Read the interview with Jan Ackerson, first place Best of the Best, here.

Kate Mackereth has loved to write since she was a girl, but only began entering the Challenge a few months ago – and already one of her first entries, the heartwrenching Baby Shrapnel, has placed second in the annual Best of the Best. Read on to learn more about Kate, her winning entry, her striving for perfection, and more.

JOANNE SHER: First of all, congratulations on your second place win! What was your reaction when you found out you were chosen as second place in Best of the Best?

KATE MACKERETH: Thank you! I was very surprised because I am new to the challenge. It was quite thrilling.

JOANNE: Your winning piece, Baby Shrapnel, is incredibly poignant and heart-wrenching. Reading it made me wonder if it was based on personal experience. Was it?  Where did you get the idea for this piece? How did it come together for you? Any particular struggles getting it the way you liked it?

KATE: It was Anzac day here in Australia when I wrote it, so I had our soldiers and the theme of sacrifice on my mind. As an Army wife, I’ve been through the various emotions of deployment so that bit just flowed. The part about mowing the lawn is completely true, and I enjoyed the shocked expression on my husband’s face when he read it!!

The topic was ‘Amazing’ and I just love how amazing it is that God has claimed us as his, all at a cost to himself. I wanted to make that kind of sacrificial love more personal to readers. I knew a family in one of my old churches who had lost a baby boy named Matthew. They were told he would be born without a brain and not survive but still the mother carried him to term. They loved him through the entire process regardless of the heartbreak and it moved me greatly to hear about it.

I was worried about the way I started my sentences and using the topic word in the piece but I did it anyway and held my breath. It is fun to break some rules and I’m so delighted people were moved by it.

JOANNE: You definitely moved ME – to tears! You are fairly new to FaithWriters (at least submitting stories). How did you find us, and what made you stick around?

KATE: I heard about FaithWriters a few years ago at a Christian Writers Conference here in Australia, but to be honest, the idea of writing to a random topic didn’t excite me much. When I got an email about the change to the challenge this year about having to add a faith element, it completely changed the way I thought about it. Time is so precious, but I’m happy to waste it by writing about God. I think I’m also learning that if you want to write well, you can’t do it alone.

JOANNE:  You are right on both accounts – and I love your perspective! Have you always enjoyed writing, or is it something that developed later? What is your favorite genre to write in?

KATE: Oh yes! Even as a child I loved the expression of emotion in writing. Both my Mum and Nana have kept different things I wrote as a kid and they remind me how I’ve always loved it. I would journal and write prayers too; it’s always been quite special to me. When I had a maths tutor in grade four I used to cry because I felt so dumb and she would slip me something English based and I’d be happy.

I love fiction. I love expressing God’s truths and his character and I’m still learning how to do it effectively. I think I belong in contemporary Christian fiction for women: romance/inspiration.

JOANNE: How about reading? What’s your favorite type of book to read? Who are your favorite authors?

KATE: It has to make me feel, make me laugh, or make me think about God or I lose interest very quickly.

Tessa Afshar’s Pearl in the Sand is an old favourite, even though now I think it’s a bit preachy, I love all her books. I love the culture and emotion she uses and as a person I admire her a lot.

I know it’s so common and people might roll their eyes but I loved Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers because I read it just four weeks before my first husband left me, so God used that novel to prepare my heart. It was that book that showed me what kind of writer I want to be. Having said that, I did not enjoy her latest book very much.

Karen Kingsbury’s book Ocean’s Apart was right up my alley but I don’t enjoy all of hers. I’m very picky. I love that a lot of current contemporary writers are fun and witty, but for me the depth has to be there, including the faith element.

Carolyn Miller from Australia is a recent favourite. She’s not contemporary: she’s regency I think, but her characters are well built and she knows how to make an intelligent read.

Unfortunately, I think I’m a little hard to impress, which extends to my own writing, I find it hard to overlook my flaws as a writer and it’s holding me back.

My pet hate is when an author uses a male POV and I feel like I’m in a woman’s head. Please slap me if I ever do that!

JOANNE: I will be sending you a couple of book recommendations, I think. Tell us a bit about you and your family.

KATE: I’m 34 and I live on the east coast of New South Wales, Australia. I love catching the ferry to get to my house and feeling like I’m escaping the city. Definitely a country girl at heart. I have had a few different jobs. I’ve worked as a check-out chick, a waitress, in admin and in aged care/disability work. I’m currently the manager of a mattress store so my lack of attention in maths is now coming back to bite me as I deal with computers and figures haha!

I’m the mother of three young children, and a step mum to three older kids, ranging from two to twenty-one.

I never thought I’d be cheated on by my childhood sweetheart, or that I’d become a single mother. I never thought I’d then marry a loud and ridiculous man who falls asleep if he even sniffs a book, but he challenges me and I love challenging him back. God’s faithfulness in my life has been incredible so when I write, it has to be for him.

JOANNE: And that is exactly how God wants you to write. What are your hopes and dreams for the future, both personally and professionally?

KATE: I’d very much like to be an author, but only if I can do it well. I don’t want to have something published for the sake of it. I want to move people. I want readers to close my book and actually feel like they know God a little better for who he is, not just for his laws and morals. I want them to read my books and feel God’s arms wrapped around them: that’s not asking much, is it? Haha! First, I need to get better, experiment, grow. I also need to step up and make it a priority. My husband is currently renovating and making me my own space to write so I don’t have to keep clearing the dining table. He said he’ll be angry if I don’t pursue it.

JOANNE: Well, you’d better listen to your husband (especially if what I have seen so far is an indication of your writing!). Where can folks connect with you?

KATE: I don’t have any kind of author page but I am keen to build friendships with people in the writing world so any kind of message to me on FaithWriters or Facebook is welcome.

JOANNE: Anything else you’d like to share?

KATE: I’d just like to thank FaithWriters and its members for providing such an encouraging environment. You are all wonderful and I love the way you are helping each other to grow. The change to the challenge caught my attention: thank you to whoever made that decision. For me, that makes it count.

JOANNE: As I said before, I LOVE your perspective, and your love of FaithWriters. It sounds like you are on your way to improving your writing skill for the Lord – which is always the right direction. Congratulations again, and I look forward to seeing you continue to grow at FW!

Watch for an interview with Lucy Steel, 3rd place in Best of the Best, on the blog soon!

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