The ACW Committee is comprised of volunteers who are committed to supporting, nurturing and encouraging Christian writers.Their aims to encourage, equip and inspire its members to use their talents with integrity, to produce excellent material which comes from a Christian world view.Blog sharing knowledge and experience of ACW members.
Last weekend, I was at the ACW Day about Writing Memoir, in Leeds. The afternoon contained two workshops, one on ‘Focus in Writing’ and one on ‘Perspective in Writing’. I was facilitating the latter, and I enlisted none other than Peppa Pig herself to help me out. More on that later.
I began by talking about the importance in memoir – as in other genres – of remembering that the same situation can be viewed differently, depending on where one is within it.
As an example, I told of a time in hospital following an operation, when I was struggling to drink through a straw, due to damage the surgery had caused to my facial nerve. My sister, who was visiting me at the time, stood beside my bed, and stared at me. I thought the whole tortuous situation I was experiencing must have looked so horrific that she couldn’t look away. I later found out that she'd thought nothing of the sort: she’d been interested to know whether it was actually possible for me to use a straw, hence her scrutiny.
Everyone in the workshop group was invited to write the above scene from the perspective of a different character depicted in it. But not just as Peppa or George (the two pigs). Some wrote the scene from the perspective of the shopping trolley, or the book, or the conveyer belt at the till…. In the main, people volunteered for their ‘character’. A particular highlight was the alacrity with which one man shot his hand up when I asked who would like to be Peppa. (He’s now the only person in the world to own a copy of my book signed to ‘AKA Peppa’ – what an accolade.)
I wish I had space to include the pieces of writing here, they were wonderful. I don't, though. And I didn't think to ask for copies anyway. But right now, in notebooks around the country, the above ‘Peppa Scene’ is proof that perspective makes a difference.
Who but the conveyer belt would have thought it odd to be dealing with pigs which had two eyes on one side of their faces? Who but the trolley would have known that the trolley was fed up with carrying George around? Who but George would have known that he was wishing he could have a different book for a change?
As we went round the group, each person reading their piece, there was fun, and laughter, and emotion. Did you know it’s possible to feel sorry for handwash? Or cry over the third lemon in the bottom of a shopping basket? Or laugh about the ordeals of a shopping till?
One person declined to read. At the end, I asked her whether or not she’d like to read her piece now. She did and, in agreeing to do so, she hit the ‘importance of perspective’ nail on the head. “Yes, I’ll read mine aloud, because I don't want the pickled onions to be missed out." Because I don’t want the pickled onions to be missed out.
The pickled onions in the above picture might be easily missed – my finger is pointing to them, just to help you out – but they are part of the scene. Part of what's happening. Part of the story.
In no way would I presume to tell any writer that they are finished, but I do believe observation and perspective have a vital role to play in writing.
So notice the detail. Don't miss anything. What's the detail saying? What perspective does it bring? Keep looking. What is every detail contributing to the whole?
“By faith Abraham when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went even though He did not know where he was going.” Heb.11:8. NIV
Abram wished to be obedient and found himself in Canaan, a stranger in a foreign land. When Lot and he parted God told Abram to lift up his eyes look in every direction and all the land he could see (above picture) God was giving to him and his offspring throughout the generations. God has plans and a future for all of us, but I sense He is saying, ‘before I can take you into your future you must consider your past’. I see that as appreciating the privilege of being adopted into God’s family and understanding the benefits that affords us. (Eph.1)
After that promise Abram settled, prospered and expected to have a family. With the passing years when the promised son wasn’t conceived, his faith wavered as he grew old, and like us he questioned if he’d really heard God? Until Sarah had an idea to help God out! Eventually both his sons were born in that promised land, both received the Father God’s blessing, and both would become the father of nations. God cares for all those He created, but He only ordained Isaac to receive his father’s blessing and receive all he possessed. Although God's desire is to bless us, there are times our mistakes have long term effects.
I’m still learning not to help God out. I realise it’s His graciousness when the doors I open, He closes! And throughout the years the Lord reassures me, that despite my age, my body beginning to shrivel and the years of ploughing up the ground, the day will come when the seeded promise will germinate and come to birth. Could it be the longer we exercise our faith and wait for the promise the greater the blessing and outcome?
I’d suggest that Ishmael had a very different view of God than Isaac. Did he see God as hard hearted when he was rejected, lost his home and the family he considered his? Did over the years of his life a seed bitterness germinate in Ishmael’s life and develop in the generations that came from him, bringing their need to rule and make war? The Bible says Ishmael’s descendants lived on the border of Egypt ‘and lived in hostility towards all their brothers’. Yet it is heartening to read, when at 175 Abraham died. “Isaac and Ishmael came together to bury him…’
How easy it is for us to compare ourselves to others, feel hard done by, under-valued, invisible. Many people live in a constant state of depression often feeding off the negativity of others. Yet God promises if we believe in Him, He will never leave or forsake us. I mistakenly thought every Christian spent an hour a day with the Lord in worship, prayer and reading the Bible. But I also saw a faith like Abraham’s comes from a stable relationship with the Lord which I found difficult at first, but today is such a joy. I feel bereft on those days when life takes over, but always like to acknowledge the Lord each day saying, “Good morning, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
I was once asked to identify my favourite Bible hero. It didn’t take long. David, of course: that ferocious, lion-slaying, giant-killing warrior King who also performed sensitive, soul calming music and wrote timeless poetry and prose.
We have a new prime minister, about whom opinions will be strong and legion. No doubt the selection process has prompted us to give serious thought to the kind of abilities we require in a national leader – although musicianship and writing ability are unlikely to have made the list!
When Samuel was instructed by God to select a new King for Israel, he was probably looking for someone experienced, upright, with good pedigree, stable family life, superb physique, clear vision, intelligence and charisma. Many of those characteristics had been present in Saul.
But David was no Saul look alike. Not even present in the first line up of his older brothers because not yet a man, God demonstrated his knack of turning preconceptions on their heads. External characteristics can mislead. He looks inside to the heart, to what motivates people: their trust, obedience, faithfulness – which was where Saul had failed and why he had to be replaced.
What a bitter pill it must have been for the older brothers when the weatherbeaten, gawky, unlettered teenager arrived sweaty from the fields to be anointed King! But they might not have been so envious of the tough boot camp training programme that came next. David spent many years undercover, often hungry and homeless in tricky situations, fearful for his life, with Saul out to get him. This strengthened his dependence on God, to whom he would cry out in pain and torment, ‘why, oh why?’. His writings have endured through thousands of years because they track an authentic, living, breathing, close relationship with his maker.
So what was his heritage, apart from establishing the blood line to Jesus? Was it battles won, trophies gained, palaces, possessions? Maybe, but what stands out for me was that catastrophic failure – when he drove a metaphorical chariot and horses through the ten commandments by seducing Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, and then manipulated his death in battle.
Here we have abuse of power, sexual abuse, manslaughter, failure to call sin by it’s name and an attempt to ‘bury bad news’. Today this would carry a custodial sentence. But God was onto his case and cared enough to send the humble prophet, Nathan, to confront him with the enormity of his behaviour. David might have annihilated this unlikely and inconvenient instrument of God. Most in his position would have done so. But instead he listened, heard and owned up to the devastating truth.
So in Psalm 51, we find this mighty man of faith in pieces before his God, pouring out grief and remorse in a way that both shatters and comforts us centuries later. And through this intensely moving passage we see grace shining like a beacon, down through the ages, to the cross.
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 contributed to the popular ACW Lent Book. Last November she claimed NaNo 2018 winner at first attempt. Married to a professional musician, the family includes a feisty springer spaniel and a large African tortoise.
Book Reviews. As you read these two, innocent-sounding words, I am sure they evoke different responses, depending on who you are. As a reader, guilt is the first thing that leaps up and takes hold of me. I have read so many excellent books, recently, but has reviewing them yet made it to the top of my unwieldy to-do list? Sadly, no. And yet I know how important they are to those from whom the brilliant literature I have enjoyed, has sprung. As a writer, they may fill you with excited anticipation or fear and dread – or sheer annoyance and frustration at the number of people who have read your book, told you they’ve enjoyed it – but not left a review (sorry everyone)!
So, with long summer days approaching (we can but dream), I thought I would execute the pair of proverbial winged creatures with one smooth pebble and type up, for this blog, some reviews I have been meaning to write for some time. I hope they will both encourage the wonderful writers we have in our midst, as well as give our eager readers some great books to add to their summer reading lists.
‘The Gardener’s Daughter’ by Kathryn Hitchins
This is a fast-paced thriller, well-worth taking on holiday with you. The novel’s protagonist, Ava-Claire unearths information that throws her whole life and identity into question. She hires a Private Investigator to help her get to the bottom of who she really is and stumbles upon illicit workings of a ruthless criminal gang. Hitchins writing is both compelling and beautiful and this book is a can’t-put-it-down page-turner, right from the start. She seamlessly weaves in themes of identity, belonging and the Father-heart of God, brought together in a satisfying ending. Read this book, and, if you like it, read her others too ('Girl at the End of the Road' and 'The Key of all Unknown').
‘The Jazz Files’ by Fiona Veitch Smith
I absolutely loved this book. The novel centres around a young woman, Poppy Denby, who is breaking out of her sheltered existence to pursue a new life in 1920s London. I loved both the plot and the fascinating historical details, woven into the story. The novel is compelling, right from the start, as Poppy is plunged into a mystery surrounding one of her Aunt’s fellow suffragettes. Her new job as a journalist on ‘The Daily Globe’ sees her right in the thick of the action, putting her own safety at risk to right some historical wrongs. I devoured this book and can’t wait to get stuck in to Book 2, 'The Kill Fee'.
‘Too Soon’ by Jane Clamp
This is such a beautiful, sensitive and empathetic book. It takes the form of a series of short devotionals, lasting 30 days, to help guide and support women who have suffered the trauma of miscarriage. Jane is a wise and gentle companion, on this thirty-day journey and draws on her own experience of four miscarriages to help the reader move forward, despite the horrible loss of a precious baby. The pain of miscarriage is often buried or minimised in our society and Jane seeks to reverse this, giving the reader permission to feel what they need to feel and mourn wholeheartedly – but with beautiful threads of hope, drawing them onwards. I am glad Jane wrote this book and I would wholeheartedly recommend you buy one – for yourself of for a friend. With one in four women experiencing miscarriage, I’m sure you know someone it would benefit!
'Catching Contentment' by Liz Carter
I am confident you will have heard of Liz and her book – it has just been shortlisted for the Woman Alive Readers’ Choice Award, to be announced in September. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading it, make it a priority. Liz is achingly honest about her own struggles to find contentment so, in her, we find a sensitive guide for our own struggles with finding contentment, whatever our circumstances. Split into chapters, with stories, reflections and prayers to help us on our own journeys, Liz’s reflections are down to earth, fully acknowledging our hard realities, but spurring us on to face them better, and with more hope. Liz knows all about the struggle to find contentment whilst living with physical disabilities – but I found it just as helpful as someone living with grief and loss. There was so much to take away from this book, I will be reading it again and again and buying it for friends.
Do read one of these books over the holidays – and don’t forget to write a review!
Georgie Tennant is a secondary school English teacher in a Norfolk Comprehensive. She is married, with two sons, aged 11 and 8 who keep her exceptionally busy. She writes for the ACW ‘Christian Writer’ magazine occasionally, and is a contributor to the ACW-Published ‘New Life: Reflections for Lent,’ and ‘Merry Christmas, Everyone: A festive feast of stories, poems and reflections.’ She writes the ‘Thought for the Week’ for the local newspaper from time to time and also muses about life and loss on her blog: www.somepoemsbygeorgie.blogspot.co.uk
Last week I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Sharon Brown for the first time. She is the author of a series of fictional books that have had a huge spiritual impact on me – as well as thousands of others. The Sensible Shoes series is about four women from very different backgrounds who meet at a retreat. Readers learn spiritual disciplines as they do and also read how their lives intertwine and they work out how to use the disciplines in the ups and downs of their own lives.
During the evening, Sharon focused on us knowing that we are God’s beloved, and how that needs to be foundational in our lives. As we rest and receive that love we are able to respond – but only then.
There were different spiritual exercises that Sharon got us to engage with and, as I reflected on them afterwards, I realised how much they involved our imaginations – and writing.
So much of our writing is done for the benefit of others: be it for academic papers, magazine articles, poetry or books. So, in honour of Sharon’s incredible gift of being able to draw us into a story, make us invest in the characters, but also be challenged and transformed spiritually ourselves, I want to share some spiritual writing prompts here. Why not take one to ponder, reflect and write about today?
God longs for you to dwell in his love, to make his home there.
What would a hospitable place where you are welcomed in exactly the way you long to be look like? Take time imagining it, and then create a written description.
Ask God what it means that he welcomes you in the most lavish way. Again, imagine the scene and then write it down. Sharon made these suggestions: perhaps it involves God saying your name, setting a table before you with your favourite food (describe each of those). Know that you have his undivided attention and he is waiting to hear your heart – what you long for, but also what you doubt. Perhaps you could write down those things?
What would it mean to be awake to God all the time?
Too often we are on auto pilot even with God. When he tries to get our attention we say ‘yeah yeah I see God’. He wants us to turn around and really see him with our eyes.
We can learn to be aware in the everyday and ‘take off our shoes’ when we recognise his holiness around us.
What is God going to use to wake you up?
Ask God to help you be more aware of his presence and keep a note of when you are throughout the day. Look at what you have recorded and then write a response.
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. Her latest edition to the Insight Guides series, An Insight into Shame, was published in May. She also writes Bible study notes and magazine articles. To find out more about her, please visit www.clairemusters.com and @CMusters on Twitter.
I’m in a slump. I’m in a sloop. It’s sludgy in here, it’s like walking through treacle. I look at a blank Scrivener page and the words just won’t come. They’re stubborn, these unknown and much-needed words. They’re playing games with me, dancing just out of reach, breaking themselves up into their component parts when I get a hold of any small part of them. Then they shatter into tiny pieces and disappear altogether, and my frustration mounts.
What do you do when the words don’t come?
Well, you could give yourself a Motivational Speech. You could tell yourself that you just have to push through, to scale the wall, to fight the obstacles in your path. That you are strong and you can do this.You’ve got this.
Or you could give yourself a mental telling-off. Tell yourself to stop being so pathetic, to just get on with it, to be much more proactive and Simply. Write.
Maybe you feel a bit like Franz Kafka, who said this:
“How time flies; another ten days and I have achieved nothing. It doesn’t come off. A page now and then is successful, but I can’t keep it up, the next day I am powerless.”
Most writers struggle with the slump-sloop, that time when nothing seems to be coming. The inspiration has been too busy inspiring other writers, and you’ve missed out. A few famous writers have some words of wisdom for us here. Maya Angelou says we should just write.
“I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat,’ you know. And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try.”
Anthony Trollope speaks of a ‘daily writing goal’ and how sticking to his timing and word count brought him success.
“It had at this time become my custom, — and it still is my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient to myself, — to write with my watch before me, and to require from myself 250 words every quarter of an hour.”
Hilary Mantel advises us to get away from our writing for a while:
“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”
I like C.S Lewis’ advice on writing, which includes this gem: “Read all the good books you can, and avoid nearly all magazines.” I think we can probably apply that to social media, and the internet in general. I’ve noticed a pattern in my own writing – the more I read, especially the more books I read that are well-written and thought-provoking, the more my writing seems to flow. But when I spend too much time faffing about on Facebook and Twitter, flitting between a million articles and pictures of people’s dinners, inspiration is slower to come, and I am more sluggish. It’s too obvious, really – when we read good literature, or even just a good, absorbing story, it touches the creative centre of us and fires us into action. When I was small, I absolutely loved the ‘Faraway Tree’ series of books by Enid Blyton, and my earliest attempts at stories were basically Faraway Tree Fan Fiction, complete with my own take on stories about Silky, MoonFace and the amazing Slippery-Slip Slide. Reading something which caught hold of me gave me the impetus to create something myself.
As a Christian writer, I have found such a great treasure-trove of writing I am able to access, not least from the wonderful authors in our own ACW. I’ve been inspired by many authors here – you make me want to be better myself, and I am very grateful.
So my advice to myself today, and perhaps to you, if you’re experiencing The Slump, is to go read. Go and download one of the books written by an ACW author. May I suggest a fiction book and a non-fiction book which have inspired me lately?
Have a look at Dawn James’ Song of the Overworld. It’s a big story, a story with an overarching theme of good winning out over evil, and the story draws you in and doesn’t let go. It’s certainly inspired me to write.
I’ve also found Tracy Williamson’s brand new devotional, ‘ADesert Transformed’, to be a refreshing and challenging read. I was delighted to endorse it with these words: “Tracy invites us to sit a while and hear the assurances of the God who holds us in our wilderness times as well as in easier times ... the rich words and reflections on Scripture in this devotional will be a blessing to the weak and weary.” It’s certainly been a blessing to me.
So I’m off to take my own advice, now. To go read more 😊
Do leave some of the #ACW books that have inspired you in the comments!
It’s Friday as I write this, and I’m having a “can’t” day. I can’t seem to get anything right. I can’t be creative, I can’t get the hang of Onedrive and its insatiable desire to save everything in four different places, I can’t cope with the news, I can’t do anything to help those in the camps in the USA and I can’t bear the things that we are doing to ourselves or the planet. I haven’t been able to write all day and I’m hot and hormonal, which means something very different than it did 25 years ago. I can’t spell either, having just typed “sumthing,” and fortunately spotting it before the end of the sentence. I just can’t.
And you know what? The second I just gave it up to God and said, “Okay, look, today I just can’t,” I started to relax a bit. Not completely, because, you know, heat and hormones and software, but just a little bit. And then a wonderful thing happened. I stopped trying. I embraced the can’tness of the day and went with it. I cried about all the awful things that are happening in the world and breaking my heart and offered that up as a prayer. I determined to light a candle for those families in concentration camps in the USA in the 21st century, and offered that up as prayer. And I just rested (literally, as I have to several times a day) in my can’tness, recognising and honouring the CAN of God.
A day like today is hard for me because it is all too familiar. My long-term illness means there have been several thousands of days where I was too sick to even attempt anything more constructive than feeding myself. Which means the frustration on a day with less physical pain and a bit more energy where I’ve achieved zilch and written nothing, where the builders over the road meant I couldn’t even attempt any art, is even more exasperating. But it is days like these that show me a biblical truth that I need to come back to very often. Outside of God I can do nothing. It’s not that I need to not have days like this and somehow that magically I will triumph as I live out my saintly life in the embrace of his ability, as some Christians who constantly say, “Through him I can do all things!” like to pronounce. No. Because actually, this is horrible to go through but on an occasional basis it does me good. I need to live in my inability some of the time. Otherwise I don’t see the majesty and capability of God for what it is.
When we’ve been given creative gifts or ministries, maybe it’s even more important to come back to the truth of our smallness often, otherwise we can mistake our achievements for our own. They’re not. Everything I am and do is God’s. Even my breath was a gift that he will one day reclaim. So, on days like today, when I just need to give up, curl up and cry, that’s what I’ll do. And I will lay that before the one who CAN, as a paltry offering, and let it humble me. I’ll call it a fast from doing, or succeeding, or achieving. It will create a holy pause before God picks me up again and takes me onwards.
Keren Dibbens-Wyattis a disabled writer and artist with a passion for poetry, mysticism, story and colour. Her writing features regularly on spiritual blogs and in literary journals. Her full-length publications include Garden of God’s Heart and Whale Song: Choosing Life with Jonah. She has a new book coming out with Paraclete Press next year. Keren lives in South East England and is mainly housebound by her illness. Image from Pixabay
My younger son is a musician, publishing his songs online (here’s the link to his Facebook page if you’re interested: https://www.facebook.com/padraigsnotes/). Recently he was intrigued to see that one track had been downloaded in America and New Zealand and wondered who these listeners were.
I’ve had the same with my blog. Wordpress statistics tell me that today it’s been read as far away as India, Ukraine, and Canada. I’m fairly sure who some of these readers are but most I know almost nothing about.
I had a go at this and, after some mind contortions, came up with this:
‘X knows a bit about Christianity from when they were younger. Maybe they went to Sunday School or had a Christian relative. But they are not an active Christian themselves. However they are interested in spirituality and the deeper meaning of things/life, especially having been through some difficult times, possibly bereavement or mental health issues. They long for something better, direction even but they don't like being told what to do or believe. Their family, past and present, is really important to them. They have a creative streak so the arts and beauty matter to them, including the natural world. They love stories. Music speaks to them. There is more to them than meets the eye.’
When I read it back though, much of this describes me. So is my writing a form of narcissism or personal therapy carried out in public? Am I my own audience?
Perhaps not. But I do think that some of my audience relate to my blog because we share similar concerns and experiences. And I do yearn for those on the fringes of faith who, like me, struggle to fit in with traditional church, but for whom Jesus can provide relevance, direction, and hope. Perhaps we can only write for those similar to us in some way.
Then there’s those who follow our writing because they know us. They can be the more difficult audience. In the struggle to be honest and personal, how much of myself do I choose to reveal?
The trouble with anecdotal writing is that it’s a one way relationship mainly, making for an unbalanced sharing of selves. How much do I want this whole range of people to know about me and my life? And how much do they want to know?
It’s a dilemma I don’t have answers to. Any thoughts and advice from those of you with more experience, please share them.
And then there’s the concept of writing as a calling: for us Christian writers, a calling from God. How much do I remember to present my pieces to Him for His response before I press the Publish button? How much do I remember that He is the ultimate audience reading my work and my life?
Liz Manning fits writing around being an Occupational Therapist, BB captain, wife, and mum to two adult sons. Or perhaps it's the other way round. She blogs regularly at
What does a novelist do when he or she has finished writing his/her novel? (This is the situation in which I find myself now.) He/she should edit and revise it. Of course. And he/she should find beta-readers to read and suggest edits. But then what? One of the novelist’s options is to enter competitions.
Although it is not possible to compare the number of entries received in novel competitions with the number of regular submissions arriving on publishers' desks, the competition judge must read your work in order to judge it. (Of course, if he/she forms the opinion after a few pages that your novel is not a runner he/she will put it down immediately.) Editors and publishers on the other hand may throw regular submissions from new and unpublished writers straight on to the slush pile, unread. Another reason for considering comps is that most novel competition prizes include some sort of professional editing or critique. A writer paying for editing himself/herself may part with several grand.
The novel competition which is at the moment being promoted most effectively is the Curtis Brown First Novel Prize. This is open only to UK or Ireland residents who are not currently represented by a literary agent and whose novels are currently unpublished. The prizes are to die for, six in total and the first-placed winner will be offered representation by Curtis Brown plus a prize of £3000. The deadline is midday on 1 August 2019. To enter, submit the first ten thousand words, plus a synopsis of up to 400 words. Ah, the synopsis! The synopsis, oh dear!
Another novel competition worth looking into is the Page 100 Writing Competition, promoted by Louise Walters Books. The winner will receive a full editorial report of their first three chapters or first 30 pages. For this comp, which closes on 29 September 2019, submit page 100 only, even if it begins or ends mid-sentence (as it probably will) or if page 100 is only a few lines at the end of a chapter. No synopsis, then!
There are many other competitions for novelists, with greater and lesser prizes to be won. Christopher Fielden is a good place to look for them. Most novel comp prizes include representation, publication or editing and most submissions include synopses. Oh dear, again.
Me, I hate synopses. There is much advice – far too much advice – about writing synopses on the internet, and I wouldn’t dream of adding to it - except for this. At the ACW Writers Day in Bath last March, we were tasked to write a summary of a piece (novel, short story or whatever) in one sentence, and to make it interesting enough for a publisher or editor to want to pick it up. This is a useful challenge. If my novel doesn’t work in one sentence, it doesn’t work at all. Another point to note is that Curtis Brown suggest that their entrants display their full creativity in their synopses. Happy writing. Happy writing indeed.
Meanwhile, don’t forget the ACW Writing for Children Competition. (This is a short story competition, of course.) ACW is offering three first prizes (£25 book tokens) for the best entries in three age categories (0-5 years, 5-8 years and 9-12 years). For more information, visit the ACW website.
Rosemary Johnson has had many short stories published, in print and online, amongst other places, Cafe Lit, The Copperfield Review and 101 Words. She has also contributed to Together magazine. In real life, she is a part-time IT tutor, living in Suffolk with her husband and cat. Her cat supports her writing by sitting on her keyboard and deleting large portions of text.
When our children were small, one of their favourite books was one of the Happy Families series by Allan Ahlberg. It was called Miss Jump the Jockey. It was about a little girl whose mother, father and older brother were all jockeys, but she was too young. The story is about her ever more creative ways to prove to her family that she's ready to be a jockey. Our favourite part, however, was the repetition which the kids adored (and which we still all chorus at get-togethers when the situation demands it): "Am I a real jockey yet?" Right up until the last page, her family reply, "Not yet, Josie!"
Today, this book reminds me of someone I know. Now, who is it? Oh yes, You!* When are you going to stop asking yourself (and everyone else) that question? When are you going to stop imagining their reply, "Not yet, ______!" (insert name)
Just for fun, I looked up the definition of 'writer'. This is what I found: "A person who has written something or who writes in a particular way." Interesting...
There are all kinds of things we tell ourselves about the legitimacy of our role as writers. So, I thought you might like to see what mine are. I've also added in my top ten ways of knowing whether you really are a writer. (Well, it helps me)
1. You write in a book-lined room with a view of the sea, the sound of birds drifting in through long windows while the family ply you with good quality coffee. You write in stolen moments in a cupboard under the stairs with no window and a lock on the inside (so the family can't find you) only stealing out for a drink or the loo when they're playing upstairs. 2. You dress in flowing writerly clothes - a White Stuff skirt, ruffled blouse and hair loosely piled into a chignon/brogues, a collarless shirt and a waistcoat (with pocket watch). Your writing garb usually consists of tracky bottoms, your dad's old dressing gown and Big Pants (to avoid abrasions to the inner thigh from tight knicker elastic. This is helpful during comfort-eating binges - see below)
3. Your in-box contains appreciative emails from emotional readers telling you how much your articles/books/blog posts have changed their lives which you consider modestly while drinking champagne. Your emails contain a steady flow of rejections from agents and publishers but you keep going anyway determined to find ways to improve your submissions (along with a bit of comfort eating for support - see Big Pants, above) 4. Your on-line posts about your successes are read avidly by your admirers and usually get around 200 likes in the first 30 minutes. You generally forget to attach the link correctly so there is no point wearily refreshing your page every few seconds as nobody can see it anyway. You decide to ask your son/partner/the Tesco delivery man, to give you a lesson on how to share links. 5. You put aside a whole morning every day for writing while your cleaner does the ironing, cooking, shopping and cleaning. You squeeze in half an hour when you can, notebook at the ready, during breaks at work/while folding washing, waiting for the meal to cook. You are genuinely surprised when you are late for a lesson/ have left half the washing on the line/have condemned the family to an inedible mass of congealed pasta. 6. You are supremely confident about everything you write and can't wait to see more of it out there among your adoring readership. However many successful articles/books/posts you've written, you are regularly filled with self-doubt. causing you to google Plot Lines That Work and TED Talks on Comma Usage. 7. All your neighbours/friends/colleagues know you're a writer because you're constantly reminding them what you're writing and where they can buy your published work. People are surprised when they find out you're a writer and keen to read what you've written. You don't need the affirmation of others to make you feel authentic (although the stationery aisle in Smiths helps too). 8. You do not need encouragement/support/constructive criticism from other writers though you are very happy to offer it to them. Your writing buddy/group/community is one of the most precious things you have. While you would occasionally like to stab them in the eye for pointing out inconsistencies you've been successfully hiding for months, you know their caring honesty is vital for your own writerly growth. Also, you can pinch their marketing ideas. 9. Your creative ideas are listed neatly in your antique leather journal, in black copperplate handwriting formed by a traditional ink pen. You scribble things down on the nearest available surface - bus tickets, serviettes, the baby - with a red felt pen you found in your pocket.
10. You don't have much time for people - you are too busy writing. You are curious about people's lives and find yourself guiltily mining them for detail while wondering if it's immoral to use them in a cunning sub-plot.
So, are you a real writer yet? I suspect the answer is probably Yes! Go for it, dear Writer, and Godspeed...
Click on the link to see the novella on amazon You can see my educational articles here Deborah Jenkins is a freelance writer and teacher, who has written articles, text books, devotional notes and short stories. She also writes regularly for the tes. She has completed a novella, The Evenness of Things, available as an Amazon e-book and is currently working on a full length novel. Deborah loves hats, trees and small children. After years overseas with her family, who are now grown up, she lives in East Sussex with her husband, a Baptist minister, and a cat called Oliver.