developing a creative streak, if nothing else), you will end up inspired to write better.

It is in writing my stories and blogs I discovered the hard work needed to (a) keep these going, (b) to continue to be entertaining and, hopefully, share useful information, and (c) how hard other writers must work on their material.

I appreciate a great turn of phrase so much more now and …

A Rich Seam of Themes #Greenbelt by Trevor Thorn

Pam, my wife and I have just returned from a very  memorable weekend at Greenbelt. For those who have not encountered the name before, Greenbelt is a Christian Arts Festival held each UK August Bank Holiday in the beautiful grounds of Boughton House, near Kettering. It is four packed days of music, talks, performing arts and widely varied worship. It is physically impossible to attend everything (or even one quarter of everything) but the wide variety of events and the provision for every age of guest means almost everyone can find four days worth of inspiring activity to engage them.

Greenbelt 2019 Logo Wit and Wisdom
What makes Greenbelt even more special is the amazing capacity of the organisers to bring together artists and presenters who are at the cutting edge of today’s issues and who have the ability to relate them to the Christian faith. The titling of this year’s festival ‘Wit and Wisdom’ sums up what is on offer more than adequately; so unsurprisingly, the theme of Climate Cr…

The unlocking power of story by Tracy Williamson

Tiny Her
There was once a little girl who knew her world. She knew Mummy, Daddy, Lorraine, and Nanny.She knew her toys, she knew favourite foods, cuddles, games, light and dark, bath times, bedtime stories, Mummy’s voice singing, Daddy’s voice comforting, running, jumping, climbing, rolling... This was her world, her life.She knew it, she was safe.

One night she went to bed.It was all as she knew.Bedtime bath, teeth clean, hair brush, cuddle with Mummy, story with Daddy, little light in the corner; big dark everywhere else.She knew it, she was safe, she slept.

But when she woke, all had gone.

No little safe light but big dazzling white light; no gentle cuddle, but big gripping hands, no singing or story but shouts, beeps and rushing, No mummy or daddy but witches who stabbed and tied her up.

And there was pain, and there was fear And she howled.
And it went on and on and on until she couldn't remember the cuddles and the giggles and the running, rolling and jumping; the stories andsingi…

Fit for purpose? by Nicki Copeland

As I write, we’ve been without a television for two weeks. The old one broke down after five or six years with us (and a good few years in someone else’s living room before that). When the new one arrived, my husband and I lacked the engineering degree we apparently needed to get it going. And our techie son is away working for the week. So the beautiful new TV is sitting on its stand, looking lovely, but currently totally unfit for purpose.
This makes me think about what it means to be ‘fit for purpose’ in our writing. For what purpose do we write? What do we hope to achieve through our writing? Perhaps that partly depends on the nature of what we write.
My most recent writing project, so to speak, is my sermon for this coming Sunday. Whenever I preach I’m very aware of the huge responsibility that it is to teach God’s children (see James 3:1), and it isn’t one I take lightly. Am I fit for this purpose? Am I worthy to teach, whether through preaching or writing?
Frankly, I don’t …

Mixed metaphors and bumpy rhythms – by Eileen Padmore

August is holiday month for me so instead of writing a 'proper' blog I decided to have fun playing around with words to form verses.  This, of course, is not pretending to be poetry, but perhaps a first tentative attempt in that direction.

The light shines on
The light shines on – somewhere,
but here it is hidden by cloud,
grey, sombre, quivering
under tree shroud.

The light shines on – into dark sky,
cold canopy over city at play,
music shrieks, why?
after the day.

The light shines on – in hospital ward,
eyelids pierced through with luminous red,
sharp pain at their word,
into black dread.

The light shines on – glimmers and flickers;
dark night of the soul,
hope for some saviour,
in bottomless hole.

The light shines on – but owl chooses night
to search for his prey,
with orbital sight,
against the day.

The light shines on – through curtains at dawn;
loud alarm has its say,
stifle the yawn,
brave the new day.

The light shines on – over children at play;
dances on golden hair,

Should Christian writers allow strong language in their novels?

On the whole, Christians are agreed that they don’t use, and don’t much like hearing, ‘strong’ language. By ‘strong’ language I mean, broadly speaking, religious, sexual, and lavatorial terms used as expressions of annoyance, exasperation, amazement, and (especially) aggression towards other people. 

So, if we dislike it and don’t do it, we won’t put it in our books, right? It’s a no-brainer. 

But hang on, we don’t like murder, lying, theft, and adultery, and we don’t practise any of them. But we put them in our books. Lots of Christian writers pen the most lurid possible crime stories, some of which contain distressing scenes of mutilation and bodily harm, with blood all over the place. Speaking entirely for myself, I find such descriptions upsetting and repulsive, but most Christian readers seem quite comfortable with them. 

So why is it OK to describe horrible physical aggression, violent altercations, shocking deceit, and heartbreaking crimes of every kind — as long as nobody swears …
Developing Character

The East London ACW Group: developing each other’s character(s)

I’ve always said I’d rather read fiction with great characters and a weak plot than something with a tightly-woven plot and characters I don’t like. Of course, it’s when strong plots and characters combine that we really get something which is a joy to read. Still, we’re much more likely to be able to respond to the emotions and responses of characters than to their situations. I’ve never had to flee supernatural beings or destroy a ring to save the world, like Frodo in the Lord of the Rings. However, I can identify with drawing strength from close friends, worrying about decisions and grieving the unexpected loss of a friend, just as he does. If your reader can identify with a character and their development, this will draw them through the story.

The experts agree. In ‘The Writer’s Journey’, Christopher Vogler says that the hero is often the character who ‘…learns or grows the most in the course of the…

Who's Your Adult? By Emily Owen

At the beginning of August, I was on holiday in Devon, with some of my family. At the start of one day, visiting a local town, we got out of the car and needed to cross a road. It was as we were waiting to cross that I felt a little hand slip into mine. I looked down and saw my seven year old niece. Her hand securely in mine, she looked up and said, “You’re my adult”.
Those three little words conveyed so much. You’ll look after me, you’ll care for me, you won’t let me get lost, I’m safe with you. "You're my adult."

Father God. You’re my Adult. You’ll look after me, you’ll care for me, you won’t let me get lost, I’m safe with you. Amen
We crossed the road and checked Abbie’s shopping list. The list she’d written, entitled ‘Memem (me) and I’. Even before she’d slipped her hand into mine, she’d decided that we would be together that day. Holding my hand was confirmation of a decision already made.

‘Bag for scrabble’ was on there because her Junior Scrabble game had no bag for the l…

Back to the future...3 - Joseph

Joseph was born at a time when his father Israel was very old, so Israel loved him more than he loved his other sons. Jacob gave him a special coat, which was long and very beautiful.”Gen.37:3 (ERV)

Joseph said to his brothers:  "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done..." 

Last month I celebrated forty-five years of knowing the Lord in my life.  There are many champions of faith in the Bible who show us to hold on to the Lord despite our circumstances. It is at those times we have to choose to walk with Him in the belief good will come through that.  This is my testimony of that truth.
For eleven years I worshipped in a lively Church of England and was taught by many well-known Bible teachers. Then the Lord revealed I had a good grasp of the vertical of the cross in being rooted in His word, and interceding with the Holy Spirit, but had little knowledge of the horizontal aspect of…