Thursday, 20 February 2020

On thinking, writing, and thriving.

Mazzy Adams

It's close to midnight on the day before a new CWD blog post is due; there's no-one rostered on for a Meet our Members interview today because the members of the CWD team have all been pushing the limits of their endurance fulfilling the requirements of their respective 'day job' responsibilities; we'd push the panic button but, frankly, none of us have the energy even for that!

Never fear. If they're not too tired to think, the others will share their favourite writing tips with me sometime before morning so I can share them with you, our wonderful readers. Meanwhile, I've been thinking about ...


You see, no matter how well you learn the art of crafting words to create an impact, writing begins with ...

An idea.

But where do ideas come from?

In my 'day job' I work as a creative-and-academic-writing tutor and manager of our education consultancy. This evening, as one student arrived, I glimpsed a blaze of red as the sun departed over the horizon ... I stopped to take a photo.

My students often admit to having problems with punctuation, or sentence structure ... they need to improve their essay/feature article/narrative ... more often than not, in practice, this means they haven't a clue where to start, haven't done much research or gathered information, don't know how to develop a central idea and then develop that idea with evidence to support and explain it, let alone do so using persuasive speech, or applying appropriate genre techniques ... oh, and are they allowed to use 'I' in this situation?

Good writing requires a knowledge of writing techniques but ... is that all it requires?

Over the holiday break, I worked with a university student who is preparing to take the GAMSAT exam. The exam requires two responsive writing tasks - one persuasive, and one reflective - based on stimulus which may be visual, or something like a quote from a famous/successful person. There is an expectation that students will draw on their broader general knowledge and their personal experiences, responses and opinions to create a cohesive argument or contemplation, and that they'll write it spontaneously with some degree of fluency and competency.

At its fundamental heart, good writing starts with ... an idea. Or two. Or maybe three.

Despite the wealth of information available at the touch of a button, and the ease of access to opinion pieces (helpful and otherwise) on media and social media, if I were to pinpoint a common deficit I've observed which is hindering students in their development of effective responsive writing skills it would be this:

Many suffer from the habitual absence of 'thinking time' in their lives;
time to nurture inspiration;
time to contemplate, meditate, and follow a line of thought to its conclusion;
time to engage with a tangent and circle back;
time to explore themselves and their opinions;
time to develop and extend their thoughts and examine their patterns of thinking;
time to understand their positive and negative reactions to stimuli and, where appropriate, moderate or modify their responses by weighing up facts and ideas;
time to ask the big what ifs and contemplate the answers.

Ideas percolate when we take time to nurture inspiration.

Remember the photo at the top? I complained to the student about always having to dodge electric wires in the sunset photos I take from my front yard. She said, 'Sometimes you can make things like that work for you if you frame the photo right.' What a smart cookie! I thought about what she said, before I took that photo.

Then I repositioned myself ...
and took another photo, using the trees and the houses, and the cross-shaped aerial post to focus on the sky ... and wow! A stunning cloud formation emerged from its hiding place: 

Afterwards, I looked at the photos I'd taken. The next one prompted further contemplation ..

Notice how the shape of the bushy black tree tops peeking over the rooftops seems to mirror the shape of the clouds behind them? Was God simply doing his own abstract cloud painting, or was he sketching a still life in the sky? How long had he been looking in my direction? Was he watching me watching his creation? Did it make him happy that I stopped to watch and think about ... him?

So now it is morning, and my wonderful admin compatriots, Jeanette O'Hagan, Sue Jeffery, and Kirsten Hart have thought about, and provided us with, their personal writing tips:

Jenny says:
1. Make regular time to write that works for you (even if its only 100 words a day;
2. Listen to feedback without prejudice, but remember to follow your own intuition and find your own voice;
3. Understand and master rules, to understand when you can break them;
4. Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

Sue says:
1. Look after your health and fitness (especially your back and neck). Sitting takes a big toll on our bodies;
2. Mix deep work with timed breaks (eg the Pomodoro method);
3. Create strong characters. Your main protagonists need to have inner misbeliefs that drive the story. Lisa Cron's story genius is a good book to read on this.

Kirsten says:
1. Believe in yourself. Don't allow negative thoughts to keep you from writing;
2. Invest in learning new writing skills;
3. Allow yourself a break when you need it, but don't give up.

And, given today's contemplations, my (Mazzy's) writing tips would have to be:
1. Take time to think, and nurture inspiration;
2. Don't be afraid to reposition yourself occasionally; it might help you reframe a problem, or present a new vista to explore and enjoy;
3. Remember, God is always at hand, watching you, encouraging you, inspiring you, directing you, training you, and answering your questions as you seek to turn your creative ideas and hard-earned wisdom into effective, inspirational, functional, entertaining writing.

So, with God's help, think, thrive, develop your skills, practice, and write.

Mazzy Adams is a published author of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. She has a passion for words, pictures, and the positive potential in people.


Monday, 17 February 2020

Introducing the 2020 Omega Writers Conference

Plans are well underway for the 2020 Omega Writers Conference, to be held from 23 to 25 October at Peppers Kingscliff, New South Wales (about twenty minutes from Gold Coast Airport and the Queensland border). Our main organising committee is Raewyn Elsegood, Narelle Atkins, and Andrea Grigg, but there is a team of behind-the-scenes helpers.

Andrea Grigg and I visited Peppers Kingscliff for lunch after the 2019 conference, and I didn't want to leave. Here's lunch:

Prawn and Watermelon Salad

The resort is located right on the beach, but there is also a beautiful swimming pool for guests:

Our conference will be in the main conference room, which splits into three breakout rooms:

(That's set up for a banquet—which is what we'll be having on Saturday night, for the 2020 CALEB Award Dinner!)

We also have the Boardroom, for Hub appointments with editors and publishers (yes, Australian Christian publishers will be present):

Attendees can choose to stay onsite in either the Kingscliff or Mantra resorts (the Mantra is right across the road). The rooms are beautiful, and even include laundry facilities:

There are other hotels nearby, as well as a camping ground for those who prefer.

You're probably wondering how much this is going to cost.

Well, if you get a group together and share, it will cost the same as previous years. A standard hotel room shared by 2 people (including twin beds) and breakfast for 2 people is $185 per night. If you split the cost with a roomie, 2 nights accommodation including breakfast will cost $185 per person.

Or bring your family—there are plenty of local activities to keep them busy, from rental bicycles available from reception, to the famous Gold Coast theme parks less than an hour away by car. Or just the conference bookstore, then spend a few hours by the pool with a great book.

Peppers Kingscliff are giving us great rates for the conference: 2018 prices :) So get together with your friends and book now (there's no risk—the resort offers free cancellations up to 30 days prior). There will be a shuttle to and from Gold Coast Airport, although you could also rent a car or Uber.

You can book your accommodation now!

Use this form for Peppers: Omega Writers Conference Booking Form - Peppers Salt

Use this form for Mantra: Omega Writers Conference Booking Form - Mantra Salt Omega Writers Conference Booking Form - Peppers Salt

(Please make sure you pick the correct bed configuration: King/King means two King beds, while King/Twin means one King bed in one room, and two twin beds in another room).

Book via  salt.groups @ or fax 02 6670 5111. Payment is on departure. Also, click here to join the Facebook group to find out what else is happening, and to find potential roommates.

In preparation for conference, Omega Writers are seeking a volunteer to help run the Omega website and get set up for conference. If you have general IT skills, WordPress administration skills and an aptitude for learning new software, and you'd like to be part of the Omega team, please contact Meredith Resce at president @

And now, I'm delighted to introduce two of our speakers:

Susan May Warren

With books translated into eight languages, many of her novels have been ECPA and CBA bestsellers, were chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, and have won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award.

Susan is also a nationally acclaimed writing coach, teaching at conferences around the nation and winner of the 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers Mentor of the Year award. She loves to help people launch their writing careers and is the founder of Novel.Academy and, a writing website that helps authors get published and stay published. She’s also the author of the popular writing method, The Story Equation, and the co-founder of Sunrise Publishing.

Susie is our keynote speaker and will lead our fiction stream. If you write fiction—especially romance or romantic suspense—then Susie is a must-hear speaker.

Amy Matayo

Not really. Not even her kids are afraid of her.

She graduated with barely passing grades from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. But she's proud of that degree and all the ways she hasn't put it to good use.

She laughs often, cries easily, feels deeply, and loves hard. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and four kids and is working on her next novel.

Amy writes edgy contemporary romance that crosses over from "traditional" Christian fiction, and I'm sure she'll have great tips on writing great books and building a readership as a self-published author.

2020 CALEB Award

I'll be back next month to introduce more guest speakers, and launch the 2020 CALEB Awards!

(Check the Omega Writers website for the 2020 categories.)

Also, a portion of the proceeds* from the CALEB entry fee is donated to the Omega Writers Conference Scholarship Fund. If you'd like to donate to the fund and give a Christian writer the opportunity to attend their first Omega conference, click here to find out more.

And if you want to know why it's important that we offer scholarships to first-time attendees, well, I'll let one of the 2019 scholarship recipients tell you. Click here to read Adam Hickey's post.

(* FYI "a portion" broadly translates as "as much as the Treasurer lets me" :) )

So will you be at the 2020 Omega Writers Conference?

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton is a New Zealand book reviewer, freelance editor, and writer. She holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting, and works as a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading or writing her next book review. You can find Iola at her website, or on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Omega Wrtiers Book Fair 2020

Just over four weeks away, the Brisbane chapter of Omega Writers will be open the doors to the fourth Annual Omega Writers Book Fair. We are hoping for another day of networking, displaying a wide range of books, connecting with readers and fun.

What happens at the Book Fair?

Each year we've had a different mix of authors with some perennial favourites. There really is something for everyone - from picture books to deep theological tomes. Books for children and teens, books for adults, books that celebrate disability and difference. We have memoirs, biographies, church history, self-help, fantasy, science fiction, mystery and romance.

While the majority of our authors come for South-East Queensland (Brisbane, Toowoomba, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast), in previous Book Fairs some have travelled from further north in Queensland, northern New South Wales, even from Sydney or Victoria.

Not only is there an opportunity to get signed books by the author, but also to hear the authors reading excerpts of their works.

It's also a great opportunity to meet up with CWD & Omega Writer members such as Anne Hamilton, David Malcolm Bennett, Kathy Hoopmann, Lynne Stringer, Adele Jones, Nola Passmore, Jenny Woolsey, Judy Rogers, Raelene Purtill, Ruth Bonetti, Jeanette O'Hagan, Naomi Eccles-Smith, Nikki Rogers, Wendy Wood, Sally Eberhardt and many more.

In addition, this year we'll have a Colouring Contest (12 years and under, resident within Australia).

Simon Kennedy (co-creator of mini-series Safe Harbour) will give a workshop on Scriptwriting while a Panel with Kathy Hoopmann, Jenny Woolsey and Adele Jones will tackle Writing Disability and Diversity.

We'd love to see you - whether to browse the books, stock up your to-read pile, listen to book readings, join the scavenger hunt, learn more through the workshop or panel - or even have a display table of your own.

It's free to attend the event and to browse. Workshop & panel are $20 each.

Registrations are still open. Don't miss out.

Where and When?

Event Title: Omega Writers Book Fair 2020

Date & Time: Saturday March 14, 2020. 10am-2.30pm

Location: Hills Church, 79 Queens Road, Everton Hills

Script Writing Workshop with Simon Kennedy (10.30 – 11:15 am)

Movies, television, plays, and other dramatizations are a major channel for storytelling today. Have you ever wondered how writing a script is different from writing a novel or a memoir? Are you interested in finding out the tricks of the trade? Experienced script-writer and co-creator of the award-winning Safe Harbour TV min-series (screened in Australia in 2018) will share his experience and wisdom in his workshop On Screen Writing.

Simon Kennedy

Simon Kennedy is an experienced screenwriter, story consultant and writer for TV and film.

Simon Kennedy was the co-creator of International Emmy winning mini-series Safe Harbour (Australia in 2018 on SBS). He also co-wrote the story and several scripts on the upcoming TV show, Interface, a 10-part action series set in the near future, for Red Empire Productions. Currently, he is working with several Australian production companies to develop TV narrative and factual concepts for both adult and children audiences.

Simon's You-tube channel, Songs with Simon, has over 100 million views. Simon lives in Brisbane with his wife and children.

Find more about Simon

Panel: with Kathy Hoopmann, Jenny Woolsey & Adele Jones (11.30-12:15 pm)

Would you like to see more characters with disabilities included in the books you read? As a writer, would you like to include strong and engaging characters with a disability or who do not fit the norm, but are not sure of the best way forward? What trope and clichés should be avoided, what things should you keep in mind?

Three great writers will answer questions on writing disability and difference drawn from their practice as writers and personal experiences.

Kathy Hoopmann

Kathy Hoopmann is best known for her photo illustrated books dealing with Asperger Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety. The simplicity, charm and insight of these books has made them must-haves for children and adults worldwide.

She has also written over twenty books for children and adults, many of which have young heroes and heroines with ASD. Her books have been translated into seventeen languages and her work sells widely in Australia, the UK, the US and the Middle East.

She has won, and been shortlisted for many literary awards, including the Children’s Book Council of Australia Award and has four times been awarded a silver Nautilus Award (US) which is given to books that make a better world. Discover more at

Jenny Woolsey

Jenny Woolsey is a children’s author and motivational speaker on the theme, Be Weirdly Wonderful! Embrace your difference. She is an educator, blogger and advocate for disability equality, facial differences, Down syndrome and inclusive education. Jenny visits schools and speaks on diversity, facial differences, bullying, mental health and being kind to others. She encourages children to be their true selves. Jenny was born with a rare craniofacial syndrome and is visually impaired, and her children have disabilities. Diversity and difference are her life.

Jenny has written five children’s/YA novels and been included in six anthologies. Her stories have been sold internationally, received honourable mentions and been longlisted in competitions.

For more information visit or

Adele Jones

Adele Jones writes young adult and historical novels, poems, inspirational non-fiction and fictional short works, along with juggling family responsibilities and her job as a microbiologist (it’s the little things that count). She’s had a selection of short works and poems published, and in 2013 released YA novel, Integrate. This was the first story in the Blaine Colton trilogy: Integrate, Replicate, Activate, a series about a young man with a disabling genetic disease that permeates his life and challenges his perceptions of self and the world around him.

Adele’s writing explores issues of social justice, humanity, faith, natural beauty and meaning in life’s journey, and as a speaker she seeks to present a practical and encouraging message by drawing on these themes.

For more visit or

Spaces for both workshop & panel are limited. Book now at

For more Information:

For details about the Book Fair, Colouring Contest or the Workshop & Panel, Check out , or email

Organiser: Omega Writers supports and encourages Christian writers in Australia (

Omega Writers Book Fair Committee

Jeanette O'Hagan
Judy Rogers
Raelene Purtill
Ruth Bonetti

Monday, 10 February 2020

Route 2020

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Wallking along a bush track, surrounded by dense scrub or rainforest, we often can't see the how far we've come or how much further we need to travel.

We might feel the burn in our calves and in our lungs as we scramble up a steep incline. We might feel the hunger and the thirst and the tiredness. We might note the changing shadows and other signs of passing time, but we're still surrounded by trees, trees, and more trees.

And then, the trees open up and we emerge into a sudden burst of sunlight. From the edge of the cliff or the top of a tor, we can see the terrain spreading out before us. We can see the ground we've covered, where we are on the map, and how much fruther we need to go.

One of my favourite scenes in Tolkien's The Hobbit is when Bilbo and the dwarves are hopelessly lost in Mirkwood, until Bilbo climbs up a forest giant to the very top branches and looks over the canopy of dense, dark treetops. He feels the sun on his skin, breathes the clean air, wonders at the dance of the butterflies, and sees in the distance the edge of the forest, the end of their journey. Now they know which way to travel.

In the Bible, there are moments of reflection on the way of what has been achieved (often marked by memorials) and bold promises about the tasks ahead. Mount Sinai, the crossing of the Jordan river, Joshua's declaration that he and his house would follow the Lord, and Jesus' call to follow him.

Sometimes I get so caught up with the day to day, month to month details of what I need to be doing as a Indie writer and become so anxious about what I haven't achieved, that I lose sight of how far I've come. At those times, the road ahead seems daunting, even impossble.

Maybe, the start of 2020 is a great time to tke stock, to remember and to re-group, to see the way ahead.

I started writing again less than ten years ago, when I made the decision to enrol in post-graduate studies on creative writing. It's been a steep learning curve, especially as writing styles and reading preferences (for faster-paced, immersive narratives) had changed. It's been frustrating at times (Why can't I use adverbs? I thought I was showing, not telling! But I love proverbs and cliches, etc.) And it can feel like I've put in enourmous effort for minimal results. As year passed year, it seemed like I would never be published, and then (five years ago), in December, 2014, my first short story was published. Now I'm trying to work out how to reach wider audiences and to keep up and increase the momentum of sales, while still writing more books and juggling family and other responsibilities. It's not easy. It can be overwhelming.

Yet, I love writing and connecting with readers. This is what what I want to do. It's what I believe God has called me to do. And I need to trust Him - that He will make a way -  while celebrating what He has already done. And in the end, perhaps it's the journey that counts.

Things we could celebrate:

Making the decision to write
Finishing the first draft
Being brave enough to get feedback from other writers, editors etc (from people other than family and close friends)
Being willing to listen to negative as well as postive feedback
Learning to know when to listen and when to trust your instincts.
Finding your voice
Learning the 'rules', so that you know how and when you can break them and when you shouldn't.
Submitting your work
Getting your first rejection letter (yep, because it means you were brave enough to submit your work)
Submitting your work despite the knock backs.
Not giving up.
Writing your next story, and the next one, and the next one.
Growing in your writing.
Reading your writing to a live audience for the first time.
Having your work published
Getting a positive review
Getting a negative review (yes, because most likely means a stranger has taken the time to read your work).
A reader continuing to think about your characters long after they finished reading your story
An award
Hearing a reader has recommend your book to someone else.
Your first royalty payment.
A book signing
Having a book table at a convention or book fair.
Fans inpatient for the next story
Fans dressing up as one of your characters (maybe one day).
Helping another writer to start the journey or continue along it.
Someone writing to say that your story impacted them, encouraged, inspired or maybe even changed them.
Knowing you have done what God has asked you to do.

Whether you are at the beginning of the journey, or being travelling for years, maybe take some time of reflection at the start of 2020. Remember and then celebrate past achievements - no matter how small.  Thank God for them and for the road ahead. And don't allow the giants in the land scare you and prevent you from entering God's promises.

Photos c. Jeanette O'Hagan 2020  Rendered Realms photo by Wayne Logan

Jeanette spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing.

Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs. She has published over forty stories and poems including Akrad's Children (Book 1 of the Akrad's Legacy series) & the 5 book Under the Mountain series.

Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Changes to the Christian Writers Downunder Admin Team

The dawning of 2020 will bring some changes to our hard-working team, including the stepping down of Paula Vince after almost 5 years on the job. 

Here is what she has to say.

"Being on the CWD Admin team has been a varied and interesting role which I'll always remember with happy nostalgia. I've been among the first to welcome newbies, read a countless number of encouraging blog posts, helped introduce new discussion points, and seen the increase of hundreds of new members. I've also seen authors, illustrators, editors, proof-readers and publishers connected with those whose skills they're seeking. We on the team are always delighted to see new friendships and working bonds form which wouldn't have been possible without the forum we help facilitate.

However, we all know life is full of different seasons. Halfway through last year I entered a new one as a student working toward a Master of Divinity. The workload is proving to be intense enough that a non-multi-tasker like myself will need to apply special focus. As I've never been great at spreading myself too thin, early 2020 seemed the perfect time to assess the limit I can manage.

Stepping down from the team sure doesn't mean leaving Christian Writers Downunder altogether. I'll always be a member who looks forward to staying abreast of what's going on. I'll definitely keep my eye on the blog and Facebook page. And I know that under the capable hands of Jeanette, Mazzy, Sue and Kirsten, the Admin team will go from strength to strength."

Over the course of 20 years, Paula has written nine novels, including contemporary drama for the New Adult market, a fantasy adventure trilogy, and Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel, with three other ladies. She's currently working (slowly) on a biographical novel about her grandfather, who was a champion South Australian boxer, as well as studying at Tabor College. She hopes to venture into writing non-fiction at some stage.      

Thanks Paula. We have appreciated your wisdom, grace and dedication over the last five years we will miss you on the team. All the best for your Master of Divinity studies and the blessings and ministry that God has in store for you. 

The CWD Admin Team

Jeanette spun tales in the world of Nardva from the age of eight. She enjoys writing fantasy, sci-fi, poetry, and editing. 

Her Nardvan stories span continents, millennia and cultures. Some involve shapeshifters and magic. Others include space stations and cyborgs. She has published over forty stories and poems including Akrad's Children (Book 1 of the Akrad's Legacy series) & the 5 book Under the Mountain series. 

Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Susan J Bruce, aka Sue Jeffrey, spent her childhood reading, drawing, and collecting stray animals. Now she’s grown up, she does the same kinds of things. Susan has worked for many years as a veterinarian, and writes stories filled with themes of suspense, adventure, romance and overcoming. Susan also loves to paint animals. Susan won the ‘Short’ section of the inaugural Stories of Life writing competition and won the 'Unpublished Manuscript' section of the 2018 Caleb prize. Susan is the editor of 'If They Could Talk: Bible Stories Told By the Animals' (Morning Star Publishing) and her stories and poems have appeared in multiple anthologies. Her e-book, 'Ruthless The Killer: A Short Story' is available on You can check out some of Susan’s art work on her website .

Kirsten (aka K.A. Hart) is a born and bred Territorian who moved to Queensland and had no choice but to stay after her assimilation into the Toowoomba's infamous, collective known as Quirky Quills.

Since then, K.A. Hart has had two short stories published. Stone Bearer, appears in Glimpses of Light and Tedious Tresses, in the As Time Goes By Mixed Blessings anthology. She is currently writing a fantasy trilogy.

Mazzy Adams is a published author of poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction. She has a passion for words, pictures and the positive potential in people.


Monday, 3 February 2020


I’ve always enjoyed playing with words. Putting different spins on them, using them in unusual ways and making people laugh as they read them. offers the following definitions for play on words:

·       a humorous way of using a word or phrase so that more one meaning is suggested
·       a pun

Sometimes words occur to me as I’m writing but other times I sit and purposefully look for words to play with. When we added a new cat to our pet family, I shared the following illustration at church.

Two days before Christmas my son gave me a fuzzy ginger kitten with huge cattitude. I named her Fanta and hoped she would become mates with our black cat, Dizzy. Unfortunately, the first weeks were catastrophic! Dizzy decided Fanta’s arrival was a cataclysmic event and it catapulted him into a very bad space. He categorised the kitten as bad news and spent his days sulking in the neighbour’s garden. I tried to catch him when he did venture back home for food but he was too quick for me.

To put it simply, he was jealous. As humans, we have a tendency to behave in a similar way if we feel threatened. Ever made catty remarks about someone who was more skilled, more congenial or more intelligent than you? Ever catalogued a friend’s failures in your mind? This type of behaviour can catapult us into a bad space. Fortunately, the standoff came to an end, and they're great friends today!

We need to be a catalyst for change in our homes, churches, and work places. Let’s work on catching the heart of God this week and shine for Him in everything we do!

It was fun to write and because people caught on to the cat theme, they were listening carefully to see what I’d come out with next. Give it a go and see what you can come up with!

Debbie Roome was born and raised in Zimbabwe and later spent fifteen years in South Africa. In 2006 she moved to New Zealand with her husband and five children. Writing has been her passion since the age of six and she loves to write stories that touch people's lives and turn them towards God. Over the years she has won many awards and trophies for her work, including placing first in the Rose & Crown Novel Writing Competition in 2009 and 2012 and second in the Faithwriters' Page Turner Contest in 2010 and 2014. In 2015 and 2018 she placed first in the Faithwriters' Page Turner Contest. Her novel Contagious Hope was a finalist for the Australasian CALEB award in 2013. Debbie's writing has opened doors for public speaking and she is often asked to share her life story and her experiences as a writer.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

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: Ruth Embery

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

I am currently living in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, with my husband and dog (we are empty nesters these days). I have lived in a number of areas in country Victoria over my life, including Horsham and the Macedon Ranges, before moving into Melbourne as a young adult. 
I have a background in teaching (was a maths/chemistry teacher in a former life), which more recently I have realised is very closely linked to my passion for learning. Teaching is so innate I have to remind myself to turn it off occasionally. (My younger brothers bore the brunt of this when I was about eight and made them take lessons during school holidays.) 
I strongly believe in the transformational and healing nature of the Gospel message, particularly its essential value to our life journey as believers, both as individuals and as the Church. I can get pretty enthusiastic about this, so will leave it at that for now!

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc).  What do you write and why?

My writing career (if I could even call it that!), has been somewhat accidental in its birth and development. Growing up in a family where facts were valued far more than feelings, creative writing seemed like something of a waste of time. However, looking back to my childhood, I always loved words, and as a teen, dabbled in poetry as a way to express my feelings in private. I remember one of my favourite pieces of work from year 12 was a descriptive essay, where I let myself go, pushing aside the austerity of fact. It was eye opening to me that I could do it well and that it was not just accepted, but praised. 
I started journaling in my late 20’s and I think this probably was a foundation to the way I write today – from experience and my personal journey with God. As someone with a passion for teaching and preaching, I have also used writing as an outlet when there weren’t other opportunities. Blogging has been a great medium for this, although I have long struggled with the lack of the immediate feedback you get when speaking. However, all this has helped to hone the way I prepare for speaking, especially in the realm of really sticking to the point and not getting side tracked. 
My first book, “Handing Back Control” was very much something given to me by God in one of those suddenly moments. I really didn’t think I had a book in me. It still took me about five years to finish, but perhaps I had more journey to finish first!
After that, I had a number of people encourage me to write another book. I had no idea of what that might look like until again, I started getting ideas that all pointed to a consistent concept. And once more, it has been a painful, battling process to get it out. This book is quite different, in that it is far less personal Рmore of a discourse on society and how we view the world. In essence, it is expos̩ on the concept of what truth might look like in our post-truth world.
For the future, I would love to write two biographical books of family members. One about my grandfather who pastored a church in London during WW2. We have many letters between my grandparents during that time as well as his journals, which, to me, make fascinating reading. The other is the story of my great-grandfather and the call he had to be a missionary in far north India (now Pakistan). He started the journey in 1901 with my great-grandmother, two weeks after they married! (My great-grandmother gave birth to eight children while they were there – I would love to know more of her story, of how she coped, given my great-grandfather would often go on trips up into Afghanistan and so on, leaving her home alone. However, I think they were very stoic and just got on with it.) My great-grandfather wrote quarterly newsletters to folks back home, which I will have to travel to England to retrieve from a library where they still store over twenty years of hardcopies some 100 years on.
I also have a couple of other ideas in the pipeline, one an interactive journal using some psalms I have written alongside some of my photographs, with space for the reader to write their own psalms. The other idea is very recent and is around gathering and presenting stories of other people’s Jesus encounters. 

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

I have had numbers of people from diverse backgrounds read my blog and book, and it is always the responses from strangers that impact me the most. I love it when God uses my experiences and thoughts to help others on their journey and they let me know of it. Of course, I would like everyone to read my work – as a teacher, I am also something of an idealist, in that I want everyone to get “it”, whatever my “it” of the moment is. Whether it is relevant to their journey is another thing. 

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

With my walking companion
Process, in the strict definition of the word is not my strong point. I am quite haphazard and tend to need uninterrupted space to focus. However, I am also very good at allowing myself to be distracted easily (I think it is called procrastination – although Ted Dekker wrote a great article on the importance of procrastination in the writing process, which I actually think has more truth to it than I have realised: time to ruminate!). Walking my dog and gardening work very well as my muse.
When I go somewhere different specifically to write, such as the local library, where there are people and activity I don’t have to engage with, I am much more focussed (even though my writing space at home is idyllic). More recently, a friend has offered her prayer room as a space for me, which has been very productive – none of the “at home” distractions. I have realised that, as an extrovert, the energy I gain from just being around people is helpful, even (or maybe especially) when I don’t know them.

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

Confession time – I haven’t read any books on writing, other than the APA Style Guide, which was part of my compulsory reading when I studied psychology some twenty years ago. Occasionally I have read blogs and picked up helpful bits of advice in places such as CWD. Alongside that, Google is my go-to for finding that “just right” word or quote. My writing was honed and developed by necessity over a three year period of writing a weekly piece for my church newsletter. It taught me how to be succinct and to identify what was essential, as I had to be able to get the message across in less than 500 words. 

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

The first person who springs to mind is Anusha Atukorala. She is always such an encourager and so filled with positivity, both within her own writing and in her personal responses to me. Her gentle manner and kind words make me feel as though I am adding value, which, as we all know too well, is not something we necessarily get much affirmation in when writing. I really do appreciate all those who take time out to encourage and give me input in this group. The instantaneous acceptance has been such a balm to me.

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

A sample of the ever changing view from my desk
I really want to get my book finished and published in the next few months. I have been invited to speak at a healing conference in the US in May, which is a great incentive to have it ready to sell there. Some strong discipline in writing and in biting the bullet and preparing my manuscript to send out to some beta readers is an important (but scary!) step. Setting aside writing time and not allowing the needs of others to get in the way is a challenge I continue to grapple with.
An online “Planning for 2020” activity I have just completed has landed me with a commitment to finish the first draft of my book in the next thirty days, though, so I fully realise the only way this will happen is to set aside a day a week (at least) to write, and to make it an unbreakable appointment. If writing this book is not my top priority, it just doesn’t happen!

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

As my previous answers probably reveal, my faith is integral to my writing. It very much directs the course and substance. Early on in my writing, I was sharing material that was extremely sensitive to my journey, but it was amazing how God gave me words so that I didn’t feel too exposed while remaining transparent and honest. My writing also shapes my own faith, as it makes me dig deep and reassess what I really believe. I am learning the value and importance for me to be deliberate in praying and asking Holy Spirit for the words before I start, which I find makes a huge difference and makes the process easier.

You can check out more about me at

Monday, 27 January 2020

Life answers for sceptics

ID 108603044 © Ermolaevamariya |

Julia Archer 

One day, Jesus was out with his disciples, accompanied by the ragtag bunch who followed him everywhere, when over the crest of a nearby hill (or maybe around the corner of a city street), two men came bustling up on an important mission.
            ‘When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”’ (Luke 7:20 NIV)
            What!?  Hadn’t John’s mother told him, and retold, the story of Mary visiting her when they were both pregnant? Hadn’t they kept in touch as cousins over the years, especially on the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Passover? So wouldn’t John know who Jesus was when he turned up at the Jordan? Hadn’t John seen the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus when he was baptised?
            Why question Jesus’ identity now?
            Well, Jesus was wandering around the countryside mixing with all sorts of nobodies and undesirables and deplorables, and doing nothing at all about raising an army to kick out the Romans and bust John out of Herod’s prison.
            Considering John was on death row, fair enough that he was feeling a bit tetchy. Poor guy.
            But here’s the thing. Can Christian writers learn anything from this story?
            Well, first, that it is a story. A true story, included in Scripture for a reason. Along with all the other forms of writing in Scripture, an honoured place is held by stories. This validates our telling stories to share Christian truth, particularly stories of how God has worked in our lives.
            Even fiction is included, unless you hold that the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son and his father and brother were real, historical people.
            But what can we learn from this particular story?
            Australian society around us is a lot more sceptical about Jesus than John ever was.
            How does Jesus’ response to the men who came from John help us there?
            Note first that Jesus does not enter into a religious argument with them. He lets them watch him at work, and at the end of the day he tells them to go back to John and tell him what they have seen. ‘”The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”’ (Luke 7.22 NIV)
            I’d suggest from this, that our first response to a sceptical world is to display a surprisingly different life, where Kingdom values are lived out. Especially values of kindness and care and concern for the poor. To actually mix with society’s marginalised.
            A response where we don’t leap to defend ourselves when challenged.
            Where we’re not easily offended. Where we don’t turn on others who hurt us or doubt us.
            A response of compassion for the doubters, not superiority because we’ve ‘got it.’
            Second, Jesus wasn’t thrown off-course. He didn’t start doing whatever John and others must have expected a Messiah to do. He continued doing exactly what the Father was telling him to do.
            Are we doing what the Father has called us to do? Or something else? In our writing or elsewhere, do we take time to stop and check we’re on course?
            Are we keeping our ears open to the Father, while we live out the Kingdom in a world of sceptics? If so, there is a possibility a watching world might see a little of God at work behind the scenes, through the life we live and the words we write.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Omega Writers | Welcome to 2020 from Meredith Resce

Hello, all Australasian Christian writers.

I hope you’ve had a restful Christmas break, and that you’ve found the time to recharge your batteries.

There’s no doubt Australians have had an emotionally charged Christmas and New Year with the devastating bushfires across most states, and the disastrous fires the subject of news and social media conversation.

Along with the expected outpouring of concern and offers of help, unfortunately the situation also became the catalyst for a massive political fight. Sadly, this unusual situation has strained more than one friendship.

I hope the bulk of our attention during this time can be turned towards being a positive agent of relief and encouragement.

If you are one of our writers from a fire-affected area, please let us know if there is anything you think we can do to help those communities, beyond the obvious praying and giving.

Events in 2020

Our network of leaders in Omega Writers, while in holiday mode, have continued to keep our finger on the pulse of a number of up and coming events in 2020:

  • The group in Brisbane are preparing for their annual book fair, coming up in March. 
  • A small group of us in Adelaide are making some plans to hold an Omega Writers day in early May. 
  • The Omega Conference Committee have got the conference machine in motion, and I expect we will hear more soon of what’s coming up for our conference on the Gold Coast.
  • The 2020 CALEB Awards will be open for entries from 2 March to 30 April. 

Meanwhile, Omega members, Cecily Paterson and Penny Reeve, have coordinated an online initiative designed to encourage, motivate and connect Australasian writers over the summer holidays. 2020 Summer Writer’s Refresh has popped up in my daily feed all through January.

We have our bi-monthly management committee meeting in a few weeks’ time, when we will begin to put more body to the skeleton plans already in place.

As we enter into a new work/school/writing year, here is a personal thought from me:

I have a voice and considering I have a well-developed skill in communication in writing, I should be aware that there are other places to share insight, encouragement and ideas other than through the traditional publishing platforms.

Social media is an obvious place to start. 

However, given the propensity of users to vent with no thought to how their rant might affect relationships, nor any idea of how their words may be misinterpreted, I encourage patience. Social media is not the place to blow off steam, or take a quick shot. (Well, that is how it is sometimes used, but I recommend against it).

However, we can make thoughtful and considered use of social media. By thoughtful, I personally sit on an idea for days, weeks, months before I put it onto a page. I write when I’m in the heat of the moment, but I write on a closed document.

This writing may end up being completely discarded, or it may become the frame upon which I write something deeper. I have found the less I post, the more likely the post will be read when I finally feel confident to put a thought forward.

You have a voice, but you can do damage by using it without care and thought. I have a saying I go by at the moment:

Wisdom builds the house (read Proverbs 24 1-4)

I pray that each of you enter this year with a courage to persist in the face of difficulties and rejections, a grace to continue to write with passion, and a wisdom to use your voice to build up others.

God bless

Meredith Resce, President, Omega Writers Australasia

About Meredith Resce

South Australian Author, Meredith Resce, has been writing since 1991, and published non-fiction and Christian fiction, including period drama romance, contemporary romance, time-travel adventure, crime drama (under pen name EB James) and murder mystery.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Meet Our Members: Melinda Jensen

On Thursdays 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: Melinda Jensen

Question 1: Tell us three things about yourself.

Who am I and where do I come from? Hmmm…let’s start with the basics. I’m an Aussie mother of two strong young women, a grandmother of two talented kids (blatant nanna bias) and a pretty ordinary human who has lived with a painful and debilitating illness since 1995. That’s the first thing.

And then, I’m an unashamed feminist in a world that finds feminists embarrassing at best, and demonic at worst, but true feminine strength is something I believe Jesus held very dear. He treated women tenderly and with infinite understanding and respect.

Thirdly, of course…well, I’m a writer, though I can’t claim to have yet published a book. I have had poetry, newspaper articles and some pithy (I hope!) short stories published in fiction magazines. 

I’m going to be cheeky and add a ‘fourth thing’. I’m absolutely passionate about the environment and my commitment to being a good steward over our earth infiltrates every aspect of my living, including my writing.

Question 2: Tell us about your writing (or editing/illustrating etc). What do you write and why?

For much of last year, I concentrated on a work of non-fiction, a process that was temporarily disrupted by having to evacuate my home because of Australia’s devastating bushfires. I’m very thankful we came out of it completely unscathed.

The topic of the book is going to sound truly boring - budgeting - but I’m writing in a light-hearted way, giving lots of practical tips on shopping, budget ideas for entertaining, saleable crafts and lots more, even cheap wine that’s cheap, but not nasty. And I’m peppering it with sketches of my own as illustrations. It’s a fun process and I hope people have fun reading it.

As for why I write, I think it’s probably twofold. Writing’s always been the subject I’ve been best at – since primary school, in fact. And I find it therapeutic. I get into the ‘zone’ when I write (and paint/sketch) that I can’t achieve with other activities. I figure that God planted the talent and desire in me from my very beginnings…and who am I to argue with that?

Also close to my heart is my blog on domestic violence which has been on the back-burner for some time now but for many years was my passion and, I hope, a source of education, comfort and encouragement for a few precious souls. I expect to continue blogging on the topic in the not-too-distant future.

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

I guess quite a few people in the general public have read a couple of my published short stories, which appeared in a popular mag. Some of my poetry has been published online and in printed anthologies so it’s hard to say who might have come across them, but there’s been a smattering of interest, at least. The same applies to newspaper articles. My blog on domestic violence has over 500 followers, all of them victims of psychologically, emotionally and/or physically violent partners. And there was a time a few of Toowoomba’s infamous ‘Quirky Quills’ had a gander at my writing, too, and all of them have been very encouraging and supportive, as has the whole CWD crew.

With regard to the book I’m currently writing, the people I’d really like to read it are those who need it most. We have a growing crisis in Australia (in addition to the drought and the fires), and it’s a crisis defined by the high number of people living well below the poverty line, by affordable housing shortages, an aging population and a number of other mitigating factors. Homelessness is on the rise, particularly among women over 55 who are then vulnerable to sexual assault and physical violence. As I’ve had intimate experience of living well below the poverty line, raising two children on my own and with a chronic health issue, I’ve learned a thing or two about how to live a happy and fulfilling life despite severe budget limitations. I want to be able to give people who are struggling a little hope and a little practical advice.

Of course, I’d be absolutely delighted if my book was read by the likes of Helen Garner, Ruth Park and Jackie French…Jackie French particularly as her style resonates with my own.

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

My writing process is a bit piecemeal. I’m somewhere in between a pantster and a planner. Generally, I’ll write furiously when the ideas are flowing are and the words come easily; then take it slowly during the inevitable lulls. During those times, I research, take notes, edit and sometimes just write anything and everything to get the juices flowing again.

My biggest challenge is my health. I require a lot of sleep and a very calm, quiet environment in order to optimise my good days. Even on good days, I rarely have more than four hours in which I’m not too debilitated to be productive, and there’s so much to cram into those few hours! It’s a constant balancing act. Today, I might sweep the floor, then do some research. Tomorrow I might do a couple of loads of washing and muck about with illustrations. In short, I hasten slowly. I live by my late father’s words, ‘The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get’, which I think he filched from the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. 

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

I’m not sure I have a favourite writing craft book. I’ve learned a lot by searching online and also from having done a short course with the Writers Bureau. I highly recommend it.

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

I have to say I’ve gained such a lot of insight from Anne Hamilton’s books, of which I’ve read four and intend to read the rest! I’ve loved Adele Jones’ ‘Integrate’ series and have also enjoyed David Bennett’s thought provoking, thoroughly researched work. I’m keen to read more.

And I absolutely cannot express the profound comfort brought to me by Anusha Atukorala’s beautifully penned devotionals.

There are so many other talented CWD writers whose books I haven’t yet read and when I do, I’ll likely want to list them among my favourites.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2020? How will you achieve them?

I’m keeping my goals focussed on the non-fiction work I mentioned earlier. I have a tendency to allow myself to be spread around too many ‘projects’, resulting in none of them coming to fruition. I really want to get my book to the first draft stage before the end of 2020 and it will take discipline for me not to distract myself with the myriad writing ideas that seem to shuffle around inside my head. I’ll certainly be asking God for His guidance. And asking family to hold me accountable.

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

That’s an interesting question. I think of myself as a bit of a fringe-dweller in that I don’t feel compelled to write only for Christians, or even to craft my writing in an overtly Christian way. That way, I feel I can reach people from outside Christian circles and perhaps plant a seed. My values, drawn from my faith, underpin all my writing. I keep things gentle, compassionate, inclusive and just. Christ’s heart for the poor, the sick and the disadvantaged is very much my own. I prefer to ‘love’ first, put my values into action and then, if the opportunity arises, I’ll share my faith.

Melinda Jensen has blogged extensively on emotional and psychological abuse and is currently enjoying a sea change from writing fiction to writing non-fiction, self-development books. Who'd have thought? A keen student of human nature, she's had articles, short stories and poetry published in a variety of magazines, newspapers and journals, having juggled single-motherhood and chronic illness for about 24 years. She's still almost sane and definitely has a heart for God and a yearning to bring a couple of books to fruition this year. Apart from that, she's besotted with cats, makes jolly good fudge and is desperately trying to keep her garden alive in the drought. On that note, she’s extremely passionate about the natural environment God has gifted us all with.