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Poetry and Prayer author Anna Jensen answers 10 questions

She asked God to unleash a whirlwind of words within her, and now Christian author Anna Jensen is using her gift of writing to glorify her Creator. She took some time to chat about her latest writing projects:

Tell us about the inspiration behind your devotional book Poetry and Prayer and how long it took you to complete.

Poetry and Prayer is a collection of seven poems taken from the 12 Poems in 12 Months online poetry challenge I participated in last year. Each month we were given either a topic or a style of poem and had to put something together to share with others. The seven poems featured in the book are those which had the most meaning behind them.  For the purpose of the challenge, we just submitted the poem without including any of the thought behind the words, but I wanted to let readers know how I’d arrived at those particular creations.

How long did it take to write?

Well, the poems were written over the 12-month period; extracting and jotting down the thought processes behind them took a matter of a few days, as the work had already been done beforehand.

You share about how you wrote poetry at school and doing a course on poetry. Would you say that writing poetry is a gift for only some people or that anyone can write a poem? 

I think anyone can learn to write poetry, given the right tools and the right encouragement. However, I think not everyone necessarily writes ‘good’ poetry. Of course, that then begs the question, what is good poetry?! I once read that it is when a poem has both a meaning on the surface, which can be understood at first glance, and also a second, deeper meaning which demands attention and thought. I think anyone can do this, but it does take discipline and practice and a willingness to think more deeply about the subject being written about.

Thinking of the Bible and especially the book of Psalms that is filled with poetry, do you have a favourite psalm that, to you, is a great example of how to write poetry?

That’s a tough one – so much of what David in particular wrote is so fully of imagery and meaning, it’s hard to pick a favourite. I do like Psalm 45 and the romanticism of a wedding between the king and his bride. And then there’s Psalm 18, with its vivid descriptions of despair reminding us that the Bible is about real people with real lives.

You are an English rose transplanted into African soil. Lockdown aside, how often do you get to visit your home country and where's your hometown?

Yes, I am! I normally get to go back to visit every two or three years – my parents and my sister and her family all still live there. I was brought up in the north of England, then moved to the south west for my teenage years. The last place I lived before coming to South Africa was Cambridge – a beautiful city!

Your first writing – a blog, now a book - was Twenty Years an Expat details anecdotes of settling into your new homeland. What do you love most about South Africa?

I love living under a wide open sky! I love that there are possibilities for adventure and challenge here. And that we are often confronted with some of the harsher realities of life, which makes us have to fully consider the truth and relevance of the Gospel.

Tell us a bit about your writing process – what equipment do you use, do you have a special spot where you write, and do you have a daily routine of x number of words you aim to complete?

When writing poetry, I have a variety of notebooks which I like to use, different ones for different projects that are ongoing. I use a ballpoint pen which I had made for my book launch last year – it’s got a wrapped paper outer which I love the feel of! I like to sit outside to write, or on my large veranda, where I can gaze at the ocean for inspiration. When writing anything else, I go straight to either my computer or tablet. Generally I work at my desk, but I have been known to write large chunks while sitting in the car waiting for my teenage kids to finish sport.

Where do you find inspiration?

Outdoors, first and foremost. When I take a walk by the sea, or just sit in a sunny spot, I often find I am more able to think creatively. I am learning to not be tied to that though, as time doesn’t always allow for hours of sitting around and thinking before getting on with the job.

How do you deal with writer's block (if it is a problem for you), and what encouragement can you offer to aspiring writers?

I don’t have writer’s block much, I must admit. I more suffer from writer’s poor discipline – I have so many ideas and projects going round in my head that I sometimes have to force myself to sit down and focus exclusively on one at a time. But then, I’m not really wired to be a one thing and nothing else kind of person, so that doesn’t always work. To aspiring writers, the one I would say is: don’t wait for the mood to strike before actually sitting down to write. Sometimes we have to set a plan of action and try to stick with it. If we wait for the mood, it's likely that we’ll never get to doing anything. The one thing that has helped me most, is to create large spider diagrams, or mind maps, of each of my projects. It shows me that they’re more than good ideas, and does give me something to aim for.

What fun activities do you enjoy doing to unwind?

I enjoy cooking and baking, which is a good job as I have a family to feed all the time! I think my favourite unwind is a day spent outside reading a good book.

What are you currently working on, and by when can your fans expect it?

I have been working on a journal for a few months now, and it's finally at the printers right now! I’m so excited to see the finished product. It is a collaborative project between myself and my graphic designer friend, and is part devotional, part colouring book, part journal, all aimed at helping us to become increasingly ‘Captivated by the Creator’ – something I am passionate about.

For more news about Anna and her books, visit the following:

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