Friday, 13 November 2015

Working Together


In The Power of One, Bryce Courtney tells the story of Peekay and the power of one person to change the world. There is a lot of truth in that. We have heard of heroes  – Joan D’Arc, Martin Luther, William Wilberforce, Florence Nightingale, Martin Luther King Jr, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela – people who changed the course of history. 

And yet, there is also a power in the many.

Writing can be a solitary pursuit, compounded by the fact that many of us are confirmed introverts. This was certainly the case when I began writing in my late teens and early twenties – and finished my first novel scribbling away in spare moments and even in between patients. A friend typed the manuscript for me, others read it and encouraged my efforts. In the early 1990s, I began to seek publication (with one positive nibble) but then life took another turn and my first book baby languished in a virtual bottom drawer until 4 years ago when another school-mum mentioned the post-graduate course she was doing. I took the plunge and enrolled – making online writing friends and plunging back into writing fantasy novels. Yet I was still basically a solitary writer beavering away on my own.

And perhaps this wasn’t surprising given that there wasn’t a great deal of support or prospects for writers of Australian (and New Zealand) Christian fiction in the 1990s. 

For me the tide turned when I heard about the Word Writers Fair/Camp in 2011. That was a heady if humbling experience – suddenly being among so many already published authors, as well as editors and publishers. I came away inspired and with a bunch of new writing Facebook friends across Australian and New Zealand. At the conference, I attended the Caleb Prize dinner and heard about Omega Writers and met the redoubtable Rochelle Manners. Paula Vince invited me to join the Christian Writers Downunder Facebook group, and I began blogging for CWD in 2013, joining Omega Writers later that year.  In September 2013, I was invited to join the newly formed ACW group. In 2014, Deb Porter introduced me to Faithwriters. Since 2012 I’ve attended each of the Writers Conferences and been an active participant of the various groups.

Doing a Masters in Writing has been inspiring and challenging, but I can honestly say my participation in the Christian Writers Conferences, CWD, Omegas, ACW and Faithwriters and networking with other Christian writers has been of equal value. 

It’s been heartening to see these groups work together, supporting Christian writers in Australasia. In recent days this has been confirmed with a post from Omega’s new President Simon Kennedy about the revamped Caleb prize on CWD blogspot, a cross-post on vanity publishers by Narelle Atkins on both CWD & ACW blogs and yesterday a post by Iola Goulton introducing ACW to CWD.

So what is the difference between these groups and why not just have one group?





Omega Writers

Was launched in 2010 under the indomitable vision of its first president Annie Hamilton as a writers group (with paid membership) and in conjunction with the Caleb Prize awarded to top Australasian Christian books and one unpublished manuscript. Omega provides to members with an up-to-date website, chapters with local & special interest writing groups, news links, workshops, retreats, mentorships and manuscript appraisals, book reviews as well as a directory of members.

Christian Writers Downunder

Starting as a small group in 2010, CWD currently has over 600 members.

CWD is a writing support group with a friendly and helpful Facebook group, a blog that has been going since 2010. This year, CWD (in conjunction with By the Light Books) is publishing Glimpses of Light anthology with poems, flash fiction, short stories and creative non-fiction from Christian Writers Downunder. It also ran a lively FB group and two virtual cabins during NaNoWriMo’s Camp July.

While CWD appreciates our wonderful international members, our particular focus is on Australian and New Zealand writers, editors and publishers – we have a broad focus on different genres as well as welcoming cross-over and general market fiction writers.

Australasian Christian Writers

ACW was formed in August/September 2013 and now has over almost 400 members.

Like CWD, ACW also has a Facebook group and blog – Iola explains this groups distinctive here.  In particular, there is a greater focus on Christian fiction, readers (as well as writers) and international members. Also, ACW has recently run a Romance Competition and is currently running a NaNoWriMo FB group for those brave enough to do NaNo this month.

Faithwriters 

Faithwriters has a paid membership (with a free trial membership). While it is based in the US, a number of Aussie and Kiwi Christian authors are involved, including Deb Porter (who is also the prime mover of Breath of Fresh Air Publishing).  

There is a large overlap in membership between the different groups. And of course there are other lcoal writing critique groups too, as well as secular and international writers groups.

I can't help but wonder - could it be a movement of God that a number of groups were raised up to support Christian writers in Australasia from about 2009 onward? Certainly there has been cross pollination and, despite possible clashes of personality and opinion, an overall harmony in goals and vision. And sometimes our differences make us stronger. The sharp disagreement between Barnabas and Paul (on account of John Mark's failure) actually served to expand God’s work (as Paul headed off to new opportunities in Asia Minor and Greece). So to the formation of these different groups have further enriched and encouraged Christian writers in this part of the globe.

Annie Hamilton named Omega’s annual award CALEB – Christian Authors Lifting Each (other’s) Books.  In an ICFW blogpost, she reminds us that during the battle against the Amalekites, Joshua needed Moses to keep his arms lifted to the Lord, and Moses needed Aaron and Hur to help him hold his arms up. So too we are called to hold up each other arms, to support each other, celebrating our differences and uniting in our common purpose to honour God through our love for books, reading and writing poems, stories, novels, blogs, devotionals and non-fiction for all ages, for those both within and outside the church.


Jeanette O’Hagan 

Meerkat image courtesy of tratong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jeanette O'Hagan has a short story published in the general market Tied in Pink Romance Anthology  (profits from the anthology go towards Breast Cancer research) in December 2014 and two poems in the Poetica Christi’s Inner Child anthology launched in July 2015. She has practiced medicine, studied communication, history and theology and has taught theology.  She cares for her children, has finished her Masters of Arts (Writing) at Swinburne University and is writing her Akrad's fantasy fiction series.  You can read some of her short fiction here

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on her websites  JennysThread.com or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .


29 comments:

  1. Thanks Jenny for a powerful post. Being an extrovert who writes, I love the writer community and I'm sure I would have given up long ago except for the support and encouragement these groups bring me. I didn't start to write until 2010 and I often thank God for putting this community together for me!
    You ask 'Could it be a movement of God...?'
    I believe we are living in exciting times as God moves upon our nation and the earth. At Word Writers in Alexander Headlands in 2012 I spoke of the call of God on writers. I believe He is raising an army who will be trained, equipped and ready to spread revival revelation as He moves here in Downunder.
    I thank him for the forerunners who have generously given so much to this community in sharing of their hard earned knowledge. The ones I know and who come to mind are Mary Hawkins and Meredith Resce.
    'So let us not give up meeting together' to quote apostle Paul. We are designed to spur each other on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:25)

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    1. Thanks Jo - Yes, indeed exciting times :) I almost put Hebrews 10:25 at the end of the post. I think even us introverts need the encouragement of a community.

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  2. Thanks, Jeanette. An excellent, comprehensive post--I appreciate being given such a clear, overall picture of these different groups available to us.

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  4. I know I shouldn't be reading this in NaNo time, but I'm glad I did! It was helpful to have the break-down of what group did what and when. I ended up in both CWD and ACW as a result of ignorance, I think!

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    1. Many of us enjoy dual membership Rhonda.

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    2. Yes, quite a few of us - and some in all four. I appreciate what each group offers and feel at home in all of them.

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  5. I know I shouldn't be reading this in NaNo time, but I'm glad I did! It was very helpful to know which group did what and when - and why. I ended up in both CWD and ACW in ignorance, really.One or the other would have been sufficient for me because of the considerable crossover in membership.

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  6. Thanks Jeanette for such a detailed explanation of each group. Funny, I'm a member of all bar one but haven't really understood their differences. There is still a part of me that thinks having the one that can address all may make sense in our small land. I do wonder how many people are members of a number of them. But I'm very happy to work within the bounds of what the greater desire.

    And what about how many members there are. Incredible. That really did surprise me. I also appreciated you explaining what CALEB meant. I had no idea it was an acronym and it really is quite apt for what it serves to do.

    Thanks again, Jeanette.

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    1. Hi Ian - glad it helped. I think the groups complement each other - so rather than diminishing our efforts, they are multiplied. And some may feel more comfortable in one group rather than another. (Maybe it's similar to wondering if it's better to have one big mega-church or many smaller local ones.)

      And I love the meaning of CALEB (as well as being a cool character in the biblical times :) )

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    2. Jeanette, I agree that having multiple groups that meet different needs is helpful. It broadens our overall online presence and provides more avenues for our local writers to contribute to the different groups in various ways.

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    3. Jeanette & Narelle, a great way of looking at it. Be assured of my support.

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    4. Ian, we appreciate all your support in the various groups :)

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  7. Thanks for a great post, Jenny. It's so good to see that although the groups have slightly different emphases, they have common goals of wanting to lift each other up and support Christian writers as they help to share the messages God has given them. I've also been reminded lately that the enemy would not want to see Christian writing groups thrive. We're in a spiritual battlefield, but we're so much stronger together than apart. Let's remember to pray for the different groups. Imagine what we can accomplish for God when we work together!

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    1. Thanks Nola. That's a good reminder that we are in a spiritual battlefield - and the importance of covering the groups with prayer.

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  8. Thanks Jenny, for making these groups and their differences clear to everyone. When it comes to the quiet but intense business of writing, it's certainly encouraging to keep in mind that we are there for each other. Sometimes even remembering each other, miles apart in our separate homes doing the same thing, is enough to inspire.

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    1. Hi Paula

      Agree - knowing we are not alone is encouraging - and even better that we can connect across the e-ways, sharing knowledge, encouraging, cheering each other on. Just as God provided Pax Romania and the Roman roads to help Paul and others to spread the good news of Jesus, and later the printing press - maybe He's using the internet to reach into every corner of the world. As Jo says 'exciting times'.

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  9. For a reader the main difference is that ACW caters for Readers and also has international readers and authors who support us where as CWD doesn't really cater for the reader and is more for authors.

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    1. And both are needed. Being a (Christian) writer can be a long, lonely and discouraging road without support (and sometimes, even with it) - and it's also wonderful that Christian readers can find the latest and best books. Fantastic, Jenny, that you feel supported as a reader with ACW :)

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    2. And maybe I should have given a passing mention Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance (which of course you help run), Soul Inspirationz, Relz Reveiew which do focus on readers of Christian fiction.

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  10. Love our writing communities! And how wonderful technology allows us to connect with people all over Australia and New Zealand and more. The support is invaluable. Thanks Jenny :)

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  11. Jeanette, great post! It's interesting how this week came together with all the complementary blog posts on ACW and CWD. Thanks for defining the areas of focus in each group, and providing an opportunity for our blog readers to learn more about the different groups.

    In regards to the question of unity, both ACW and CWD have group leaders who are writers, not publishers. As a result, a publishing relationship going sour is less likely to create disunity or hurt feelings within the groups.

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    1. Hi Narelle

      It has come together well with the timing of posts. And it does make sense for a Writers group (or Writers & Reader group) to be lead by writers (& readers).

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  12. Thanks Jeanette together with all you other dear writer/readers. It is so comforting to know we're not alone. Writing can be frustrating at times, yet a true blessing when helpful comments from fellow writers strengthen our work. We can all learn from each other and still remain unique in style and content. I. believe it helps build our character as we learn patience and perseverance...two musts in a writer's experience. And best of all we have the Lord to call on even while we write!

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    1. Thanks Rita - yes, definitely patience and perseverance are necessary for authors. And a great comfort not only to have fellow writers cheer us on, but also the Lord to empower and guide us.

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  13. Hi Jeanette, as someone living such a long way from my capital city, some of the writing groups mentioned in your post have been invaluable to me. When I think back three years, to when I first stared discovering the Christian writing world in Australia (which I had been entirely ignorant of prior to!) I have learnt so much through these groups. When I attended my first Omega Writing Conference in 2013 I knew only names and a few faces. Now, I have to keep reminding myself that I haven't actually met most of the people I converse with in these groups (yourself included!). The groups have been invaluable in my growth as a writer and given me a community I otherwise could never have had from way up here on the Fraser Coast. :)

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    1. Yes, is fantastic how we are able to 'spur each other on' despite the geographical distances between us. I've enjoyed meeting a few more people 'in the flesh' that I've interacted with on the internet. Thanks for your comment Cate :)

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