Monday, 15 August 2022

Omega Writers | Top 10 Tips for your First Writing Conference

By Iola Goulton

Do you live in Australia or New Zealand? Are you signed up to attend the Omega Writer’s Conference near Gold Coast from 7 to 9 October?

If you are, great! (If not, click here to sign up now!)

Some of you might be nervous about attending. Don’t be—there will be writers of all levels and all genres at the conference. The two things we all have in common are that we all write (or want to), and we’re all Christian. For those who are a little nervous, or who don’t know what to expect, here are my top ten tips based on what I've learned attending previous conferences:

1. Go for the whole weekend

It’s tempting for first-time attendees—especially those who live near the venue—to attend only for the Saturday. Yes, you’ll still learn a lot even if you only go for the day, but you won’t have the opportunity to get to know people as much as if you stayed for the whole weekend.

2. Most authors are introverts

Sure, some authors (and conference attendees) are extroverts. Most are not. We might not look like it at conference time, but we are. We have a fabulous extroverted time reconnecting with old friends and making new friends … then retreat into our introverted writing caves until Christmas (when our families demand we come out and pretend to be extroverts again).

3. Yes, we do know each other

When you arrive at conference, it can feel like everyone already knows everyone else. That’s partly true—but most of us only know each other from previous conferences, or from online writing groups such as the Australasian Christian Writers or Christian Writers Downunder Facebook groups. If you’re going to conference for the first time, join one (or both) of these groups and start interacting with the regular commenters. Then, when you get to conference, people will know you. I’ve formed real friendships from my online connections.

4. Arriving at conference

If you’re flying in, plan to arrive an hour or so early and take the conference bus. You don’t want to be stressing because you’re rushing. The bus passengers meet at a convenient coffee shop, so you have time to have a drink and a bite to eat. It’s also a great opportunity to meet and get to know some of the other attendees before arriving at the venue.

5. You are a writer

One of the questions you will be asked is “what do you write?” I remember Simon Kennedy asking me this at my first writer’s conference. My answer? I said I didn’t write—even though I was writing 150+ book reviews a year, plus dozens of blog posts on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. To anyone else, that looked like I was a writer. But it took me three or four years before I was able to admit to myself that yes, I was a writer, even though I wasn’t writing novels or screenplays or something “big”. Believe in yourself. You are a writer. Don’t buy into the lie that what you’re writing (or want to write) isn’t “real” in comparison to what X or Y is writing.

6. Be prepared to learn

This year's keynote speaker is Steven James, award-winning fiction author and writing instructor. I haven't heard Steven speak before, but I've read enough of his work to know I don't want to miss the opportunity to learn from him. No matter whether this is your first conference or you've been to more than you can count, you'll learn something ... whether that's from the presenters or your fellow attendees.

7. No one knows it all

We are all at conference to learn. No one knows everything there is to know about writing. The trick is to know what we know, to know what we don’t know, and to be teachable.

8. Don’t be intimidated

Really. Don’t. The only difference between you and the multi-published award-winning authors is BISFOK time. That’s Behind In Seat, Fingers On Keyboard. And your writing doesn’t have to be perfect—as an editor, I can assure you no one produces a perfect first draft.

9. Bring money

There is a conference bookstall, and you will want to buy books (especially when there is the opportunity to get author autographs as well!). To buy books, you need money. Don’t worry about your airline luggage allowance—you can arrange for your new purchases to be posted to you.

10. After-conference care

If you’re anything like me, you’ll eat too much, drink too much coffee, talk too much, and won’t get enough sleep (I blame those native Australian birds which sound like screaming, not my inability to go to bed on time). That’s all okay. Plan for it i.e. don’t schedule anything important for the next few days after conference. You’ll want some time to decompress, and to prayerfully consider how you’re going to apply what you’ve learned to your writing. And to your life.

If you’re a more experienced conference attendee, what are your tips for first-timers?

Monday, 8 August 2022



A call had been made from our Pastor, to come to the front of the church if we needed prayer. Being the independent soul that I am, I remained seated. There are many with greater needs than mine. So, I sat, but tears welled in my eyes, and I couldn’t hold them back. I stood and made my way to the front.

      My very close friend of thirty-four years, Eileen was dying in Toowoomba, and I made the three-hour trip to spend time with her and her family. She was the third very close friend, as well as my beautiful sister-in-law who had all recently passed away.

      A telephone call came, asking me to play for the funeral of the father of my hairdresser. She was also the mother of three students who I had taught over the years, one of them to diploma level. I said ‘yes’. My two nieces and nephew had lost their parents recently, and now called on me in hard times. Vikki’s husband had just undergone eight hours of heart surgery, the day before I found myself in tears at the front of the church. He was not expected to live, and then my next-door neighbour died two days before Eileen’s funeral.

      I knew they all needed me, but I was overwhelmed. It was too much.

      My Pastor held me by my shoulders and began speaking. I don’t remember everything he said, but one thing he told me seemed to me, as though it was written in neon lights.

     ‘Marion, do you remember the widow at Zarapeth?’ He then went on to recall the story. There was famine in the land. She had gone out to gather a few sticks to make a fire and cook a meal, the last meal, for herself and her son and then they would die for that was all she had left. She had come to the end of what she had and was at that place of desperate need.

      Elijah had turned up and requested some water to drink and a piece of bread.

      She replied, ‘I don’t have any bread, just a handful of flour and a little oil, just enough to make a meal for my son and myself’, but Elijah told her to go, make a loaf for him, and then prepare for herself and her son. He told her, ‘The flour and oil will not fail, until the rains come.’

      She was overwhelmed already, but she was asked to give more. She had to exercise faith, she had to be obedient. She chose to do both and made the bread for Elijah. God came through for her and there was still enough for her to prepare bread for herself and her son.  Day by day she took from the jar of flour and the jug of oil and prepared a meal for the three of them, as God provided the requirements needed to do so.

      If she could do this, then I also could do what I needed to do. No longer overwhelmed, I was able to meet the demands on me. I was at peace. My nephew received a miracle and lived. I went to all three funerals in the space of about ten days.

      I know that many of you are struggling with life’s obstacles, while at the same time, striving to be obedient to your calling to write and whatever else.


     Marion Kilchester published her first book, 'Though the Storms Rage, yet I will dance in the rain'. Her second book, 'Ludmila's Story', is in its final stages.  As she is nearly seventy-five, technology really bamboozles her. There are many experienced writers here . She feels she's not qualified to  talk about how to write to many with far more expertise than her in these areas. So she has shared from her own faith walk.

      Her webpage is called ‘www.leavesof’ bringing hope in a loving God and His faithfulness, which she can give.  She loves to encourage other writers and runs a small writer's group.

Marion lives in the northern outskirts of Caboolture with her littel dog, Hope. She is surrounded by family and friends.











































     Marion Kilchester is a mum and grandmother. At 75, she loves spending time with family and friends and her little dog, Hope.


     Having taught classroom music and piano, now in her retirement, she published her first book, Though the Storms Rage Yet Will I Dance in 2021. Marion has just completed her second book, a biography about her mother-in-law, Ludmila, who grew up and survived in The Ukraine, under the rule of Stalin, before finding herself transported in a ‘cattle-train’ to a forced-labour-camp in Germany, under the rule of Hitler. At the end of the war, Ludmila made another epic journey, this time by boat, to Australia where she made a new life for herself and her family.


     Marion’s books are about hope, positivity, and resilience in the face of huge obstacles.


Her website is





Thursday, 4 August 2022

Beauty and Short Stories - Writing 'Touching the Sky'

Rosanne Hawke

My work in progress is a middle-grade novel. I’ve had the idea for this story for a while and even wrote a short story about the character with a different name, Zander. That short story is called ‘Touching the Sky’ and will be published soon in Dust Makers, an anthology of climate-change stories from Rhiza Edge. This is not the first time I have written a short story, then written the novel. This time I started with the idea for the novel first but wrote the short story as I began the draft to get to know my character and his voice better. I find I can’t really start writing until I know a lot about my characters, e.g. what they are like, what they want, and especially how they sound.

I also wanted to see what would emerge as a most important time in my character’s life, for this is where stories and novels most differ, I think. A short story is a slice, a moment, exploring one main event and idea in a character’s life, whereas the novel can develop many such moments into a journey the character embarks upon for months or more. I started writing with short stories – we all do because at school that’s all there is time for. One of my stories was published in a high school magazine, but my writing career began with novels. That’s what my kids wanted to read. Once I’d discovered the full canvas of a novel, I decided short stories, though beautiful, were harder to write. Rather than fine miniature painting with water colour, I think I’d prefer slapping oils on a canvas. Guess that’s not the best analogy as novels also need to be polished and fine-tuned to be beautiful – but they do give room to move with all the ideas growing from a central one. 

So why can I write a short story about climate change? I grew up in a drought in Outback Central QLD. When I wasn’t at our one teacher school or on the hour-long bus run in a converted cattle truck, I walked with my kelpie-cross dog, climbed windmills, fell off horses and was last in the bath. I learned never to waste water. 

When writing ‘Touching the Sky’ I was rereading Frederick Buechner’s books and like his father, I realised that Zander’s dad had suicided. The death of Buechner’s father affected him all his life – it is present in most of his work. Mental health is a huge problem in our rural areas, especially with the effects of climate change where crops can’t be seeded since rain doesn’t come, bushfires occur and burned animals need to be shot, and now the effects of covid on the farm business. These events have affected the most resilient of farmers. 

When writing I always hope the story will be beautiful in some way, that it will touch a reader. But what could be beautiful when a dad dies in a story? We could think of the form, the words, the way the character heals, but I’m wondering if beauty has more to do with light. There is a story about the famous Dutch artist Vermeer where he was unhappy with a painting. The character was portrayed well, the composition correct, but he knew something vital was missing. He finally realised there was no light. He painted in a window so light could shine on the side of a face, on the folds of a dress – subtle use of colour to show beauty. In our writing where does the beauty originate? From the Light of the World. I’m learning that a thing is beautiful not because we deem it so, but because Christ Jesus has made it so.

In a story, this beauty and light will shine in the way the theme is treated, the form of the story, the setting, choice of words, images, that phrase which paints a picture without even using an adjective, the arresting verbs, the light shed on the face of the character and in his heart. May this Light in our stories become God’s way of wooing a reader into a loving relationship with him. 

The anthology Dust Makers will be released in October by Rhiza Press

Pre-order at 

Image credit: Ailsa Green, Dust Storm near Hawker, South Australia, used with permission.

Rosanne Hawke is an Australian author from Penola, South Australia who has written over 25 books for young adults and children. She teaches tertiary level Creative Writing at Tabor Adelaide. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide.

Monday, 1 August 2022

Highlight on Writing Craft

 by Jeanette O'Hagan

Writing aphorisms abound and like most aphorisms you can usually find one to suit your purpose.

W. Somerset Maugham  — 'There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.'

Mark Twain  — There are but three rules for writing, namely, first, write, second, write, third, write.

James Scott Bell - The three rules for writing, Don't Bore the Reader, Put the character in crisis. Write from the Heart.

James goes on to say in his blogpost 'The Three Rules for Writing a Novel' "These, then, are the three rules for writing a novel. You can break them if you like, but do so and they will break your chances of success."

And that's the thing.  In one sense, there are no rules to writing. Writing, especially as personal expression, can be what we want it to be. We can write for healing or for entertaining ourselves or perhaps our close and willing friends and family. There is nothing wrong with that. 

But, and this is a big but, IF we want to get out writing out into the wild, for others to read then we need to be aware of the expectations of those others - of editors, publishers and, most of all, of our readers.  And in that sense, there are indeed rules - probably more than three. And those rules can change - what worked for most readers two hundred years ago - or even twenty years ago - may not appeal to the modern reader. 

I should say, the rules are more guidelines. And the more you know what they are, the more you know when you can break them. And the more you write, the more you learn, the more you develop your own voice and style. A journey that is never really finished. In the end, it's your story, your book, your choice.

Rather than tell you want the rules are, I thought I'd share things that have shaped my own development of the craft.  

Be a Reader. 

One of Stephen King's ten top rules for writing is "Read, read and read some more!"  Certainly, for me, one of the major influences has been a voracious reading habit since I was seven years old. Reading has gives an intuitive knowledge of story - the rhythms, the notes, the themes, the grace notes. Clinging to clichés can become a problem. Other's superb prose can be daunting. But overall, reading widely can give us a good feel for what works and what doesn't. 

Be a Writer

As Mark Twain's rules suggest - to be a writer you need to write. Just as the best way to learn to swim is to get into the pool (under supervision), the best way to learn to write is to write, and write some more. And as you write, think about what you doing - what works and what doesn't. 

For me, my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) transformed my writing habits. The goal is to write a novel (specifically 50,000) words in a month.  

What this taught me is to give space to my writing brain while my editing brain takes a short break. In other words, allow the words to flow, don't worry too much have good they are, just keep going - and come back and edit them later. (The only downside to this is now I have nine almost complete novels that need editing, lol). 

The other thing it taught me is, don't wait for inspiration before starting to write. If I make a habit of writing regularly, the inspiration finds me - and the more regularly I write (or edit) the more I find myself in the 'flow' or the 'zone', the more inspired and creative I am. 

Taking Time to Study

Writing courses can give a deeper and more profound knowledge of the writing craft. It broadens our horizons at the same time as giving a better understanding of how story works and how to bring all the elements such as narrative, characters, setting, plot, writing style together successfully.

I certainly have found this to be so. First, with a study of literary theory and communication in an Arts degree, following by a Masters of Arts (Creative Writing). What I liked about this was it didn't just give rules but ways of understanding the why and the how.

Courses don't need to be academic. They can be as simple as a workshop or short course. One of the most transformative and empowering classes I did on writing style was Margie Lawson's Immersion Class.  And many of the workshops and presentations at the Omega Writers Conferences over the years have also been a great help in understanding a wide range of issues. 

In addition, several websites have also been of a great help.  Both Christian Writers Downunder and the Australasian Christian Writers have a wealth of information on almost any area you could imagine about the writing craft.  Katy Weiland's Helping Authors Become Writers is a great resource, particularly in understanding structure and character development.

Be Brave. Get Feedback

Another resource is feedback from beta-readers, critique groups, fellow authors and editors. I've learned to love feedback, even negative feedback. Some of the most devastating feedback I've received has been, in the end the most helpful (once I've picked myself up from the floor, bandaged my ego and talked myself out of giving up writing forever and a day). Of course, feedback doesn't have to be devastating - hopefully, it is kind and constructive. And we don't need to accept all of it - trust your own judgement as well. Feedback is pure gold.

Back to Books.

Books on writing have also been a great help to me - both in understanding the writing journey and in understanding the writing craft.  Here are a few I've particularly loved.

The Word Loss Diet by Rayne Hall

Rayne Hall has a series of small books focused on various aspects on writing. Her book on Writing Vivid Descriptions is also brilliant as are others. But The Word Loss Diet helped me tighten my prose - and it gives helpful and practical examples. 

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

A great introduction to some modern expectations in writing style. 
This book h as three parts - the first and last are autobiographical and personal, while the middle a clearly written, practical look at a writer's journey from starting out, craft issues, publishing and more. In my book, well worth the read.

Stephen James proposes an alternative approach to detailed planning based on a precise formulaic three-act plot structure. He is a pantser and his organic approach draws on the unfolding of the story based on certain story dynamics or principles and reader expectations.  I loved the books - and by the way, Stephen James will be at the Omega Writers Conference this year.

Story Genius by Lisa Cron

A look at how the emotional inner journey of the character drives the story. To be honest, this isn't my favourite book. I personally found K M Weiland's work (webpage and book) on the character's narrative arch and emotional journey more helpful but I know many have loved this book. 

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

Actually written for screen writers, it's a succinct explanation of story structure and many practical tips. 

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Another autobiographical book on the writing journey will some great insight and helpful hints.

Other books have also been insightful on different areas such as point of view, making the first page sing, writing blurbs and pitches, mistakes to avoid in writing fight scenes, or about horses etc.  

So where are you at on the writing journey - and what resources have you found helpful, insightful or inspiration in developing your skills as an writer? Drop a comment below - or on the CWD facebook page. It will be great to hear from you :)

Jeanette O'Hagan has 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 the Under the Mountain Series (5 books), Ruhanna's Flight and Other Stories, Akrad's Children and Rasel's Song, the first two books in the Akrad's Legacy series - and new short story in the Starlit Realms: Fantasy anthology.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life.

Monday, 25 July 2022

Does Your Computer Need an Update?

This post is inspired by Eddie Pinero’s Prove Everyone Wrong Podcast, starting at 23:30 - if you don’t have time to read this through - listen to his podcast instead, then come back. 

My computer usually tells me when there is a new update available for my operating system, but after listening to one of Eddie Pinero’s podcasts recently, I thought I’d check before sitting down to write the draft of this post.

Photo by on Unsplash

There was an update. 

Do you think I decided to update my computer first? It would be considered a great procrastination tool. Most of us writers know a thing or two about procrastination - how to do it, when to use it and why we love it.

The answer would be no, I did not update my OS. It’s interesting I find having to update my computer as an annoyingly, inconvenient thing to have to do. Does anyone else feel like this? Maybe it’s because my computer tells me there’s a new update available at a time when I don’t have time to wait twenty to forty-five minutes while it does it’s thing. Maybe because the notification says, Update now and I’m a rebel and don’t like being told what to do. Maybe it’s because I don’t know what the update will do and I don’t see the point. My computer does everything I need it to do. It’s working fine, so does an update really need to be performed now? Surely it can wait for a more convenient time.

Why am I talking about updating the OS on my computer? This is a writing blog, or it's supposed to be.

I know, but please indulge me.

The operating system on your computer is the brains of the operation. The updates it receives gives the computer new information, new tricks and tips to be better at working for you when you need it to. Think of it as a writing course for your computer. 

Why do we do writing course or go to conferences? Social interaction for the introverted writer? Uh, no. Writing courses, conferences, retreats. These things help us gain better knowledge and skills to improve our writing. We all have a passion and talent for writing, but we don’t know everything. Some people are excellent describers, while others are amazing at dialogue. Some have a knack for compelling storylines and I envy those who know their characters like they're best friends.

Photo by Chris Hardy on Unsplash

God did not create us perfect (okay, he did at the beginning, but we are far from perfect now) and that includes our talents. We all have something to learn which will allow us to enhance our writing techniques … mine included. Most writers want their written work to be the best it can be. Some just want to write that one story and feel the accomplishment of having a physical copy in their hand. That’s fantastic. If that’s you - go forth and enjoy. Other writers like myself have many stories vying for their attention and want to be a published author and earn millions of dollars … so why are we not learning from others and gaining more knowledge to make our stories better? God wants us to learn, grow and experience life. That goes for growing our talents too, don’t you think?

But I don’t have the time, you say. I don’t have the money. I have kids that need looking after, I’m not even writing at the moment, blah, blah, blah. Do you know what I hear? Excuses. And don’t think I don’t make them myself. I don’t have the time. I manage a retail store four days a week and anyone who says it’s just a 9-5 job hasn’t managed one before. I’m also studying an Arts Degree online, majoring in Game Design and Animation. I don’t have kids, but I live with two teenagers and that’s enough for me. I’m not writing at the moment, but that’s not a lack of time (I do watch Netflix …) and do you honestly think I have the money for more courses? Ha!

I get it. I understand, but these excuses are just that. Excuses. I have been contemplating the Omega Writers Conference for so long that I have missed the early bird cutoff date. But it’s only another $50.00 you’re paying and that’s just a family takeout meal you could skip …

Excuse 1 - I don’t have the time.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

If you’re like me, you have many, many weeks up your sleeve in annual leave. Take some time off for yourself! No one can do that for you but you. Do two weeks worth of study in one week. That next week is free.

Excuse 2 - I don’t have the money.

How much takeout do you have each week? Uber Eats? Menulog? Door Dash? Do you eat a lot of junk food? What about Netflix? Stan? Amazon Prime? Disney? Binge? How many of these you you have? 1, 2 … 3? 4!? If you cut down your subscriptions, stop eating so much takeaway, and got rid of most of the junk food you eat and started to portion your food so your not eating as much as you do (the body doesn’t need nearly as much as you would think it does), you would actually save hundreds per week.

Excuse 3 - I have kids that need looking after (I don’t, but I’m sure someone does).

Kids? If you have a partner, get him or her to look after them for a few days. No partner? No problem. If your kids have friends or you have family members close by (Auntie’s are the coolest), I’m sure a planned sleepover for a couple nights would make you the best mum or dad ever! Kids love sleepovers, especially if it’s a whole weekend. You could always offer to do the same (I’m sure your kid’s friends, parents would love a weekend off too).

If you have a puppy, get a friend to look after the cutie. I'm sure there is someone who loves your puppy nearly as much as you do and would love to dog-sit for a couple days.

Photo by Kevin Stark on Unsplash

Excuse 4 - I’m not even writing at the moment.

I wonder why. You’re working all the time, studying all the time, kids have you on the ropes and words don’t even exist in your reality at the moment. If you’re not writing at the moment, it’s probably because you’re lost the momentum or the inspiration or both. If you still want writing to be a part of your life and those stories are still ticking away in the back corner of that dusty storage room in your brain, then a conference is the perfect place for you. I know. Sounds stupid. You’re not writing at the moment, so why spend the money to even go there when you won’t use the skills you learn? Because I know from experience that being around people who live and breathe writing helps boost that momentum. Being away from the normal, everyday life you live, boosts inspiration and having that moment to yourself, to do something you love, will get you writing again; even if it’s just for that weekend.

Excuse 5 - Enter your excuse here ...

I'm not proficient enough to answer all your excuses, but click here and listen to, Break Your Negative Thinking | Wake Up Positive podcast by Eddie Pinero. I don't think you'll have any excuses for anything afterwards.

So. No more excuses. Looks like I’m going to the conference.

Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

If you’re still reading and need a little more of a push in the right direction - listen to Eddie Pinero’s Prove Everyone Wrong Podcast from 23:30 onwards. Then go back and listen to the whole thing. Then put his podcast into your favourites. You won’t be sorry.

Kirsten (aka A.T. Richmond) 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, A.T. Richmond has had two short stories published (under K.A. Hart). 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 (and has been for a while ...), but no more excuses, right?! Coffee helps.

Thursday, 21 July 2022

Writing under a pseudonym


You know me as Claire Bell, but you won’t find my books by googling that name. In fact, you would find a number of authors and editors and have difficulty working out if any of them was me. 

I started using the pseudonymic surname ‘Belberg’ eight years ago in anticipation of being published. I set up my author email and started blogging to build an audience familiar with the name. I sent work out in that name if it was fiction or poetry suitable for mainstream audiences. I continued to use my everyday name for anything more personal or overtly Christian. I figured my secular audience would not appreciate getting a faceful of Christian language if they were hunting up some new mainstream work by me. (I realise some Christian writers would disagree with that decision, but that’s a different topic for discussion.) 

The other reason I chose to use a pen name was to add a small barrier to identity for the sake of my family. Since it’s pretty easy to work out the connection between the two names if anyone wanted to, that was probably a pointless line of reasoning. I would have had to work a lot harder to make it a real barrier. 

The name I chose was created to honour both my families – my birth family and the family I married into. I combined the two surnames after checking whether there were any other authors coming up on search engines with the name Belberg. Bingo! A unique name.

 The question I ask myself now: is it worth it? 

I like the name Belberg and its uniqueness. I don’t actually know if anyone has ever googled it but if they did, they would have found me on the first hit, either my blog or one of my novels. 

But promoting my work in the community that knows me gets a bit confusing. I find I have to keep telling people both names, or if they know me well enough, remind them that the book is under a pen name. It would be so much easier if they could just use the name they know. My Facebook identity is in my everyday name and I couldn’t face adding an author page and having another platform to keep up to date. Facebook, the blog and Goodreads are more than enough – and if you follow me on any of them, you’ll see how patchy my ‘keeping up’ is already!

Filling in forms associated with writing (e.g. lending rights, legal deposit, library distribution) can also be a little confusing. Do they want my author name or my legal name when they simply ask for name?

Having a pen name that is close to my everyday name encourages misspelling as one has a double ‘L’ and the other a single ‘L’. No one will be able to find me if they search the pen name with two Ls. Sigh. In fact, what comes up if you do search that is what a lot of people hear when I say ‘Belberg’ – bellbird. Pretty, but not me. It’s a pity when a piece of work is published under the misspelling, but that can happen with a legal name too. I once read dozens of comments to a Facebook post about this. In every English-speaking country, it seems, even simple names like Bell or Smith can get garbled. In my first transaction as a newly married woman giving my name to a salesperson, they spelled it as Belle. Having traded a commonly misspelled name for a simple one, I was flabbergasted and quite disappointed!

If I had a wide audience, I would probably be unequivocally content to use a pen name. For now it seems a bit of a nuisance and a mite pretentious. Maybe the day will come when it will pay off, when readers keenly search for more works by Claire Belberg and bypass all those Bells. Of course, if they're the readers of my devotionals or Christian poetry, they might still find it hard to pick me out of the crowd. I wonder if I should create another pseudonym for those

Monday, 18 July 2022

What's New from Omega Writers | July 2022

Omega Writers Conference

Today is 18 July, which means the earlybird pricing for the 2022 Omega Writers Conference ends tonight at 11:59pm NSW and Queensland time. Click here to register now to save $50.  Remember, members get a discount on their conference registration fee. You can find the discount code in the members-only section of the website.

  Peppers Kingscliff Resort

Conference Bookshop

One of the best/worst features of conference is the bookshop.
Best, because it's your opportunity to stock up on books by fellow Australian and New Zealand Christian writers, and to get them autographed. 

Worst, because I take no responsibility for the state of your bank account after you've visited the bookshop. The bookshop accepts cash, debit, and credit cards.

  Omega Writer's Conference Bookstall 

For those of you who have booked a seat-only flight to conference, don't worry. The bookshop will post your purchases anywhere in Australia for $12.95, with no limit on order size. (Because you really do need all the books. Honest.) The bookshop will be run by Rowena Beresford of Novella Distribution. If you'd like your books to be available for sale at the bookshop, click here and complete the form.
Please note that only authors who have pre-registered with Novella Distribution will be able to sell books at the conference.
You will not be able to bring your own books to sell.

Promotion Opportunities

Are you an author, editor, publisher, cover designer, formater, or anyone else who provides services to writers? If so, we have two promotion opportunities for you:
  • Include your business card, bookmark, brochure or other writer swag in the conference showbag for AUD 50 (plan to provide a minimum of 70)
  • Sign up for a display table for AUD 150
Omega Writers reserves the right to reject any applications if the content is deemed inappropriate for delegates. Click here to apply.

Hub Appointments

If you're interested in booking a one-on-one Hub appointment with any of our visiting publishing professionals, book now. Several participants have only two appointments left. 

 Note that all Hub appointments are only available to in-person conference attendees (even the Zoom appointments). If you've already booked to attend conference, you can still book a Hub appointment separately. If you haven't booked to attend conference ... book now :) 

For those wondering about booking an appointment with me (Iola Goulton): I have booked to come to conference, and plan to be there in-person (and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again!). However, I'm coming from New Zealand, so my attendance will depend on me staying well and there being no NZ/Australian travel restrictions in early October.

Feedback to Unpublished CALEB Entrants

I had planned to get the feedback out before now, but the day job keeps getting in the way. I am sorry. I haven't forgotten, and I will get the feedback out as soon as I can.

CALEB Finalists

Thanks to those CALEB finalists who have sent through their photograph, bio, and address details. I look forward to receiving the rest soon.

Thursday, 7 July 2022

Talking books – Listen up! by Ruth Bonetti

Word is out that audio books are hot sellers. (Tell me, is it so?) 

Word is out that, like bookshops, Amazon Audible shun small fry accounts. Authors should enlist a third party company to fast track. 

So I outlaid. Speak Out-Don’t Freak Out joined the clamour of audio books. But last week, I realised my audio book had become Phantom of the Audible. Terse phone calls and emails resulted in links to other sites while the go-between negotiates with Amazon Audible to reinstate.

Listen Up and Speak Out!

A lightbulb moment brightened recent gloom. With time on my hands, experience of speaking, of training and coaching speakers to confident performance polish and even the book (but sorry, no T-shirt)... 

Why not narrate my own books

Cue self-sabotage...

I'm a bear of limited tech brain. 

But, aha! I know a savant who revels in such. Musician colleague and former student Kathy is paying off the Classical clarinet I no longer play. She has some time on her hands and welcomes a project. Hear her on Soundcloud, a site she led me to. Rather than borrow her kind offer of tools of trade equipment, we went to an audio shop and I bought the most user-friendly device possible, a Zoom TN1. Too easy!

The mic sports a “dead cat” to block extraneous noise, so I can record out on my deck. I begin narrating Burn my Letters, the first book of the Midnight Sun to Southern Cross trilogy. 

Cue a Molotov cocktail of self-sabotage, frustration and reality check

Have I bitten off an elephant of words! Perhaps it's enough to narrate a chapter of each book as PR teasers? 

And what to do with male Swedish voices who predominate in the book? Its main protagonist hero is a Finland-Swede, and my book includes magical realism conversations with him. I begin to regret this clever trick which enables me to go inside heads and explore motives. 

Northern Light and Sound

Email a friend of 50-years with decades' experience as a music journalist with Swedish Radio. Now retired, he has time on his hands. Professional but humble, Carl (“Calle”) sounds caution. Any mispronounced colloquial words would shriek unprofessional. Feel free to ask another friend of 50 years. But hear Calle in this narration, round 3'40". after an intro précis) reading lines from Kalevela. What say you? 

Email Jan Westerlund, a flautist with whom I performed in Regionmusiken 50 years ago (see pp 47-46 of Burn My Letters). He's interested. 

Sound circles around the globe

So my team consists of two Swedes and we two who live streets away in Brisbane. After recording takes, I drop the SD card into Kathy’s letterbox, she edits and uploads. 

LISTEN UP! Enjoy our team work Introduction and Chapter 1 of Burn My Letters 

It includes an excerpt of Grandad's 1960s radio interview 2'30".


Opportunity: Do you dream of your own titles morphing into audio books? Would a teaser audio chapter boost your book sales? As I finesse my narrative skills and eventually learn editing expertise (meanwhile supported by Kathy's brilliant savvy) I'll offer these to other authors. Contact me if my voice suits your book. 

You, too, could enter a new genre, the talking book.

RUTH BONETTI is author/editor of a dozen publications, firstly in her primary field of music and performance. Her passion is a heritage trilogy Midnight Sun to Southern Cross, of which Burn My Letters won the Omega Writers Nonfiction CALEB award in 2017. 




Ruth channels Karl Johan's Facebook page

Ruth's occasional blog

Order autographed copies of Ruth's books

Thank you for reviews on Goodreads.  They're gold to authors who hate blowing their own trumpets. Though this one is so excited by her new foray into tech, please forgive the many links!

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

The what, why and when of woke

I always thought the word ‘woke’ was the simple past tense of wake, as in ‘I woke up and it was already late.’ Likewise, it has taken time to understand ‘woke’ as an adjective, as being ‘sensitised to prejudice and conscious of its manifestations in society’ (Macquarie Dictionary Online).

When I write, I want to be aware of current trends and I don’t want to disenfranchise my readers. But ‘woke’ philosophy combines with a countercultural protest movement which is as ugly as the sins it seeks to expose, like racism. Yeah, it’s bad. Cancel it. But calling out would-be perpetrators by wrecking their careers without trial? How is that fair?

Attribution: Photo by Tom Chen on Unsplash

Literary classics written years ago are not exempt. The movement has already forced many books from sale including six of Dr Seuss’ works, because they are judged as having racist themes.

The hit movie, ‘The Grinch that stole Christmas’, is also affected. Woke commentators say that the Grinch’s green skin is a deliberate choice showing his inferiority to the white-skinned characters in the book. It doesn’t matter what the author thought. It is how it is perceived, now.

Banning Dr Seuss’ books and those of other authors is extreme behaviour. It is a real-life ‘Fahrenheit 451’ (Ray Bradbury). In that classic fiction, the written word was physically destroyed by fire, thereby cancelling ideas that were dangerous to a threatened ruling collective.

Attribution: Photo by Freddy Kearny on Unsplash

Isms and history

Recently, I completed a survey about attitudes toward indigenous people of Australia. I don’t think myself racist, but I was assessed subconsciously racist.

I don’t deny the reasons. My school taught that England’s colonisation of Australia was history we needed to know—and the correct response was to call it ‘civilisation’. There was also, the subject called ‘English’, being the study of the literature of England. William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ was still on the recommended reading list, decades after I matriculated. It lauded the governance and culture of the British Empire, and by extension, marked down other models.

Golding is cited as believing that without the constraints of society, humankind would regress to its most base instincts, to hunt and kill.  In ‘Lord of the Flies’, war refugees crash-land on an uninhabited tropical island. Conveniently, only children and youths survive. There is now little life experience to guide decision-making. One of the main characters, Jack, forms an alternate system of government which discriminates against those that can’t hunt and kill effectively. He is drawn as someone unable to think or plan ahead. ‘Order’ is restored when a British Naval officer (Golding was one of these during WWII) sees a burning island and comes to investigate. Golding’s theorem is ‘proved’ and alternate arguments cancelled.

But I wouldn’t cancel Golding despite disagreeing with his logic. The world needs healthy debate rather than being told how to behave, or else.

Many of my teachers and peers have voiced the opinion: ‘I wouldn’t trust Aboriginal people. They are not like us.’ It didn’t occur to me then how racist that was. But it is.

Attribution: Photo by Tom Chen on Unsplash

The majority is not always right.

Alternate beliefs need to be evaluated. Jesus, not culture, is the standard-bearer

Jesus taught social justice such as caring for the widows and defending the fatherless. But in it, he did not raise a hand against his oppressors, even though the offenders included the designated representatives of God—priests tasked with teaching about God and doing his deeds on earth. He spoke of their failures, but he commended the priestly office as he was to become the fulfilment of it through his death, resurrection and ascension into heaven.

Was Jesus woke? Yes—he opened blinded eyes.

And no—he came to redeem the lost, not to cancel them.

How creative people can avoid cultural errors

In today’s world, you must avoid cultural missteps. Authors—indeed, anyone who creates, publishes, or broadcasts—can slip up.

Because most creators are blind to their own bias, make sure your output is not going to provoke an adverse reaction from any segment of your audience. Don’t rely on the AI in off-the-shelf online editors. Using an experienced ‘sensitivity reader’, a type of beta reader, will recognise triggers or inaccuracies specific to your characters. This expert pinpoints cultural missteps, inherent bias, or stereotypes, which can then be redacted from your writing—by you.

You cancel the bad and redeem the message you want to convey.

It might just be the new awakening.

Relevant reading:

‘Netflix pulls Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Outraging Viewers.’ Cameron Bonomolo. Published December 2, 2019. ComicBook: (

’Woke Horror’, The new monster on the block.’ Mike Duran. Published October 27, 2021: (

‘Top ten books you were forced to read in school: Lord of the Flies.’ Nate Rawlings. Published July 9, 2010. Time: (

‘When I woke up.’ Meredith Resce. Published January 20, 2022. Australasian Christian Writers: (

Marc Jeffrey is an Adelaide-based author and poet who loves to craft words in times when his beautiful wife and lively dog (Shih tzu cross Chihuahua) are asleep. He writes of hope and justice, depositing his characters in the nexus between the ‘what is’ and the ‘what if’ – while wondering if he can leave the house without waking anyone up.

He is long-time member of the ‘Literati’ writing group, that grew out of the Tabor Adelaide Creative Writing program. When he’s not writing, Marc listens to his favourite music, which ranges from Cold Chisel to Claude Debussy