Jesus tells us that it's a bad idea to put our hands to the plough and then look back at where we've come from. I once heard a farmer explain why this is so. In order to plough in good, straight lines it is necessary to keep focused on a point in the distance, constantly keeping that as the place to aim for. When the tractor (this is a modern day farmer) reaches the end of the field and turns to return for the next row, all the driver has to do is ensure the tractor's wheels slot into the newly-created top furrow. That way a perfect pattern of straight lines is formed. However if the farmer looks back and attention is drawn elsewhere, even if only for a couple of seconds, the tractor goes a little skew and a wiggle is introduced into that row. This may not matter at first but by the time the whole field is finished, that small anomaly has become a major problem and the field ruined.
Presumably it was similar in Jesus'time, only the 'tractor' would have been a yoke of oxen and the plough a little smaller and more manageable. The concept of losing focus, of looking backwards rather than fixing attention on what lies ahead, would remain true - get distracted and the end result is likely to be a mess.
However, I think all good farmers need a moment of reflection from time to time, a chance to step back and look at how much they've accomplished so far. And of course to figure out how much more work they still have to get done. And that's my aim here. Not to take a rest because of fatigue, but simply to press pause and assess where I've come from and where I still need to get to. To marvel at the progress made and celebrate all that is still to come.
The Journey Begins
It was my birthday a couple of weeks' ago. Craig and I went out for dinner; Craig chose one of our favourite Japanese restaurants just a short drive from where we live. As we sat there, I realised we had come to the same place for my birthday the year before. We reminisced and it began to dawn on me that it was here, just twelve months previously, that I had been daunted and doubting about the book I had just finished and sent through to the publishers. 'What if they decide not to take it? Should we just bite the bullet and self-publish? Or is that too much trying to take things into our own hands, rather than trusting God?' All this and more I queried, unsure and a little overwhelmed at the enormity of what may lie ahead of me.
Not more than a few days later I received the email informing me that the publishers were keen to go ahead with my book, and would be sending me a contract shortly.
Wow! That was only a year ago. It's been a steep learning curve and quite an adventure since then. First was the meeting with my publisher, held over Christmas when we visited the UK, where we discussed everything from content to paper type. Then I had to return home and learn how to create and develop a social media strategy, which simply put, means a website and lots of posts on Facebook and Instagram!
Over the month of April emails were passing across the miles laden with proposed cover graphics and printing quotes. Finally at the beginning of May, I opened the first sample copy of my book.
And after that somewhat emotional moment, it was straight into the official book launch which was held at a local restaurant. It was such a wonderful afternoon, filled with family and friends who have cheered me on throughout the whole process and who could now celebrate with me as I stepped into the privilege of being a published author. You can read more, watch a couple of videos from the day and see a few pictures by clicking on the invitation pictured.
Since then, I have been asked to speak in several local churches where I've been able to encourage others to slow down and take time to hear as God whispers to us through His Creation. Friends have been made, fun has been had and books have been sold; more importantly, I believe the Holy Spirit has ministered gently during these times.
Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the book launch is that I now have a regular slot on local Christian radio, Highway Radio. Presenter Malungi Mayende has graciously given me the opportunity to pop into the studio once a week and chat about whatever is on my heart for that day. Through both this and the other speaking invitations I've received, I've had to develop the discipline of reading, praying and preparing. I don't want to simply speak the words that come to mind at the time; I want to be sure that I've first heard what Jesus is saying and doing.
World Wide Web!
One of the best outcomes of all that social media learning and developing has been the various online groups and communities that I've been able to join. These range from the merely informative to the positively challenging, but all have one thing in common; they each provide encouragement and guidance as I try to develop skills in the many areas of writing. I participate in a monthly poetry-writing challenge, I've written a couple of blog posts as a guest writer and have even had a poem accepted for publication in an upcoming online magazine, The Lost Pen.
Most recently, I was one of nine authors invited to participate in an Africa Book Safari. The brainchild of two members of a South African based community of Christian writers, the idea was to promote not just the authors and their work but also the land of Africa itself. A weekend of Facebook posts, blog interviews and manic interaction was planned, by the end of which 800 people were on board our 'Safari Landrover', all getting excited about both Africa and books. And the best part? The weekend was so successful that we've decided to keep the project running a while longer. So if you haven't joined the group yet and would still like to, now's your chance. And if you feel you missed on what's already taken place, you can read my interview here. You'll also find links to the other authors' interviews and blogs at the end of the interview - take a look, add some comments and find some new books along the way.
Meet Shirley Corder
One of the leaders of our Africa Book Safari was Shirley Corder, a writer based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I first connected with Shirley through one of the Facebook Christian writers' groups I belong to; I was intrigued to see a post mentioning her upcoming book '90 Days in Africa' and clicked to read more. We eventually made direct contact and I sent her a copy of 'The Outskirts of His Glory'.
Shirley has taken me under her wing, and is giving me loads of input and direction, for which I'm sooo grateful. If you'd like to find out more about her, why not follow her blog and subscribe to her newsletter. You get a free copy of a her 7-day devotional 'God in the Unexpected' when you do!
I received my copy of '90 Days in Africa' just the other week. It's a great read, full of informative snippets about this land I get to call home. Plus Shirley has included a few questions at the end of each section to stimulate your thinking. Shirley's heart for both the continent and its Creator is beautifully apparent. You can order a copy for yourself here.
This year seems to have gone by so quickly, but it's not over quite yet! I still have a few things lined up that will keep me busy for the next few weeks. And my folks are coming over from the UK to spend a few weeks with us, so that will be a treat.
I've been invited to present at a city-wide library book launch event at the end of November. Various authors will be showcasing their books to the buyers from most of the Durban city libraries. Its an amazing opportunity for me which has come about through a contact at one of the churches we're involved in. I'll give some feedback from the event next time.
Myself and a couple of friends are hosting a pop-up shop here at home, showcasing a few businesses local to the village where I live.
I have a couple of exciting mini book projects in the pipeline which I'll let you know about when I've got them ready to roll!
Thanks for taking the time to retrace some of the steps I've taken over the last year - I hope you've found it interesting! Before you go, make sure you're signed up for my newsletter, if you're not already. That way there's no danger on missing anything!
There's also now an easier way to find the eBook version of 'The Outskirts of His Glory' (thanks to Shirley for that!). The image below will take you straight to my order page where you'll find the link. Prefer your books on paper? No problem, you'll find a place to order paperbacks with the same click!