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Posts Tagged ‘Australian Christian publisher’

I must admit to feeling a little nervous these past few days. You see, our younger daughter is due to have her second child, a breech baby, by caesarean this week. The date is set, but because her first child was born very quickly—in fact, while she was trying to walk from the bathroom to her bed in the hospital birthing unit—she is a little on tenterhooks with this one. She is sure the baby will not wait for that due date. So we wait and wonder. Will she make it to that planned caesarean? Or will the baby make up its own mind and opt for an earlier entry into the world?

‘I can’t wait till the new baby to be born!’ our granddaughter and the baby’s cousin told her parents recently. But, like all of us, she has to curb her impatience, hold onto that excitement and just plain wait—never easy for a seven year old.

I was reminded of another kind of waiting this past weekend when, despite the rain and a painful back, I decided to plant two seedlings I obtained for free from our local council. You see, the ground was so soft, making it easier to clear enough weeds away to enable me to dig those small holes and plant my callistemon and nandina. And the moist ground and humid weather will help my new little shrubs to survive and hopefully flourish. But it will all take time—years, in fact, before those shrubs are the size I would like them to be.

So many things in our lives require waiting, don’t they? As an author, I am well acquainted with this whole process—waiting for manuscript readers to comment, waiting for months to hear back from publishers to whom you have submitted your precious first few chapters, waiting for the whole editing process to be completed, waiting for that release date, waiting until the those copies arrive on the bookshelves in stores, waiting for reviews, waiting for those promotional opportunities … on it goes. Along with developing a thick skin, I think any author needs to work at acquiring a hefty dose of patience if he or she is going to survive in the writing world.

And what of our journey with God? As a result of working on my next non-fiction book that reflects on my own life story, I have seen how much I grew during those times of waiting on God—when I stopped to listen and learn, to observe what was happening in the now and to look to God for wisdom and insight. This ‘active waiting’, as it is sometimes described, is a skill I am still learning even now—that precious, God-given art of being ‘present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are’, as Henri Nouwen puts it. God has things to teach me right now, even as I wait for the birth of this new grandchild.

So let’s welcome those waiting periods rather than rush on. God may well be preparing us for what lies ahead. And God may even have deep and wonderful things to reveal to us as we hold our hearts open before him.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

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Do you remember those ‘Choose Your Own’ children’s adventure books from years ago? If you as the reader wanted the story to take a certain twist, then you were instructed to turn to a particular page and follow the thread of your own choosing from there on. If you wanted, you could even go back and follow a different trail to a different outcome. What fun! Multiple possibilities for a satisfactory ending at your fingertips.

But what if a book you were reading had no actual ending? What if you were reading along happily, enjoying the book so much that you couldn’t put it down, only to discover those last few pages holding that crucial final resolution to the story were missing? Imagine how annoying that would be!

This very thing happened to a friend of mine recently. In fact, this friend was reading a copy of my own latest novel, The Inheritance! Worse than that, it was a copy I myself had given her as a thank you gift for her kind hospitality during a recent interstate trip. Picture my dismay, then, when she emailed to tell me what had happened!

I hastily posted a replacement copy to my friend to ease her frustration. But I also thought of all those people who have already bought a copy. What if this wasn’t a one-off fluke? What if there were others who would discover the story ended abruptly in mid-sentence? Yet, so far, no one else has complained of any missing pages to me or my publisher. I also checked through any open boxes of my own supplies of this novel, but, in the end, decided all I could do was try to check each copy I personally sell in future. As for bookstore sales, I hope anyone who does find those last pages missing will speedily return their copy to the store.

But this whole alarming event caused me to think about other ‘ends of stories’ in our lives. We live with so much uncertainty, don’t we? We don’t know exactly how our day will unfold when we get up in the morning. We don’t know what the week or month or year ahead will contain. We may think we do, but things often have a habit of turning out differently from what we expected. Yet we know for sure who does know the end of the story—both our own personal story and that of the whole world. And our God, with great grace, has also given us glimpses in Scripture of how things will unfold. We know, for example, that one day we will see Jesus face to face (1 Cor 13:12). One day, Jesus will return and take us to live with him forever in the place he has prepared for us (Jn 3:16; 14:3) where there will be no more tears (Rev 7:16-17). And one day, having finished the race and kept the faith, we too will be welcomed into God’s presence.

Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. 2 Tim 4:8

That’s one perfect story ending I’m very much looking forward to. How about you?

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I often comment to others how fulfilling it is as a writer to be able to draw on past experiences and past occupations I have had in what I do now. It’s amazing to me how the various strands of our lives are woven together in such unexpected ways at times, as we continue to trust God in every part of our journey. Not only does my past provide ample material for my novels and also the non-fiction I write, but it also pokes its head up in the present in other areas, showing me clearly that God has gone before me and knows a lot more about my life than I do myself.

Last week, I sat down to prepare a workshop I will be taking in October at the Word Writers’ Getaway in Queensland (see www.thewordwriters.com for more information). Since my workshop, Getting in before your editor does, will be two hours long and is, after all, a workshop, I knew I would need to incorporate various exercises for participants to do in our time together. So next came the puzzle of how to balance my input with allowing time for exercises to be completed – and also what type of exercises would be most helpful, given our time constraints. After all, I want this to be a rich learning experience for those who choose to attend this workshop.

Soon my mind was in full swing, as I prepared notes, exercises and a power point presentation—and it was not long before I was enjoying myself immensely! Part of my enjoyment, I realised, stemmed from the fact that I was drawing on skills that had become second nature to me way, way back in my high school teaching years. These same skills had also been accessed, to some degree, in my time as part of a church ministry team when I ran short courses on different aspects of ministry. And on top of that, I was also drawing on lessons learnt from my editing journey with my own and others’ manuscripts in more recent years. So in the midst of my preparation, I took a moment to thank God for the way all these experiences are now bearing fruit in my life, as I endeavour to resource other authors.

And now, as I prepare a seminar I am also presenting, I have found an added reason to be thankful. You see, this seminar is called Writing that irresistible book proposal—definitely a tongue in cheek title! From memory, I reckon I have written somewhere between twenty and twenty-five book proposals in the past few years—and potential publishers or agents have had no trouble in resisting many of them! On the other hand, I have also had six novels and one non-fiction book accepted for publication. So I can draw not only on the positive times when my book proposals have borne fruit, but also on the negative times when all my work seemed to have gone for nothing. To me, this is a further wonderful example of how God weaves everything together and how no experience is wasted—not even those moments of rejection and deep disappointment.

As you look back on your own life, can you see God’s hand at work, weaving those strands together? When you do, may you too be able to say with a thankful heart:

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands … (Psalm 31:14-15)

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Just over a year ago, after completing six novels, I began planning out my very first non-fiction book. I had been thinking and talking about it for some time, but in May 2011, I knew I had to act. Months of reading through my old journals and emails, marshalling my thoughts into some sort of order and of course writing ensued, before the first draft of Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey emerged. Then it was time for much revision and editing, before submitting it to a publisher. To my delight, it was accepted and is now due for release in October.

Over these months, I noted several differences between writing novels and non-fiction – I hope I have managed to tackle these well and overcome the challenge of switching genre. But next came a further new experience – that of working with a different publisher. This turned out to be an excellent and comfortable fit, but it still involved learning how to work with someone different and understand what was expected of me.

However, now that Soul Friend is complete, I can see even more new challenges looming, as I begin my whole promotion journey. In many ways, this will be similar to promoting my novels, but I think I see differences ahead as well. Non-fiction opens up some areas for me that were closed to novels, while on the other hand, I expect there to be some difficulty in promoting my non-fiction work as readily as I have my novels in secular venues. So now is the time to re-think my approach, to pray, to discuss, to plan – and to begin contacting people and organisations yet again.

At times, I cringe at the thought – it all seems too daunting. But then as I take time to regroup with God, I begin to glimpse the exciting nature of it all and the amazing privilege that is mine of being able to write and speak in this way. And I also glimpse again the truth that I am not doing this on my own. God is with me and will lead and sustain me as I step out in this new part of my journey.

This morning, as I continued my regular reading of Scripture, I reached Isaiah 42:18-20 again. Back in 2003, God used these verses to challenge me to begin writing, to show me that I was being deaf and blind to the clear call I had already been given to get on with producing my first novel I had talked about for so long. Now my eyes were drawn to verse 16 a little earlier on:

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.

So … will God not be there at every new twist and turn in this different phase of my writing experience, showing me the way forward?  I might feel I’m still groping along rather blindly in it all, still not seeing and hearing clearly what to do, but God will be there, and will even be smoothing the way ahead for me. How gracious and loving and understanding is our God?

Yes, I am challenged. But I am also blessed beyond measure. How about you?

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I wonder how long it is since you have signed an important document or agreement of some description. Perhaps it was in the process of purchasing something big – like a house or a car. Perhaps it was that agreement to pay back to the bank the money they were kindly lending you. Did you feel as if you were signing your life away? Perhaps it was those certificates you signed on your wedding day. Or perhaps it was an agreement at a hospital, consenting to a particular procedure you were about to have. How did you feel when you were putting your signature on those important documents?

Last week, I found myself signing two important documents once again – two more book contracts, this time with a different publisher. One was for my first non-fiction book, Two are better than one: the story of a spiritual friendship, which describes my own journey over the past fifteen years or so with my very faithful spiritual mentor and friend Joy.  The other was for my sixth novel, The Inheritance, which focuses on the theme of forgiveness and highlights the truth of Hebrews 12:15: See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Now I was very happy to sign both these contracts. I love my sixth novel – I feel I have been a little more adventurous in the way I have gone about writing it and I love the characters as well. As for my non-fiction book, while I feel quite nervous about having many of my inner struggles of the past few years made public, I believe in this book and hope and pray it inspires others. Yet in both cases, I found myself hesitating for a few seconds before signing on the dotted line.

You see, signing these contracts means I commit myself to see these books through to publication and beyond. For starters, it means I am declaring these books are all my own work – and that I will deliver these completed works by the dates specified. But more than that, it means I agree to cooperate to the best of my ability with my publisher throughout the whole process and to do my utmost after publication to promote my books well. Now in return, my publisher also has to sign and agree to certain terms, such as delivering the finished product within a particular time frame and paying any royalties due. So we both commit ourselves to keep our end of the bargain and to work well together in the process.

All of which has made me reflect on the biggest commitment of my life – my commitment to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to follow him forever. While these other documents we might sign or contracts we might agree to are important, nothing could ever be as important as our commitment to God. God’s commitment to us was made abundantly clear through the death of Jesus Christ, an act of love above all other. While we were still sinners, far away from God, Romans 5:8 tells us, in love, Christ died for us.

I chose to sign my life away to God many years ago and am so thankful for that. But right now, how am I doing as far as being true to this greatest commitment of all is concerned?

Could this be a question you might ask yourself too?

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