The Monday Blog Tour

The Monday Blog Tour has seen some great writers talk about their work and provide insights into their writing processes. Lucy Mills kindly tagged me to continue the tour (read her post here). So here are my answers to the blog tour’s questions:
Learning with F21_JesusLearning with F21_Prayer









What am I working on?

I find the mix of work I have fascinating. Working mainly during the time my children are at school I manage to squeeze in editing other people’s books, writing Bible study guides, writing articles, interviews and reviews for magazines and websites as well as writing books myself. I have a regular column on Christian Today’s website and also have three books coming out this year: on May 23rd the first two of the Foundations 21 book series Jesus and Prayer come out, which are small-group discipleship and study guides that work in tandem with the Bible Reading Fellowship’s Foundation 21 website. Later on, in June, I have a book, co-written with Chris Ledger, being published by CWR: Insight into Managing Conflict.

At the moment I’m deep into an editorial job, which I’m finding challenging but hugely enjoyable. I’ve also got some books I’m in the middle of reading that I will be reviewing and then interviewing the authors, as well as some articles about new initiatives to write. Oh and a set of Bible study notes to write in the next few months. At the end of last week I got a snippet of interest from a publisher about a book idea I’ve had mulling over in my head for quite some months – so I need to do some actual work on that too! It’s the first book in which the idea has come totally from me (the others happened by editorial contacts approaching me) and so I’m really excited about developing it. Sometimes I seem to be juggling too many plates. But it means I’m never bored and I love the variety!

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How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I mainly write Christian non-fiction and, when I started doing so, I felt quite overwhelmed, and almost put off before I really began, because there are so many other writers out there doing a similar thing. But I think once you have found your particular voice then you simply have to go with it. Publishers and sites that are a good ‘fit’ for you will begin to recognise and appreciate it. I would say, for me, the most important thing is being true to who I am – and that includes the struggles and the mistakes. I feel I have to write about the everyday. I don’t know if sometimes I’m too honest – I always have to be careful about treading that line, especially as my husband is a pastor and a lot of those in our church read what I write, but I write to encourage others. I want them to be free to be who they are supposed to be – and us all to be honest with one another on a much deeper level.

Why do I write what I do?

I felt called by God to pursue writing as well as editing when I was heavily pregnant with my second child. Since then He has opened up doors I would never have dreamed of. I can still compare myself to those with endless book deals and huge speaking tours – but He hasn’t called me to walk their walk. That may come in time – but it may not. And I’ve got to learn to be content with that. I’m to be faithful in my own journey in life. And that’s mainly what I write about. The fact that it is so important not to be afraid to open up and be vulnerable. Helping people to realise that we truly should be in this life journey together – we all struggle and need each other to admit it so we can support one another fully.

The other thing I really enjoy doing is flagging up the work of incredible organisations and individuals who truly are changing the world. I’ve had the privilege of writing about the A21 Campaign and 28 Too Many, to name just a couple.

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How does my writing process work?

As I said, I focus as much of my work into the school hours as I can, which means I have to be extremely disciplined. That said, I’m often found scribbling on bits of paper or tapping notes into my phone if I’ve suddenly had a bit of inspiration.

Generally, though, I make myself a cuppa after the kids have been dropped to school, sit and pray at my desk, read my daily Bible notes (wow, I’m making myself sound too holy – often this is done in a real rush!) and then I tackle whatever job is to hand, whether a chapter for a book or a set of interview questions. I type quickly, getting all my thoughts down, and then go back and edit everything I’ve written. I have found it much harder to edit myself, although I do try to be ruthless. I have a conversational style, and I know it can get unwieldy at times, so I usually ask my husband to read everything I’ve written before sending it anywhere!

There are times when I’m in the middle of a writing or editing flow when it is time to pick up the children. Sometimes I just have to let that go or, if there is a deadline looming, spend time with the kids and then get back to work later in the day if time allows.

To continue this tour, I’d like to tag Anita Mathias and Katherine Baldwin to take part in next Monday’s Blog Tour (Katherine will be guest blogging on my site).

How can this STILL be going on today?!

peoplepropertyLast night my husband and I finally sat down to have an evening off – it’s been a while! We had a film to watch that he had picked from Love Film. As it started, and many times throughout, we both wondered why he had picked it! He kept saying “I can’t watch this” – and I kept saying “We must”. The film – Flowers of War. What a heartbreaking, compelling, horrific movie telling of the horrors of what is known as ‘The Rape of Nanking’ (1937). During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japanese soldiers literally tore the Chinese city of Nanking apart, killing and brutalising everything in their path.

The film is based on a book that, in turn, is inspired by the diary of Minnie Vautrin. She was a US missionary in China who, along with the main character in the film, John Rabe, worked hard throughout the war to protect women. Just a quick look online allowed me to find some excerpts from Minnie’s diary:

“There probably is no crime that has not been committed in this city today. Thirty girls were taken from language school last night, and today I have heard scores of heartbreaking stories of girls who were taken from their homes last night—one of the girls was but 12 years old. Food, bedding and money have been taken from people. … I suspect every house in the city has been opened, again and yet again, and robbed. Tonight a truck passed in which there were eight or ten girls, and as it passed they called out “救命!救命! Jiuming! Jiuming!”—save our lives. The occasional shots that we hear out on the hills, or on the street, make us realize the sad fate of some man—very probably not a soldier.”

The film made for extremely uncomfortable viewing, especially the parts where Japanese soldiers entered the so-called safe zone of a church to try to rape the young girls there. And when two women were brutally raped and murdered I must confess to almost being sick. Minnie herself commented on similar events that she witnessed firsthand:

“In my wrath, I wished I had the power to smite them for their dastardly work. How ashamed women of Japan would be if they knew these tales of horror.”

As my husband and I squirmed in our seats, wondering why we were continuing to watch, all I kept thinking was how cheap the lives of those women had become. They were totally expendable to the men who used then killed them. Yes it is often a sickening side effect of war, and yet such events are still going on today. Yes, in our so-called ‘civilised’, ‘peaceful’ Western societies day after day after day girls are taken, suddenly, against their will and forced into a life of slavery, servicing upwards of ten, twenty + men a day. This simply should not be happening! During this week, which includes EU Anti-Slavery Day on Friday, let’s make it our mission to find out more about the horrifying things that are going on on our doorstep – yes Europe is rife with human trafficking. Writing about the Jubilee+ Faith and Justice conference I attended earlier in the year, I quoted Gareth Davies of CARE, who informed us that: “trafficking is the second largest form of international crime – unlike drugs, people hold their value as they can be bought and sold many times.” How horrific is it to stop and think about the reality of what that means for those individuals trapped even today?

The problem may seem overwhelming and, indeed, one individual can do little to make a change. But together we CAN make a difference. There are some fantastic anti-trafficking organisations out there, such as Stop the Traffick and A21. The latter has a team of volunteers cycling 1250km through some of the main trafficking routes used in Europe – from Sofia, Bulgaria to London, England (and going through ten countries where the problem is most prevalent). Their Freedom Challenge is taking 11 days (ending October 16th) and, as their site says, has been undertaken to: “raise awareness both in countries where many young women and children are taken, as well as to raise $210,000 for The A21 Campaign shelters and victim assistance programs.”


If you don’t know how the Freedom Challenge is going… find out! Support them as they come to the end of their huge undertaking. And look at these organisations’ websites to see if there is anything you can do to get involved and help. Really, in our society, in our lifetimes, HOW can this STILL be going on?

Taking stock on International Women’s Day

I am currently editing a fantastic book that seeks to empower women by freeing them from the chains of needing to seek affirmation constantly and looking for the answer to the question Am I Beautiful? It reminds us that as women made in the image of Beauty itself, we are all indeed beautiful, so we need to learn to rise above all the pressures – self- and society- and culture-applied – to accept that. And it also urges us to remember that there are far too many bigger issues, far too many pressing needs, for us to simply be preoccupied with ourselves. We need to be able to move on and make a difference, to be the world changers that women significantly seem to be. The brilliant author, Chine Mbubaegbu, cites some UN statistics:

‘There are 900 million women and girls facing extreme poverty. Women own just one per cent of the world’s wealth, we earn just 10 per cent of the world’s income and half a billion of us can’t read or write.’ And yet, it is being recognised around the world by governments and development agencies that women certainly make a huge difference when given the chance. That, while we earn less than men generally, when we do work we reinvest 90 per cent of it into the health, nutrition and educational needs of our families – as opposed to the 30–40 per cent of men that do so.

Chine’s citation of such facts and figures whetted my appetite so I went in search of more on the UN website. And found some other interesting ones:

  • Over the years women have begun to enter various traditionally male-dominated occupations, but are still rarely employed in jobs with status, power and authority or in traditionally male blue-collar occupations.
  • Women are still under-represented among legislators, senior officials and managers, craft and related trade workers and plant and machine operators and assemblers.
  • Specifically, women are still under-represented in national parliaments, where on average only 17 per cent of seats are occupied by women.
  • There is a persistent gender pay gap everywhere – while it has begun to close slowly in some countries it is still unchanged in others.
  • Despite all these changes, women still continue to bear most of the responsibilities around the home: caring for children and other dependents, preparing meals and doing other housework. Around the world, women spend twice as much time – at least – as men on unpaid domestic work.

While all of these facts start to get me riled, it is the information about violence against women that angers me the most. This is a UNIVERSAL phenomenon – not just occurring in so-called under-developed nations but right under our noses here in the West too. Our ‘developed’ nations can hide some horrific secrets under the surface. Charities such as A21 have done a great job in raising our awareness of such issues as human trafficking but there is so much more that can – and should – be done.

I was horrified to read the following in the UN stats report The World’s Women 2010: ‘In many regions of the world, longstanding customs put considerable pressure on women to accept being beaten by their husbands, even for trivial reasons. Whether for burning the food, venturing outside without their husband, neglecting children or arguing with their husband, in quite a few countries a very high percentage of women consider such behaviour sufficient grounds for being physically hit.’

Wake up women – and men – around the world! We are worth so much more. No one – absolutely no one – deserves to be treated with less respect than another. I hope on today, of all days, we can celebrate all that is good about womanhood and determine afresh to fight against the injustices that so many of our sisters in countries all around the world are facing right now.

Let’s reach them ALL

Today is anti-slavery day. A lot is going to be written and said about the issue of human trafficking but I’ve decided to dedicate my blog to it today because we all need to be raising awareness. It is shocking to ponder the statistics (many of which I found on the Hope for Justice website so thanks to them):

* Over one million children enter the global sex trade each year.
* $9.5 billion is made through human trafficking each year.
* The UN estimates that 80% of people trafficked are taken for sexual exploitation.
* There are an estimated 4,000 trafficked people in the UK but the actual figure is probably a lot higher.
* The rate of recorded child trafficking in the UK has increased by almost 50% in two years.

Hope for Justice reached 78 victims of trafficking in the UK last year but there are so many more out there that they haven’t found yet! The sites say that 99% of trafficking victims are never rescued. How sobering – how awful! That in our ‘civilised’ society this is still going on today…

One of the people that first educated me about this issue was Julia Immonen, who I happened to come across on twitter. I was fascinated by the fact that she was rowing the Atlantic Ocean having never rowed before. To start with, the writer in me thought it would make a great story – it did – and yet it had a much bigger impact on me than that. She told me that: ‘I heard about human trafficking a few years ago through The A21 campaign and my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t believe that I am an educated girl and yet I knew nothing about it.’ What is so inspiring is that she took something that is already a big part of her life, sport, and started using it to raise awareness in a positive way, founding Sports Against Trafficking.

In one of the interviews I did with her Julia explained that in the run up to the Olympics, when the site was being built, there were 10,000 construction workers and during that time prostitution doubled in the East End of London. We have just had a wonderful summer celebrating the sporting achievements of our best athletes, and been full of national pride about how well the Games were run and what a wonderful atmosphere they created around the country. And yet, at exactly the same time, extra women and children were being smuggled in for use in the sex industry. It makes me sick to think of what was going on in the ‘underbelly’ of London, but the truth is that every major sporting event creates supply and demand – for more hotels, the food industry – and the sex industry.

It can all seem rather overwhelming, and we can wonder what on earth we can do about it as individuals. I felt like that when I first heard, but, speaking to Julia, I realised that, while I may be useless at sport, what I do is write and what I can do is help raise awareness by writing about those who are making a difference. Keeping their profile up keeps the issue in the public sphere more and I hope that I’m helping in some small way. I am always on the look out for new people to profile – so please let me know if you know of anyone! It was inspiring to learn more about Beulah London, the ethical fashion label that is in the brilliant position of having the Duchess of Cambridge as a client, which means their clothes, and the story behind them, are being talked about worldwide. I’ve also learned more about the work of A21, and how Beth Redman has been working closely with them and, along with husband Matt and LZ7, wrote a song, ’27 Million’ specifically to raise awareness and money for the campaign.

How wonderful to see how each one of these people have dedicated their gifts to this cause. While we may not all have the capacity to work as tirelessly as them for this issue it is such a vital one that I urge you today to take some time to find out more, think about what you can do – each one of us can pray and give a little – and determine not to stop until we see human trafficking eradicated.

I know this is a long post – but I do not apologise for that! 😉 PLEASE think about all those helpless victims who are trapped through no fault of their own – apart from loving the wrong person…