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.
Glenda Austin had two stories published in The Gecko Renewal. Today, we hear her read her story, If you didn’t laugh.
Following on from last week’s post, Glenda tells us a bit more about herself.
How did I come to enter the competition?
I had some stories written and some others started that were sitting in my computer for years. I worked on them from time to time. I believed somehow God would use them as He had led me towards the writing. I had only shared them with one or two friends and my daughter.
After I shared two of my stories with her, a Christian friend who is often prophetic said I would be a published author someday. That idea went into the ‘that would be nice’ basket yet, I treasured the idea in my heart.
In 2016 I saw a Christian Writer’s page on Facebook. I asked to join. Looking around in the page I realized that many of the members had published books. I felt like an imposter. I had no idea about how to get anything published and had no idea if what I wrote was any good or of any use. When I saw the advertisement for the competition and knew I was to enter. The comp was asking for exactly what I had been writing – true stories of God revealed in life. I took parts of two of my longer stories and edited and changed and added. I was full of energy and anticipation. I stayed up late writing, I got my permissions and sent two stories in.
I was amazed to be short listed and when the stories were published I was so excited – because God was able to use something I had done in obedience to Him.
Glenda Austin had two stories published in The Gecko Renewal. This week, she shares why she writes and also gives us the backstory to ‘Not Alone.’ As a mother, I was very moved to hear Glenda’s story and thrilled when she sent through the photo mentioned in ‘Not Alone’.
Why did I write the stories?
About twelve years ago I felt a need to draw closer to God after my second divorce and I believe that the Lord asked me to write stories about how He had worked in my children’s lives and comforted me as a mother. I am not super-spiritual. I have moved well away from God at times. However, to me there was clear evidence of God moving in my children’s lives.
In some cases, He saved their earthly lives and yet He also acted for us in a less dramatic situations. He often simply communicated with me in a supernatural way about them. To me, what occurred was unmistakable evidence of God’s love for both my children and myself. I needed to be reminded of that love when I started to write.
We were never any more deserving God’s blessings than other people, yet I know a genuine connection to Jesus does bring benefits of peace and comfort, healing and safety. I have a strong heart connection to my children and conscious of my own inadequacy to protect them I had to hand them over to God in prayer. Simply put – I trusted them to God.
I found that I could “build an altar” to worship Him in the memory-telling. I can see his love. And his mighty power. I write to honour and thank Him.
The photo of Michael and David in Timor, the reverse of the vision I was given by God, is a story in itself. The timing was typical of our loving God. The night it appeared on Facebook was a Friday night when my youngest son had gone back into hospital. He had been battling depression and psychosis for two years at that stage. I was very much in need of God’s reassurance. Seeing the photo that night hit me so hard I burst into tears. A timely reminder that God had all my sons.
There have been many hard times for my youngest until very recently. My writing to a magistrate was credited by that magistrate with saving my son from gaol last year. He is much better now, attending church often. His story is long and only partly written. In faith I have gone ahead and written the last sentence of his story – saying he is “well and serving God”. We are coming closer to this all the time.
Today we meet Sarah Turland who shares why she writes. Sarah’s story, Black Mamba, appears in the 2017 Stories of Life anthology, The Gecko Renewal.
Listen to Sarah read her story:
“I write, because writing helps me make sense of my world and my emotions. Black Mamba was the story of my experience of intense fear, shock and relief, for me as a mother, worried about my daughter being bitten by a snake. I wrote this long before I entered it into the competition, just for myself. Then two years later, I heard about Stories of Life a few days before the competition closed in 2017. I sent Black Mamba in, just for fun, and was excited to be short-listed as a finalist!”
Do you remember a time when you experienced intense fear, shock and relief? Did you write about it? Why not jot down a few words and consider submitting it for the 2018 Stories of Life competition that will run from 1 April to 31 July this year.
Also look out for announcements here and on our Facebook page about a free writing workshop on Thursday, 12 April, in Tabor Adelaide at 7p.m., that will be live streamed. We want to help you present your stories in the best possible way – we’re excited about your stories because we believe 2018 is going to be a great year for sharing stories of life and faith.
Claire’s story about her Hawaiian dream appears in the 2017 anthology, The Gecko Renewal. Hear her read her story here:
Here is the backstory to how Claire entered the Stories of Life competition last year:
I love Stories of Life! Christians giving witness to God at work in their lives is powerful – strengthening faith, sharing insight, giving us a sense of being in it together. As a storyteller who has known Jesus for over forty years, I have many experiences I would love to share, and this competition and anthology gives me that opportunity.
I have to confess to leaving my run a bit late this time, submitting the story in the last hours before the deadline! I am grateful that ‘God believed in our dream’ was given a place in the anthology. And then the opportunity came to share it over the airwaves so that more people could be encouraged – that was irresistible! It was my first time recording. I like reading aloud, but I felt nervous. I stood in front of an old-fashioned-looking microphone alone in the room, seeing the recording engineer and his bank of equipment through a window, while I tried to hold the book where I could see it without turning away from the mic.
We all have stories to tell, and we need each other’s stories. I don’t live an adventurous life but even in the ‘ordinary’ of my life, God does extraordinary things that are worth writing about.
Claire is also the author of a short, taut novel about identity, trauma and transition, The Golden Hour.
Each week, we will feature an author reading his or her story from the 2017 Stories of Life anthology, The Gecko Renewal. These stories have already been broadcast on Life FM in Adelaide.
Today we meet Ester deBoer, who wrote the powerful story, ‘When Andy met God‘. Listen to the story:
This is what Ester says about the backstory: Andy’s story is, as much as memory will allow, told almost verbatim. He had no agenda- we asked him and he simply answered. He wasn’t trying to convince us. What makes it so profound is not that God appeared to an intellectually disabled teenager with no religious upbringing or instruction, but the way that Andy just “got it”- uncomplicated by religion, culture and intellectual analysis… In Andy’s words, “God came to me… God helps me… Now God comes with me everywhere.”
Ester is an author and a children’s book illustrator. If you feel like having a good belly laugh, have a look at some of her work. Her cartoons brought a smile to my face.
Copies of the 2019 Stories of Life anthology, Papa's Shoes, now available in Koorong and online.