The school I will visit is a Christian school in a large country town here in New South Wales, Australia, and I readily agreed to the idea when my contact in that town suggested it. At first, I was to give a one-hour workshop to two smallish groups of the more gifted writers—the first group from the younger classes and the second from the older. Then we decided on a two-hour workshop, involving more creative writing, with these same two groups. Now the concept has changed entirely. I have all students in these years—gifted and perhaps less gifted, interested and uninterested, lovers of English, haters of English!
Yet, despite the shape my input has now become, I would not turn this opportunity down for anything. Firstly, who knows who will be in one of those groups of students? Perhaps there will be some young people present who are voracious readers, who secretly love to write poetry or short stories and who one day dream of being published. Perhaps, like me in my early years, they do not quite believe such things ever happen to ordinary people like them.
Secondly, even if there are no such young people in these groups, I want to share my story with them of how I came to understand who Jesus is and believe in him at around the same age as many of them are and how this experience has motivated me ever since to be who God has called me to be and do what God has called me to do. I want to tell them about how God spoke to me through a passage of Scripture eleven years ago—and my writing journey began. I want to encourage them not to give up on their dreams. I want to remind them that each of them is unique and creative in some way because each of us is made in the image of our creative God.
And thirdly, I want to inspire them to write from the depths of their being and from their own experiences. I want them to think about the things they see and hear and touch and taste and smell all around them and write with imagination, originality and colour. Yes, I hope to give them a few pointers about good first paragraphs, about ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’, about using dialogue and about so many other things. And yes, I will ask them to do some brief creative writing exercises. But I want them to enjoy the process and to realise no one else sees things quite the way they do and that they have something to say—even if others might say it better.
I hope I succeed. I am looking forward to the challenge! Have any of you experienced similar challenges to this in your writing journey?
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney, Australia. 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.