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.