Monday, 19 October 2020

Omega Writers Announce the Winners of the 2020 CALEB Awards

By Iola Goulton

On behalf of Omega Writers, I'm thrilled to announce the winners of the 2020 CALEB Awards for unpublished authors.

The award ceremony was held on Saturday night via Zoom. While there was no chocolate, there was plenty of fun and laughter as writers from Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan met to celebrate our achievements over the last year.

Let's introduce our winners!

Adult Nonfiction

Susan Barnes for 10 Blessings of God

Susan Barnes

Susan Barnes has been writing Christian articles for over twenty-five years and has hundreds of devotions online and in print. Susan has a degree in Christian ministry and has been involved in pastoral ministry with her husband since 1993. She is currently the interim pastor of a small church near Albury.

Susan wins a $400 voucher from Cecily Patterson at The Red Lounge for Writers. The Red Lounge for Writers exists to help beginner and intermediate writers become better at their craft. They offer a useful writing blog with tips, examples and advice, as well as their flagship 'Write Your Memoir' online course.

Young Adult Fiction

Jean Saxby for The Craving

Jean Saxby has a degree in science, a Diploma of Education and has taught for over thirty six years, including Drug Education. She is an illustrator, writer and blogger. She loves hanging out with family and friends, enjoys the beach, is interested in early Medieval history, and  downloads far too many books from Bookbub.

Jean Saxby  

Jean wins a $400 voucher from Iola Goulton at Christian Editing Services. Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer and freelance editor, specialising in Christian fiction. Visit Christian Editing to sign up for a free two-week email course, Learn to Revise Your Novel.

Adult Fiction

Mindy Graham for To Dance in the Shadows

Mindy Graham writes contemporary Christian romances with characters whose courageous love makes their brokenness beautiful. She consumes books like some people drink coffee. Mindy lives on the east coast of Australia, and when not reading or writing she loves listening to music, baking, and going for walks through the bush or along the beach with her husband and daughter.

Mindy Graham

Mindy wins a $400 voucher from Tim and Nola Passmore at The Write Flourish. They offer manuscript assessments, editing, proofreading, one-on-one mentoring and workshops for writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, Christian inspirational material and academic or technical work. Contact The Write Flourish now to discuss how they can help you add the right flourish to your manuscript.

New Releases

Nola Passmore (writing as Nola Lorraine) has released her debut novel, Scattered, published by Breath of Fresh Air Press.

Kristen Young has released her debut novel, Apprentice, published by Enclave Press. The second book in the trilogy will be published next year. Kristen won the 2018 CALEB Award for the unpublished manuscript that will become the final book in this trilogy.

Here are some of the new releases from members of Omega Writers over the last year:

Other Achievements

There is more to the writing journey than publishing a book. We also celebrated a range of other member achievements:
  • Emily Maurits has signed a contract with Christian Focus publishing for a children's biography of the Christian abolitionist Thomas Clarkson, to be published in 2021.
  • Mindy Graham has finished her first full-length fiction manuscript, and finalled in four writing contests.
  • Anna Kosmanovski has finished the first draft of her first full-length manuscript.
  • Christine Dillon has finished the first draft of her fifth manuscript.
  • Jean Saxby has a website and blog posts with the themes: Live a Better Life and Towards Recovery:, which is a resource for people who are looking for support during COVID 19, want to change their habits or need help with addictions and compulsions—for themselves or their family.
  • David Rawlings became the first Aussie author to win a Christy Awards with The Baggage Handler (in the Debut category).
  • Steph Penny has finished the manuscript for Surviving Childlessness. It is due to be designed and printed in November by Book Whispers. This book has been about four years in the making, so it has been a long wait!
  • Jo-Anne Berthlesen has completed her seventh fiction manuscript, currently titled Down by the Water. It is an historical novel set in south-east Queensland from 1909 to 1926 and loosely inspired by her grandparents’ story.
Congratulations, everyone!

Encouragement Award

The winner of the 2020 Encouragement Award is Steph Penny, partly for being the only person to respond to my request for best blog posts, but mostly for consistently encouraging others through her blog and through social media. Steph shared three blog posts she's proud of that I recommend reading:

  • Fearless at the Cliff-Edge - I wrote this blog early on in the COVID-19 pandemic about being safe in God, and what that means - and doesn't mean.
  • I Wanted A Family - this blog addresses the grief of childlessness and spins it around to show how our eternal family are already with us and awaiting us in heaven.
  • Leaving Legacies - this blog discusses some of the ways I am leaving legacies in the absence of children, and it was recently featured during World Childless Week (14th-20th September 2020).

Steph wins her choice of $200 in editing services from Iola Goulton at Christian Editing Services, or two enrollments in the Kick-Start Your Author Platform Marketing Challenge (one for her and one for a friend).

Several other members of Omega Writers chipped into the Zoom call with shout-outs for people who have encouraged them in their writing journey. To find out who and why, click here to watch the replay.

Congratulations to all our winners!

With Thanks

No writing awards would be able to function without the judges, so I'd like to give a big thank you and lots of virtual chocolate for my wonderful team of judges for giving up their time to judge the submissions and provide our entrants with lots of valuable feedback. 

I would also like to thank Susan Barnes and Amanda Deed for organising the awards Zoom call, Adam Collings for patiently and efficiently organising the online entry forms and payment portal (even when I asked at the very last minute), and Judy Rogers for volunteering to send the certificates and trophies to the finalists and winners.

2021 CALEB Award

The 2021 CALEB Awards will open for entries on 1 April 2021, in the following categories:
  • Picture Books
  • Children’s fiction (early reader to middle grade)
  • Young Adult fiction
  • Adult fiction
  • Memoir/biography
  • Nonfiction excluding memoir/biography
Published books with a copyright date of 2019 or 2020 will be eligible to enter.

Monday, 12 October 2020

What Makes a Good Book Dedication?


Over the last few weeks, I’ve been giving out gift copies and review copies of my debut novel. Some readers have told me they really enjoyed the book. However, a few people have also said they loved the dedication. I’m glad they liked it, because I put a lot of thought into it, but it got me thinking about other dedications I’ve read. What makes a good one? What things do you need to consider? Do you even need one?

First, let me make a distinction between a book’s dedication and the acknowledgements. The acknowledgements page is usually the place where you thank people who have helped with the book (e.g. beta readers, editors, publishers, experts you consulted, supportive family and friends, and the nice people who let who stay in their 5-star hotel while doing research on the beach—I wish!).  A dedication sometimes includes a vote of thanks, but it is something more. In a dedication you’re saying, ‘This person is important to me and this book is my gift to them.’

Do You Need a Dedication?

Not necessarily. If you’re a podiatrist and you’ve written a book on treatments for tinea, would your loved ones want you to dedicate the book to them? Maybe, but it could give mixed messages. If you’re a prolific author and you’re up to Book #40, it might be difficult to think of something new to put in a dedication. The choice is yours. Don’t sweat it if you really don’t have a burning desire to dedicate it to someone.

To Whom Do You Dedicate Your Book?

Of course there are no right or wrong answers. Many authors dedicate books to family or friends. Some write dedications to thank people who were particularly involved in the development of the book. Sometimes the content of the book itself may give you some ideas about possible recipients of your dedication. For example, if your heroine has had to overcome a lot of obstacles to succeed in the world, you might like to dedicate it to Aunty Dot who also overcame a lot of barriers in her life. Other times, a more generic dedication might be warranted (e.g. to readers in general or to those who have had to grapple with the issues discussed in the book). Some Christians also dedicate their books to God, but I’ll say more about that a bit later.

Do You Need to Ask Permission to Dedicate a Book to Someone?

It depends. You might want to keep it as a nice surprise. That was the case with me. I wanted to dedicate the book to my parents, so I kept it secret until they could hold the book in their hands and read the dedication for themselves. However, I was also confident that my parents would be pleased. It might be worth running your dedication past the recipient ahead of time if (a) you don’t know them very well, (b) you consulted them in a professional capacity, (c) the book contains sensitive material, or (d) you’re thinking of putting some personal information in the dedication that may not be public knowledge.

Should Dedications in Christian Books Be Different?

We could have a big discussion here about what makes a book ‘Christian’. Some have obvious Christian content, while others may have a more subtle Christian message or worldview. It’s not my intention here to open that whole can of worms, but one issue of difference might be that a Christian author has to think through whether they include God in their dedication or not.

Terri Blackstock typically dedicates her books to ‘the Nazarene’, which of course is a reference to Jesus. Carolyn Miller dedicated The Elusive Miss Ellison to Joshua and ‘the Giver of the Ultimate Gift’. Karen Kingsbury also combined family and God in her dedication to Someone Like You:


Dedicated to my husband, David, and our beautiful family. The journey of life is breathtaking surrounded by each of you. And every minute together is time borrowed from eternity. I love you more than words. And to God, Almighty, who has—for now—blessed me with these.

Some authors also include a scripture. For example, Jeanette O’Hagan dedicated Akrad’s Children to her husband, but concluded with a paraphrase from Song of Songs 8:6-7: ‘Drenching rivers love’s flame will not quench.’

I thought long and hard about this question when I was writing my dedication, but I decided to thank God in my acknowledgements instead.

And finally, I would like to thank my Heavenly Father, who planted the first seed of an idea and watered it as it continued to grow. ‘You are He who took me from my mother’s womb and you have been my benefactor from that day. My praise is continually of You’ (Psalm 71:6b, AMP).

Tips for Writing a Dedication

It can be short and sweet, but think about the wording. Apart from the cover and title, this is the next impression someone will have of your book. I always feel a little disappointed if I read a beautifully-written, well-plotted book, but the dedication just says something like ‘For Anne’. Really? After 80 000 words of beautiful prose, you couldn’t think of anything better to write?

Think about the mood you want to convey. Humorous? Heartfelt? It’s often a good idea to match the mood of the book with the tone of the dedication. If you’ve written a gut-wrenching book about childhood trauma, it’s probably not a good idea to write a flippant dedication. However, a touch of humour can also show the reader something of your personality. What do you want readers to think or feel when they read your dedication?

Can you somehow tie the dedication to the themes in the book? This isn’t always necessary, but it’s a nice touch if relevant. For example, in her book Unnoticed, a revisioning of the Cinderella story in an Australian historical context, Amanda Deed dedicates the story ‘to lovers of fairy tales and of happy ever afters’.

Don’t leave it until five minutes before your deadline. A good dedication takes some thought. Put the same effort into it as you would a beautiful passage in your book.

Finally ...

Do you write dedications for your books? What dedications have you read that left an impression on you? I’d love to hear your examples. Here’s what I wrote in my inspirational historical novel Scattered:

For my parents, Lex and Dawn Wildermuth, who’ve nurtured me from infancy; 

and my English birthmother, Monica Hope Sewell (Monny), who died ten years before I started searching for her. 

You have all helped make me the person I am today, and I am forever grateful.

Author Bio

To find out more, please visit her author site:

She’d also love to connect with you on social media:







Thursday, 8 October 2020

CWD Member Interview – MP Ashman

Most Thursdays this year we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals. 

Today’s interview: MP Ashman 

Question 1: Tells us three things about who you are and where you come from. 

I have always wanted to be an author, ever since Primary School, and never really pursued anything else. I was born in Maryborough but have spent most of my life in Toowoomba. I don’t mind watching football on TV, but I would rather do archery as a sport (which I do). 

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why? 
Although I generally write whatever comes into my head at the time, my present project is a series called “Time Twins,” about a part of twin sisters who are not really sisters at all. They are, in fact, the same person, with one of the girls originating from a parallel universe. As a side effect of their existence in the same universe, the two girls develop psionic powers, which they use to great effect in defense of others, as well as themselves. Of course, there are also negative consequences, which will be further explored as the series progresses.

Question 3: Who has read your work? Who would you like to read it? 

Although only the first book in the series is currently published, a couple of civilians have given favourable reviews. I hope everyone gets the chance to enjoy these characters as much as I enjoy writing them, especially as their story is further built upon. 

Question 4: Tell us something about your process. What challenges do you face? 

What helps you the most? At present I spend most of my time writing, usually from around 8:30 in the morning to 15:00 in the afternoon, with a half hour break at 10:20 – or thereabouts – and another at 12:00, to around 13:00. As to the writing itself, I will usually go with whatever comes to mind at the time, though with my current series I do have semi-detailed plans, just to make sure the essential elements remain consistent throughout each book (there are around 20 titles to follow the one currently on offer. 

Question 5: What is your favourite Writing Craft Book and why? 

To be honest, I have never really read any. I just usually follow my own instincts, which works well enough for the writing process. It’s publicity and marketing where I experience serious drawbacks 

Question 6: If you were to give a shout-out to a CWD author, writer, editor or illustrator – who would they be? 

Adele Jones, for suggesting this opportunity. 

Question 7: What are your writing goals for this year? How will you achieve them? 

The goal for this year is to complete the rewrite of the second novel in the series, though it seems unlikely that will happen, as there is a lot of work to do, and never seems to be enough time. Hopefully, it will be completed by the early half of 2021.

Question 8: How does your faith impact and shape your writing?

I think that depends on the subject of the book. In the present series, for instance, I see the main characters as being Christian, though faith is not the focus of their story. But, seeing as how the focus of the series is about achieving individuality when you’re no longer one of a kind, I do expect that God will come into it (so to speak), at some point in the narrative. Other than that, I try to avoid using bad language more than necessary or having anyone other than a villain expressing sinful behaviour.

MP Ashman was born in Maryborough Queensland in 1985, but the family soon moved to Toowoomba, where Ashman has spent the majority of his life. Discovering a love of writing at eight years old, it was perhaps due to books such as The Neverending Story that his initial interest was in fantasy fiction. Many years later, however, he began to carve out his niche in science fiction with the initially self-published offering Time’s Child (in 2014). However, this and other self-published titles were withdrawn from the market in 2016, with a view to seeking traditional publication. The main characters of the Time Twins series were initially conceived in 2003, while Ashman was still at school, but it would not be until many years later that they would find their voice and their story. Ashman continues to live in Toowoomba with his family, including his cat, Prue. 

Monday, 5 October 2020

Just Keep Pumping

In her bestseller The Artist's Way Julia Cameron recommends a routine she calls 'morning pages.' Each day, we're urged to set aside a block of time for free flow writing and honour the commitment no matter how we feel. Whether our writing seems like pearls of wisdom or trite rambling, it must go down on paper. When we're in a writing slump or a tired mood, it's easy to write such a habit off as a colossal waste of time. Why add to the glut of writing out there when we have nothing to say?

I always gave the nod to Julia's advice without being hyper-vigilant about it. Common sense tells me it's like keeping the pump primed, thinking of those old outdoor water pumps from former generations. If we go through the motions of cranking the handle a couple of times daily, it'll help prevent squeaking and stiffness from setting in. The same goes for that hardened plug of tomato sauce near the neck of the bottle, which has been exposed to air over a long period of time. If we simply give it a regular shake and squeeze, it has no time to congeal to something that's hard to budge.

It makes logical sense to think that our creative brains run on the same principle. Sure, we also like to believe that they're subject to wonderful phenomena like divine inspiration, but I've noticed that the guy God tends to inspire is the one who always has his pen or keyboard handy. 

At last I've read some interesting evidence to back this principle up; not with morning pages as such, but with making sure I squeeze in some daily writing time. In his book Atomic Habits, author and journalist James Clear recounts an experiment that took place in a class of undergraduate photography students. Half the students were assigned to a 'quantity group' and instructed to just keep churning out photos. Their assessment would be based on the sheer number they managed to submit by the end of semester. So those guys and gals rushed off to start snapping their trigger happy fingers whenever and wherever they could.

The others were assigned to a 'quality group.' The teachers told them they didn't care about numbers, but just wanted one or two of the most awe-inspiring and professional photos they could manage. So this crowd walked away thoughtfully to start researching techniques, gaining a solid knowledge base and waiting for ideal conditions. 

The staff were quite surprised themselves to find that the best quality photos consistently came from the quantity group. It wasn't just that the quality group sabotaged themselves by overthinking and building perfectionist mindsets, although this certainly came into play. The quantity group simply expanded their skill sets quicker by vital practice. Even though they were focused on sum total rather than excellence, the process of actually getting out there and having a go over and over again ensured that an admirable, sound quality was a welcome pay-off.   

I've sometimes found myself a bit bogged down in recent years, what with moving house, kids growing older, doing a bit of study, and most recently the anxiety of our Covid era. I'd decreased my own personal blog output from two or three to just one a week, which felt sensible. But it also made it easier to keep drafts sitting there for months, just because I balked at the thought of facing them. I did the same with the creative projects I was working on. Just because there was no urgency and nobody to care whether they appeared or not made it easy to slow right down. That hasn't really been the blessing I expected it to be.

From here on out, I'm committing myself to working on some writing every day, no matter what the result turns out to be. Because the notion that 'just dashing something off' is a slapdash approach might be one of the biggest lies we feed ourselves. What if it's really what gives us our impetus and our well-oiled edge? 

I'd love to know how all of you have faced this issue too. We are the Christian Writers Dowunder. (And some of us are also artists of various kinds.) How is your writing or art routine going? 

Paula Vince is a South Australian author and former homeschooling mother of three children. She lives in the beautiful coastal region of Adelaide. Her novels include the award-winning Best Forgotten and Picking up the Pieces, along with Australia's only collaborated Christian fiction novel, The Greenfield Legacy. She regularly blogs about matters related to books and literary appreciation on her own blog, The Vince Review. 

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Writer Burnout: How I am accepting that I'm not a machine


I write for a living.

I also write for fun.

This has caused a few problems.

When you write during your day job and free time, you never get a break from the keyboard. Unsurprisingly, writing my fiction has been a difficult task for me, because it felt like work. But over the years, I came up with a system that enabled me to handle that.

When I was a sub-editor for a newspaper, I worked nights and wrote my novels in the morning. Because all I did at work was editing, I was using different mental muscles -- writing my novels, while difficult, was doable.

But things changed when I decided to switch careers, hopping from journalism to the glitzy world of digital marketing. I am a content strategist, and I spend my days writing, editing, analysing data and thinking about new content to create for the companies I work for.

The effort of trying to make my career change a success and trying to build a fledgling indie author career at the same time, took a toll on me.

I have not written a new book for nearly two years.

Writer’s block aka writer’s burnout is real. Don’t let the gurus tell you otherwise.

Crispy on the inside and outside

First, I tried to write at the fringes of my day. I would stare at the blank screen early in the morning or after work, hoping something would come out. It usually didn’t work and what words that emerged felt like tiny droplets squeezed out of the dry, hard rock that my brain had become. 

It didn't make me look forward to writing. In fact, it did the opposite, I began to put off writing. It used to be fun - now, it’s just work. Worse, sometimes it was torture.

I blamed myself. Why was I so lazy, so unmotivated? My friends said that my eyes would light up when I talk to my novels. But if my novels meant so much to me, why couldn’t I write them? I felt like a defective machine. 

Then, I stumbled on Becca Syme’s series of podcasts on YouTube - the one about writer burnout was a revelation.

The road to writer burnout

In the indie publishing word, the word “hustle” reigns supreme. Get your butt in the chair. Write 10,000 words a week. Write a novel a month. But Becca was not about that. 

According to Becca, everyone is gifted with certain strengths. If your writing process is not aligned with your strengths, it often results in burnout.

She also says that people write in different ways. They ideate in different ways. And we should not blindly follow a publishing guru’s prescription on how to “write better”, because what worked for them may not work for us.

“When burnout is the problem, no amount of discipline is going to get the writing to happen again. It has to be a recalibration or a filling of the tank or a rest. There is no other fix,” she wrote in her book, Dear Writer, are you in writer’s block?

Image by ergoneon from Pixabay

Forgiving myself for being human

I believe part of the reason why I suffered from writer burnout was because I blamed myself for not being able to level up as fast as the superstars of the indie world. You know those - the one-book-a-month wonderkids that earn six-figure incomes. 

I used to have an indie author acquaintance who once told me this: “I have a full-time corporate job and I still write a book a month, you have absolutely no excuse!”

It turns out that I do.

My brain worked differently from hers and comparing myself to her was futile.

In the last two years, although I didn’t produce anything new, I learned ways to realign my strengths to my writing processes:

Guard my emotional reserves

Due to my highly empathetic nature, I tend to get blocked when things are not stable in my life or in the world, or when I'm going through emotional turmoil. All my mental energy would go to maintaining my emotional stability. There'd be no energy left for my writing. 

These days, to protect my mental reserves, I avoid unnecessary stimulation and negativity. I write when the day is young and the pressures low. Keeping this up takes a lot of discipline, but it has made a difference in my life.

Give myself time to dream

I prefer to “think over” a story in my head for some time before putting it on paper. Sometimes, for months! I know a story is ready to be written when I can picture it vividly in my head - as if it’s a movie playing in my head. So I have learned not to pressure myself to write, but to dream more instead.  

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Seek inspiration to refill my well

One concept I discovered that made me go, “Aha!” was that the ideas for fiction doesn't come from some magical void with inexhaustible resources. 

Writing nonfiction is very different from writing fiction writing. When you write nonfiction, you have references such as interviews, research and more. That’s why it’s often easier to write non-fiction.

However, when you write fiction, you're literally recreating something out of nothing. And that takes a different kind of mental energy. But saying that we create something out of nothing is not quite right either. 

Fiction is the culmination of the observations, insights, information and inspiration that we absorb in our day-to-day lives. So, what happens when you stop this flow? Your resource for your fiction dries up.

Ask yourself: What makes you go, “Oh gosh I need to write that?” 

What makes your imagination go, “Wow!” 

For me, filling my creative well meant watching movies and television shows - experiencing stories. (I wrote one of my short stories, Blood of Nanking, after watching the Christian Bale movie, The Flowers of War.)

Music also spurs my mind to imagine amazing scenes for my books.

In the last two years, I've been so busy with my career transition that I stopped reading books and watching television -- at least things that were not related to improving my career. 

Revitalising the creative wells

So where do we go from here? 

One of the first things I did was to forgive myself for not being a machine. 

That’s a funny way to put it, but yes - we often get angry that we are human being that’s can’t write like machines! (Incidentally, I did come across a how-to-write book called Be a Writing Machine. Hah!)

I also try to stop guilting myself to write.  

I have learned to accept that this is where I am right now. I am literally building my career from the ground up again and that takes a lot of energy and I shouldn't expect miracles from myself.

I also decided to take one tiny step at the same time towards making my indie publishing dreams a reality.

I am now at the editing stage with two of my novels. I'm so close to completion that at times, I want to rush towards the finish line, but I tell myself: Edit one chapter a day - that's all I can manage now. And if I can’t meet that schedule, I'm not gonna blame myself. 

I am also curbing my tendency to jump into new, shiny projects. I have been a little obsessive about my blog because, perhaps, I felt so paralysed with my fiction that I wanted to feel successful in something creative. My blog was a convenient outlet and writing non-fiction was easy for me. I think that’s great, but I tend to use it as a way to distract myself from my problems with my novels.

But best of all, I’m now watching more television without guilt, knowing that I'm actually filling my well. I'm taking walks. I'm trying to dream about my characters -- perhaps I will try free writing again; it worked well for me last time. (Free writing is where I just let my mind wander and my hands type whatever my brain dreams about.), 

If you are struggling with writer burnout or writer’s block, please realise that it's not your fault. It's not because you're lazy or unmotivated.

Perhaps your writing process is not aligned with your strength. Maybe something’s happening in your life right now and you need to focus on that. 

We are humans, not machines, and we have to accept that we can't do everything -- no matter how much you want it.  

Refill your well, friends. Well-being comes first.

Elizabeth Tai writes for profit and pleasure. She blogs about personal finance and simple living at and you can learn more about her fiction at

Monday, 28 September 2020

The Characters We Become

By Jo Sarah Stanford

We’ve all done those quizzes. The “Which Character are You?” ones. We answer the questions in hope of getting our favourite character. Or if we’re good, and know the story really well (and if the quiz is halfway accurate) we can “cheat” and answer in order to get the result we want. (And yes, I know there are some of you who have even created such quizzes for your own characters!)

What is it that makes us want to be these characters? Traits of loyalty, bravery and honour make us desire to be someone else, in a story where amazing things happen outside of the ordinary and mundane.

If you could be any character from any story, who would you be? Well, if you have a full bookshelf and more books piled on the floor then no doubt you don’t have to think twice about the answer. But if you, like me, have read that character’s story one hundred times over (probably not an exaggeration…much) have you ever stopped to wonder…

How much of who I am is because of the character I want to be?  

I am very good at picking up accents, mannerisms and speech patterns. To the point that when I hang around someone with a different accent I have to be careful how I speak, or they might think I am mocking them. If I have been watching a TV show or reading a book that has a strong voice, I will find my own thought and speech patterns mimicking them. (It’s quite fun when I want to make use of it! Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock is a great example.) 

I do these things without really thinking about it. However acting like a character because you want to be them is something a little different. 

When I was little, I wanted to be Michelle from Full House. (Encouraged by the fact a really looked like her as a baby…We were triplets, not twins!) I wanted to be The Next Karate Kid, because she was a girl karate kid! (I also wonder how much this influenced my decision in adult life to join a karate club.) Yet the character I have always wanted to be (and still do) is Lucy Pevensie from The Chronicles of Narnia. (Yeah…Those who know me all saw that coming, right?!)

Lucy, the child, full of faith and wonder.

Lucy, the Queen, valiant and brave.

I feel like I know her so well. After oh so many years of reading her story, I feel like I have become like her. (Or is it that, at least in my mind, she has become like me?) She has helped me to be braver, stronger, more full of hope. She has helped me to be a better person.

I’m sure you have all heard the saying, “What would Jesus Do?” These days the saying is often accompanied with a wry smile and a roll of the eyes. We all know that we should follow Jesus example, but sometimes I find the phrase, well, a little unhelpful. (Don’t get me wrong, this 90s kid wore the bracelet and quoted it with the best of them.)  I mean, haven’t you ever thought, ‘yes, I know what Jesus would do, but right now, I don’t want to do it!’

So I came up with my own: WWLD?

What would Lucy Do?

Back in my youth group days, I was hanging out with my friends and we got into an argument. I lost my temper and stormed off. Immediately after I slammed my door, the guilt hit. I knew I had to apologise. I also knew I really didn’t want to. But you’re a leader, Jo, you have to set a good example. I paced the floor trying to work up the courage to do the right thing. What clinched it was what would Lucy do? I thought back to the time in Prince Caspian where Lucy got angry with her siblings for not believing her. She complained to Aslan who scolded her, and she apologised, then she gathered her courage to go on the mission he had sent her. If Lucy could do that, I could swallow my pride and apologise to my friends. 

I also think to my favourite scene from the same movie: where Lucy is standing on the bridge before the entire enemy army. Alone. But she isn’t alone.

Even today, when I need to find courage, this scene comes to mind.

So, why do I want to be like Lucy? Because she is brave, and steadfast and kind. Because she makes me braver, more steadfast and kind. I guess she has become a friend: and as iron sharpens iron, so one friend sharpens another. (Prov27:17)

What is the point I am trying to make? I’m not too sure. Perhaps it’s just rambling born from late night musings. Perhaps it is a wish that, one day, some young soul will long to be like a character I created. (And with that is a gentle warning about the type of characters I create.) Whatever it may be, I am still fascinated by how a few etchings on a page can create a world of characters and adventure that can have such an impact for years and years to come. 


Jo Sarah Stanford is a freelance writer with her own business Write it Up! She has recently spent a year as a journalist in Jerusalem, Israel and is the editor of Bridge Builders the national bi-monthly magazine for Bridges for Peace. She has works published in various anthologies including If They Could Talk; Something in the Blood; and Tales from the Upper Room. She is also a karate instructor and lives in the Adelaide Hills with her chickens.

Thursday, 24 September 2020

CWD Highlights - July to September 2020

Christian Writers Downunder is a diverse group of writers, editors, bloggers, illustrators. As a group we support each other through our facebook page and blog.

Today's blog will highlight some of the achievements of our members from July to September 2020


CALEB Awards

Congratulations to the CALEB award finalists including our CWD members - Helen Carr, Emily Maurits, Kirsten Hart, Judy Rogers, Jean Saxby, & Susan Barnes

Winners will be announced via a Zoom meeting on Saturday 17 October 2020

Check out the full short list here HERE

New Releases & Cover Reveals

Grace Upon Grace by Teri Kempe

Teri Kempe has published her book, Grace Upon Grace. My five amazing years in Fiji in June this year.

Teri Kempe had a job she loved in Sydney, Australia when her life took an unexpected turn. Having just reached retirement age, she heard the unmistakable call of God to move to Fiji as a missionary volunteer. With only her aged pension for financial support, she left her family, friends and church for five life-changing years.

Grace Upon Grace is the story of the author’s five amazing years as a missionary. She shares the highs and lows of her time there, as well as her trust in God as she went about his work. Over five years, without knowing what the future held for her, she made a startling discovery that God’s grace is tangible. She began to see life through a different lens as God worked his refining process.

It was not easy. Sometimes she cried, sometimes she laughed, but through it all she grew closer to understanding God’s unconditional love. She found a peace and joy she could not imagine possible as God saturated her in His grace.

Terri has been encouraged by good sales, but especially by a letter from a man in his final weeks who was encouraged and uplifted by Grace Upon Grace.

Terri has also had two short stories accepted for publication in an anthology - A story of WWII - my mother sheltered my sister in the Blitz" in the NSW Senior's Volume 6 Anthology on the theme of Resilience and a story (under a pseudonym) in the Stories of Life 2020 - Tabor Press.

Heart of a Princess by Hannah Currie

Hannah Currie's second book, Heart of a Princess, released 15 July 2020 through WhiteFire Publishing. It's the second book in the Daughters of Peverell series. 

To the watching world, Princess Alina has it all – maids to serve her, a kingdom to revere her, a prince to marry her, and a wardrobe filled with enough frills, flounces and shades of pink to rival a flower shop. But behind the smiles and designer clothes, Alina has a secret. She’s barely holding it together. 

After a moment of panic almost ends in tragedy, Alina is sent to a refuge far from the palace to recuperate. Her family claim it’s for her own good but – faced with cows, knife-beaked ducks and far too many of her own insecurities – Alina is pretty sure it will kill her first. And Joha Samson, infuriating man that he is, will laugh as it does.

Only there’s more to Joha than she realizes, and more to herself too. When the time comes to make a stand, will she find the courage?

Available from Koorong and other retailers (Amazon, Book Depository, WhiteFire, etc). 

Australian author, Hannah Currie, loves God, family, people, and the incredible privilege of seeing God use her words to encourage young (and young-at-heart) adults all over the world.

Wellspring of Time by Elizabeth Klein

Elizabeth Klein has published her YA fantasy novel, Wellspring of Time as an eBook on 24th July. As a paperback on 30th July.  

Dark forces released in the form of shape shifters threaten brothers Dougray and Robbie and their companion, Belle, when they embark on another perilous journey, this time to the Dead City. Here they are faced with the most fearsome trial of all when Dougray, poisoned by a rogue spell, attempts to kill them one by one. After a deadly sword fight ensues, Robbie flees the city with Belle, believing Dougray to be dead in the catacombs, along with his father.

You can buy it HERE

She has revealed the cover of Book 6 in the Bethloria series, Symphony of Star Songs, which is soon be published. 

Elizabeth has also published a short story called 'Abandoned' in Open House 4 on Monday, 3rdAugust, 2020 by Storm Cloud Publishing and her play 'A Museum Piece', was requested to be reprinted by The School Magazine on 28th July, 2020

Elizabeth Klein writes fantasy, fairy tale retellings and humorous middle grade adventures. She has a new website, which you can find HERE.

Under the Mountain Boxed set 4-5 by Jeanette O'Hagan

Jeanette O'Hagan has released the second Under the Mountain boxed set with the final two novellas of the series, Shadow Crystals and Caverns of the Deep on 8 September 2020

Shut fast for two hundred years and defended by deadly traps, the Gate stands between the people of the Glittering Realms and survival.

Delvina and Zadeki seek the key to opening the Gate from the Vaane overlords across the ocean while Delvina's twin, Retza and the former Overseer's daughter, Zara, face its cunning dangers. Will they find answers before it’s too late as food supplies dwindle and conflict intensifies in the Underground Realm. Madness and shadows, death and betrayal stalk the tunnels.

Will Zadeki, Zara and the twins - Retza and Delvina - find a way to save the Glittering Realms in time and secure a better future for their people?

Set in the World of Nardva, Under the Mountain Boxed Set Books 4-5 includes the last two novellas of the 5 novella series: Shadow Crystals & Caverns of the Deep. Buy it today and be immersed in the exciting finale of this epic novella series. Both boxed sets are available at a reduced price until the end of the month. You can find a it HERE

Jeanette O'Hagan's Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs.  

Events & Opportunities

Other News

Short stories from CWD members, including Jeanette Grant-Thomson (That Wonderful Peace) have been accepted for the 2020 Stories of Life competition. We look forward to the publication of the anthology later this year.

Save the date:  

CALEB Awards Night: 17 October

Congratulations to all our members for your milestones and achievements

Monday, 21 September 2020

Omega Writers: CALEB Award Night Update

By Iola Goulton, 2020 CALEB Coordinator

We are almost on the home straight for the 2020 CALEB Awards. The final-round judges are working their way through the entries. Scores are due back on 30 September, so it's not long to go now before we have winners in our three categories:

  • Unpublished Adult Fiction
  • Unpublished Young Adult Fiction
  • Unpublished Nonfiction

CALEB Awards Night: 17 October

The winners will be announced via a Zoom meeting on Saturday 17 October 2020 at the following times:

  • 8:00 pm New Zealand
  • 6:00 pm AEDT
  • 5:30 pm South Australia
  • 5:00 pm Queensland
  • 4:30 pm Northern Territory
  • 3:00 pm Western Australia

The awards are scheduled to take an hour.

Members and finalists will be emailed with the meeting details and Zoom access codes. If you're not a member of Omega Writers but would like to watch the Awards ceremony, either:

Note that we may have to limit the number of people on the call. If so, we will give priority to members and finalists.

Zoom is an online webinar and videoconferencing platform that can be used on a computer or smartphone (search your app store for Zoom, or download at There is no charge to use the platform as a participant.

Omega Writers Annual General Meeting: 17 October

The Awards ceremony will be followed by the Omega Writers AGM. Members, you will receive an email with the starting time and Zoom access codes closer to the date.

Monthly Zoom Meetings

Omega Writers are also organising monthly member catchups via Zoom, including genre-specific rooms for members to connect with others writing in their genre. I haven't attended any of these meetings (because of timezones), but it's a great way to keep in touch between conferences.

Omega Writers Conference

As you will know, the 2020 Omega Writers Conference has been deferred until October 2021, and our guest speaker will be Susan May Warren, writing coach and owner of My Book Therapy, and award-winning author of over 80 novels.

Over the weekend, I was able to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers online conference. No, it didn't have the networking opportunities of a face-to-face conference and the time zone difference was a challenge for us Down Under, but there were some excellent speakers (and I saw some familiar names in the Zoom chat).

The final speaker was Susan May Warren, giving a presentation called Write Better. It was excellent, and shows what a great writing teacher Susie is. I'm looking forward to hearing her in person in October 2021!

Click here to find out more about the 2021 conference.

Remember, the CALEB Award winners will be announced on Saturday 17 October 2020.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Holy or Mundane?

Ben ‘Mortified” Morton AKA Morton Benning

If you’ve been a believer for a while you’ve probably encountered the idea that there is Christian music and also secular music, there are Christian films and there are secular films, and there are Christian books and secular books.

What I see here is a false dichotomy that western believers can be all-too-ready to accept, and in so doing, divide our writers into those who write Christian books (explicitly about Christian faith or having overt Christian-faith-associated themes), and those who are Christians who write secular books who have apparently crossed over into the secular world and are doing something somehow less worthy. That is, unless they try to covertly sneak their faith as an undercurrent of the work as a kind of guerilla evangelistic mission - to steal past those watchful dragons, as CS Lewis put it. This approach has the potential to be a little (or perhaps extremely) disingenuous.

Now I’m not here to say we ought not to write overtly Christian books, I absolutely am in favour of writing books that deal explicitly with Christian themes and faith issues. I am also not going to say that we can’t write for the general market and include undercurrents of faith-related themes. I’ve done (or perhaps attempted) precisely that myself. And I also am perfectly happy to advocate for Christian writers who want to write a book that doesn’t have any apparent Christian-faith themes (though I’d be surprised to see an instance of a person’s established Christian faith and worldview not having at least a subtle influence on their writing).

The problem I want to address is that the dichotomy is false. 

As a writer for Relevant Magazine’s Website reminds us, ‘the word secular means "without God," and there is no place on this planet that God cannot operate.’ 

Plato taught that the spiritual was higher and purer and the physical was a lower or lesser copy of the spiritual reality. This found its way into the teachings of the Gnostics. Paul wrote his letter, 1 Timothy, partly to address gnostic heresies that were showing up in the church. They held that the physical and the spiritual were two separate realms that did not belong together, and that worldly things were evil, and spiritual things were good. They could not allow that the divine Son of God could inhabit a worldly (and therefore evil) body. 

The early Church Fathers, particularly Clement of Alexandria and Irenaeus, argued strongly against Gnosticism’s dualism and false dichotomies. Though the ideas have been soundly refuted, their shadow remains in the minds of believers. 

German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant is one who is noted for dividing reality into, the phenomenal (empirical) and the noumenal (spiritual or moral), but there have been many others who have suggested a dichotomy like this as a model of reality. This idea is particularly persistent.

The more modern version typically holds that spiritual things (and endeavours) are good, and non-spiritual (or secular) ones are less-good; that being a preacher is a holy calling and being a plumber is not; that writing explicitly Christian books is a good and noble thing for a writer to do, and writing a book for a secular audience with subtle and/or potentially negligible spiritual themes is more like a guilty pleasure that might need to be excused for some reason.

If you look at what the bible actually teaches about what is spiritual, you find a very different picture. From the beginning, in Genesis 1, God creates the world and declares every part of it good. And God tells Paul in the New Testament not to call unclean what Gad called clean (Acts 10:15). And most believers have heard that all things are permissible, but not all are beneficial (1 Cor 10:23). What is important is the heart attitude. The biblical position is that everything is (or is potentially) sacred if done with a heart that wants to honour God by doing what he designed us to do. The bible teaches us that the important thing to remember is whatever you do, make it an example of the best of your ability and dedicate it to God as an offering (Col 3:17, 1 Cor 10:31). 

1 Corinthians teaches us that the meat sacrificed to idols is not anything special. Meat is just meat, an idol is just a sculpture, and eating is just eating - except when it concerns shipwrecking the conscience of another believer. You can eat whatever you like and honour God by doing it - right up until you encounter someone who is unnecessarily concerned that idol-befouled-food might harm your spirit, and then you need to choose to use your freedom in Christ to stop eating it to care for your less-mature spiritual sibling. That being the case, can I suggest that maybe you can write whatever you like and honour God in doing it - so long as your heart is turned toward God and you are loving toward your fellow-believers in doing it?

For my part, God created me to be creative like him. And like him, I create all manner of things I think ought to exist, and not all of them need to have a cross carved into them in order to be a worthy offering.

Some stuff I read while thinking about this subject...

The Institute for Faith Work and Economics - H Whelchel 3.10.16 

How can the Church be salt and light today - early church’s attitude to non-sacred work.

The Institute for Faith Work and Economics - H Whelchel 17.10.16 

Historical Influences of the Secular Sacred Divide

Relevant - Anonymous 20.04.06

The Sacred-Secular Dichotomy

Peace Catalyst International - Rick Love 06.06.11

Seeing God in All Things: Why the Sacred-Secular Dichotomy is Heresy

Business as Mission - Mike Baer 19.01.18

Breaking Down the Sacred-Secular Divide

Patheos Philosophical Fragments - 03.08.11 Timothy Dalrymple

When Christ is Lord, Nothing is Secular - Cindi McMenamin 19/12/19

Is Anything Really Secular or Christian?

Focus on the Family Canada - Subby Szterszky 2018

Is there such a thing as secular?

Ben Morton AKA Morton Benning is an author, illustrator, editor, publisher and occasional lecturer in speculative fiction, as well as a fiction-writing coach who runs his own assisted publication business called Immortalise [helping writers become authors]. He is the author of Playing God, and The Tale of Alathimble Spaide and Other Such Nonsense (Stone Table Books) and creator of Morton’s Anglish Fictionary (Immortalise) and largely responsible for encouraging a lot of creative people to attempt things they weren’t sure they could (or maybe should) do. He and his lovely wife are members of Christies Beach Baptist Church and have three adorable girls.