After I Finished the Book Footprints on African Hearts and Lands
By Gwen Ellis
March 16, 2015
After I finished the book Footprints on African Hearts and Lands, which is the story of Dr. Samuel W. Hynd, I somewhat lost perspective on what an amazing story it is. Now that a few weeks have passed since its publication, I thought it might be fun to share some quick excerpts of the story. Because the Hynd family first went to Swaziland in southern Africa in 1924, their story is an old-fashioned kind of missionary story with crocodiles and thatched huts and riding on horseback to minister to the people. So here’s an early story. It begins with the Hynd family boarding a ship to take them to Africa. Samuel was five months old.
They boarded the Arundal Castle, an ocean liner bound for Cape Town, South Africa. They had all of their earthly belongings with them. . . . The entourage sailed for seventeen days on the Atlantic Ocean arriving in Cape Town on 9 June 1925. Dr. David [Samuel’s father] unable to sleep because of his excitement, was up at 2:30 AM gazing out at the watery horizon to catch a first glimpse of Sub-Saharan Africa, where he would be working for the rest of his days. . . .
From Cape Town, the Hynd family took a train across the expansive Karoo Desert and up to the city of Johannesburg . . . in Johannesburg they purchased a car (an open Dodge vehicle) and began the drive to Swaziland. Travel by road was the only way into the tiny Kingdom. It took three days of hard driving to reach their destination. They had to follow the railway line across farmland, and as they crossed each farm, they had to jump out of the car to open and close the fence gates making progress slow and tedious. They drove through rivers that soaked their luggage making it necessary, when they stopped to rest at night, to spread everything out to dry. One time the car sank up to its axles in a mud hole and only got out with the help of two women, one carrying a tiny baby tied to her back. . . .
It was evening when they arrived at the hilltop where they building that was intended as their “home” was located. What they found there shocked them beyond belief. The building looked like a skeleton of a house. There were no windows or doors. Even more shocking was the fact that the house had no roof. They could not bring their young daughter and infant son to live in a house with only partial walls and no roof. There was nothing to do but drive on to the nearest mission station . . . forty miles further on. By now night had fallen, and the family drove in utter darkness . . .
…to be continued
You and Creativity
by Gwen Ellis
February 21, 2015
I have long had an interest in the subject of creativity and why some people seem to get so much of it and others struggle to do the simplest of creative projects. In some ways the Internet has boosted an interest in all things creative with sites like Pinterest and Etsy. Television channels like DIY and HGTV have also done their part to make people look at ordinary objects in more creative ways.
The other day I was in a thrift store looking for objects to creatively turn into something useful. I noticed two women with shopping carts filled with glass objects. They had plates and crystal lamps and glass candle holders and vases and on and on. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to ask. “What do you plan to do with all that glass?”
“Let me show you,” one of them said and pulled out her smart phone to show me the most amazing glass creations sparkling in the sun in a garden. Each piece looked like a flower. It’s hard to describe, but let me show you. Look carefully and you’ll see plates and bowls and votive candle holders. Pretty creative, don’t you think?
I was recently introduced to a book called The Artisan Soul by Erwin Raphael McManus. I read through it rather quickly on a long flight across the country, and then more recently, I have been re-reading it and highlighting important ideas. Let me share some of them.
“Creativity should be as common as breathing. We breathe, therefore we create. . . . A soul that is free and alive is a soul that creates. We need not only a new view of God but a new view of us. We need a new theology and a new anthropology. Humans create. . . . It takes courage to not only accept our limitations but embrace our potential. To deny our creative nature is to choose a life where we are less and thus responsible for less . . . we live in the fear that if we aspire to be more we will discover ourselves to be less. We live in fear of failure, convinced that failure will prove us to be frauds. . . . So we get back in line, our dreams in check, and condemn our souls to a slow and painful death. . . . The creative act is inherently an act of courage. . . .The past will be our future until we have the courage to create a new one. To make our lives a creative act is to marry ourselves to risk and failure. ”
McManus believes as I do that we all start out creative. Give a young child a piece of paper and a crayon and just watch what he creates. But tragically and usually, grownups who think they know better drum into those young minds that they must color within the lines—not just on paper but in all of life. To that I shout, “Who says so?” Somehow we teach our young ones that to be acceptable they have to follow some rules about what is creative and what it is not. No they don’t. I once took my young son to an art class where the teacher lit into him about “rules.” I pulled him out of the class immediately.
What I believe is that “In the beginning, God created . . .” The Bible tells us that the Spirit of God hovered over this planet. The kind of hovering that happened there is much like a mother hen hovering over her eggs, bringing them to life. The hovering Spirit of God created all that we know. And the hovering Spirit of God has not left our planet. He’s still here and I believe he has put within each of us a spark of creativity that only needs to be fanned so gently and softly into a blaze within us.
McManus says it this way, “The voice that spoke light into existence is the one we need to expel the darkness within and bring us to light, to life, and to love. . . . We find our voice when we find his voice. It’s here that we experience our most authentic selves and find our true voice. In the end every artist creates only art that reflects the inner voice.”
So what about you, dear reader? What about me? Is it time to ask ourselves how God’s Spirit would like to use us to bring new life and new hope to our planet? I think so.
by Gwen Ellis
May 8, 2014
Unless you are shut up in a closet somewhere and no one ever sees your writing—ever—you are a collaborator.
I’ve been holed up—that’s a poor choice of words for my location—for a week in an authentic Swiss-style chalet not far from Snoqualmie Pass in Washington State collaborating with a couple of class-A authors on a book. A good portion of our time has been spent just talking as we tried out ideas and got to know one another. We made great progress and came out with a solid outline and several chapter drafts. But most importantly we learned we like each other and can work well together, and that’s oh, so important in collaboration.
A famous screen-writing instructor once said that all works of art are collaborations. He was speaking particularly about screenwriting and the making of movies. He said that everyone who touches a movie to perform their part of the process, refines and makes it better. The screenplay writers, director, film editors, costumers, and make-up people all contribute toward making the movie what you see on the screen.
In book writing, the author, while a very important part of the process because he or she provides the creative kick-start, is the beginning of a long process of collaboration. When the author has labored and borne down and been delivered of a manuscript, it’s just the first step. Next comes the careful honing and evaluating and reshaping of the substantive editor who might take your creation apart, ask you questions you never thought about, make suggestions you are not sure will improve your masterpiece, and then finally he will reassemble the book. If you are honest you have to admit it is a better book because of the collaboration with this editor.
Next comes the nit-picky copyeditor who changes your punctuation and capitalization, who fact checks every statement you write and catches mistakes you never knew were mistakes. Then the book designer gets involved and designs the interior of the book and you might not like the end results, or you might love it. Meanwhile a cover designer has been creating his own masterpiece for your book.
Finally your baby is dressed in a beautiful cover and a great interior. It is then delivered to the next part of the collaboration—the sales team, the marketing people, and the publicists. I’ve never met an author yet who felt these teams did enough to sell their book.
Be that as it may, your creative expression has come a long way from the beginning and each person—whether sales person or designer—has collaborated to make a better product. So when the surgical knives come out and are waved over your creation, don’t fear. No one intends to hurt your baby. They just want it to be the best it can be and process of making it the best is called “collaboration.”
These Are the Things that Inspire Me
by Gwen Ellis
February 8, 2014
If you sit around and wonder, “What shall I write? What shall I write?” you probably aren’t living life to the fullest. People who have full lives have more than enough to write about. For example: A number of years ago I was doing what I do every day, editing other people’s books, when along came a book that riveted my attention and changed my life. The book, It’s Not Okay with Me by Janine Maxwell is the story of the author’s life which was pretty comfortable until she was caught in New York City on 9/11. It scared her and caused her re-evaluate what she was doing with her life. She wasn’t all that satisfied with what she learned. Crawling up out of a deep depression, she went with friends who were filming street children in Kenya. That trip changed her life as she began to ask what she could do to make a difference in the lives of African children.
As I worked on her book, I began to ask myself if what happens on a daily basis all over Africa was okay with me. For the life of me, I couldn’t imagine what I could do in Africa to make one speck of difference. But finally, I decided I had to go to Africa and find out if there was some work out there for me. And there was—lots of it.
I went the first time with Janine and Ian Maxwell’s organization, Heart for Africa. We worked at a children’s home called New Hope Centre just outside Manzini, Swaziland. I taught some of the children about telling their story and how their story was something no one could ever take away from them. These children had come to New Hope Centre bereft of everything: home, parents, grandparents, food, clothing, love, care.
Before I left the country, the director of New Hope Centre, Dr. Elizabeth Hynd, asked me to write the story of the founding of the home. I truly didn’t know if I could do it, or even if I wanted to take the time for this story. But to make a long story short, I decided to give it a try and the result was a book called A Little Child Shall Lead Them. Then came the second book, 24 Extraordinary Children, which told in intimate detail the stories of two dozen of the children at the home. I wrote and printed that book—with lots of volunteer contributions from photographers, copyeditors, designers and typesetters. It was a huge undertaking.
And now I am writing the third book for the folks in Swaziland. This one tells the story of the Hynd family which has made a huge contribution to the wellbeing of the education and health of the people of that land. The book is a biography of Dr. Samuel Hynd, veteran missionary doctor, who is 90 years old. It tells of a lifetime of treating sick and injured Swazi people. It tells the fascinating story of his involvement with the Royal Family of Swaziland. And it tells how, when Dr. Hynd turned 80, he took on the greatest challenge of his life—the fight against AIDS. In Swaziland, AIDS is a pandemic with half the people infected. Hundreds of thousands of children have been orphaned by this horrific disease. Dr. Hynd built the first AIDS clinic in the country. He still goes to the clinic on occasion to treat patients. His book, Footprints on African Hearts and Lands, the Life and Work of Dr. Samuel W. Hynd will soon go to press. Here is a story no one should miss.
I’ve been to Swaziland four times in six years and it has given me a new take on life. I’ve seen how much of the world lives. I’ve experienced acceptance and love from Swazi children. And I know that I have made a difference by using the best gift I have, the ability to write and tell their stories.
Nothing to write about? Go live dangerously. Go risk something. Go give until it hurts. Remember, we only have one life, so go do something. You’ll never wonder again what to write about, because if you have written everything imaginable about what you’ve done or where you’ve gone, guess what? A new opportunity will open up for you, sometimes tied to the first, sometimes because what you risked has caused you to grow as a writer, and sometimes because doing nothing is not the way you want to live your life any longer.
To buy a copy of the books mentioned, go to:
A Little Child Shall Lead Them:
24 Extraordinary Children
by Gwen Ellis (President of Seaside Creative Services)
January 15, 2014
Some people love it . . . some people hate it. But whether you love it or hate it, change comes to all of us. Such a change came to Seaside Creative Services this year. We moved across the continental United States and relocated in a place that is more lakeside than seaside. We decided, however, to keep the old name since people are used to tracking us down through www.seasidecreativeservices.com
There have been other changes as well, including the loss of revenue from the kind of work we have been doing for the last eleven years. It’s interesting, though, that about a year-and-a-half ago, we decided to learn the printing process. Our first project was very ambitious. It was a book called 24 Extraordinary Children about New Hope Centre, a children’s home in Swaziland. The book was 192 pages, full color, and has about 500 pictures in it. What a learning curve that was. One thing we learned is that you can’t upload a file that big to the printer’s website. You have to mail the press a thumb drive with a huge capacity to hold the text and artwork. After four thumb drives were sent, we finally got it right, and the young people at New Hope Centre were thrilled to see their stories in print.
To take a look at this book or to buy a copy, go to:
The next books we did for another client were black and white interiors and full-color covers. Our fourth book is at the press now, and it is a study guide to go with an existing book. It has lots of lines for writing answers, and there are icon features to point out key ideas. This project has gone well, and it is exciting that we now have added publishing to our services. We have expanded our abilities.
Change happens and we can either fight it or embrace it. At Seaside Creative Services we are embracing it and are excited about the future. We’d love to help you tell your story. Whether you need a ghost writer, a coach, an editor, or a printer, we’re her to help, and we will work to make your book the best it can be.
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