Elizabeth Robertson’s story, Busload of Blessing, was a runner up in the Eternity Matters Short Story category. It was published in the Gecko Renewal and you can hear Elizabeth read her story here:
‘Four years ago, I was interested to receive information about a course in Creative Writing offered by Tabor College Adelaide. The idea attracted me – until the icy waters of reality prevailed. The idea was ridiculous : I was eighty seven years old, I had never wanted to be a writer, I could not afford the course, I had no way of attending. BUT I do have a Heavenly Father who can do exceeding abundantly above all I ask and think. I graduated at 90, and it was at the suggestion Dr James Cooper that I submitted my story.’
Have you ever walked passed someone sleeping rough in the street? Have you ever felt that you should do something? But walked away, feeling bad? If you have, as I have, then you might identify with Yvonne Smuts, in her winning story, ‘Encountered’:
Yvonne won the first prize in the 2017 Tabor category. ‘Encountered’ was published in the 2017 Stories of Life anthology, the Gecko Renewal, and this is the background to her amazing story:
“The Journey to San Jose came about in the connection of a series of seemingly random dots: someone unknown to me earnestly praying in Costa Rica, a painful marriage breakdown, the tumultuous crash of the US housing market, the sudden recollection of a seemingly incongruous and insignificant conversation about an obscure Central American country that I had six years before. All these events were pinpoints in my life, and the spaces around these dots were to be connected together into the fabric of greater Purpose and Plan.
We see, mostly in hindsight, how a God of Perfect Order works in the sometimes chaotic dots of life in ways that are a Mystery. Often the significance cannot be discerned by someone outside that ‘working’ because it is in essence the deep ‘heart knowing’ of Relationship. And the impact remains strictly personal in the ‘One on one’ encounter, as the almighty Creator God interacts with the created beloved one.
But just occasionally the testimony can spill over into meaning for others where the teller senses that the lasting impression on someone else may be more than a sceptical ‘Really’? When the Divine engages with our frail mortality in a particular situation others see that this realm we live in is not all there is. This was my experience both in how I came to be in San Jose and how I saw God at work there.
I am grateful for the opportunity to share the experience through Life Stories, and for the chance, in the fabric of the stories of others, to glimpse the unmistakeable working of Christ present with us.”
Anusha was writing about chronic illness, which Claire does not have. What Claire identified with was the experience of heart-felt prayers going unanswered, seemingly so.
Anusha writes about how she came to submit her powerful story:
“I pricked up my ears when I heard about a writing competition called ‘Stories of Life’. Since God had called me to be a writer ten years before, most of what I wrote were stories based on everyday life. I can do that! And so I did. I wrote not just one but two stories. I sent them in, eager, joyful, anticipating success. I was sure of it. Aha! But pride goes before a fall, does it not? A couple of months later, I checked the Stories of Life website very excited, sure that at least one of my stories would be selected. I was shocked at the outcome. Neither of my stories had made it into the anthology. I was so discouraged. I wondered if I could call myself a writer!
The next year, when the same competition was advertised again, I knew it wasn’t worth trying. After all, I’d proved that I couldn’t write a good enough story hadn’t I? But God kept whispering into my heart to try again. Eventually, I gave in. I had plenty of happy stories to choose from but He led me to write one about my struggle with fibromyalgia. It would be a voice for those who suffer chronic illness. A few weeks later, I had my story written and ready to send off.
However … as I re-read the instructions for the entries, it seemed that the stories they were looking for were ones in a lighter vein. Would my story fit?
I spent time in thought and prayer, and yes, there was no doubt about it. This was the story He asked me to write. And yes … surprise, surprise, this time, my story made it into the anthology. Hooray! What a fabulous sense of achievement it gave me, especially considering my failure of the previous year.
A writer’s world has perseverance stamped across it in big letters. My entry into the 2017 anthology proved it and I’m glad I listened to God. I’m so glad I didn’t allow failure to keep me from trying again. Whenever I think of my story that made it, a little orchestra of joy plays a tuneful symphony within. I pray that God will use my small offering to encourage others who struggle with chronic illness. Thank you Stories of Life competition for giving us an opportunity to share our stories. Thank you God that you fill our lives with story after story of your abundant love and faithfulness.”
Anusha Atukorala, 2 May 2018
We are delighted not only to share these pictures and Anusha’s backstory today, but also to congratulate her on the imminent launch of her book, ‘Dancing in the Rain’ – words of comfort and hope for a sad heart.
Anusha would like to extend an open invitation to her book launch (details below) and asks that anyone who can make it to please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, 4 May.
I wrote to Lisa to ask her for photos because I was intrigued by her story, Dream Team, which was a runner up in last year’s competition and published in the 2017 anthology, The Gecko Renewal.
Lisa’s story was about her roller derby days and I had no idea what that was. In fact, I had to google the term ‘roller girl decal’ . Lisa has graciously shared these photos with us. For me, this is the joy of reading : to learn about and to enter worlds that I had no idea existed.
This is the point Lisa makes in the last paragraph of her backstory, when she explains what being published in the anthology has done for her and for the people in her life.
“I heard about Stories of Life through Tabor, where I am doing the Master of Creative Writing. I love life writing, and I had been thinking about my roller derby days a little bit in the lead up to writing the story. I suffered a knee injury the week before Fresh Meat testing, and on the day of the retest I was quite ill because I was having a baby! It took an instructor asking in an aerobics class for me to work this out though. It was only through retelling the story to friends that I realised that God does have perfect timing – unlike me who struggles to jump over pool noodles due to poor timing.
I entered the competition because I wanted to share my story and any promotion of roller derby being a fun and easily accessible sport is good. I was also challenged by many of the Facebook posts from last year – Sue had posted about writing her story under a very short deadline, and I ended up doing the same with this one. While my other story about my poor little broken down car took many drafts to get right, this one just seemed to flow really easily. Looking at the finished product, I am happy with the quality of both.
One interesting thing about being published in Stories of Life has meant that people in my life who don’t usually read have been really happy to read The Gecko Renewal – and not just my story either. The incidental collaboration with people from all walks of life is refreshing – there really is something for everyone in this anthology. It has also helped me frame my life experiences in a different way. I tend to be a bit accident prone – if there is a small risk of something happening – a broken down car, missing luggage on a flight, picking up an item without a barcode – I’m the one it happens to! There is always joy in the little things, even if those things can seem like a set back at the time. And that joy creates great stories.”‘
When I read that last paragraph, I thought: what a great reason for us to write our stories. Our stories are the means through which others can enter into a world where a loving God is active and at work.
“When I sent the story to Maureen for her approval, as recommended by the team, her reply made me smile: ‘The cliff top walk – I think you changed the facts around a little but you are forgiven. The fact is, Missy, that I was the concerned one with two elderly people with breathing problems and one wife and mother of three with heart issues!!! (However, as I said you are forgiven and I’m content to leave the story as it is.)’
I could just imagine her pretending to be telling me off, calling me Missy as if I was a naughty child, then giving me her cheeky smile. It added to the fond memories of her visit even more.
The photo of me on the clifftop didn’t come out. I appreciate Stories of Life because it gives me the opportunity to combine two of my greatest passions – God and writing.”
When I read Margot’s story, I wished that I could see some those priceless photos. I wrote to Margot, and she has kindly shared some of those photos with us.
Amy’s story is the first story in the 2017 anthology, The Gecko Renewal, and it’s easy to understand why. Her powerful story had me captivated from her first words: scratchy but warm blanket, locked office, heaving riot. Yes, it’s set inside a prison and she is a prison officer. This is her story, The Unlikely Rescuer.
“I find my writing spot to be restful and inspirational – not because it is especially beautiful but because it is a space amidst the everyday where God always seems to be.
I did not previously have in mind the notion to write An Unlikely Rescuer. I decided to support the Stories of Life competition – such a great idea – and in an instant the memory of the event in the story came to mind. I wrote the story in about half an hour – and then crafted a little. Essentially, though, it was inspired and I hope will be a source of inspiration for those who read it.”
Cassie Grace wrote, Dance with Me, featured in the 2017 anthology, The Gecko Renewal.
‘Dance with Me’ Story by Cassie Grace
“I was first and foremost a musician, then a songwriter. Music was my outlet for expression my emotions and frustrations, until I injured my arm and couldn’t play for fun for a couple months. It was through this that I discovered my passion for writing and creating stories (although since I’ve gotten my job teaching music I have a lot less time to write than I’d like).
A friend from my writer’s group encouraged me to enter the competition last year, saying that she was sure I had a God-story to share. I was reluctant at first – I’m a bit shy about self-sharing with large groups of people – but I thought about it, and God led me to this story. I suppose the heart of it is really about my journey of learning that even in the hardest of situation, God has never left my side.
And as far as the whole “shy” factor goes – for anyone considering entering – just do it! It is so worth it, and you never know who God can reach through you. Also, I stacked it in front of my whole church. Telling a story is nothing after that.”
Today we meet June Hopkins, who has had stories published in both the 2016 and 2017 anthologies – a veteran of the Stories of Life competition, so to speak. Her very short story, The Gecko Renewal, would give us the title to the 2017 anthology. The story is takes less than two minutes to read out loud, but in that two minutes, June poses a question, and then resolves it. Well done, June.
With only 3 days to go before we start accepting entries to the 2018 competition, I wonder if you might have a story that will appear in the 2018 anthology. What will this year’s book title be? Will you be the one to craft it?
Listen to June’s story, The Gecko Renewal.
“I learned of the Stories of life Competition on the Christian Writers Down Under Facebook page, and entered a story which was printed in A Chicken Makes a Difference. Subsequent to this, I learned from a follow up email about the Creative Writers Course online with Tabor College, and enrolled in a Post Grad course which I started last year and am still doing this year. I am in my 70s and have been writing since I was a young child. I write from a Christian world view but I do not always write overtly Christian stories.”
A Senior Lecturer of the Tabor Creative Writing Course, James Cooper, will be speaking at the writing workshop on 12 April. James will speak on how to turn life experiences into gripping, well-written short stories. The workshop is free, but please register your attendance here.
So very pleased to be announcing a fantastic line-up of judges for the 2018 Stories of Life competition.
Leigh Hatcher for Tabor Open Stories of Life
(1000 – 1500 words)
Leigh Hatcher is a veteran journalist with over 40 years of experience in radio and television. He has worked in the Canberra press gallery, Seven Network and Sky News. Leigh is the author of three books, including best-seller I’m not Crazy I’m Just a LittleUnwell, about his experience of battling Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Claire Bell for Eternity Matters Short Stories of Life
(Up to 500 words)
Claire Bell writes novels, short stories and poems. Her first novel, a pithy psychological thriller,The Golden Hour, was released in June last year. Claire’s poetry revolves around nature, the beautiful surroundings of her Adelaide Hills home a source of inspiration. You can read her short works here.
Steve McKenzie for Lutheran Education Young Stories of Life
(500 – 1000 words)
S. J. (Steve) McKenzie is a fantasy author from Adelaide. His first novel, The Ballyman Waits, was published by Stone Table Books last year, and the second in the series, The Frost on the Mirror, is due to be published in 2018. Steve has a PhD in English Literature from the University of Adelaide and a background in sustainability and education research at UniSA.
The Judging Process
All entries will be appraised by a preliminary reading panel. The panel will develop a long-list of entries in each category for final assessment by the competition judges. The judges will announce a shortlist of finalists in each category, prior to announcing the final prize winners.
Robynne Milne had a story published in the 2017 Stories of Life anthology, The Gecko Renewal. Hear Robynne read her story, My God in the Gaps.
I have been writing since I was a child. When I was young, I especially loved seeing my work in print in the children’s section of the Saturday paper and the prize winnings were a welcome boost to my kid-sized income!
Life has been very busy over the years since those early scribblings and artworks…husband, two children, work, and involvement in my local church. So, it’s only recently that I have taken up my pen (clicked away on my keyboard to be more precise) to start writing. I’m looking forward to bringing more stories to life.
‘My God in the Gaps’ came out of my experience following surgery for cancer. It’s a story of gratitude to God for His loving kindness and amazing constant care.