In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy interview Nicci Toomey, author, blogger, and Instagrammer. Nicci began blogging her way through a very difficult time in her life, and her writing grew into a book and a ministry.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, blogger at smallbluedog.com, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of the Armour of Light urban fantasy series
- Nicci Toomey, author of The Time is Now: Becoming a John the Baptist in this wilderness world, blogger and Instagrammer
Topics covered in this episode:
- The healing power of journaling.
- The value of having an accountability partner.
- Being prepared to change direction or even change projects.
- Making a difference by microblogging honestly on social media.
Connect with Nicci
More about Nicci at www.niccitoomey.com
Connect with Nicci on Instagram
Click the cover to view Nicci’s book on Amazon.
Please use the sharing buttons at top and bottom of this post to share on social media or directly with Christian writers you know.
Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Hit subscribe on your favourite podcast player so you never miss an episode and find show notes, useful links and a full transcript at gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast we welcome our special guest, non-fiction author, Nicci Toomey.
I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and publishing consultant with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. Find links to my blogs, books and online courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I’m a former early childhood teacher. I live in south-east Queensland with four adult children and I write romance under the pen name, Alison Joy. You can find all my information on alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy and for the past 20 years I’ve been using my theology degree to underpin my preaching and my teaching and more recently to inspire my young adult urban fantasy series, Armour of Light. You can find out more about this and my other projects at donitabundy.com.
Alison Joy: Nicci Toomey is a writer and speaker who is passionate about encouraging people to spread the message of hope as seen through their real lives. She recently released her first book, The Time is Now: Becoming a John the Baptist in this wilderness world. Married to Cameron, they have two children and one grand-baby and live on Australia’s beautiful Sunshine Coast where she joins us from today. Welcome, Nicci.
Nicci Toomey: Hello! Thanks for having me.
Donita Bundy: It’s great to have your company this morning. Nicci, before we begin, we were wondering if we could get a little bit of context and find out a little bit about your writing process in the rapid-fire five. Are you willing?
Nicci Toomey: Willing and able!
Donita Bundy: Alright. Here we go! Who is your target audience?
Nicci Toomey: Christians.
Donita Bundy: Okay. And what is your main genre?
Nicci Toomey: Non-fiction and memoir, I’d say.
Donita Bundy: Okay. And when is your optimum time for writing?
Nicci Toomey: Any time that’s quiet!
Donita Bundy: Do you get a lot of quiet time? Is that a major part of your day or do you have to sneak quiet time?
Nicci Toomey: I’m fairly lucky, actually, because both my girls are at school. So, when it’s not school holidays, I do have chunk of the day. And because I work from home and writing and speaking is my main form of employment, yes, I do get a lot of time.
Donita Bundy: Excellent! So, where is your favourite place to write?
Nicci Toomey: Pretty much here! This is where I write. I have a desk. I have a room in our house that we call the calm room and this is where I come to be calm. I have my chair where I sit with God, I have my desk where I do my writing and I write in the calm room.
Donita Bundy: Perfect! And can you tell us how you got into writing in the first place?
Nicci Toomey: It really just started with journaling. When our daughter, Abbey, became very ill, I had a mother who was in the ward with us in the same room and she said to me, “You should just write every day. Get a notebook and journal your thoughts.”
So, I think my writing began then, just journaling my thoughts, and it’s progressed from there.
Alison Joy: Nicci, you’ve said your life is far from normal and that some people might even describe your life as abnormal. Can you give us a snapshot of your background and how you came to be writing your first book?
Nicci Toomey: I guess the abnormal part refers to my family. I grew up dreaming of getting married, living behind a white picket fence, having four children and many, many grandchildren and just living happily ever after. So, I think the abnormal part comes with how that dream doesn’t look exactly as I planned it to look.
So, my husband is a quadriplegic. He broke his neck when he was 25. We have a son, Michael, who is actually my son. So, Cam inherited him when we were married and then we have twin-daughters, Abbey and Lucy, and when they were three months old, Abbey contracted bacterial meningitis. So, she actually can’t talk or walk or see and Lucy has an intellectual impairment and a vision impairment, as well.
So, I live with a lot of disability so, I guess, I’m referring to that when I talk about abnormal but we are a very happy, wonderful, tightknit family. And I think that is a little abnormal, as well. That’s my background.
I grew up with a single mum. I’ve experienced domestic violence and alcoholism when I was a child. So, I have childhood memories of that. I didn’t know Jesus. I grew up being told that if you believed in God, you’d go to heaven. So, that’s why I believed in God. And I didn’t meet Jesus until I was almost 37 years old. That’s me in a nutshell, I guess.
Alison Joy: Thank you so much. It’s very interesting to listen to every author’s backgrounds and that sort of thing.
So, how did that lead you into writing? You mentioned earlier that you started journalling when Abbey was sick so that was the starting point for you?
Nicci Toomey: Probably three years after Abbey became ill, I had a mental breakdown. So, went from preparing dinner one afternoon in the kitchen to being curled up in a ball on my laundry floor for about two hours. And then for two weeks after that, just sat on my couch unable to really interact with my family or the world and from there started seeing a psychiatrist.
Probably six months after that I just had this feeling that God told me I should start writing a blog. And I was very new to speaking to God. I was new to knowing Jesus and he just gave me this idea of writing. He called it rainbow moments and he wanted me, in every day of my life, just to pick one thing that would make me stop and look and go, “Ahh!” and see the beauty in the world because that’s what a rainbow does for me. I don’t know if it does it for you but every time I see a rainbow it stops me in my tracks.
So, I’d started blogging on a daily basis. Maybe this was 11 years ago and they were just very short. I don’t have any educational background in writing. I haven’t studied it, at all. It came out of the blue and it was very much a God thing.
Alison Joy: Yes. I like in the introduction of The Time is Now, you question God as to why He wanted you to write the book and I like the word that you believe God gave you. Could you share it with us, please?
Nicci Toomey: Yes. I’m going to read it because I don’t want to get His words wrong. I’d finished studying, I did my Bible study for the day, and He just started speaking to me and I’d been studying the beginning of the book of John. And so, he said to me:
I’m raising up a new era of John the Baptists to make a way for the second coming of Jesus. Ordinary, everyday people who were born with this purpose. People whose lives may have taken them on some fairly wide roads and they have now found themselves on the narrow track of walking with Jesus. People like you who have lived in the wilderness are best equipped for leading others out of theirs.
I will raise up ordinary, everyday people others can relate to so they can begin shining a light on Jesus. We need to be calling them out like Ezekiel prophesied to the dead bones. We need to wake them up; help them realise the part they have to play as they walk through their lives.
Alison Joy: That is so good. Thank you so much for sharing it.
At first, you said you tried to ignore what God was saying but, in the end, you were compelled to start writing and you described yourself as feeling as though you were Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole. What did you mean by that?
Nicci Toomey: I find that when God asks me to do something, I start out thinking it’s going to be one thing and it ends up being something completely different. I’m a participant in it but I’m not really in control.
After I’d received this Word, I started writing and I felt like Alice because all of these pictures and images and words and phrases were all just flying past my eyes as I was writing. I didn’t even know where it was coming from. So, I think I mean that when I felt like I was Alice, I was on this adventure. I was looking for adventure. I certainly found adventure but I was not in control of what was going to happen!
Belinda Pollard: Not necessarily the adventure you were looking for!
Nicci Toomey: No!
Alison Joy: I like how you said, “God didn’t let up and He was like an annoying little brother.” I have two so I can relate to that. But how did your writing journey progress?
Nicci Toomey: So, I wasn’t obedient at the beginning. He gave me this Word in April and I had already started writing another book, two years ago, that I was just about ready to finish, a memoir. When He said, “I want you to write this book,” I said, “No! I haven’t finished the first book.”
I just put it to the side and just let my insecurities take over, basically, and then in May, I met someone who introduced me to a friend who was a writing coach. And at the end of May, beginning of June, I decided that I would have a meeting with her and see if she could help me get my memoir finished. I needed someone to be accountable to.
I met with her at the very beginning of June and maybe three days before I had my meeting with her I felt like God brought the book idea back to me and He was like, “No, this one. This is what I want you to write.”
When I first met with her, she was ready to talk to me about memoir and I said, “Actually, I think it’s a second book!” So, after some conversations she was like, “Yes. There’s definitely a second book. This is the one you need to write first.”
And then from then it was very fast. He gave me the release date of 28th September and we just worked full steam ahead; four months of writing and publishing to get it done.
Alison Joy: That’s amazing! Can I just ask how close are you to finishing your memoir?
Nicci Toomey: I am still at the same point! I’m 63,000 words in so I have to wrap it up pretty quickly, I’d say.
Belinda Pollard: One of the tricky things with a memoir, too, is where do you finish it because the story continues so perhaps are there a couple of memoirs in you.
Nicci Toomey: Yes! Well, this memoir, I call it my BC memoir. It’s my before Christ. So, it’s my years leading up to the point where I met Jesus so, I do, in this respect, do have an end date and I’m going to finish but it’s just getting it done. And if it’s the right thing to do. I’m very big on listening to God.
Belinda Pollard: And being redirected when necessary.
Nicci Toomey: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: You’ve said that your blog started out as a form of self-counselling. What does that mean?
Nicci Toomey: Well, as I said before, I really felt like God just wanted me to stop in my every day. I was in a really dark place at that time. It was hard to get up and just do life and what life looked like for me. So, that blog, really for me, just to stop and see something or a memory would drop into my mind that would take me back and make me feel happy and my role was simply just to write 300 to 500 words on whatever that moment was for the day.
And then through that, I started to be able to see life in full colour again, I guess, because life was a bit black and white and I needed a bit of colour. So, that’s what I mean by self-counselling.
Belinda Pollard: That’s really interesting. Do you think it’s not just that you were recognising the colour but also it was helping bring out more colour, that process of writing?
Nicci Toomey: Yes. Yes, absolutely.
Belinda Pollard: It’s a very powerful thing, writing, isn’t it? It’s really interesting. I find it interesting that God identifies Himself as communication. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. And one of the most important things He’s given us is a book or a library of books. Very interesting.
What sort of feedback have you had from readers, like readers of the blog or readers of your book?
Nicci Toomey: I should say that the majority of my writing outside of the book, especially in this year, has been social media. So, I have used social media posts to micro-blog and so a lot of my focus has been on that. If you go to my blog site you might be a little disappointed! I think my last blog was in February! But my social media, I try to write on there at least four to five times a week and I try to write from the perspective of a real life because I really do believe that our lives are made to shine the light of Jesus and that we have to be real, everyday, ordinary people to be able to reach everyday, ordinary people.
So, I think the bulk of my feedback is about how refreshing it is. They love the fact that I’m real. They love the fact that they see the messy Nicci and the put-together Nicci. They love the fact that I don’t gloss over the hard bits but that everything I write about I would hope points to the hope that you find in Jesus.
Most of the feedback is around the fact that it’s refreshing to have some real life kind of comments. Yes.
Donita Bundy: Nicci, Gracewriters slogan is Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. How does this challenge you?
Nicci Toomey: I actually loved that when I read that, that that was your slogan, because it’s really my heart and I guess that’s why this year I’ve spent so much time focusing on social media. I think social media gets such a bad rap and for good reason, absolutely good reason, but I think it also is up to us to change the culture. Change the culture of social media. Change what’s coming into people’s feeds. Change what’s scrolling. So, actually stop scrolling and interact and comment and it’s not just a double tap but actually let someone know that you’ve read their words or that you appreciate them.
So, I love the fact that you’re changing popular culture because my heart is to change the culture of social media and make it a positive place to be, not a negative place. And what better way to share a message with a much larger reach than I would have.
Belinda Pollard: I find that really interesting, too, because people often say social media is the showreel. It’s everybody’s showreel all put together and looking glossy and fantastic and the children are never arguing and everything is great. I’m really interested and encouraged by the fact that you’re seizing it and using it and turning it around and showing those different sides of life. And the fact that God is present even in the mess and even in the really difficult things that are going on.
Donita Bundy: Nicci, you shared that your blogging and your journal really helped you out of that dark spot, out of the black and white and it’s you helped see the colours and look for the colours again in life. How would you say that your writing journey, perhaps looking at what you’ve written in your book, has impacted your faith and relationship with God?
Nicci Toomey: I think that my journalling, when I spend time with God and I journal, I am an internal processor. I process everything internally. It will take me a while to wrap my head around something before I can give you a verbal idea of what I’m thinking. So, in journalling, I think I’m able to do that internal processing but at the same time get it out of my head and onto another medium. So, I think journalling has helped me do that.
What was the other part of your question? I don’t think I’ve answered that perfectly.
Donita Bundy: Your whole process, the whole journey of writing so, including this process, like you said you went to the coach to get your memoir finished but God said, “No, I’ve got this other one.” You’ve gone through this process of writing this book and there was a fast turnaround, how has your relationship with God been impacted by that part of being obedient, of following through with that instruction to get that book out?
Nicci Toomey: I see God and I like this 🤞🏼 *Nicci crosses her fingers*. I honestly have trouble in my life doing anything without Him. Being obedient to actually writing this book has just helped to strengthen the bond that we have and deepen our relationship. It’s helped me to learn more about Jesus and know Jesus better because we have to know Jesus to show Jesus, right? I think that heaps of people have said that before.
I always knew that I knew Jesus but I feel like God was saying, “Okay, now it’s time for you to show Him. It’s time for you to show Him now. Stop keeping Him to yourself.” So, we have this lovely back and forth relationship. He’s ever present in my life and walking through life is easier. So, the book definitely made me more determined in that relationship.
Belinda Pollard: Fantastic. Thank you for that, Nicci. It’s wonderful to have these insights into your life and into your writing process. Encouraging for other Gracewriters and for all of our listeners.
How can people find you online?
Nicci Toomey: They can go to niccitoomey.com. That is my website where you’ll find my outdated blog! It’s real! I’ve got to be real with you girls!
But also, I am hoping to add some things to that. So, I’m in the middle of writing a devotional and some other things, as well, so, we’re going to be working a lot on that.
And then my social media, you’ll mostly find me on Instagram. My handle for there is, My Real Faith Hope Love or if you search Nicci Toomey. You’ll find my dog Instagram account, as well, so don’t go to that one. I don’t think it’ll interest you but My Real Faith Hope Love on Instagram.
Belinda Pollard: Wonderful! How about I pray for you, Nicci and for the Gracewriters.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for Nicci and for the amazing ways that you have been active in her life. She has been through more than many people could imagine they could bear and yet you have somehow sustained her through this. You have blessed her even in the midst of this and you have helped her to use this and turn it around to bless others. And we know that you are just an extraordinary God who is behind every step of this process.
We pray for her. We lift her up before you. We pray that you will strengthen her, encourage her, bless her and lead her in every aspect of her life and especially in her writing and her encouragement of others as she goes forward.
And we pray for all the other Gracewriters out there, too, who are dealing with things and who are looking for your grace and your purpose in their situations. And we pray that you will lead them forward and bless them and give them the words and give them the opportunities and open the way, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Donita Bundy: Amen.
Alison Joy: Amen.
Nicci Toomey: Amen.
Belinda Pollard: Nicci Toomey, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today.
Nicci Toomey: Thank you.
Belinda Pollard: Thank you, Alison Joy and Donita Bundy.
I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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