Facing the blank page

The next group of students to graduate from the University of Hull’s BA (Hons) in Creative Writing are ordering their caps and gowns as I write… and what have I done with my writing since graduating last July? Unashamedly self-published my short stories collection of course! I’ve also learned (the hard way) about what not to do when going down the self-publishing route. What doesn’t kill you etc, etc…

I am now faced with a blank page – the first in my beautiful new note book (my reward for completing a writing project). My beautiful new pen (another reward) is poised… ready for my next adventure on Writers’ Way: A devotional book of prayers and meditations (with sketches) to open a route into a personal relationship with God (something completely different from my disturbing slice-of-life short stories).

I know in facing this blank page that I’m not suffering from writers’ block… I’m merely waiting for my muse to inspire me with beautiful words with which to adorn the page. I don’t want to waste a first page experience with a sprint writing exercise to enable my words to flow from my head to my fingertips… I want a ready-made perfectly worded piece of prose so that my venture has a beautiful springboard to bounce off and get itself going. Maybe it should be a prayer then? 

Whilst waiting for my muse to wake from its comatose state, my random thoughts search through the unorganised chaos of my imagination and, in a sudden flash, a blink of an eye that I would have missed had I not been waiting idly for something to happen, I discover why I can’t start. It’s so simple that it was difficult to fathom out at first. It is this: I haven’t let go of my characters from my stories yet. After all, I spent hours, days, weeks, months with them and know them intimately… like a second skin. I haven’t celebrated their lives… honoured the dead, as they say, in an official letting go ceremony. I’ve dashed straight on to the next thing without giving myself time to rest and reflect in the process of producing something I’ve created, and bask in the glory of its completion.

I look at my blank page again after my thoughts subside and… it has these beautiful words written on it – haiku style.

Prayers of devotion

embrace a new creation

to honour the dead.

See how it works? You can do a sprint exercise in your mind, not just on paper, and the words will write themselves.

Try it… you’ll see what I mean. You will need…

a blank page.

Have fun!

with love, Julie

PS. I believe a writing block can be likened to a prayer block. Therefore, if your writing’s blocked, pray – if your prayer’s blocked, write. If both should become blocked simultaneously, rest in random thoughts. These thoughts can become a prayer to provide you with words to write (or vice versa).

(Examples of pathways to prayer will be illustrated in my next project… watch this space)

Community Spirit in the Face of Tragedy

The events in relation to this reflective thought for the day may be old news now but with a stretch of imagination you can relate the analogy to anything of a similar nature.


There’s something about a tragedy that can bring a community together in a way that nothing else can. Two separate events recently perfectly highlighted God’s love for humankind in relationship to this.

The first illustration came from the fictional TV drama, Broadchurch, which had us gripped to our seats for its conclusion.  It was revealed to us that the person responsible for the murder of a young boy at the beginning of the series was a member of that close community.  

As part of the eulogy during the boy’s funeral, the vicar relayed to the small island community the message that God loves every one of us, and he talked about how God demonstrated this by sending His only son to pay the price for our sin. He said that we should forgive others as God has forgiven us, and even though forgiveness seems impossible in these circumstances we owe it to God to at least try. The final scene was set on the cliff top, above the beach where the boy’s body had been found, and the mother of the boy, surrounded by family and friends, lit a bonfire as a final farewell to her son. We were left with an image that was not one of tragedy, but one of hope, when householders along the shore line lit bonfires in succession, as a declaration of support for the family.

In the same week as this episode was shown, a second illustration to underline the message of God’s love came via an email. It had been sent as a round robin throughout Scarborough, North Yorkshire, as a response to the fatal stabbing of a teenage boy the previous weekend, the outcome of an alleged pre-organised fight. Nine teenagers had been taken in for questioning in connection with this. The email was sent in the wake of the aftermath, and offered a common place for people to gather to focus prayers of healing and peace for the victim’s family, friends of the murdered teenager, and also to pray for the young people involved. It was an open invitation to the whole town to come along and light a candle on the beach from a set time, near the place where the murder had occurred.

This simple act of lighting a candle (or a bonfire) as an act of prayer can serve as a reassurance of God’s presence in our times of trial. We do need be aware however that God is not responsible for the evil that happens in the world, and that he is there with us to help pick up the pieces when its consequence affects us. This is proven time and again through those He chooses to send as angels in our moments of need. In the two examples here, the angels were in the form of the fictitious vicar (via the writer of the drama series), and the sender of the email.  Both events portrayed hope, fictional and factual, through the action of one person who utilised an opportunity to instigate an idea. An idea that helped to bring a community together through an act of prayer, mutual support, and provide a way forward towards healing and, perhaps eventually, forgiveness. 

Psalm 147 verse 3 tells us that God heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. But God also wants to save us from ourselves and therefore in Colossians 3:13 we are told to ‘bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ (NIV) Sometimes, that means forgiving ourselves too.

Seeking revenge should never be an option

© Julie Fairweather

After a long labour… my book is born

My collection of short stories Picking at the Bones is now available as an EBook from Amazon.co.uk (£3.33) and Amazon.com ($5.19) – you can read the first story (and part of the second one) free from the ‘look inside’ button on the site. However, if you’re tempted to leave a review based on reading this alone, please resist. There are 22 stories in the collection and they are all different. So the review would not be fair comment.

If you would like to purchase a paperback copy (£6 plus p & p), please contact me via this site by sending a reply to any post (I won’t publish your contact details on here, and any comments you make will not be published either, unless you specifically request this).

If you look at this link Festival Fringe Readings you will find further samples from the collection there, which were performed at the Scarborough Festival Fringe Event recently (one complete story and two short extracts from longer stories).

The majority of the collection contains ‘slice of life’ stories that slide underneath the surface of characters’ lives in an attempt to distinguish the truth from gossip and lies. Vulnerable narrators drop in now and then to pick at the bones of the characters’ failings to add another dimension to the reader’s perception of what is and isn’t true. 

Changing the subject slightly, I was approached in the town centre of Scarborough recently by a pleasant young man who was representing the British Red Cross Charity. He was raising awareness about the service it provides in the UK. You’ve all seen the advert, no doubt, where the hooded girl declares, ‘I am a crisis. And I don’t care who you are.’ I spent a good while chatting to him and was impressed by his level of knowledge about the organization and staggered to learn of the diversity of the work that is carried out in the name of the British Red Cross, some of which equips vulnerable people with the means to help themselves and thereby become self-sufficient.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many of us these days, I was unable to sign up to make a regular direct debit payment as a donation. But I can’t get the charity out of my mind. It touched my soul, perhaps because my writing tends to be about vulnerable people, and I want to try and support it. Therefore, if I’m fortunate enough to sell any books, I pledge to donate 25p from my royalties share from Ebook sales and 50p from Paperbacks to this cause, as a starting point.

If, when browsing the samples of the stories from this post (or through reading anything contained on my website), you yourself feel inclined to make a small donation of your own to this charity, please visit this link to the British Red Cross website.  You can give anything you like as a one-off payment or as a regular commitment.

I thank you in advance for your precious donation, whether it’s made directly to them or through the purchase of a book.

   With love and prayers to you all,


Nearing the end of gestation

On Wednesday, 3 April, 2013 at 11:56, I sent my collection of short stories (Picking at the Bones) off for a final quote.

         I was sick of dithering and changing stuff every time I read it. I’ve probably over edited and turned a bestseller into a flop. But, there comes a time when you have to grab the bull by the horns and say ‘it is finished’, and that time was at 11:56 on Wednesday 3rd April 2013.

         On Tuesday, 9 April, 2013 at 3:00, I picked up the proof copy of the book. I actually felt embarrassed collecting it from the publisher’s office – isn’t that silly? It’s probably because I am quite a shy person, underneath the bravado I try and show to the world by attending events to promote my work. I almost ran out of the building with the book tucked under my arm, like it was the biggest secret ever. Oh dear! And there’s me thinking I would be elated… maybe when the final print is up and running it will feel different.

         This writing lark is not easy.

         What a beautifully strange experience it was to hold an actual book that I could stroke and fondle as I read my stories in a final proofread of my own. It was nothing like proofing paper printouts… I felt I was reading the stories for the first time. I enjoyed it – and I’ve read them a hundred times already! Inevitably, I found a few errant typos here and there that need sorting before the final print run.

         The book is now in the hands of a volunteer proofreader, as a double-check, whose latest report said she’d read four of the stories up to now, wanting to take it slow so she didn’t miss anything that may need amending. A couple of words she’s used to describe her experience of it so far are ‘interesting’ and ‘surprising’. Not sure how to take that really, and wonder if she’s finding it a slog. I’ll see what the prognosis is when I see her today and ask her direct if appropriate. But… am I ready for the answer?

         I received excellent feedback from the Festival Fringe Event I took part in, where I read one story and two extracts from the collection, and took several pre-orders for the book! So, it would cement my growing confidence if the proofreader comes up with some icing for that. (I have seen her, with icing in progress, since saying this.)

         I keep thinking back to 31st December 2012 when I reported on here that I had finished writing the collection and was sending it off for proofreading. I did quite a lot of editing and re-crafting as a result of that. Three month’s on and it is at proofreading stage yet again. It then has to go back to the people who are making it into books for me, for the amendments and finalisation… but can I trust them to get it right? Shall I ask for yet another proof copy to double check the amendments are correct before the print run?

         This writing lark is definitely not easy.

         What you have to remember in all this is that it is my firstborn I’m sending out there. I need to be careful with the nurturing stages and not set it free into the big wide world until we are both ready to cope with that.

         I’d wanted it to be delivered in time for my Scarborough Festival Fringe Event on 11 April but, knowing that was a tall order, I’d created a leaflet to hand out with three extracts from the book that I would be reading. I’ll try and pop a copy of that onto Kindle over the weekend as a freebie for you (or for as minimal a charge as Kindle permits) whilst I’m waiting for the book to come out. I’ll let you know when it’s on there for you to look at… and maybe you’ll be tempted to buy the book when I’ve finally launched it after the birth.

         Here’s hoping next time you read me on here I’ll be celebrating.

         love and prayers to you all,



Christmas Blessings

After my last blog bemoaning my agony at Christmas because of estranged family relationships, I feel honour-bound to counteract it in part.  I am taking the act of counting my blessings more seriously to turn the negative aspects of my Christmas expectations into positivity, by simply saying that through an act of kindness shown to me by a friend I have my mojo back.  Having someone rooting my corner at Christmas makes all the difference.  And the best thing is this friend isn’t just for Christmas.  Having a friend in my life who is there when I’m down and there when I’m not down is the one constant that I can depend on.

You’re probably thinking I’m talking about Jesus and, in one way, I am.  This type of friend is a great example of how a Christian should behave.  She imitates the love of Jesus through her compassion, empathy, her kind and caring ways, and her willingness to help with anything, no matter what, without judgement of me or others.  I think we can all learn something worthwhile from that kind of behaviour.

Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest examples of how to show the love of Jesus Christ to others.  In one of his many speeches he said:  “(we are) born to make manifest the glory of God within us because by doing so we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” (based on an idea from ‘A Return to Love: Reflection on the Principles of A Course in Miracles’ by Marianne Williamson 1992).

I’m enjoying reading a children’s book at the moment by Jostein Gaarder called The Christmas Mystery that manages to capture the history of Christianity in simple terms.  It’s about a magic Advent calendar that tells how the story of Jesus was spread throughout the world.

A young boy called Jochaim tells the story in the present day, through the writings contained behind each day’s window of the old calendar.  His story is about a young girl called Elisabet who travels back in time to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus.  The picture in each window portrays a character who joins the pilgrimage through the writings that day.  Every day, after each window is opened and the story progresses, Jochaim discovers the whole picture has changed – as he learns more about the mysterious stranger who made the calendar and of a young girl who went missing on Christmas Eve 40 years ago.

It’s an interesting narrative technique and the story contains many thought-provoking analogies to the Bible’s relevance in today’s real-life terms.  I am discovering some amazing insights into my own faith that I never thought about before.   The book has taken me on a personal Advent journey of rediscovery…  through the eyes of my child-self.   An added bonus is that the Advent calendar’s images bring back a happy childhood memory for me that I’d almost forgotten about. Clever stuff eh? There is so much in it to discover.  (If you know me personally and want to borrow my copy after the last window’s been opened – 24th December – please let me know via a comment on this post.)

A taster example: the wording at the onset of Day 17’s window… “many things have been done in the name of Jesus that Heaven is not very happy about…” (sound familiar?).  And the final paragraph ends that day’s adventure with Joachim saying to his parents:  “A Good Samaritan should have come to help them. Jesus wanted to teach people to help one another when any of them needed it.  For peace is the message of Christmas.”

It was this message that reminded me of the friend I spoke about earlier and encouraged me to count my blessings rather than dwell on things in my life that I (and Heaven) am not very happy about.  I aim to be more like my friend to others by being an imitation of Jesus through my actions… and thoughts too – because it’s thoughts that can drag us down sometimes and Satan really knows which buttons to push to test our faith once we’re down there.

To say I’ve been inspired by things I’ve come into contact with since my last blog is an understatement when I compare where I am now with where I was then.  I’m really focussed on Jesus and prepared for Christmas.  I’ve even bought a Christmas tree!

Just one thing remains for me to say and that is:  May you all have the kind of Christmas you’re hoping for.

Come Lord Jesus, come. 

The world is waiting for a love like yours.