Wednesday, 20 June 2018

A Question of Interpretation: Introducing Stories of Life 2018

By May-Kuan Lim @ACWriters

Storytelling is essentially an act of interpretation, especially when we tell true stories of something that happened to someone.

A CCTV camera records pictures, and a court transcript records words, but neither tells a story in the artistic sense. A story needs something more. It needs interpretation. It needs to answer the question: what joins the plot points? Or, more importantly, who? And why?

In Steering the Craft, Ursula Le Guin writes:

Plot is merely one way of telling a story, by connecting the happenings tightly, usually through causal chains. Plot is a marvellous device. But it’s not superior to story, and not even necessary to it.

In the opening pages of the Bible, we have the plot points of creation, temptation, and the fall. The serpent questions Eve – ‘Did God really say?’ – thus introducing doubt. With naivety, Eve recounts the story, affirming God’s commandment, but the serpent then reinterprets the story to suit his purpose:

You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

The serpent’s version gets some facts right – God doesn’t want you to not eat – but some facts wrong – you will not surely die. Furthermore, the serpent adds a duplicitous explanation as to why God forbade Adam and Eve to eat the fruit – God doesn’t want you to become like him. Eve buys into the serpent’s version of the story, and eats the fruit.

It is only human to long to know if our lives are by design or by chance. If it is by design, we wonder about the identity and character of the designer: good or bad? Kind or cruel? Still invested in us or distant and disinterested? The way we interpret our lived experience affects the decisions we make and ultimately the life we live.

In the Bible, we hear heroes of the faith interpret key moments in their life. When Abraham saw the ram caught in the thicket, he didn’t thank his lucky stars. Instead, he named the place, 'On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.'

While running away from his brother who wanted to kill him, Jacob had a dream. He did not attribute this to stress, but said, 'Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'

When Joseph’s brothers came begging for grain, he did not see this as a chance for revenge, but as evidence of God’s greater purpose, 'God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.'

These stories form the bedrock of our Christian faith. 

They tell us God joined the plot points. For our faith to be living and vibrant and active, we need to know that God still joins the plot points today.

In the 2017 Stories of Life anthology, The Gecko Renewal, I read exactly that. In one of the stories in the anthology, Three Miracles, Hazel Barker records what her Christian mother had said in war-time Burma. 'Last night, while the bombs rained down, Rose sang, Father, we thank Thee for the Night. Her eyes were shut when she thrilled out the hymn. I placed my hand on her forehead. Her temperature had dropped. I knew the crisis had passed.

In Freedom Calls, Shakira Davies recalls an abusive relationship, ‘Then you raised your fists. I knew what was coming, and yet I could feel an unusual strength inside that I drew on. I steeled myself and stared at you, almost daring you to act. You stared at me, drew back your hand, read to punch … but what happened? What did you see? Because you dropped your hands and walked out. I knew at that moment that God had been the one protecting me all my life. I knew at that moment God was protecting his child.’

In A Moving Experience, Jo-Anne Berthelsen poses the question, ‘Could God play a key role in such a practical matter as moving house? What do you think?’

We are Christians most probably because we have seen God’s hand in some aspect of our lives. I am writing today to ask a question:

Would you consider writing up one such story and enter it in the Stories of Life writing competition?

Our website states, ‘We are not looking for devotionals or reflections on bible passages.’ 

That is to say, don’t submit something like this blog post. Rather, tell us your story, with you, the viewpoint character. (You can also write someone else’s story, with his or her permission.) If a person of faith is the viewpoint character, the story will be a story of faith, whether or not bible verses are quoted.

Apart from the AUD4,500 worth of cash prizes, Stories of Life is also a chance to get your story published because all short listed entries will be published in an anthology at the end of the year. Some stories will also be broadcast on Life FM radio in Adelaide and may also be printed in the Eternity Matters column of various newspapers.

To date, over sixty stories of faith and testimony have been published. 2017 runner up, Lisa Birch, noted, ‘One interesting thing about being published in Stories of Life has meant that people in my life who don’t usually read have been really happy to read The Gecko Renewal – and not just my story either. The incidental collaboration with people from all walks of life is refreshing – there really is something for everyone in this anthology.’

At Stories of Life, we want to help Christians tell their stories well. We have numerous writing resources on our website and we are holding a free editing class tomorrow, Thursday, 21 June, at Tabor Adelaide. The first part of the workshop, from 7pm to 7:30pm Adelaide time, will be live streamed on Facebook. Those wishing to attend in person and participate in small group work, please register here.

The closing date for submissions is 31 July 2018. Winners will be announced at the official launch of the Stories of Life anthology in late October or early November.

About May-Kuan Lim

From 2007 to 2015, May-Kuan Lim wrote a monthly parenting column for The Borneo Post. She would interview experts for the column to answer her own parenting dilemmas. Interviewing people and writing became her way of trying to understand the world. In 2015, she won an Arts SA Emerging Mentorship grant for a narrative non-fiction work on asylum seekers. She is a member of Writers SA and Oral History Australia. May-Kuan blogs at

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Tuesday Book Chat | 19th June 2018 | Narelle Atkins

Narelle here. Welcome to our ACW Tuesday Book Chat where we encourage book lovers to answer our bookish question of the week. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Please join in the conversation in a comment on this post or in a comment on the blog post shared in our Australasian Christian Writers Facebook Group.  

Let's chat. Have you requested books for your local library?

Monday, 18 June 2018

Running a Physical Book Launch (Non-fiction)

By Christine Dillon @ACWriters

There are many types of book launches. Nowadays and especially in the world of independent publishing (indie) the main kind is the online ‘release’ date of the book.

In contrast, this article is going to focus on the kind of event where people physically turn up.

Purpose of a physical book launch

As the name implies, it is to send your book out into the world with a bit of a bang rather than letting the event happen without anyone knowing.

It allows you to tell the story behind the book and create buzz. Hopefully it also allows you to sell lots of physical copies of your book and gain new fans.

Timing of a book launch

Generally the closer to the actual publication day the better. However, my fiction launch was six weeks after the online book release. This allowed some of the attendees to have already read the book. They came and bought more copies for relatives, friends … obviously this won’t happen if they don’t like the book. They functioned as a group of walking book advertisements.

What do you actually do at a book launch?

The short answer is, it depends on what kind of book you’re launching.

Non-fiction is generally easier, especially if it is on some sort of speciality area. My first two books were traditionally published non-fiction on the ‘how to’ topics of Bible storytelling and discipling others. The problem was that both of them were released overseas - UK and US. Thus, there was no physical ‘launch’. One of the publishers did arrange four radio interviews for me.

It wasn’t until the second one was translated and published into Chinese that I was physically present to launch.

It turned out to be a big series of events. The publisher asked me to prepare a seminar based on the content of the book. We decided two hours was a reasonable length.

I was able to adapt material from the many training seminars I’d done. My launches were interactive seminars but lectures may also be appropriate.

In the end, I did seven ‘official’ (publisher arranged) book tour seminars. On top of that, I arranged a further six in smaller towns. The publisher printed posters to advertise the book launch tour, internet … and did all the booking of venues … all I had to do was turn up. They also paid travel expenses.

The key to seminars is to do enough to make people hungry for more. If you cover everything in your book then they are unlikely to see any reason to buy it!

I’d already been an ‘author’ for six years when I did this first tour. God really stepped in because four days before the first and biggest seminar (220 attendees), I had my appendix removed. By God’s grace and the kindness of the publisher (providing a bar stool for me to sit on rather than having to stand), I made it through.

Two years later, I did another tour of mostly the same places. Many who attended the second one had attended the first. We sold many additional copies of the first book at the second launch even though they were on different topics.

If your book has elements of history, biography or memoir, then you can give ‘teaser’ sections. The key is to always leave the hearers wanting more.

Practical Hints 

  • Have someone else sell the books for you after the launch as this allows you to focus on book signings and talking to those attending.
  • Think hard about where to put your sales and signing table. I place them so that everyone has to pass them. Have an assistant to help you do such small things as open the book to the correct page to sign.
  • Think beforehand about the kind of things you’ll write before signing your name. I find it difficult to merely sign my name and so usually write a short blessing. For my Chinese book launches I prepared a special ink stamp and my assistant did that and then I simply signed.
  • Afternoon tea is a good way to end. It gives a sense of closure, allows people to linger and gives you the possibility of actually getting to talk to people. It can also be a way to thank people for coming.
  • Consider whether hype can be built using radio or newspaper interviews beforehand.
  • If your book is for the general market, consider where to launch and who to work in with. For example, libraries or a business related to the topic of your book. The more involvement with others usually the better because those partners can help you launch the book further.

Things I wish I’d done

Had yet another table with an assistant and a computer to encourage people to sign up on the spot to join my email subscribers. Those attending are already ‘fans’. Helping them to make that ‘official’ while they remember and have someone to assist them with technology is a smart move.

I will be back next week to talk about my experiences with a different kind of book launch: launching my self-published novel, Grace in Strange Disguise.

About Christine Dillon

Christine never intended to become an author. The only kind of writing she wondered if she might do was biography. However, it was a surprise to her to write poetry, non-fiction and now, fiction.

Christine was a physiotherapist but now she writes ‘storyteller’ on any airport forms. She can legitimately claim to be this as she has written a book on storytelling and spends much of her time either telling Bible stories or training others to do so from her base in southern Taiwan.

In her spare time Christine loves all things active – hiking, cycling, swimming, snorkeling. But she also likes reading and genealogical research, as that satisfies her desire to be an historical detective.

You can find Christine online at: (for Bible storytelling)

Friday, 15 June 2018

God Keeps His Promises

By Cindy Williams|@nutritionchic 

In my school scripture classes I am teaching the children that ‘God keeps his promises.’ We are looking at Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and seeing that God keeps his promises no matter our human foibles and failings.

I smile when I read about Sarah and Rebekah ‘helping God out’ with his promises. As if He needs help! Yet aren’t we all tempted sometimes to do this, especially when the years pass by and he doesn’t meet our deadlines and ultimatums!

God’s Promise of Land 

This week I am teaching the children about how God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and from him came the twelve tribes which eventually (around four hundred years later) settled in the land that God had promised Abraham.

The glory days of Israel, of David and Solomon, came and went. The kingdom split. The ten tribes of Israel were taken by the Assyrians (2 Kings 17:20-23), the two tribes of Judah by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:8-12). A remnant of Jews remained and after seventy years some returned to Israel. Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt and for several centuries existed in relative independence. Then the Romans took over and in 70AD destroyed the temple and city. The Jews were scattered and Israel was no more.

What happened to the promise of land? For the past two thousand years it would have been hard for Christians to believe God would keep this promise. There was no Israel. Then came 1948. In a day, at the stroke of a pen, the land of Israel existed again. Has this happened to any other nation? No matter your politics, this is surely a sign of God’s faithfulness in keeping his promises. 

God’s Promises for You 

What promises has the Lord given you? Promises for your writing, promises for your family, promises for your health? Thank the Lord for them and claim them using his word - ‘For the word of God is living and active (Heb. 4:12). Be persistent. Be patient.

If you have never sought a promise from the Lord, pray and ask for his special promise for you. He is a loving father who loves to hear us call to him, who loves to bless us and who always keeps his promises.

 About Cindy Williams

With degrees in Nutrition, Public Health and Communication Cindy has worked for many years as a dietitian for sports teams, food industry, media, and as a nutrition writer and speaker.

Her first novel, The Pounamu Prophecy, was short listed for the 2016 Caleb Prize.

She writes a blog - - stories of health, history, food and faraway places.

Cindy grew up in a culturally rich part of New Zealand, singing the songs and hearing the stories of Maori. She lives in Sydney with her husband and son, writing stories of flawed women who battle injustice... and sometimes find romance. 

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Book Review | The Keeper's Crown by Nathan D Maki

Review by Christine Dillon @StoryTellerChristine

In the last two years I have read a lot of Christian fiction. One of my concerns has been the lack of good books for teenage boys and young men. This is one author who writes for this audience. Prior to this book he has written a previous series of four. Maki has degrees in journalism and history and it shows. I spotted his work as I was involved in the ACFW critiques loop and immediately wrote to him. His historical research is excellent and I was never once torn out of the story by anachronisms.

This a a novel about the Roman guard who was chained to the apostle Paul. The first part of the book gives the background to Quintus. The official blurb says:


As a boy, he dared to fight Nero. Worse, he won.

Stripped of his family, the love of his life, and his self-respect, he sets out on a quest to win a victor's crown, rescue his parents, and restore his family's honor. But his path to glory in the restless province of Judaea is threatened by the corrupt governor Felix, the murderous priest Melechi, and most of all by the rabble-rousing Paul of Tarsus.

When Quintus finds himself in Rome chained to Paul all hope of a crown seems lost, but Paul's example makes him question the true meaning of success. And why does Jael, the mysterious young Jewess who once saved his life, now respond with barely restrained flashes of hate?

And for those of you who like romance, there is some there but it is not the main thing on the menu.


The Romans took her father and her brother from her.

Now Jael vows to fight for her father's faith, fulfill her brother's oath, and avenge their deaths. But the further she travels with Paul and Quintus the more she feels torn. Can she follow her heart and still keep her vow?

One of the best things about this book was that it isn’t really about a traditional hero. Quintus is a man who fails to meet most of his life goals. I loved the realism of the story. The Roman empire was a great place for strong and clever men who happened to be rich and have the right connections. If you didn’t have these things, it was a tough place. It was even tougher if you had a powerful, vindictive enemy who kept blocking your future.

Midway through the book we meet Paul. Maki obviously loves God’s word and doesn’t twist it to suit his story. He sticks with the things that we know from the New Testament but expands his story realistically into the many gaps. I particularly enjoyed the shipwreck and follow-up to that.

I rate A The Keeper's Crown at 4.5 stars.

A historical novel of great power. For lovers of Roman era stories in the vein of Francine River’s ‘Mark of the Lion’ or Tessa Afshar’s ‘Land of Silence’.

I look forward to more of Maki’s work.

About Christine Dillon

Christine never intended to become an author. The only kind of writing she wondered if she might do was biography. However, it was a surprise to her to write poetry, non-fiction, and now, fiction.

Christine was a physiotherapist but now she writes ‘storyteller’ on any airport forms. She can legitimately claim to be this as she has written a book on storytelling and spends much of her time either telling Bible stories or training others to do so from her base in southern Taiwan.

In her spare time Christine loves all things active – hiking, cycling, swimming, snorkeling. But she also likes reading and genealogical research, as that satisfies her desire to be an historical detective.

You can find Christine online at: (for Bible storytelling)

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Self-Publishing Pathways

By Louise Merrington @lmmerrington

Once upon a time, there was a well-paved route from manuscript to published book – you finished your magnum opus, got an agent and then a publisher. If you were lucky, it would be a matter of months but, for many aspiring authors, the time between writing and publication was easily measured in years.

Then, in late 2007, Amazon released the Kindle and upended the publishing landscape. A decade later, there are now more publishing options for emerging and aspiring authors than ever before. While a traditional publishing contract is still one of them, an increasing number of authors – including those who have previously had traditional contracts – are electing to self-publish or ‘go indie’, using ebook and print-on-demand technology to reach local and international markets.

I’m one of them. After my first novel, Greythorne, was published by an imprint of a major global publisher, I quickly realised that the reality of the publishing industry failed to live up to my expectations of it. When the publisher closed the imprint unexpectedly – leaving me and other authors high and dry – I decided to venture out on my own rather than trying for another traditional contract. The learning curve in the subsequent two years has been very steep, and I’m still on it, but I have no regrets about my decision.

Although self-publishing still has a degree of stigma attached to it, one of the most interesting things I’ve found has been that the ‘mid-list’, which has all but disappeared from traditional publishing, has migrated over to the independents. Indie authors are now some of the only ones who can make decent incomes without having to produce a blockbuster bestseller. Consequently, more and more established authors are starting to take notice.

As self-publishing slowly becomes more accepted among the literary mainstream, it’s also exciting to see writers’ festivals opening up space for these discussions. At this year’s Emerging Writers Festival in Melbourne (19-29 June) I’m partnering with Debbie Lee, the Manager Content Acquisition at Ingram Content Group – one of the world’s biggest book distributors and print-on-demand publishers – to discuss publishing options for emerging writers. We’re going to look at the differences between traditional, vanity/predatory, and self-publishing, and how to choose a path that’s right for you and your book. We’ll also be discussing practical strategies for getting your book out into the wide world, including distribution into libraries, schools and bookshops. The choices now available to authors mean there’s never been a better time to dip your toe in the publishing waters.

Self-Publishing Pathways, presented by Debbie Lee and Louise Merrington, is on as part of the 2018 Emerging Writers Festival.

When: Sunday 24 June from 12-12.45pm

Where: State Library of Victoria Conference Centre, 179 La Trobe Street, Melbourne, Australia

More information and tickets:

Louise Merrington is the author of Victorian Gothic mysteries Greythorne and The Iron Line (under the pen name L.M. Merrington). You can find her online at or

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Tuesday Book Chat | 12 June 2018 | Iola Goulton

It's Iola here. Welcome to our ACW Tuesday Book Chat, where we encourage book lovers to answer our bookish question of the week. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Do you read author newsletters?

As a bonus question for those who dare to answer: how many author newsletters are you subscribed to? Which one is your favourite, and why?

Please join in the conversation in a comment on this post or in a comment on the blog post shared in our Australasian Christian Writers Facebook Group. Or, if you're feeling wordy (like me), write a blog post and link to it in the comments.

Let's chat! Do you read author newsletters?