Wednesday, 18 May 2016

The things writers do—Jo-Anne Berthelsen

I have had some interesting experiences during my writing journey, as I have spoken at many and varied places, promoted my books in stores or simply taken them somewhere to sell. In fact, from time to time, I threaten I will write a book about it all ... one day. Yet I doubt I will because, while most of my experiences have been so rewarding, I might well be too unkind about those that were not!

Take, for instance, the occasion I drove almost two hundred kilometres to speak in a church service. By the time I arrived, it had begun to rain, so I carried my books inside as quickly as I could—all the while watched by various church folk. I was shown a table I could use, but later discovered I had indeed sinned, since it was the morning tea table! I poured myself into speaking, had one good conversation, sold one book, then drove back home in the pouring rain, having been given nothing towards travelling costs—and certainly nothing for speaking.

Or take the time I sat at a church fete all day in the boiling sun, with even my book covers sweating in the process, only to sell not one book. Or the time I drove right across Sydney to speak on a busy Saturday evening, to have only four women turn up, since the meeting had not been advertised well. Or the time I was invited to speak at an RSL club nearby. Again, I was shown a table I could use—only to be told, minutes after setting up my books, that it was needed for the food. Instead, I was given a tiny, low, round table to use, still with the wet rings of cold beer glasses on it!

I doubt a book about such things would be either kind or uplifting, don’t you? But I have had many other experiences worth writing about. Like the time I spoke at a very well attended women’s breakfast. It was beautifully organised, with someone else even volunteering to sell my books afterwards, while I focussed on praying for various women instead. Later, I received a cheque for what to me was such a mind-boggling amount that I thought they must have added an extra zero by mistake!

Or take the conference I spoke at in a country town one weekend where several women bought all four of my novels published at the time in one big swoop, much to my amazement. Or take the many smaller meetings where I have spoken, including one only last week. I had just talked about how thankful I am for those who encouraged me on my writing journey and challenged those present to encourage others in their lives, when a lady I knew from years ago spoke up. She shared how I had given her a little encouraging note way back in 1992 that she has carried in her Bible ever since. A wonderful, ‘God moment’ indeed, well outweighing any negative experiences I have had.

So I encourage you all in your writing journeys, wherever you are at. Let’s take the good experiences as moments of great grace and be thankful. And let’s take the less than good as opportunities for growth, when God can comfort and strengthen us to keep on persevering.


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.  

8 comments:

  1. I love reading of your speaking adventures, Jo-Anne. Smaller groups and handfuls of people can be great opportunities to develop one's "story" while being able to have a more personal interaction.

    Your adventures are a great encouragement to the rest of us to do likewise.

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  2. Thanks so much, Ian. I'm so glad to hear that sharing my 'writing adventures' encourages other authors out there. That's exactly what I call them when I email my little prayer team before I speak somewhere--
    I always head my email 'My next adventure', then send a report afterwards entitled 'Report on my latest adventure'!

    And you're right--smaller groups do have their distinct advantages, as I am discovering all over again this year. I saw this even yesterday, when I spoke at a small Probus Club here in Sydney. Yes, there were fewer than twenty people there, but this gave me an opportunity, as you say, to have much more personal interaction with them and to tailor what I said to meet their needs as I went, plus I had some lovely conversations afterwards. So I am thankful for all this little groups I am speaking at this year.

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  3. Hi Jo-Anne - glad the good events outweigh the disappointing and just plain frustrating. I had a similar experience recently when I spoke at an event, had to cover a huge topic in a few minutes, then was so busy talking and answering questions afterwards (which was fantastic) that by the time I got to the table my books were set out, everyone had gone - with no sales (and maybe one book missing) - and then, it seemed not recompensed for the time and travel though I did get to catch up for lunch with some old friends & discovered the husband loved poetry (he bought a copy of Glimpses of Light) - and then over a month later a thank-you card came in the mail with some recompense. I guess we never know what impact our efforts may have or how they are appreciated. So lovely that you found out years later how your encouraging words made a difference in someone's life. I think there just might be many of those moments in heaven :)

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    1. Oh Jeanette, I felt for you all along, as I read of your recent speaking experience, but so glad you were able to answer all those questions after you spoke and also received that card eventually, with a littlel recompense in it!

      But what a lovely thought for you to share, that one day in heaven, there might well be many of those moments when we discover how we encouraged others without even realising or remembering it. I'm looking forward to them!

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  4. Oh, I so identify with your experiences Jo-Anne. It's good to be able to chuckle about the bad ones and find the good in even the worst of them. Isn't it wonderful that there are still plenty of the lovely things that keep us going.

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    1. That's so true, Carol, that there is always some good aspect to even the worst of speaking engagements! And God is there with us, through all the good and bad experiences, so we can keep going!

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  5. Jo-Anne, thank you so much for sharing this. I am encouraged that an established author like you whom I so admire has these experiences too! I could relate to this - including being treated like a celebrity (made me a bit uncomfortable yet felt so blessed at the same time) to being tucked in a corner and walked all over (the more common experience for me.) Like you, I consider my writing a ministry and do it with all my heart, working for the Lord, which takes away the sting of the disappointments. And yes, as Jenny said, one day in heaven we will see the purpose and may just be blown away by which seemingly insignificant words or actions had an impact on someone for eternity. God bless you!

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    1. Thanks for your lovely, honest response too, Jenny. And yes, I definitely do consider my writing and speaking a ministry and/or a calling, so, as you say, we can then just do it with all our heart and with the strength God gives us, whatever happens.

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