I have been a member of Faithwriter’s since 2004. I would like to boast that I have never missed an opportunity to submit something in the weekly challenge – but I have entered a fair number. Every year all the entries that came top each week compete for the “Best of Best” title. This year I came third! I have won $75 – the first time that my writing has won any money! It is also the first time that my writing has earned me an interview! I have posted the interview below.
JOANNE:What was your reaction when you found out your piece did so well in Best of the Best?
MEL:I was in Glasgow for the weekend. I had traveled down on the Friday afternoon. I didn’t have the opportunity to log on anywhere. In the bus station on the way home there was an internet café, with only one working computer and a queue. I paid my £1 for a twenty minute slot. The connection was painfully slow and the bus was pulling in. I saw my name and wasn’t really sure I hadn’t made it up. I checked again when I got home. I was surprised and delighted.
JOANNE: Wow. What a way to end your vacation! Tell me a little about yourself. What do you do besides enter the challenge?
MEL:I am an avid reader. I bought a Kindle earlier on in the year. The first thing I downloaded was a Bible. It was the equivalent of baptizing it.
I am very involved in my local church. I am on the preaching rota and speak at least once a month. I am involved in a midweek bible study and we are about to launch into some of the minor prophets.
Living in Scotland, just a few miles away from Loch Ness, I love walking. I don’t hike with maps and backpack – I just amble slowly.
I like visiting art galleries, but not museums.
JOANNE:You’ve been at FaithWriters, and entering the challenge, since 2004 (that’s seven years, folks!). What has moved you to be such a faithful FWer and challengeer?
MEL:I had completed a creative writing course at our local college a few years earlier. I felt so at home with words that I wanted to continue writing. I joined FW and started to enter the challenge. Left to my own devices I lack discipline, so the topic and the deadline is something that I enjoy. FW is such a positive environment to grow your writing skills.
Every so often I think about stepping down from the challenge. I have been submitting stories and poems for a few years now. But why stop doing something that you love doing? I love writing and the challenge provides the opportunity to do that.
JOANNE:For you, what is the best part of the Writing Challenge?
MEL:It is being faced with a topic and having no idea what to do, but knowing that with a bit of thought and musing something will come. I need to find my way in. I cast about for days with different ideas, and maybe write a paragraph or two. Or a whole story. Or a poem. I will play around with it, delete it even to begin again. I reach that point where I think there is nothing I can do to make it better – or want to do – or have the time to do. The challenge causes me to meditate on Scripture a lot more that I used to. I want to stir people with what I write.
JOANNE:I loved your winning piece, The Frog and The Leper. Where did you get the idea? How did it come together?
MEL:Some weeks I am so busy that I come to Wednesday night and nothing is happening so I tell myself I will pass that week. The deadline in the UK is 3.00pm Thursday. At lunchtime on Thursday the first line “Rumour has it…”came into my head. Then the frog hopped into the poem. I thought about what rumours might appeal to a frog. Being kissed by a princess and transformed seemed a good idea. Getting the frog to the park I thought of various obstacles in the way. Then of course there wasn’t a princess. Girls dress up as princesses but that doesn’t make them princesses. The second part of the poem followed the same pattern. Just as people might dismiss the frog’s thinking as foolish, they tend to think of faith in Jesus as just as foolish and I wanted them to reach a different conclusion. It was one of those things that almost wrote itself. It wanted to be written and it was an easy birth.
I wish I could say that I pray about what I write – sometimes I do, but mostly I don’t.
JOANNE:When did you start writing? What do you most like to write? What are your writing goals?
MEL:My best friend and I used to fill notebooks of stories. We were twelve or thirteen at the time. We were into science fantasy stories – all swords and sorcery. She was the better writer. She was better at most things that I was, but it just made me stretch a little.
I love to write poetry. Many years ago I bought Stephen Fry’s book “The Ode Less Travelled.” He introduced me to the world of iambic pentameter. It is basically a how-to book on writing poetry illustrated with his poems. He sets challenges at the end of each chapter. Poetry to me is like doing a crossword – only one word will fit in a certain space and I love chasing down that one word.
There are a couple of things that I think God is nudging me towards. A local Christian community centre is looking for people to run classes and there is an opportunity to start up a creative writing class. I’m a teacher anyway, so it shouldn’t be a step too far out of my comfort zone. The other goal is publishing a poetry book. I produced a photocopied and folded over chapbook of my Easter poems and handed them to friends and family over Easter. The response was positive. A book is a bigger challenge. Knowing that “The Frog and the Leper” did so well in the BoB gives me confidence.
JOANNE:Praying for God’s direction for you. Now, brag on your family a bit.
MEL:I came from a large family – three sisters and two brothers. They have families of their own – children and grandchildren. There’s a lot of birthdays to remember. Only my mum and my eldest sister have a vibrant faith in God.
I have a wonderful husband, Joseph. I found an old love letter I had written to him years ago just the other day. He would die first rather than submit his thoughts to paper! He supports and encourages me in everything I do. He is my hero and role model. I would like to be as loving as him and as gentle.
My sister, Linda, and my brother, Michael, died within months of each other a couple of years ago. It was a very distressing time. I found comfort and strength in God. I also wrote some very dark and angry poems throughout that time. Writing was therapy.
Michael was the only one in the family with the writing bug. He lived in Spain and had a regular column in a magazine for Brits living in Spain. He was compiling an A-Z commentary of life in Spain when he was diagnosed with cancer.
The rest of the family are much more practical. One of my nieces has just earned her law degree, while her sister is an apprentice plumber! I am very proud of them all.
It was so nice to get to know you better, Mel! A big congratulations for your BoB placement, and keep writing those challenge entries!