Our adventures in connecting, equipping and encouraging Gracewriters have taken another turn this week with our brand new podcast.
Find the podcast on Apple Podcasts here: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/gracewriters-podcast/id1519376330
In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, editor, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Young, author of sweet romance under the name Alison Joy
- Donita Bundy, author of young adult urban fantasy
Topics covered in this first episode:
- How did Gracewriters begin, and what is Gracewriting?
- How the idea for a Gracewriters Podcast developed
- Why we sometimes find it hard to pray about our writing – worrying that we are “bothering God” – when in reality he loves to hear from us.
We would love to hear from you via the Podcast tab above:
- How often would you like new podcast episodes? Every two weeks? Once per month?
- What topics would you like us to cover?
- What questions bother you in your own writing practice as a Gracewriter?
- Which Christian writers would you like us to interview, and what would you like us to ask them?
You can also:
- Write a comment at the bottom of the post, under the transcript.
- Share with other Christian writers, on social media or via email. We’d love you to do that!
Listen, watch, or read
You can listen on the main podcasting platforms, or listen below, or watch the video below, or scroll down further for the transcript.
Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian writers changing popular culture. Connect with us at Gracewriters.com.
Welcome to the very first Gracewriters podcast. I’m Belinda Pollard from smallbluedog.com and with me today I have Donita Bundy who is the author of young adult urban fantasy for Christian readers and Alison Young who writes and publishes sweet romance under the name Alison Joy. We’ll hear a little bit more from them in a minute about their writing and how they got involved in it.
But to begin with I thought I would just talk for a moment about why I started Gracewriters in the first place.
I’d had an idea for many years about writing fiction for mainstream / general market / secular readers that incorporated gracenotes – little hints of the kingdom that might change the way people thought about Christians and Christianity but, probably even more importantly, how they thought about Jesus.
I noticed that in popular culture for many years now, the way that Christians have been portrayed has tended to be either as serial killers or fools and I think there is more of a range available in us than just those 2 things.
We can say: well that’s just the movies or that’s just books, but it changes the way people think. People in books and movies – do you ever see them go to church, do they ever go to Bible study, do they ever pray in a Christian way.
All of these things are removed from how we see the world through the eyes of popular culture.
So I saw this opportunity to potentially start to – slowly and gently – start making a difference to the way that people see the world and potentially start them down the path towards getting to know Jesus in the long run.
I thought that maybe I would write novels that might do this. I am a book editor as well so I thought that I could help and encourage one writer at a time who might also have a similar purpose and a similar goal.
About 3 years ago it was as though God said to me: okay I’ve got a bigger vision than that. I was preparing to go to a business conference actually – a Christian business conference – and during the process of that conference a lot of things happened for me.
God was speaking to me and it was though he was saying: okay how about instead of just you and the people that you can help one at time, how about we enable and empower an army of Christian writers.
Christians who write for either for Christian audiences or for mainstream audiences, but who are writing to change popular culture.
How about we use the power of the internet – which is something 20 years ago we couldn’t have even imagined doing a lot of these things. We can meet together, encourage each other, we can learn new skills, we can support one another as Christians and as writers to make a difference and to change the way that the world sees Christians and particularly the way that they see Jesus.
So that was how this kind of got started. I set up a little website about 2 or 3 years ago and I was busy, and I wondered what was going to happen, and nothing much happened.
And then the pandemic happened – and all of a sudden it was like God said, okay this is what I was getting you ready for – go!
And so we started. We’ve been having catch-ups on Zoom once a month. We had a few more of them in the first month but we’ve been having these catch-ups on Zoom.
We’ve set up an online community which functions a little bit similarly to F*cebook in that you can discuss issues but you haven’t got cat videos and ads and things coming into the feed. You can go there specifically to discuss those issues.
And we’ve got a blog moving where various people have been contributing guest posts.
So that’s what’s been happening, that’s what Gracewriters is about and what it’s for.
Now, Alison was the one who came up with an idea – why don’t we have a podcast to go with Gracewriters. Alison, I wonder if you would mind telling the listeners a little bit about how that idea came about and also just a little bit about your writing too please?
Alison Young: Sure, thanks Belinda.
I follow quite a few Christian authors and one in particular had a Facebook Live recently to launch her book. She’s up to like thirty-six books or something and it was just interesting because she had a Q & A as well, and people were sending in all these questions. It was good to get a glimpse into her writing process and her writing, being some of the things, how she deals with some of the issues that she comes across when she’s writing.
I thought well wouldn’t it be good if we could have something like that – a dedicated forum for Christian writers so that they can talk to each other, find out a bit about each other’s journeys, the difficulties they face, maybe encourage each other. Anything to do with the writing process except from a Christian world view.
There are other forums out there but there not particularly Christian oriented or from a Christian perspective, so it would be good if we could have something I thought – be good if there was something specifically for Christian writers that we could gather together and talk through issues and just generally encourage each other.
Belinda Pollard: Yeah, fantastic and a bit about your writing?
Alison Young: Well I’ve always been a bit of a dabbler in writing but I’ve never had the confidence to actually go ahead and do something. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago when we had a death in the family it struck me, well, I thought, well if I don’t do it now then when? Why not? What’s the worst thing that can happen – no one will read my book? Big deal.
So I decided to get in and go down the process of having my book published. So that’s where I am, I’m a bit of a hybrid, I like the romance ones but I’m also an early childhood educator so I’ve got an interest in children’s literature as well, the little guys. So maybe somewhere down the track I will look at, I’ve got some drafts put away somewhere, so I might pick them out and dust them off and look at getting something done with those as well.
Belinda Pollard: Fantastic. And Donita what about you?
Donita Bundy: As you said, Belinda, I write young adults fantasy from a Christian worldview.
A number of years ago I worked in a boarding house as a night supervisor and my job was to connect with the girls in high school and help them through their studies and be with them overnight. One way I connected with them was to read the books they were reading.
As I was reading young adult fiction I realized, firstly, I really enjoyed it and secondly I struggled with the fact that there was all of these great things and stories going on in the fantasy world involving angels and demons and all sorts of things, and I thought how cool would it be if we had a story for young adults with a more biblical theology or a more of the biblical way of looking at those demons and angels and the world of the unseen.
So after I left the boarding house we moved out to the country. I became a Chaplain at a primary school and then 3 years later I had to give up because of health issues and I decided that was the time to start writing.
So now that was about 4 years ago now and I started the journey of discovering firstly, how do you write the story that you’ve got no idea, sit down and start ‘one day..’ and then several years later you end up with ‘the end’.
So I managed to find someone who was very supportive and they said, ‘Hey, if you want to be a writer this is all the things that you need to do.’ So I started that journey of the website, the blog and things like that.
At that time I was desperate for information and I was looking around for blogs and podcasts and websites and books and anything I could find. I was just hungry for information.
At that time, so we are talking about 2016, there were no Christian writing podcasts that I could find. I was really struggling with that because whilst I knew writing as a skill in itself was what I really needed to develop, it would have been great to have that community to walk with as I discovered and explored this world of Christian writing.
So I was so encouraged to meet with Belinda and the Gracewriters community and it’s in this forum that we have been able to discuss some of the ‘like problems’ I guess you could say, the things that we all struggle with.
Even though we write for different genres, we write for different audiences and difference ages groups, we still struggle with the same issues. Like: how do we put those gracenotes through our writing, how much is too much and how much is not enough. We struggle with how much do we… or how do we do this?
Belinda and I were talking the other day and Belinda came up, you had an issue that you were struggling with and it was something that I too was struggling with and there were more of us. So we thought this would be good topic and a good thing to talk about in the Gracewriters community. So what where you struggling with Belinda?
Belinda Pollard: Oh my goodness! What I was struggling with, I was getting ready to send my second draft of my manuscript, it’s a crime novel set on the Great Barrier Reef. I was getting ready to send it off to my beta readers but there was this one particular section that just wasn’t singing to me. There was a social justice issued involved and there was a, I had a researcher who was doing this medical research and just wasn’t the right fit. It wasn’t creating quite the right conflict that I needed between this character and another character.
Now as writers we all know those types of issues but I got to a point, it was quite stressful because of the timing of it and everything but I got to the point where I thought, ‘Well Belinda, you say you’re a Gracewriter – why are you not praying about this?’
And there’s a whole other thing about that, about why I didn’t feel like, I thought, how I felt as though I perhaps shouldn’t be bothering God with such trivia. But we can come back to that in a minute because I know others have felt that too.
But also I, when I did finally do some praying I thought, ‘Yes I’m trying to honour God in my writing and God’s involved in all sorts of things’ so I was sending up these little arrow prayers to Him saying, ‘God help me God help me’ to try and get this situation resolved.
And then I suddenly realized, well perhaps instead of arrow prayers I should actually stop, slow down, pray properly. So I did that and then I waited, you know, behold! for the answer to come down out of heaven with sparkling lights and all the rest of it… and it didn’t.
I felt a little bit grumpy about that because you know I’d even done the whole proper praying.
But I had to keep working at it. It was hard work. It was hard work and even working with God on it was hard work. I found that what I needed to do was to continue to pray, to research, you know I was madly looking for all the different kinds of research that could be done with these different animals that I was looking at.
I kept praying, I kept working. It took me several hours but I finally arrived at a situation with my character and my scene that I was content with. I was at peace with the way that this scene finally turned out.
It got me thinking about that whole issue of why do we sometimes think that we shouldn’t bother God with this stuff? Anybody else ever felt like that?
Alison Young: Belinda, do you think it might have been because it was a secular book for a secular market rather than Christian, or that that’s why you felt that way? Like, I’m the same, if I’m writing I’m thinking well why would I bother God because it’s secular, it’s not spiritual enough, or worthy enough, for Him to be bothered with or to bother Him about.
Belinda Pollard: Yes that is so true. For about 15 years, I used to write devotionals for Scripture Union in the U.K. and every time I had a writing session with those there was not holding back. I would be committing it to prayer. I would be asking God to give me the words He wanted to say to the people that He knew would be reading this particular bible devotional in a year’s time. I would never have held back from praying about that.
But you’re exactly right. I felt that because it was just a crime novel, a murder mystery, for a secular audience that I probably shouldn’t bother Him with it.
It’s a weird thing to think because He is so close to us He is within us. The Holy Spirit indwells us if we are Christians and so the Holy Spirit is involved in our writing whether we like it or not. I mean we’re getting Him involved in it I guess.
When I was thinking about it a bit more I thought of Psalm 139: ‘You know when I sit and when I rise. You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down. You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue (or on my keyboard) you Lord know it completely. You hem me in behind and before and you lay your hand upon me.’
There was also that verse from James 1:5: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom you should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault and it will be given to you’
And I’m thinking you know like, I would’ve even asked God to … I had a leak in my kitchen the other day and I did not hesitate to ask God to help me to find a good plumber because my plumber’s retired. But why would I not ask Him about this writing that I was doing where I’m actually seeking to honour Him?
Donita Bundy: Yes, I think Belinda it’s important for us to see that as writers regardless of who we’re writing for, that it is, if we’re writing for gracenotes into our stories, if we are Christian, everything we do is about God – God indwells.
Not many people manage to make a life or continue the journey through writing, and I think those that God has touched and encouraged to take up the writing, He is with them and using them.
So to see that whatever writing we do is inspired by God, is a calling from God. I think regardless of what we’re writing, like Alison you said about the children’s books, whether it’s crime, romance, fantasy whatever, we are called to write and God will honour that calling by inspiring us if we sit with Him and allow Him to blend through the writing into the words.
I think that’s the secret about the Gracewriting isn’t it, just connecting firstly to God and allowing that inspiration to flow and then connecting with the community because none of us were called to be in isolation. We’re all part of the body as a bigger whole. That too is the same for the writers to belong to a community of believers. Who happen to be writing together, brother and sisters of Christ who are walking the same path with the same struggles.
I can hear what you’re saying that you don’t want to bother God with these things because it’s not ‘of the kingdom’ but I think possibly we need to look at every aspect of our life as being part of the whole. I’m guilty of the same thing but I think that’s part of the journey, isn’t it, just seeing that everything we do is to represent and glorify God like Romans 12:1.
Belinda Pollard: And I think we are all so, I think it even goes maybe even a little bit further than that too, in that we have sensed a calling to do this thing. I would not let myself write my novels for so many years because, you know as I said I was writing these devotionals for these Bible study guides and things for Scripture Union in the U.K.
I thought surely that’s far more worthy than to sit down and write – for instance my first novel was about a bunch of old school friends who get together and go out in the New Zealand wilderness and start killing one another – and you think you know, let’s weigh these two up. Well surely I should be working on the Bible study guide.
But what if God’s actually put that desire to write this other stuff into my heart because He has a plan for that. I think sometimes, Alison I think you’ve maybe have felt some of that as well, haven’t you, in terms of worrying that it’s not… people might disapprove or discourage you.
Alison Young: That’s probably one of the reasons in why I’m writing under another name.
I think somebody said to me recently that it’s a tool, it’s just something you use, it doesn’t have to be overtly Christian as such, it’s a tool. If people are seeing you on social media or they’re meeting you in person or they’re seeing other things about you, it would come through wherever you are anyway.
So even if it’s, somebody wouldn’t necessarily pick up a Christian romance by a Christian author as such. They might pick up just a secular one that’s got a few gracenotes in it that might get them thinking, and that’s the sort of thing.
I saw a meme came through yesterday, somebody had sent and this guy was talking to Jesus and he said, ‘Oh do I put a little (he was a plumber), he said do I put a little fish symbol on my business card’ and the response was, ‘Well why don’t you just go about your day business and see if they can figure it out from the way you interact with people?’ The business practices and the things you do like that.
So that’s how I’m approaching it. It may not be bashing people over the head in the book, but it’s a tool to use and might pull people closer.
Belinda Pollard: It’s all part of the process, isn’t it?
People come to faith over a period of time and God has a whole team of people working to gradually move that person closer and closer to the Kingdom. There will be someone who gets that joyful job of bringing them across the line. But there’s lots of us sometimes need to be involved along the way beforehand to open their mind to think about these things.
And I actually, one of my favourite reviews of my first novel Poison Bay was by someone who describes herself as an atheist, and she described it as – she had a bunch of adjectives – and then she said but ultimately life affirming. If you can imagine how that excited me, to get that review. That she had seen something in it.
I’ve also had someone else who is a nurse and works in an emergency department and she said that, she told me that she had been able to lend my book to people she worked with because they would read it, because it wasn’t a Christian book. But it gave her opportunities to start conversations with them. So that made me, you can imagine, that gave me a little heart flutter too.
So I think you know these are the things that we can help and encourage one another with.
We’d love to know from you guys out there what you would like a podcast, a Gracewriters podcast to be, over time. Like how often would you like it, how long would you like it to be, what issues would you like us to discuss? Who would you like us to interview because we have been thinking we could invite people in to interview and they could be the fourth face in the Brady Bunch there. And we can talk to someone else about their writing process.
So we have a tab on the Gracewriters website, which is at Gracewriters.com and there is a tab for Podcast.
So please go to that tab and give us your feedback. What would you like to have in this podcast going forward. We’d love to be involved with you as we work together as Gracewriters supporting and encouraging one another.
Donita, I wondered if, would you mind just praying for us briefly before we go?
Donita Bundy: Heavenly Father, we give you thanks that you have called us to this incredible task of writing. It’s a struggle, it’s a rollercoaster but it is an incredible joy and a blessing to be inspired by your word and to share that through our own voice into the world.
So God I just pray that you would be using us for your Kingdom and for your glory. You would be equipping us as not only writers but saints in your Kingdom. That we might encourage other Christian writers that our words might go out and also encourage readers, challenge people, start questions.
But Lord I just pray that you would bless this time that we have together, that you would use us for your Kingdom, and that you would grow us for your glory, and we ask this in Jesus name. Amen.
Belinda Pollard: Amen. Thank you Donita. Thank you guys. Alison Young and Donita Bundy and I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time at the Gracewriters podcast. Bye Bye.
Donita Bundy and Alison Young: Bye
Belinda Pollard: Thank you for joining us today at the Gracewriters podcast – Christian writers changing popular culture. Connect with us at Gracewriters.com. We’d love to see you there.