Get Set
Bonnie Way

Bonnie Way is a freelance writer, editor and stay-at-home mom who is working on mastering the skill of multi-tasking. She's a ravenous reader of Christian fiction and hopes that some of the talent she reads will seep into her own writing: a series of YA fantasy novels and other short stories waiting to be published. Her work has been published in a variety of publications, including, The Olds Albertan, and The Mom Writer's Literary Magazine. She's a member of Inscribe Christian Writer's Fellowship and the editor of their quarterly writer's newsletter, FellowScript, which gives her a good dose of writing how-to on a regular basis. She enjoys reading blogs and blogs regularly about writing, motherhood and faith at

Show Me Your Backyard

One of the great things about literature is its ability to take the reader to a specific time or place. We may call it “armchair traveling,” but honestly, for those of us with a small budget (or a love of home), literature is a great way to see faraway lands.

In all the attempts through history to invent a time machine, literature is the only way that’s succeeded. Authors take readers to any era they wish, from Biblical times to Medieval years to the present. Authors also have the power to conjure in the minds of their readers any place they wish, from fantastical settings like Middle Earth to everyday settings like the local small town.

As a reader, one thing I’ve appreciated about literature is when the author writes about his or her own country. It gives the reader a unique glimpse into that country and its character. I first began to appreciate this when I spent a summer in Australia.

As I perused the titles in a bookstore, looking for one that would grab my attention enough to convince me to fork out the Aussie dollars to buy it, I realized that I was seeing the same books I’d see in a bookstore in Canada. Or in the United States. Mostly U.S. books by U.S. authors.

When I asked my Aussie hosts to name a few good Australian authors, they had to think. It’s the same response that most Canadians give when asked for the names of good Canadian authors. We can rattle off our favorite authors—but most of them are American.

I have nothing against Americans; after all, they’ve produced a lot of good literature. But in a way, American authors, with their huge audience of ravenous readers, have overshadowed the equally good writing by authors of other countries.

It was quite by accident that I laid my hands on an Australian novel that now ranks among my favorites. I’d moved to Alice Springs and was living with two single Aussie girls after their other roommate moved out, who had left behind a stack of books, among them an Australian collection of Reader’s Digest

Condensed Books, which I read in the quiet evenings after work.

The novel that stuck with me (so much so that I found a paperback copy to keep before I flew home) was We of the Never-Never by Mrs. Aeneas Gunn. With a voice that was heart-wrenching and poetical, she captured the people and land of the “Never-Never” (part of the outback of northern Australia). I felt like I was there, beside her, seeing these unique people who chose to live in a place of extreme weather, great isolation, and sudden beauty.

That’s what we writers can do. We can describe a place in such a way that the reader is transported there and feels like they’ve actually been there. As Grace Bridges said in the October ’08 issue of CFOM, we should “soak up the unique atmosphere of the place where [we] are, and use it to make [our] writing stand out from the rest.”

Whether we write from Canada, Australia, or the States, we bring a sense of place into our writing—something that transports our readers out of their armchairs and into our backyards. Things that are every day and ordinary to us are new and exciting to someone on the other side of the globe—or even at the other end of our own country.

Nobody else can write about a place like someone who has spent years there and loves it. While in Australia, I read a book about the country by an American author. He spent two weeks there and thought that qualified him to write about it. I disagreed with most of what he wrote. Sure, he could describe the place—with the cursory, quick descriptions of someone who has “been there, done that” and then moved on before the dust settled around him. It didn’t give me the burning desire to go there like Mrs. Gunn’s writing, welling from the depths of her heart, did.

And so as a reader, I continue to travel from my armchair and to enjoy authors who can bring me into their backyards. As a writer, I hope to imitate their successes and show the places I love to my readers.