Friday, 16 September 2016

Staying the course - Jo-Anne Berthelsen

I almost gave up on my latest book, Becoming Me. I began exploring the idea behind it in 2013, then wrote most of my original version during 2014. I sensed God was in the project and sent it off to my potential publisher in January 2015. Yet one key, nagging question remained. Should it really be published? It is a very personal book, after all—it contains many honest reflections on my own journey of discovering who God created me to be and of removing the layers covering my true self. Besides, I had already written six published novels and a memoir, Soul Friend. Should I call it a day?

I was also very tired, so decided to give myself a semi-sabbatical during 2015. At times, I tried to polish up Becoming Me, while waiting to hear from the publisher, but those nagging doubts remained. Had I heard God wrongly? Did I have the energy to see this project through?

Then, in January this year, my publisher suggested I remove the reflection questions from the end of each chapter, which necessitated other changes as well. I resubmitted, but to no avail. My book was simply not the type of non-fiction my publisher now produced—and I respected that.

So what to do? Should I consider self-publishing? For various reasons, I had always resisted this idea. Then, one Sunday morning in early May, three things happened in quick succession.

The first was a simple, mundane event—I picked up a nail file on my desk and, for the first time in months, noticed the image of a Russian babushka doll, so intrinsic to my story, on the end of it. A friend had given it to me, after she heard about the concept behind Becoming Me, as an encouragement and a reminder to complete the book.

We headed to church, where a young minister preached on knowing our identity in Christ. To my astonishment, he proceeded to elaborate on many key themes contained in my book. I sat bolt upright—it was as if an electric current was flowing through me. ‘All these themes are still so important’, I sensed God saying. ‘Put your book out there!’

I came home and discovered an email from a dear friend. She had felt prompted to share John 1:12 from ‘The Message’ with me. It read: 
Whoever did want him, who believed he was who he claimed and would do what he said, HE MADE TO BE THEIR TRUE SELVES, their child-of-God selves ... 
She had capitalised the words ‘He made to be their true selves’—without knowing this was the main theme of my new book!

That week, I began to set in motion the whole self-publishing process, asking others to design the cover and complete the layout for me. And now, on 1st October, Becoming Me: Finding my true self in God will be released at last! Please check out my website for the special deal available until that date.

I am sharing this publication journey to encourage you all to stay the course and do your best to carry through with whatever project God has challenged you to undertake in your own life. Yes, sometimes we might have to put things aside. But maybe, just maybe, God wants us to persevere. God is so faithful—so it is up to us to be faithful too, don’t you think? 

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.  

23 comments:

  1. Joanne, that is very encouraging. I came across this blog as I was pondering my latest unpublished novel. When I first wrote it I loved the story but three years on through the editing and assessment phase I wonder if I have the energy or heart to push on. Yet I sense God wants it out there. Self publishing frightens me! But you encourage me to rethink. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I can relate so easily to what you have shared here, Jo, about your latest novel--including the part about being frightened about self-publishing! Even now, I am a bit 'heart in mouth', as I wait for my own copies to arrive here in a couple of days. But I have been so encouraged in recent days when reading through the early chapters of Acts once again as I have noticed how bold people like Peter and Stephen and Philip were. So surely I can step out of my comfort zone a little too! God bless and guide as you ponder your next move.

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  2. I'm thrilled you decided to self-publish - and I love the cover. Now, please excuse me while I disappear to Amazon to pre-order my Kindle copy.

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    1. Wow, Iola--that is so encouraging! Thank you. I love the cover too and am so thankful for my lovely cover designer person here in Sydney who took on this project in her own time and just ran with my initial idea in such a great way.

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  3. I can't wait to read your book. Thank you for being willing to step out of your comfort zone and listen to God's voice. God knows we need what you have to share. You are a great encouragement to me and I know your book is going to be rich with wisdom, encouragement and grace. May God use your book in more ways than you ever imagined possible!

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    1. Thank you, Jenny. So touched by what you have written, especially that last sentence, because that is definitely my heart's desire too.

      I also learnt something more about myself as I went to respond to your comments. I almost wrote 'Oh, I hope you won't be disappointed when you do get to read the book!' But then God seemed to remind me that one of the big themes in my book is overcoming self-doubt!! So I am still learning and growing, as we all are.

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  4. Thanks for sharing your story Jo-Anne. Lovely to hear how God has been at work. Brave step self publishing I think. Hope it does well for you.

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    1. Thanks so much, Dale. Some copies of my book have actually arrived here just this minute and I have been reflecting all over again on what a journey this little book has had, as I have held a copy in my hand. Yes, I can definitely see the 'hairy' side of self-publishing but it has been a good learning experience for me--and we'll see how it all goes!

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  5. I can't wait to read it, Jo-Anne. I find writing about myself hard too. When I started my Book Fun articles they were full of generalizations, but then the Lord showed me that He had given me this forum for a reason. Not just to entertain a readership, but for me to grow and learn. I needed to let go and trust that He knew what He was talking about. And He has blessed me, and I believe, many others because I did let go.
    Right now, the Lord is taking me though a journey of teaching me who I am. I'm discovering amazing things about myself I didn't know. Good and bad. There are days it's exhausting, but always so full of joy.
    I know that He will use this work of yours in mighty ways.
    And I love that cover.

    xo Rose.

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    1. Wow, so lovely to hear about your own current journey, Rose--and, having met you and seen your lovely personality, I can well believe there are many layers there inside you to uncover and explore, as God leads. Keep going! I am sure it will be exhausting at times, as you say, as well as joyful, but God will always be there for you--you are in the most wonderful hands!

      Thanks too for your comment about the cover. I am passing all such comments onto my lovely cover designer to encourage her, which is wonderful.

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  6. Hi Jo-Anne,
    I'm intrigued to hear about the journey you've undertaken with this title, and look forward to reading it.

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    1. Thanks, Paula. Yes, it certainly has been an interesting journey with this particular title. I signed my first copies this afternoon after speaking somewhere--I had forgotten that almost surreal feeling of selling those first copies of a new book, as it is around three years since 'The Inheritance' was published.

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  7. Oh Jo, welcome to the world of Indie Publishing! Your book is meant to be 'out there'. And the self doubt is nothing but self harassment we writers have to overcome...with the Lord's help.

    Going to your website now........

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    1. Thanks so much, Rita, for all your lovely encouragement. Yes, today was quite a test for me, opening that first box of my new book after it arrived on my doorstep! But I think it looks great--very happy with it. And I hope others will be too.

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  8. Jo-Anne - well done. Isn't God great the way He does that? I'm a believer in the 3 strikes principle. I reckon the Spirit is wanting to get your attention if 3 "confirmations" occur in a short period of time.

    I'm very keen to read it too. It's interesting how we're in a season in publishing of understanding one's identity. I think your publisher may have missed an opportunity with your book. Once I've read it I'd like to chat with you about it as I've just started some research of that very theme.

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    1. Wow, Ian, I really appreciated reading your comment about the 'three strikes principle'! I think it is the first time I have experienced three clear 'confirmations' like this in such a short space of time--and almost contrary to what I had planned to do too, which was forget the whole idea! It was just one of those mornings when this kind of strength seemed to rise up in me and I knew I had to press on, regardless of my fears about indie publishing.

      And yes, I agree with you that there does seem to be a bit of a season around the whole identity topic. Just last night I received an email back from a well-known Christian leader here in Sydney who commented on the relevant and helpful theme of my little book. And I'd be very interested to chat with you sometime about the whole topic, Ian, and hear your thoughts about it.

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  9. Really encouraging Jo-Anne. We all need to know when one door closes another opens. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Carol. I agree with you totally too. I'm amazed at how God keeps showing us new things to learn and new ways of reaching out to others and being the person God created us to be.

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  10. Hi Jo-Anne, I loved Soul Friend and I'm so glad you're indie publishing your non-fiction book in His timing. Thanks for sharing your journey and I'm heading over to Amazon now :)

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely encouragement, Narelle. I hope those who enjoyed 'Soul Friend' will enjoy 'Becoming Me' as well--some of the content overlaps, but there is a different focus in this book. And please let me know if you have any trouble pre-ordering via Amazon--one friend did, but it's worked okay for others.

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    2. I pre-ordered on Amazon.com US site without any problems - all good :)

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    3. Thanks for letting me know, Narelle. I think the difficulty might occur if someone usually shops from the Amazon.au store, but not sure.

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  11. Thanks for the post, Jo-Anne. Looking forward to reading this book. Love the cover & love that you persevered even when it meant launching out into new and scary waters.

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