Monday, October 30, 2006

Devotional thought : John 7:37-38

"On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, 'If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.'" John 7:37-38

At the writer's conference I attended recently there were many workshops that provided factual information and helpful tips. But there were also general sessions which provided inspiration and motivation. At one of these sessions the speaker (Tracey Klehn) was talking about a trip she made to Paris some time ago. She had always wanted to see Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and had the opportunity when her husband needed to go to France for some work commitments.

Surprisingly the thing that now stands out in her mind about visiting Notre Dame is not the cathedral itself but rather a boy who was there with his father feeding the birds. The boy stood with his arms reaching up and his palms facing heaven. His father placed seed in his hands and the birds came and ate. God spoke to her about her dependence upon Him. Figuratively it is as we reach out our hands towards heaven in worship, surrender and prayer that God is able to put "seed" in our hands to feed those readers that God brings to us.

Of course this doesn’t only apply to writers, it applies to anyone who God has given a gift to, and isn't that everyone? As we use our gift whether it's writing, speaking, helping, serving, it is as we come to God "thirsty" and "drink" from Him that He is able to cause "streams of living water to flow" and provide spiritual water for those we minister to.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

What is my book about?

While I was at the conference I was often asked what I was writing. When I said a book the next question, of course, was what is it about? My response often began, "Well, it is a non-fiction Christian living book. It's about God …" (!) Even after many different attempts to answer this question I am still struggling to find a concise way of explaining what it is about.

As part of my book proposal I need to think about "the competition" that is, other books on the market that discuss the same topic. So after reading numerous book summaries I decided that Philip Yancey's book, "Disappointment with God" was the most similar and I am currently reading it. Already though I've decided that my book is quite different. Yancey looks directly at three questions, Is God unfair? Is He silent? Is He hidden? I only look at these topics indirectly. My book looks more directly at our struggle with God's Sovereignty. At the moment the best way I can describe it is to say it is about the frustration Jonah feels in Jonah chapter 4. I wrote a post about this.

Interestingly Yancey also mentions Jonah and quotes Robert Frost summary of the book of Jonah who says, "After Jonah, you could never trust God not to be merciful again." I was always find sentences with double negatives somewhat confusing but this one works quite well. It is more powerful and more accurate than saying, you can always trust God to be merciful (Ananias, Sapphira, Uzzah, Nadab and Abihu may not have considered God to be merciful.). Still it all gets back to God's Sovereignty. God has the right to be merciful to whoever He chooses regardless of whether I think the person is worthy of mercy or not.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Travelling so far

Why would I travel so far to attend Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference?

Firstly Australia is a big country with a small population (20 million). We only have 8 major cities and some of those aren't very major when you compare them to US cities. Therefore we cannot support a large publishing industry. As an example of how Australia having a small population impacts things consider this. Australia also cannot support a big TV industry. This was very noticeable when Steve Irwin died. I do not have pay TV. Most of my friends do not have pay TV because it is not worth the expense for the few extra channels you get. Here, near Melbourne, we have 5 free to air channels which is all we watch. Steve Irwin has done a few customs adverts but his show "Crocodile Hunter" is on pay TV and I've never seen it, most of my friends have never seen it. This is why when he died the reaction in America was far greater than in Australia.

Secondly Australia does not have a strong Christian heritage like America does. In a previous post I mentioned that I went to Terry Whalin's comprehensive class at the conference. I also bought his book, Book Proposals That Sell. In his chapter, "How do you follow the trends in publishing" he writes "Trend #2: The Distinction Between Religious Publishers and General Market Publishers Continues To Blur". This trend is not happening in Australia at this time. They say that trends in America take 10 years to hit Australia but I'm thinking this one may take even longer than that. I was in Borders in one of the airports while I was in the US there were two bays full of Christian books which I found amazing. I also saw Christian books and music in Target! In Australia very rarely can you buy a Christian book anywhere apart from a Christian bookshop and lots of towns don't have Christian bookshops. I live an hour away from my nearest one.

When an Australian Christian author has a new book published the first thing I do is check out who the publisher is. What I've found is that if it is a well-known pastor/speaker the book will have been published in the US or UK or both. If it is an unknown person it will be either self-published or vanity published. (Though I did find one recently that was published in Italy! Apparently the author speaks in the UK and Europe.) Some of our church denominations and para-church organizations have publishing departments which they use to produce their own Bible study material, children's material etc. They will publish a book if it is by someone well-known in their denomination. (I'm not well-known!) One denomination I know produces calendars each year to raise their finances some they can publish other resources.

Thirdly in Christian circles in Australia it is not unusual to hear about pastors attending conferences in the US or UK. Often these pastors are from one of the larger churches and their church is helping finance the trip. While I was in the US I heard about some members of a church music team that attended the Hillsong conference in Australia. So travelling half way across the world to attend a conference is not that unusual though I must say I haven't heard of anyone else doing it to attend a writer's conference! When I told my Australian friends what I was doing the common response was, "Oh really", registering slight surprise.

Fourthly (for all the reasons already mentioned) there just aren't these types of conferences in Australia.

And finally the main reason I went to the conference was that I felt God wanted me to go.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference part 2

The second part of the conference is the appointments and some people go just for these. On the first night the faculty is introduced. It is made up of editors, agents, authors and professional writers. On the next three days you have the opportunity of making a 15 minute appointment with any of the faculty. You can make one appointment in advance (and if you would like to see a popular editor this is a good idea). These appointments are scheduled throughout the day so while you are in a workshop people are coming and going. These appointments serve several purposes. You can pitch a book proposal or even just an idea to an editor. You can ask an editor a more general question eg. What sort of material is your publishing house specifically looking for at this time? You can ask a professional writer about their experience of getting published or for their advice. The faculty went out of their way to be helpful and encouraging. If you miss out on an appointment with a particular editor often you could meet them informally in the meal lines or in a hallway. These people were very generous with their time.

There are other appointments. I pre-arranged to have a paid critique of my book proposal and was given a half hour time slot with an editor. I found this very helpful and I was able to go back to her later in the conference with some new ideas. The attendees were also very friendly and there was no sense of competition but rather mutual encouragement. So the whole experience was enjoyable and very informative.

The question I was asked most often at the conference was, "You didn't come all the way from Australia just to come to this conference, did you?" My response was, "Yes, I did." And in my next post I'll explain why.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Glorieta Christian Writer's Conference

Before attending the conference I searched on blogger for anyone who had been to this conference but found little information therefore I'm writing a detailed report. There are two parts to the conference. Firstly the workshop sessions and secondly the appointments.

The workshops run from 8:15 am and finish at 9:30 pm (sometimes later if you want to stay and ask questions). There are breaks betweens sessions of half an hour and longer for lunch and dinner. I found though that if I wanted to go back to my room before or after meal times. It was a five minute walk there and then a five minute walk to the dinning hall. It was also a five minute walk from the dinning room to where the sessions were held. The grounds at the conference are huge and at 7500 ft above sea level it is quite tiring just walking. I say this to explain the conference is very full-on. Of course you are free to attend as many or as few workshops as you wish. I wanted to go to everything since I'd come so far but it was just not physically possible so most days I skipped the last session. All the workshops I went to were excellent. The presenters were all very competent and very experienced in their fields. I also bought CD's of some of the workshops I couldn't get to. I have listened to a couple and they are very good too. You have the option of attending one comprehensive class which is a continuing class over the four days. I went to Terry Whalin's class on "Truth is stronger than fiction" – which was about publishing non-fiction. Terry was a mountain of information and even more he was very genuine and spoke from his heart. The first and last sessions of the day were general sessions and I heard some great speakers including Florence Littauer.

So far I've only told you about half the conference. The second part is the appointments but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Photos of my trip



Montezuma Castle near Camp Verde.It’s not a castle but preserved cliff dwellings carved into the cliffs, built in the 1300s.



This is the chapel building where the conference meetings were held at Glorieta.



I took this photo because I knew my sons would think it very amusing!

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Home!

It's so good to be home! Will spend the rest of today catching up and hope to post tomorrow.

An interesting piece of trivia that I did find out is that the highest mountain in Australia is Mount Kosciusko which is 7310 feet above sea level and Gloreita where the conference was held is 7500 feet above sea level. No wonder I was puffing when I was walking around!

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Phoenix (again)

The conference finished yesterday and I am now back in Phoenix. This afternoon I am flying back Melbourne. I'm really looking forward to getting home. I feel like I have been away for months. The conference was excellent but I will post about it when I get home.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Glorieta

I've arrived at Glorieta and the conference starts in about an hour. I had a very enjoyable weekend in Phoenix and visited Sedona, Jerome, Camp Verde and Wickenham which were all very interesting. I was curious about 'mega' churches which I have heard about and I was able to attend one on the Sunday morning. (In Australia we don't have very many really big churches). On Monday I saw the Grand Canyon which was very impressive.

I'm finding that when I met people I need to talk more slowly as apparently my Australian accent makes me slightly difficult to understand!

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Friday, October 06, 2006

Phoenix

I arrived in Phoenix this afternoon. It was quite warm but not humid so it was pleasant. The flight was mostly smooth but long. I did manage to read about half of "The Secret Message of Jesus" by Brian McLaren. He has made some good points so far. It will be interesting to see what conclusions he comes too.

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Devotional thought : Jonah 4:1-2

This will probably be my last post from Australia but I hope I can post while I am in the US. I checked the weather forcast and it is going to 32C (90F) in Phoenix and 26C (80F) in Albuquerque. Yesterday in Melbourne it was 17C (63F)!

Anyway I've been thinking about Jonah and this is what I wrote:

"But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, 'O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.'" Jonah 4:1-2

Jonah was angry. Why? Because God was too merciful, too gracious and too loving! Actually Jonah understood God's character very well. He fled to Tarshish because he did not want God to show mercy to the people of Nineveh.

To be fair Jonah had good reasons for not wanting Nineveh to repent. These people were Israel's enemies and Jonah wanted God to wipe them out. History would later prove Jonah's fears well founded. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria which many years later attack Israel and took it into captivity.

The book of Jonah ends abruptly with Jonah "angry enough to die"(v.9). There is no indication he ever came to grips with God's divine purposes. For God's ways are not our ways. He will not necessarily wipe out those things which want to take us captive. God will not run the world according to our agendas or necessarily answer our prayers to our satisfaction. How do we respond to a God we cannot control?

We can be like Jonah and stay openly angry with God. We can hide our disappointment with God under more attractive guises. Or we can acknowledge that God is Sovereign and has the right to do whatever He chooses. He is the Potter we are the clay.

Surprisingly it was the pagan sailors who understood God's Sovereignty and said, "For you, O Lord, have done as you pleased" Jonah 1:14.

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