I had an amazing day last Saturday (10 October 2015) at the ACW Writers Day, at St Peter’s Church, Eaton Square. The speaker at this event, which was attended by upwards of 50 Christian writers, was Bob Hartman, the American storyteller and writer of many children’s books, many of them Bible stories. Bob rocked, literally. His ice-breaker was to get all the grown-up writers to stand up and do the actions for a pre-schoolers’ story. I’m not usually the one for that sort of thing, but Bob’s bubbling enthusiasm was infectious, even to wooden old me. Later on he talked about finding the wow factor, and he hit his, bang in the middle, all day, throughout three hour-long sessions.
The event was billed as being for writers for children and young adults but, as I expected, much of what Bob had to say was relevant to all of us: the importance of character, setting and conflict; not including too much detail of setting when a book is to be illustrated (as most books for small children are); the need to define and understand a problems and conflicts. In too many stories, the writer hasn’t got a handle on what the real problem is. The story of Jonah is a good example, because the problem isn’t the whale. Instead, said Bob, think of the gourd tree at the end. We talked a lot about how to write up Bible stories as stories, the importance of reading said Bible story first – pretty obvious, isn’t it? – and how to find out about your Biblical character out of just a few verses. It was amazing how much was already there, ready to be picked out, and I suspect that, if we think for a moment about our own characters, we’ll be astounded about how much we know about them too.
I have recently become ACW competitions secretary. My job for the day was to help with the teas and coffees – an excellent task for a newbie, enabling me to meet, and to put faces to, my fellow committee members, with whom I had been exchanging emails for several months, and to talk to many other writers. Everybody was very supportive of each other and interested in their writing. I came away wanting to do more writing… now.
For more information about the Association of Christian Writers, do take a look at the ACW Website and the ACW blog, and, if you know someone who is already a member, at the (print) Christian Writer magazine. Membership costs just £28 by cheque or bank transfer or £25 for payments by annual Direct Debit. As well as the writers’ days, benefits include fellowship and support, useful advice and information – and, of course, competitions. My first competition as comps secretary will be trailed in the next edition of Christian Writer. Watch this space.
I nearly didn’t get there because I struggled to locate the church building AND I missed my train home. As my beloved aunt in Canada said, I truly have no sense of direction, having been far too entrenched, for far too long, in my home-to-college rat-run and too used to making the excuse that I had no time to do anything else. None of the five or six people I asked was able to give me any sensible directions, as I charged up and down Belgravia streets at ten to ten in the morning, trying to get to an event which started at ten o’clock. Nobody else ‘knows their London’ either, it appears. One of them asked me for the St Peter’s Church post code, though.