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Posts Tagged ‘Australian Christian fiction’

There I was, sitting quietly as I waited for the meeting to start at which I was to speak. I chatted to a friend nearby, then glanced around to make sure all my books set out on a nearby table for sale later looked neat and inviting. And in that moment, it was like the scales were lifted from my eyes.

In an instant, I saw more clearly than I ever have how gracious God has been to me over these past nine years since I began writing and how thankful I need to be for this. It was as if God had taken a beautiful colour photo of my book table, with its display of my five novels and one non-fiction book, enlarged it and held it before my eyes for a moment so that I could not ignore it. And as I looked, the many opportunities I have been given in these years to speak at different places also flashed into my mind. What rich experiences had come my way in all sorts of shapes and sizes! And what a privilege each one of them had been!

As the enormity of this moment sunk in, I felt almost overwhelmed—and very humbled. Apart from the grace of God at work in my life, none of this would have happened. I would not have written one book in this time, let alone six, with a seventh due out next year! Apart from the absolute faithfulness of God in encouraging me, both directly and through others, I would not have begun my writing journey or persevered through all sorts of discouragement and lasted the distance.

I sat there, wondering how I would be able to get up and speak after such a revelation. But then I decided the best way was to be honest and share what God had shown me—so that’s where I began. And I hope and pray something of the awe I was feeling at God’s grace and faithfulness to me touched those present, causing them to praise God too and to realise that without God, we are nothing.

How much we all need to remember the grace and faithfulness of God to us! King David challenges us to do exactly that in 1 Chron 16:8-13:

Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.

Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced, O descendants of Israel his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.

So … thank you, Lord God, for all you have done for me. As I speak and write of your love and grace to us your children, may I do so with great joy and gladness. Where would I be without you? Help me to stay close to you and to rely on your strength in everything I do. I remember you, Lord, with a heart full of gratitude. I remember what you have done for me. I remember how awesome you are and I honour you—now and forever. Amen

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As an author, I discovered a few books back that you can’t please everyone. Not long after my first novel was released in 2007, I remember standing with a group at church while one lady told me in a loud voice that she had been unable to get past Chapter Two! A few moments later, her daughter came up and said: ‘Oh, I loved your book so much! When is your next one coming out?’ This event armed me well for my writing days ahead.

Four novels followed. No doubt some who bought these were unable to persevere in reading them, but I am aware others have devoured them, because they bothered to write and tell me. Now quite a few authors I know are plagued by self-doubt—including me at times. It is something God has had to work on with me for a while, but I’m learning! And I must admit that positive comments about my books have helped. I don’t think it’s just because these nice, encouraging words feed my ego. I prefer to see them as little messages from God, saying to me: ‘You see—you are on the right track! Your writing is getting better and achieving what you hoped it would achieve. Keep touching people’s lives through your writing!’

But this past week has been a very interesting experience in receiving comments about my first non-fiction book Soul Friend: The story of a shared spiritual journey. I am finding I care even more about these than with my previous books, since this book is about my own journey with my spiritual friend and mentor Joy. Already I can see how careful I will need to be about taking any negative comments too much to heart. After all, didn’t I learn back in 2007 that you can’t please everyone? So when I received an email informing me that a review of Soul Friend had been taken down from a particular website because some of the ‘broader methods’ mentioned in the book could not be seen to be endorsed by the group whose website it was, I tried to laugh it off. I didn’t know I was that heretical! I wrote back, trying to be as gracious as possible. I am not sure I succeeded, since I discovered I was also quite annoyed.

But then two things happened. Firstly, I stumbled upon 2 Timothy 2:23:

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he (she) must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

Secondly, I began to see God’s gentle grace in action when three encouraging emails arrived from different readers in quick succession. ‘Your book, Soul Friend, is a wonderful story’, the first one began. ‘Soul Friend is everything the blurb says and more. I really congratulate you, Jo-Anne. We need books that are honest and for real and I am sure it will help many’, the second one read. Amazingly, she went on to warn me I might experience some opposition as a result of some things I had included in the book! The third email ended with the following: ‘Jo-Anne, you have such a beautiful way of articulating things. Thank you so much for being brave enough to share your story. And thank you to Joy also for your words of wisdom.’ Then and there, I endeavoured to take all this encouragement in and not let the one negative comment outweigh the positive.

May you too, writer or otherwise, find the right response to those whose opinions impact your life and may you be strengthened by God’s grace as you do.

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One of the handiest qualities any aspiring writer needs to have, in my opinion, is a good dose of humility. In the very uncertain book publishing world, an author may well have to survive endless assessments and editing of his or her precious manuscript, not to mention possible multiple rejections from potential publishers. Then comes the reader feedback, encouraging or otherwise, along with favourable or unfavourable reviews. And of course there are the times when others’ books are released while yours is still waiting for that publishing contract or when friends’ books win awards and yours doesn’t or when your books do not sell nearly as well as someone else’s.

In my writing journey thus far, I have experienced all of the above at one point or another. I think I have learnt a little more humility in the process—although perhaps that could be too proud a claim to make! And I hope I have sincerely rejoiced with those who rejoice when their books have been released and when they have achieved some sort of success. But I must admit my abilities in this area have been tried a little of late.

Recently, the publishers who earlier this year accepted my sixth and latest novel for publication let me know they had changed their minds! In contrast, three of my friends were enjoying varying degrees of publishing success. For one, her first book was launched after a long wait and many edits—a wonderful achievement. For another, a secular publisher has shown interest in her manuscript—an encouragement for both of us, since I have had some input into this her first work. I hope and pray it is published—my friend deserves it and has written a great, true story. Then another friend I have tried to encourage on her writing journey succeeded in having a story included in a very professional compilation released by a big publishing house. I was genuinely excited for them all. But … what about my own writing journey? Where is it heading?

Then I read John 13—the account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet—and things began to fall into perspective again. I love verses 3-4 where John writes:

 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing and wrapped a towel around his waist.

Jesus knew who he was. He knew he had all power and authority. He knew where he came from and where he was going. And on the strength of that knowledge and out of his great love for his disciples, Jesus proceeds to wash their feet.

Now I don’t have all power and authority—especially when it comes to publishers! But I do know I am a child of God. And I do know where I came from and where I am going. So I can choose to walk my writing journey with humility and in the strength of God’s Spirit, whatever is happening or not happening. And out of love for my friends, I can choose to support them well in their writing journeys and sincerely celebrate their successes.

How about you? Is humility a challenge for you too?

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