Wednesday 21 May 2014

Watching our babies grow

On 4th March this year, our fourth grandchild was born—a little girl called Maxine. Of course, she is
gorgeous! She has lots of black hair, big dark eyes and lovely, milk chocolate skin, courtesy of her Ghanaian father. And now she has a beautiful smile that has become wider and wider and appears more often these days. We look forward to the next stages of her development too, which no doubt will include things like noticing her own hands and rolling over onto her tummy. At the moment, we can’t imagine her sitting or crawling or eventually walking and talking, but we trust all that will happen in due course.

I thought of Maxine recently, in the midst of writing my second work of non-fiction. This book was conceived towards the end of last year and is taking some time to develop. It is another memoir, but, unlike Soul Friend, it follows a particular thread of my journey from my earliest years to the present. As well, each chapter contains some teaching on one facet of that journey and some reflection questions for readers. At the moment, I am unsure if it will work—and whether it will even be considered suitable for publication. Some days, I want to forget about the whole idea, because this book is proving quite difficult to bring together in the shape I envisage. But I press on. After all, it’s my baby—it has a name already and I can visualise that cover even now.

I remember a time in 2005 when I was looking for a publisher for my very first novel Heléna. I had almost given up and shared my dilemma with some Christian women leaders at a retreat. As we prayed for one another, one younger woman prayed specifically that I would find a publisher and that Heléna would in fact be birthed safely. I was touched to the point of tears that she understood how this first novel did indeed feel like a real baby to me. It had actually gestated within me for years and years—and I longed for it to see the light of day. Later, she quietly told me she had seen an ad for a new Christian publisher in a magazine at her mother’s place and would send me the details. I knew she was a busy, young mum and doubted she would remember—but she did. Many months later, this was the publisher who released my first novel Heléna.

Yes, sometimes it’s exhausting work, coaxing those books inside us into being, helping them take shape in the way God wants. But I take heart as I watch our little Maxine develop more and more as a little person. As I put time and effort and prayer into this current writing project of mine, it will come together, if God wants it to touch others for the Kingdom. As I nurture it carefully and as God breathes life into it, it will grow and blossom, just as God has reminded me through our little granddaughter.

If you too are in the midst of wrestling with a writing project, may you take heart today and keep going. May God give you great joy as you watch that precious baby grow and develop—and eventually stand on its own two feet!

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and three grandchildren. For more information, please visit or


  1. I know a lot of authors use the baby analogy, but personally I think a book is more like an adult child about to leave home.

    You've birthed the idea, spent months (often years) writing and revising until it's the best you can make it, then you call on outside assistance (editor or publisher) to further refine it. Finally you publish, and release it to the world, at which point it's out of your hands. It's not longer a baby, but a fully-formed adult, ready and able to leave the security of home and stand on its own merit.

    I do see many books which have been pushed out into the world too early. They are like young children - they have potential, but needed more love and nurture (revising and editing) before they are mature enough to face adult life alone.

    I enjoyed Soul Friend, so I'll look forward to seeing this new baby once it has grown to adulthood!

  2. Hmmm--I think this 'new baby' still has a loooooong way to go before he/she is ready to be let loose in the big, wide world! But thanks for your encouraging comment about looking forward to it, Iola. And yes, I get your analogy about our books being more like adult children leaving home--makes sense. But I still remember wanting to hold that first novel of mine close and feeling so vulnerable and protective about it (her?!).

  3. Lovely post Jo-Anne. Maxine is just beautiful.

    Your words are encouraging for someone like me whose ideas sit on the back burner for a long time as they simmer and develop their flavour. Maybe the analogy for my writing journey should be related to a (very) slow cooker!

    1. Thanks, Andrea--and yes, she is a bit gorgeous, isn't she? A real threat to getting any writing done if I am minding her as I just want to sit and hold her!

      I like your slow cooker analogy too. Much better not to rush these things and publish too early, as Iola warns above.

  4. Gorgeous grandchild, Jo!
    I'd never thought about letting our"adult" books out into the world before. So true, Iola. A lot of work has to be done after we've thought we're finished with the actual story.

    Maybe only writers really understand how we feel about our creations, Jo. We've put so much love and striven to bring out the best. And that awkward feeling of rejection when not everybody loves our "babies" like we do. Ah-hah! Then we discover their faults and try again. Yes, it's a never-ending job until someone else takes over...

    1. Thanks for your comments, Rita. I have just spent the whole morning talking with a lovely writer friend whose first book is yet to be published and encouraging her to keep going, despite rejection. She said much the same as you that she knew I would understand because I am a writer. Yes, it's a long haul at times and we don't like to see our 'children' rejected, but that's just the way it is, so we keep going!

  5. Hi Jo-Anne,
    Maxine looks like a gorgeous, contented bub.
    I'll be looking forward to the new memoir too, as I always enjoy what you have to share.
    And yes, I agree about sending books out into the world, because they are just like our children, from conception, through babyhood to the teen stage and beyond.

    1. Yes, she is a good little baby and we are very blessed, with four lovely grandchildren now.

      And thanks for your encouragement about my new memoir etc, Paula. Having just given three sessions as the speaker at a church retreat over this past weekend, it is a bit difficult to turn my mind back to writing. But words like yours help, for sure. Now I have said publicly I am writing another memoir, I had better get on with it and finish it!

  6. Jo-Anne, lovely post! Maxine is gorgous. Why would you want to write when you can cuddle your grandbaby? :)

    To survive the book refining process of editing, reviews etc. it can be helpful for authors to let go of their babies, and acknowledge their books are 'growing up' and being transformed into marketable products. All new parents believe their babies are beautiful, and only mean-hearted people with no manners would dare to tell a parent their newborn is ugly. I agree with Iola's thoughts. The books that are ready for market are more like adult children leaving the nest.

    1. Thanks, Narelle. Sometimes we don't WANT to see those children and grandchildren of ours grow up, do we?! We have two older granddaughters, now aged eleven and eight, whose mum often says she wants them to stay that age, because she is so enjoying the girls as they are! It can be a wrench to see them change and develop and want to do their own thing, but we know we have to allow that sometime. And the same goes for our 'book babies', for sure.

  7. JoAnne, I agree. Her Tycoon Hero is the book I've found the hardest to let go. It's my first book, and I started writing Ryan and Cassie's story 16 years ago. Their story had been a part of my life for years. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to the characters, knowing I wouldn't be revisiting their story.


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