Friday, 15 January 2016

Different people, different books - Jo-Anne Berthelsen

Okay, it’s not very original, but one of my favourite gifts to receive at Christmas is a book—a hard copy one, that is. There is nothing quite like seeing that tantalising, oblong-shaped gift sitting there, begging to be opened. Which one could it be? Is it the one I’ve been dying to read for so long?

Now I usually have a fair idea which books I might receive, because I keep a list on my computer entitled ‘Mum’s List of Desired Books’! Many times over the years, our son has phoned me at the last minute before Christmas or my birthday or Mothers’ Day, looking for gift ideas. Our conversation usually goes something like this:

‘Mum—I’ve got last year’s list of books but I’ve given you some of those. Could you email me an updated list?’

‘Well, I could—but haven’t you left it a bit late?’

‘Nah—I’ll just go into a bookstore and see what they have from the list.’

‘Yes, but ... well, the books I like aren’t always readily available.’

‘Don’t worry—I’ll find something.’

And he always does. Once emailed, I delete that list from my mind—although not from my computer! After all, I still want to enjoy that delicious moment of surprise when I open my tantalising, oblong package.

This year, I scored two books from our son—Kate Morton’s The Lake House and Anna Funder’s All That I Am, a story based on true events about a group of friends who resist the Nazi regime. Also, my husband gave me The Girl From the Train (Note—not The Girl On the Train, which I’d also like to read!) by South African author Irma Joubert. But I was already re-reading At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon, while attempting to recover from trying to enjoy P D James’s Death Comes to Pemberley! Yes, all these make up an eclectic mix—but that’s how I like it. It enables me to learn new things and appreciate the creativity of others, as well as glean what I can for my own writing.

But all this reading has also confirmed something else in my mind. I believe we need to write the books inside us that are burning to be written, irrespective of whether we think they will fit in the current market or whether they are too unlike what anyone else is writing or whether they stick to those writing rules we have learnt. After all, no one else can write that unique story that is bubbling up inside us. True, some people may not like what and how we write—and that’s okay. No one book will appeal to everyone. It’s a big world out there, with many different sorts of readers and many different tastes in reading. And, somewhere in amongst them, we need to trust that God has our readers who will relate to how we write and enjoy our stories.

So in 2016, let’s be prepared to write with passion and flair and excellence, but to be true to God and to ourselves as we do. Let’s read widely too, honouring the gifts and abilities God has given others. And if you have any thoughts on these issues, please share them with us all!


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 four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com

13 comments:

  1. Hi Jo-Anne, I read The Girl From the Train recently. It's excellent. Fascinating insight into WWII from a Polish perspective plus the immigration strategies of South Africa around post-WWII. I hope you enjoy it.

    Good advice re: reading widely. Having read mostly thrillers and such for years I'm now tending to read far more widely and am enjoying it immensely.

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  2. Hi, Ian--thanks for your comments. And yes, I thought 'The Girl From the Train' was a refreshingly well-written, enjoyable read and agree it was fascinating to discover those different insights into events surround WW2 from the perspectives of other nations. I'm now onto 'All That I Am', but it is a very dark, disturbing read, so I am trying to balance it with something a little lighter at the same time!

    Perhaps I should do what you have done but in reverse and add more thrillers to my 'to read' pile?! I think that would be my husband's opinion as he devours them at a great rate, mostly from the local library or as e-books. I do read the occasional John Grisham or Davis Bunn or such like though and often re-read those more gentle mysteries from times past like Dorothy Sayers' 'Lord Peter Wimsey' books and Ellis Peters' mediaeval 'whodunits'.

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  3. Yes, here's to eclectic reading piles such as yours. I find that even though I try to read more widely and enjoy it, it's always great to get back to my favourite genres. It's good that every genre is somebody's favourite.

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    1. Love that last sentence of yours, Paula--'It's good that every genre is somebody's favourite'! That puts it well. And I agree to that it feels like coming home, doesn't it, when we go back to our favourites.

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  4. I am enjoying spreading my wings and reading from a wider range too. Thanks for your post. I feel encouraged to press in and persevere to move the unique stories I have simmering off the back burner. I'm hearing an echo that sounds something like 'out of the frying pan into the fire?' :)

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    1. So glad you feel encouraged to press on, Mazzy. Just this week, I spoke about my writing journey to a group of people at a secular club and mentioned how writing involves lots of perseverance and self-discipline and determination. So, may you keep on persevering and moving those stories off that back-burner--but hopefully not into the fire!

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  5. I think you will enjoy The lake House, Jo-Anne. I did. Also love the Mitford series. Like you I try to read a wide variety.

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    1. Hi Dale! Yes, I certainly did enjoy 'The Lake House', although I still think I like 'The Secret Keeper' best of all Kate Morton's books I have read. I just wondered if things tied up a little too neatly at the end of 'The Lake House'--but who am I to criticise such a clever book?! And yes, re the Mitford series, so far I have read only the first one, but I'm hoping to be given the second for my birthday soon!

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  6. Thank you Jo-Anne, for this post. That was a message I needed to hear.

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    1. Really appreciated your letting me know this, Mimi, as sometimes when I write such posts as this I wonder if anyone else is on my wavelength! I hope and pray you will continue to find encouragement to press on with your writing in the months ahead. God bless!

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  7. Thanks for a great post Jo-Anne - and a timely one. I'm very appreciative of all the craft lessons and insights I've gained over the years - to hone my skills & help me tell my stories well. However, sometimes those lessons can knock one's (my) self-confidence & leave one wondering whether those stories burning inside are rubbish. I hope not; they won't leave me alone :)

    I also chuckled when you said ' attempting to recover from trying to enjoy P D James’s Death Comes to Pemberley' I did complete it but I can't say I enjoyed it - great premise, good plot but bogged down in so much backstory and headhopping. I came away wondering why we needed to know the life story and family history of every minor servant in Pemberley!

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    1. Jeanette, just think of all those well-known authors from the past who probably thought somewhere along the line that what they wrote was rubbish, as they experienced rejection after rejection! But they kept going--and I totally admire the fact that you are too. And I'm glad we agree re 'Death Comes to Pemberley'!! The author probably needed all that back story etc to make a decent length novel out of it!

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    2. Jeanette, just think of all those well-known authors from the past who probably thought somewhere along the line that what they wrote was rubbish, as they experienced rejection after rejection! But they kept going--and I totally admire the fact that you are too. And I'm glad we agree re 'Death Comes to Pemberley'!! The author probably needed all that back story etc to make a decent length novel out of it!

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