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

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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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A True Story, Well Told…

GCRIProfessor Graeme Clark is one of Australia’s leading scientists, and the man behind one of the truly great inventions of the late 20th century: the cochlear implant (more commonly known as the ‘bionic ear’). Inspired by such great scientists as Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie, Professor Clark pursued a career in medical science. Having watched his father struggle with hearing problems, he decided early on that he wanted to find a solution to deafness. Sure enough, by his faithful persistence and methodical approach, Graeme ultimately fulfilled that dream, transforming the lives of thousands.

In this new biography (published by Allen & Unwin), Mark Worthing tells the inspiring story of Professor Clark’s life and work. James Cooper (Creative Writing Coordinator at Tabor Adelaide) recently sat down with Mark to find out more about what goes into writing a successful biography…

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Blog Tour Award…

Photo on 2015-07-04 at 15.25

The author at home in Macclesfield (SA), where surrounding yourself with books provides good insulation in winter!

Thanks to Claire Belberg of mountainbeautiful for asking me to take up the Blog Tour Award. Basically, the rules are:

  1. Pass the tour on to up to four other bloggers.
  2. Give them the rules and a specific Monday to post.
  3. Answer four questions about your creative process that lets other bloggers and visitors know what inspires you to do what you do.

The questions are:

  1. What am I working on at the moment?
  2. How does my work differ from others in my genre?
  3. Why do I write or create what I do?
  4. How does my writing/creative process work?

To follow up my post today, I’ve nominated two thoughtful and talented writers to take up the challenge: Queensland based writer and blogger Danielle Carey (due to post Monday 20th July) and South Australian fantasy writer Michael Hawke (who will post Monday 27th July). But without further ado, here are my answers:

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Surprised by Wonder…

magic mapBy Ann Greer

I began my Masters quest, uncertain about what to expect from the process. The Master of Creative Writing course at Tabor Adelaide involves writing a 40,000 word creative artefact (in my case, a novel), plus an 8,000 word critical exegesis essay. I began with a vague idea for a young adult novel forming in my heart. I wanted to portray young people grappling with a major world issue such as child slavery, whilst also navigating personal issues such as self-worth, relationships, and figuring out what to do with their lives. But what about the critical exegesis essay? Was it just a dreaded hoop to clear on my path to another academic parchment? Or could it be a useful exercise, enjoyable even?

Pushing away fear, I plunged deeply into the mystery of it all. Happily, dread turned to delight with many surprises along the way. Far from being a dry academic exercise, writing the exegesis became an opportunity for personal and creative discovery.

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Respect Your Characters…

 

Foster Care

 

By Claire Belberg

Others have observed that the characters we invent in our stories are all, in some sense, ourselves. We write what we know – that is, out of the storeroom of our own experience and perception. We also write what we don’t know, and sometimes we learn it as we write it.

 

I find the writing journey a deeply personal and often emotionally challenging ride. Writing in truth – from my heart, with integrity – demands an honesty which becomes rather like a counselling session with myself (and God). One area of constant challenge to me is that many of the characters who emerge from my imagination are not people I really like.

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Art, the Sacred and Endurance…

Blessed - Chantal Bethel

Blessed – Chantal Bethel

At last month’s World Day of Prayer celebrations in Kapunda, South Australia, renowned author Rosanne Hawke gave the following address. We thought it so thoughtful and inspiring we’d share it here at the Author.docx blog. Thanks for sharing, Rosanne! Art, the Sacred and Endurance In John 13 we read of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet – Jesus washed his disciples’ feet not only because no one else had, but to show an example; to show that he is a servant king: [Jesus] said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” Could we wash the feet of our friends? Perhaps. Could we wash the feet of someone we think is evil or hateful? That would be much harder, but that is what Christ calls us to do, not by our own initiative or strength, but by his command and with his help. We need to ask God to help us give equal value to every person – friends and neighbours, our fellow citizens and those from a different culture than ours, asylum seekers, those on death row, or those who mistakenly think they can bring world peace through violence. Jesus’ life and death was one of love and service to others. Our challenge today is to serve and love one another in our immediate context, and then we can cast our sights further. Continue reading