Stories of Life…

a-chicken-can-make-a-differenceOrdinary PeopleExtraordinary Stories

Due out in November (from Morning Star Publishing), A Chicken Can Make a Difference began as an experiment. More than a year ago a number of us involved in Christian writing, publishing and communication began to wonder what would happen if we asked ordinary people to share their stories of faith. What resulted was the Stories of Life creative writing competition, which drew entries in three different categories: Open, Stories under 500 words, and Youth. The organising committee deliberately chose not to ask for a particular type of story, but simply to ask people to share their own personal accounts of faith and life. We were not sure what to expect.

As entries began coming in we soon discovered what a diverse range of people, writing styles and faith experiences were out there. There was no typical story, and while many of the writers may have seen themselves as ordinary, the tales they told were anything but. We read with interest extraordinary accounts of conversion, answers to prayer, life-changing adventures, and of God’s grace in dealing with illness and loss.

Our three judges for the competition, poet and educator Valerie Volk, award-winning children’s and young adult author Rosanne Hawke, and pastor and writer Nick Hawkes were also struck by the richness and diversity of the entries. Each found it hard to nominate the top three stories in their respective categories, while the task of deciding which stories to include in this collection proved equally difficult. In the end we feel we have come up with a representative collection of the most thought-provoking and well-written stories, which also includes writing by some of our judges and those on the Stories of Life committee who were not eligible to enter the competition.

Deciding on a title was our final challenge. We wanted to take something from one of the stories in the collection—but which one? There were so many intriguing titles to choose from, including two with references to underwear! In the end a simple yet profound story called A Chicken Can Make a Difference seemed to sum up best the essence of the collection. In this book one finds stories about quite ordinary things, people and events that end up making an extraordinary difference when the grace of God is involved.

We look forward to the launch of the book and trust these stories help you glimpse something of the many ways in which God is at work in the world. We hope you will be inspired by these real life accounts of how God has worked in unexpected ways to nurture faith, restore hope and bring healing to people’s lives. For those who find the idea that God might actually care personally about them or their needs difficult to believe, we pray that these stories might reveal the God who is love, made known in Christ, who continues to show his mercy and care for us in so many surprising ways.

On behalf of the Stories of Life Steering Committee,

James CooperDirector of Creative Writing, Tabor College of Higher Education

Mark WorthingPastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church, North Adelaide

Call for Submissions: Tales from the Upper Room…

TfuRAnthology2015The Tales editorial team is now accepting submissions of poetry, short fiction and creative nonfiction (CNF), for inclusion in our 2016-2017 anthology.

Poems of up to 50 lines and prose pieces of up to 3000 words will be considered for publication.

Submissions close Friday Dec 23rd 2016. The anthology will be launched in June 2017.

Please refer to the Submission Guidelines page under Tales in the site menu.

Writing as Craft…

craft of writingI recently read The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Her debut novel, this highly imaginative tale runs deep with emotion and insight into human nature, and is beautifully written. For instance, take this lyrical description of the main character’s fragile faith in meaning, tested to breaking point by the hardship of life on the Alaskan frontier:

All her life she had believed in something more, in the mystery that shape-shifted at the edge of her senses. It was the flutter of moth wings on glass and the promise of river nymphs in the dappled creek beds. It was the smell of oak trees on the summer evening she fell in love, and the way dawn threw itself across the cow pond and turned water to light.

From start to finish, Ivey’s prose – perfectly measured – gleams like the morning sun on newly fallen snow; little wonder it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. As such, reading The Snow Child made me realise how much fine-tuning I have yet to do on my own manuscript, and I have since begun a detailed line edit aimed at making every sentence read exactly the way I want it. Reading your own work in the light of something so expertly crafted can be dispiriting, but I’m always grateful for the spur to improve what I do. Also, although humbling, it’s a great comfort to be reminded that there is, after all, something that can be done to improve one’s writing.

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Reading the Bible as a Writer…

lion-and-lamb4C.S. Lewis once observed, “Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes.” The only palliative to the peculiar blindness of our own age, Lewis suggested elsewhere, ‘is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.’ When it comes to old books, they don’t get much older than the bible. For Christians, the benefits of studying God’s Word are well known. But Lewis’s remarks suggest an added benefit of reading the Bible, in particular for writers – Christian and non-Christian alike.
Unless contemporary writers test their vision against the wisdom and insight of former ages, they are likely to fall foul of the sort of error Lewis cautions against. But by keeping the ”clear sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds” we can strengthen our guard against the kind of writing that would serve only to reinforce the distorted vision of our own age. At the recent Reading Like a Writer Seminar at Adelaide’s Tabor College of Higher of Education, Rev Dr Mark Worthing presented the following overview of why and how the Bible should be read by today’s aspiring authors.

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Characters & Viewpoint: A Review…

coverCharacters & Viewpoint (by Orson Scott Card)

A review by Dr Julia Archer

There are many books on how to write better fiction, and most of them can be helpful. But if you only have the time and finances to invest in one book, I recommend Orson Scott Card’s Characters & Viewpoint. It’s a friendly and easy-to-follow guide that actually covers many more topics than the title suggests.

Card is a prolific and much-awarded author in many genres, beginning in the 1960s with stage plays and musical comedies, and progressing, via screenplays and short stories, to the first novel in his famed YA science fiction Ender’s Series (which has seen him twice awarded both Hugo and Nebula awards). His other fiction series range from traditional sci-fi to Biblical novels, contemporary fantasy to medieval fantasy reinvented for an American frontier setting, and most recently graphic novels. He is a reviewer, columnist, commentator, poet, blogger and teacher of writing and literature at Southern Virginia University. His also offers free writing workshops on his website (

Characters & Viewpoint is divided into three broad sections: Inventing Characters, Constructing Characters and Performing Characters. It isn’t possible in a short review to do justice to the entire book, but every aspect lends weight to the salient point that in writing a book, an author enters into an implicit contract with the reader, a contract that must be honoured. Although there’s more to honouring the contract than coming up with great characters, it’s the characters and their story that a reader invests in, and wants to see resolved some way. Without convincing characters, there will be no contract with the reader. Concerning character, then, here are some key points Card makes clear in Chapter One, What is a Character? Continue reading