Posts Tagged ‘Living Library’

I get to do some interesting things, I’ve decided. One day last week, I found myself sitting in a large, open tent in the main courtyard at Macquarie University here in Sydney. On the desk in front of me was a sign with the title ‘novelist and minister’ beneath my name, followed by a brief description of who I am and the novels I’ve written. You see, I was taking part in a ‘Living Library’ event as the University Library’s contribution to ‘Diversity Week’ on campus. Potential readers – which included some high school students visiting the campus, uni students and staff – were free to ‘browse’ and choose which of us ‘living books’ they would like to ‘borrow’ and relate to for a while, asking as many questions as they liked.

As we were welcomed to the area by a member of the local Aboriginal tribe and treated to a ‘smoking ceremony’, I looked around at the diverse group of other ‘Living Books’ on hand – a Jewish Czech holocaust survivor, a gay activist student, a recovered alcoholic, a visually impaired Aboriginal woman elder, a young lesbian girl, a Sri Lankan Tamil refugee, an Arab Palestinian Masters’ degree student, a young male Aboriginal activist, a Turkish man keen to talk about Islam and living as a Muslim in Australia, a breast cancer survivor, a beautiful young migrant woman from South India – and ME! What was I doing there, I asked myself? Who would want to talk to me, with all these other interesting ‘books’ available?

But then two young high school girls shyly approached my table and we began talking. One in particular loved creative writing and wanted to know exactly how I went about writing novels. She had all sorts of interesting questions – with the result that about forty-five minutes passed without our realising it. Then a very curious female uni student sat down, munching her ‘vegie-burger’ as we talked. She loves writing poetry, she told me – and off we went, talking about writing ‘from the heart’ and how cathartic that can be. Soon after, a young male social science student arrived – and he too had some interesting observations to make. And in the midst of all that, I got to talk to some degree at least with the other ‘living books’ and library staff.

So what was the point of my being there, I asked myself, as I walked to my car? Well, besides imparting information about writing novels, I hope I inspired the young people who ‘read’ me to hold onto their dreams, to believe they are here for a purpose and have each been given unique gifts. I was not backward in telling them how I love writing about God and about things that will hopefully encourage and uplift people – and they seemed to respect that. And I hope too in all my conversations with those present that God was honoured in the process – that some salt and light at least filtered through my words.

And even as I write this, I find myself praying for those whose lives I touched yesterday, if only for a brief moment. Lord, have mercy on them. Heal their hearts. Bring peace to the troubled ones. Protect the young ones on the brink of life and career and show them who you are. Fulfil their dreams – reveal to them your dreams for their lives. And help me not to hide in my own little ‘cocoon’ – please keep my heart soft to the world out there that needs you so much!

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Have you ever heard of the Living Book program?  Recently I was interviewed by a journalist from the ‘Auburn Review’ about my involvement in this program at the Auburn Library.  You can see this interview by clicking here:


As it explains, ‘Living Books’ are people who are prepared to share their own stories, lives or culture with anyone who chooses to ‘borrow’ them at the Library for a twenty-minute period.  Readers can reserve a ‘book’ for a particular time slot and then when the moment arrives, they are introduced to their ‘Living Book’ by one of the library staff, who will later inform them when their ‘borrowing period’ is up.

There are certain rules in place for ‘readers’, one of which is that each ‘book’ must be returned ‘in the same mental and physical condition’ as when it was borrowed!  But the ‘books’ too have rights, including time out for a break when needed.

I have found that ‘readers’ reserve the two ‘books’ I have listed in the ‘catalogue’ (‘Writing for Publication’ and the more personal ‘Writing from the Heart – An Author’s Journey’) for a variety of reasons.  Some are clear that they want tips about novel writing or how to find a publisher.  Some simply want to know about my own personal journey – how I have managed to finish five novels and have four published.  Some don’t know anything much about writing and in fact may simply want to practise their English!  And that’s fine by me.  Then there are others who, I suspect, are quite lonely and just enjoy one-on-one time with someone who will listen and have an intelligent conversation with them.

I have met some fascinating people through this program – like the young scientist who just ‘happened’ to be in the library one day when the program was on and came and chatted about his dream to write that he had almost lost.  At the end, he thanked me for reigniting this dream – what a privilege!  Or the writer from one of the Eastern European countries who had published books in his homeland but now faced the challenge of doing the same here in a language not his own.  Or the Iranian doctor who was struggling to retrain in his profession here.  Or the Chinese student for whom authors were obviously such exalted beings!  Often they ask me why I write and what I write about, and I answer honestly. I tell them my novels have a fair bit about God and faith in God in them and that I used to be part of a local church ministry team.  At that point, ‘readers’ sometimes talk about their own faith, Christian or otherwise, and how this impacts their lives.  And what interesting discussions we have had!  Or they may be puzzled at my answers and choose to take the conversation in another direction.  And that’s fine too – they have the right to do so.

One of the reasons I enjoy being part of the Living Book program is that it is an opportunity to engage one-on-one with another person in a way that may greatly encourage them or make some difference in their lives. And I also want my ‘readers’ to feel valued and listened to in the process.  After all, that’s how God treats me.  So watch out for a Living Library program in your area – or come along and visit our program on Saturday 9th July at the Regents Park Community Centre on this occasion behind the Library in Amy St Regents Park, Sydney, from 2.00-4.00pm!

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