Through the Maze

Through the Maze

Through the Maze

As a child, I loved working my way through fun activity books, ones with colour-by-numbers or dot-to-dots. If I followed the instructions, a completed picture would emerge. Seeing my efforts come to fruition was such a thrill.

My all-time favourites were the MAZES! Helping Fido find his bone, or helping the lost bunny find his way home was more than fun; it was satisfying. I confess I rigorously planned the route in my head before my pencil touched the page, so I wouldn’t end up drawing messy detours.

Those fun activities reinforced important life lessons, like the wisdom of following directions, the blessing of assisting others, and the value of planning. These principles have helped me negotiate life with satisfaction and some success. They inform my efforts and habits as a writer.  

Writing, like many of life’s activities, can be fun, but it is not always child’s play. At times, connecting the dots is complicated and messy. Putting the ‘right’ colours in the ‘right’ places doesn’t always work out, especially when numbers are missing, or your green felt-pen runs dry halfway through the leaves. Fido bites your finger on the way to his bone. Or, like Alice in Wonderland, you chase the bunny and fall down a rabbit hole into a whole world of confusing encounters and unexpected challenges.

When it comes to life’s mazes, some walls are so high, planning the route is impossible. Dead ends leave you backtracking, or stuck in a corner, puzzled, stunned, confused and exhausted. Where’s the fun in that?

During the seven-plus years (!) of writing, editing, and upskilling so I could indie publish my debut novel, Licence to Die (GRUnGE.001), I’ve had plenty to hinder my writing progress. Midway, I had major surgery, with complications that injured my brain and left me with ‘neural neglect’, a condition where my brain lost contact with some of the nerves on the left side of my body. Two weeks after that, I discovered my left wrist was broken (how did that happen?).

I spent months stuck in a confusing maze, struggling to link the simplest of thoughts together; the big picture eluded me completely. I found myself thinking thoughts like … I don’t have to write. No-one’s making me. I could just … stop.

Then again, where’s the fun in that?

Writing may not be child’s play, but it does bring joy and satisfaction. Writing creates images with words. It orders our thinking and colours our world. It helps us connect the dots when it comes to important issues of life, faith, purpose and destiny. Writing helps us make sense of the journey, keeps us on track, and moves us forward. When we write right, we help our readers enjoy these things too.

Pushing onward through that frustrating maze produced surprising results for me too. Continuing to write whilst also developing new design and technology skills, helped rewire my brain, creating new pathways where ideas could flow. I reviewed my novel with fresh eyes and perspective and actually enjoyed giving it an overhaul. Although the messiness of life hindered my progress and satisfaction for a time, it also gave me breathing space, and permission to go easy on myself for a while. Most importantly, it reminded me that writing truly is worthwhile. And … it’s fun!

(Adapted from my original version posted on Christian Writers Downunder September 2017)

Photo images from Pixabay.

Called by Name

Called by Name

Called by Name

One of the great joys of having children is the fun of choosing their names—or it becomes a joy once you get past the wrangling (as in ‘will Great Grandpa Gatsby ever forgive us for calling our son Scott Fitzgerald G.?’).  

When my husband and I chose names for our children, we opted for meanings which represent our prayerful desires and prophetic blessings for them, believing that every time we call them by name, our prayers and blessings are reiterated. How delighted we are that our adult children embody the very blessings we bestowed.

Name choices are significant for writers too. Character names, book names … we have to choose names more often than the average Jo. I have written stories with characters that seemed to name themselves. Other times I’ve gone searching for the ‘right’ name. Often my choice is influenced by the meaning of the name.

Sometimes, we rename ourselves. There are numerous blogs and articles on the subject of pseudonyms and the reasons authors choose them. I was happy publishing under my own name, until I wrote THAT story; one that had to be written; one that begged to be published; one that spoke to the power of God’s grace to heal victims of physical and sexual abuse; one that spoke of the overwhelming responsibility every adult has to protect our children from predators; one that challenged the wall of silence that has kept many adults, myself included, isolated in a room of pain, filled with unspeakable memories.  If only that story was fiction. But it wasn’t. It was the all-too-true story of my childhood.  

Writing THAT story was also a turning point for me; one that brought healing as I wrote it, and more healing as I shared it with my siblings. So, did I really need to publish it? As I prayed and agonised over that question, the answer was a clear yes. Not because the world needed another story about abuse. But because there can never be enough stories about the power that positive action, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation have to overthrow evil and release healing, wholeness, and goodness again. You see, the man that abused me as a child, died the same day he truly repented of his sins against me; in his place, I received a loving father who would also be a wonderful grandfather to the very end of his days. For that reason, when my story, Releasing Rainbows, was chosen for publication in the inaugural issue of Snapdragon, A Journal of Art and Healing, I used my pseudonym.  

I prayed much about that name choice too. After all, God’s an old hand at name-changing: Abram/Abraham, Sarai/Sarah, Jacob/Israel and Simon/Peter all had name changes at his instigation. In each case, their names were changed to reflect God’s calling and plan for their futures. God had a bigger vision for them than they or their parents had had. He wanted to call that future into being, and keep calling it in until it blossomed to his glory. With that in mind, I chose the penname Mazzy Adams; Mazzy which means ‘precious’, and Adams to represent all humanity; a new name to call into being a specific hope and purpose: to write stories which will bring blessing, encouragement, healing, wholeness and goodness to every precious person that reads them. After all, God is in the business of making people new again.

How do you choose names for your literary characters? Do you consider the meaning and blessing (or curse) inherent in those names? Have you thought of using a penname, perhaps one that speaks God’s calling into your work? God himself is known by many names; each represents his perfect qualities present and active as his name is uttered. Great Author of Life, will you please write your perfect desires into our literary lives too?


Original blog with comments posted on Christian Writers Downunder June 2015

Veils, Halos, & Shackles

Veils, Halos, & Shackles

Veils, Halos & Shackles …
restoring women’s dignity,
autonomy, and self-worth.

‘Rape is not only a sexual crime; it is an abuse of strength and power, which strips its victims of their dignity, autonomy, and self-worth. Those who use their strength and power to manipulate and abuse others, in any form, rape the collective soul of our humanity.’ Catherine Sercombe (now writing as Mazzy Adams)

That quote is from my personal statement, included in the story behind Special Clearance/Exposed, my poetic contribution to Veils, Halos & Shackles, an international collection of works by over 180 poets from around the world.

In her related blog post, editor, former psychology academic and writer, Nola Passmore, reflected on her contribution to Veils, Halos & Shackles and explained the background to the anthology. Nola (who is a paragon of literary encouragement and a playful wag) also announced the first of our VH&S online launch competitions by asking entrants to comment on a protest poem or protest song that has resonated with them personally. As I write this follow-on blog, a song most poignant in subject, influence and timing for me personally comes to mind: ‘I Am Woman’ by Helen Reddy.

When the Australian singer-songwriter’s iconic anthem was released as a single in 1972, it sold over a million copies. When the United Nations declared 1975 to be International Women’s Year, they chose Reddy’s song as the theme and established 1976-1985 as the Decade for Women.

In 1976, I commenced full-time employment as a junior bank officer with one of Australia’s leading commercial banks. On my first day, my heart sang and my head rang with my recruitment officer’s enthusiastic assurances: the national hierarchy wished to ameliorate the existing management gender imbalance. Gender equality was the catchphrase of the day. Because I was female and I had outstanding academic results I’d been selected along with several male recruits for a rapid training and advancement program. Local branch management had been advised.

Harsh, dark, reality eclipsed the daydream. As the new junior, I was the floor that senior staff walked on. As a female, I was a doormat for dirty boots and a carpet to cavil. I endured four frustrating years before I escaped to a very different type of employment.

In 2012, forty years after ‘I Am Woman’ topped the charts, I penned my reflections on those negative experiences into the first draft of Special Clearance/Exposed, later crafting its current format as a blended poem which connects the abuse of power with rape.

In 2016, forty years after the United Nations Decade for Women began, Special Clearance/Exposed was published in Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression & Empowerment of Women. This landmark anthology, coordinated and edited by poets Charles Adès Fishman (United States) and Smita Sahay (India), and published by Kasva Press (Israel) has received excellent reviews and is available for purchase as a print book or e-book.

Although issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment are more readily addressed in the workplace today, the vulnerability of the weak in the hands of the powerful continues to darken and stain society in too many places worldwide. The fingers of physical, emotional, psychological and religious abuse still grasp the neck of nations, strangle the voice of protest and extinguish the breath of human kindness.

But as my writing colleague, accomplished novelist, friend, co-conspirator and fellow VH&S contributor, Adele Jones blogged in her recent launch prelude, ‘One voice can inspire others to speak up. Over time, one voice can change the world.’

On Saturday 8 October 2016, Nola, Adele and I hosted an online launch of Veils, Halos & Shackles on Facebook. The launch included a poetic video presentation and podcasts of our poems, interesting discussions, and competitions with prizes offered, including books, a gift voucher, a metallic hummingbird bookmark and an hour of editing services.

I was delighted to present the hummingbird bookmark to Melinda, a worthy winner, and women’s advocate, who entered the competition by suggesting an analogy or metaphor that exemplified the message behind Veils, Halos & Shackles based on one or more of these facts about Hummingbirds:

  1. They are small, colourful birds with iridescent feathers.
  2. They have been observed chasing … hawks away from their territories.
  3. They hover and hum by rapidly flapping their wings in a figure-8 pattern.
  4. They can fly right, left, up, down, backwards, and upside down.

Example: It’s not the size of the bird in the fight, but the size of the fight in the bird that counts.

Though the launch and the original date this blog was posted occurred in October, 2016, there is a timelessness to the power of poetry. And it’s never too late to create a change for the better.

Every voice raised, any action taken that encourages, supports, guards or restores the safety, dignity, autonomy and self-worth of an individual is significant.

Please click here if you would like to view my visual presentation of Special Clearance/Exposed on YouTube.

This blog post was originally published in October, 2016.

As I was unable to transfer it directly to my new website, I’ve copied and pasted the comments from the original blog below.

7 Replies to “Mazzy’s Musings: Veils, Halos & Shackles” (As originally posted.)


Nola says:

October 5, 2016 at 6:16 am

Great blog Mazzy. I wonder if Helen Reddy ever imagined the impact that song would have. I had the ‘Explosive Hits ’73’ album and played that track over and over.

Thanks for sharing your experiences as a bank junior in those days. Things have changed a lot since then, but my involvement with this anthology has reminded me that there is still a long way to go. Many women (and men) are still objectified, harassed, abused and disempowered. Hopefully this book will help raise awareness and facilitate positive change.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you’ve done with the visual presentation of your poem. Thanks for sharing.


Mazzy says:

October 5, 2016 at 10:06 am 

Thanks for your response Nola. The Wikipedia article speaks about the impact of the song and quotes Helen Reddy as saying, “Women have always been objectified in showbiz. I’d be the opening act for a comic and as I was leaving the stage he’d say, ‘Yeah, take your clothes off and wait for me in the dressing room, I’ll be right there’. It was demeaning and humiliating for any woman to have that happen publicly.” It is disappointing that even today there is such a huge gap between what should be and what is. We must never lose sight of the tragic impact abuse of any kind has on each and every individual. As for the video presentation … the blog images provide a sneak peak. Technological challenges notwithstanding, I’m exciting about the way it is shaping up.


Jeanette O’Hagan says:

October 5, 2016 at 9:04 am

Hi Mazzy, It’s sad that the harassment you experienced is still a reality in many work places – and has taken on new forms with the unreal beauty standards, focus on image and proliferation of easy-access pornography which seems to have reversed many of the hard-won gains of the 60s, 70s & 80s. Hoping for change.


Mazzy says:

October 5, 2016 at 10:13 am

You are so right Jeanette. I’d venture to say it is not only sad; it’s an outrage. But positive change has occurred. Positive change is occurring. And positive change will continue as long as we keep speaking up about it, provoking it, insisting upon it and praying for it. Thanks for your comment.


Adele says:

October 5, 2016 at 10:17 am

Powerful blog, Mazzy. I have been fortunate to gain employment in environments where gender was never a determinant in workplace opportunity or respect. It can be easy to overlook the former struggles to establish that platform of equal recognition based on capacity and a job well done, irrespective of whether the worker is male or female. I’ve come to realise not everyone has had this fortune. Even in this day and age, there are people like yourself who have experienced demeaning work situations. To measure those experiences globally, we are reminded there are still many challenges in this area which require change.

Looking forward to hosting the V,H&S SE QLD online launch with you and Nola on Saturday.


Mazzy says:

October 5, 2016 at 1:12 pm

And I with you and Nola, Adele. It seems to me that generational turnover must influence the cycle of change for the better; hope arises as each generation chooses to shed the negative attitudes and behaviours of the former one. Consider this: In 1902, the Commonwealth of Australia gave women the right to vote. In 1942 the Women’s Land Army was formed to overcome labour shortages resulting from the progress (and ghastly male attrition rates) of World War Two. When the surviving men returned, women were expected to relinquish their employment positions to them. In 1982, when 39-year-old Queensland lawyer and academic Quentin Bryce (who would later become our governor-general) was appointed Convenor of the National Women’s Advisory Council, the National Times newspaper headline described her as “Brisbane’s best dresser”. Forty years on from that in 2022? Who knows? Perhaps this generation will finally get it right. Let’s give them every encouragement to do so.