Monday, 30 November 2015

The Value of Small Groups by Nola Passmore

We’ve had a few posts lately about the value of being involved in writing groups such as Christian Writers Downunder, Australasian Christian Writers, FaithWriters and Omega Writers.  These groups all provide encouragement, inspiration and tips for writers and those in related areas.  They’ve all developed great online communities and I’ve met a number of members through conferences and other writers’ events. 

However, social media can’t provide me with one thing I cherish—actual face-to-face interactions with others who share my interests and passions.  There’s something special about being able to sit across from someone in a cafĂ© and discuss the manuscript that’s actually in front of you (along with the peppermint tea and gluten-free brownie).  That’s where small groups can be so beneficial.

I didn’t know I needed other writers around me for support until Adele Jones and I both turned up to a poetry reading in 2008.  We’d met some years before but neither of us knew the other was a writer.

‘Oh, we should have a coffee sometime to chat about writing?’

‘Great idea.  When are you free?’

That one-off coffee date turned into a regular writing chat.  We had a mutual friend Janelle who was also interested in writing so we invited her along.  Then I discovered that my friend Pamela had started to write, so she joined the group.  Before long Rachel, Cathie and Sandra were sharing the fun, and Quirky Quills was born.

So what does a typical meeting look like?  Well, I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a typical meeting. We’ve done spontaneous free-writing activities based on excursions or prompts, we’ve passed our writing around for critique, we’ve shared our goals and projects and prayed over them.  We’ve taken turns setting homework exercises that have sometimes had surprising results, like the time we had to write a 200-word story that included the word callipygian (i.e. having a well-shaped derriere).  And no, I didn’t think of that one!  I’ve also had a ‘nagging’ ministry in which I’ve encouraged everyone to submit work to various competitions, anthologies and magazines.

There have been some tangible outcomes in the form of publications, but there have also been the more intangible results—close friendships, the building of skills, learning from constructive feedback, the sparking of creative juices and the never-ending supply of delectable food.

More recently, Adele and I started up the Toowoomba chapter of Omega Writers where we’ve had the opportunity to run workshops for a wider audience.  It’s been exciting to see other Christian writers come together to encourage each other and learn from one another.  We’ve even had our first writer’s retreat.  And yes, there was more yummy food.  Mmm … I think there’s a theme here.

We can all beaver away in our own writing hutches, but with God and the support of others, there’s no limit to what we can achieve for the Kingdom.  Afterall, ‘as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another’ (Proverbs 27:17).

If you’re not a member of a face-to-face writing group, why not give it a try?  Perhaps something is already available in your area.  Your state writers’ centre may have a list of groups available or you could ask at your local library.  If there are no suitable groups nearby, you could start your own.  See if there are members of CWD, ACW, FaithWriters or Omega Writers in your area and invite people to meet up. 

The content of the meetings will vary depending on members’ interests.  Some groups may be in a position to invite guest speakers or attend writing events together.  Others may wish to have more of a critique group or support group.  Some may wish to start a group around a particular theme (e.g. children’s writing or memoir).  If you’re not sure what to cover in your meetings, you could even choose a good writing book and work through the chapters and exercises.  Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King is one of my favourites, but there are tons more on the market depending on your needs. 

And remember that you don’t have to start big.  It can be as easy as saying to another writing friend, ‘Hey, how about we meet for a cuppa and talk about writing?’  You never know where that conversation will lead.

Have any of you discovered the value of face-to-face writing groups?  I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 150 short pieces published, including devotionals, true stories, magazine articles, academic papers, poetry and short fiction.  She loves sharing what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same.  She and her husband Tim have their own freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her writing tips blog at their website:  

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Glimpses of Light Anthology

Christian Writers Downunder is excited to announce the cover reveal of the Glimpses of Light anthology.  

(The cover photo Scawfell Sunset is used with permission from Australian romantic suspense author Helene Young

Like most years, 2015 has been a year of contrasts with its fair share of victories, challenges and tragedies. And while it hasn’t received much fanfare – it has also been dubbed the International Year of Light.

Sometime last year, I spoke to Nola Passmore about the concept of producing an anthology to celebrate the Year of Light with profits going a charity like CBM Australia (formerly Christian Blind Mission). At first we put it in the ‘too hard basket’, but the idea just wouldn’t go away. So I was excited when Nola agreed to partner with me in conjunction with Christian Writers Downunder to produce the anthology.

At the beginning of the year (16 January) we invited contributions for the Glimpses of Light anthology to Christian Writers Downunder members. We were thrilled at the response. We have also appreciated our support team, including our back-up judges, editors and proof-readers – Jo-Anne Berthelsen, Lynne Stringer, Christina Aitken and Paula Vince. We’d also like to thank Helene Young for allowing us to use her gorgeous photo for the cover.

While we didn’t accept every submission, we were pleased with the creativity and quality of the entries and delighted that our contributors were prepared to work with us in two rounds of editing plus proofing.

The anthology includes short stories, poems, flash fiction and creative non-fiction on the theme of glimpses of light (light in dark places). I was delighted with the number of speculative fiction entries, Nola was relieved that not all the short stories were as long as many of the fantasy pieces and enjoyed the poetry and creative non-fiction (though she just may be convert to spec fic).

Glimpses of Light is in the process of being typeset and with one final round of proofing, should be available as a print book and e-book on (or before) the 17th December.

The contributions are:
Ben-Shachar  Naomi Edwards (short story)
Faith of Birds Jeanette Grant-Thomson (creative non-fiction)
The Last Blood Moon Charis Joy Jackson (short story)
Night Turns to Day Jo Wanmer (poem)
Kaleidoscope Adele Jones (short story)
The Window Seat Ellen Carr (poem)
Ruhanna's Flight Jeanette O’Hagan (short story)
Risk Jo Wanmer (flash fiction)
The Follower Nola Passmore (short story)
Moon People Paula Vince (creative non-fiction)
My Light, My Love Robyn Campbell (short story)
A Light From Heaven Mazzy Adams (poem)
From Darkness Lynne Stringer (short story)
The Prayer Ellen Carr (poem)
Where Are You From? Mimi Emmanuel (flash fiction)
A Dream Realised Anusha Atukorala (short story)
God’s Woollen Blanket Josephine-Anne Griffiths (poem)
Edward: On Going Alone Catriona McKeown (short story)
Beating Around the Bushel Bush Nola Passmore (flash fiction)
The Puzzle Robyn Campbell (poem)
A Light to My Path Adam Collings (short story)
The Temple Pamela Hemskeerk (poem)
The Journey Mazzy Adams (poem)
Stone Bearer Kirsten Hart (short story)
Sight Sue Jeffrey (poem)
Revelation Jo-Anne Berthelsen (creative non-fiction)

Congratulations to all our contributors and a big thank you from Nola and myself to everyone who has worked towards making the anthology a reality. I can’t wait to hold Glimpses of Light in my hands and once again enjoy the stories and poems of inspiration and hope it contains. 

Jeanette O'Hagan

Jeanette (Jenny) and Nola at the recent Toowomba Writers Festival

Monday, 23 November 2015

Out of My Comfort Zone by Pamela Heemskerk

Why don’t you write about it?

Me? Write?

Yes. Put it down on paper.

So I started. As I started writing, it became really interesting, then it became a booklet.

Why don’t you get it published?

Publish? Me?

I foresaw a life of camping, boating, jigsaws, sailing, meeting friends, bush-walking. But writing?
Out Of My Comfort Zone, you ask? No, not really OOMCZ so much, as about two planets away. And my feet remain firmly on earth.

So now that I have just published my first booklet, I think back over the journey. Was I stretched? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. Overwhelmed? At times. Stressed? Yes! Especially when it was two weeks before my ‘book spot’ at the Christian Writers’ Conference and I still didn’t have a book to show anyone!

Did God come through? Yes, yes and yes.

Often when we listen to God and obey, we are stretched. Do I see you reaching for the ear-plugs? Well, before you pop them in, just think about what you may miss.

Apart from the joy of obedience, and learning to persist, and striving for excellence, I discovered I can do way more than I ever thought through Jesus.

I also discovered God could do way more than I ever thought with me.

Both these things have increased my faith in God and my confidence that He will enable me to do what He asks.

And it has been exciting!

So the next project? Well, it is not a writing project, but it will have writing and planning in it. God has been prompting me for two years to work towards this, and reluctantly, I am taking steps. This project is on my all-time list of ‘Things I Never Want to do’.

Will I be stretched? Yes. (Painfully, I expect!) Am I scared? Yes. Puzzled? Totally. Can I trust God to take me each step? Ummm…

I related this to Anne B, a lady I worked with many years ago, to whom I dedicated my booklet. We met in Adelaide the week before the Christian Writers' Conference. She told me about her experience when she started a new job in an area she felt totally untrained for. She complained to God, ‘I have no idea why I am in this job, or what I am doing?’ And He said to her, ‘Go to work, put down your bag, and pick up a pencil.’ So, she went to work, put down her bag and picked up a pencil. And God gave her so much information, she could barely write fast enough.

Can I trust God to lead me each step? 

I’m sitting here with my pencil poised …

Pamela writes mostly non-fiction including devotions, and has had a number of short articles published. She is passionate about promoting awareness around hearing loss, and is just finalising publication of a booklet on this topic. An Allied Health worker, she is currently working with people with a disability. She is a jigsaw addict, and enjoys embroidery, art and sailing.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Places I Have Written by Chris Wren James

So here we are house sitting for at least 18 months all around the place. And writing and writing. We are trying to finally pay off our mortgage- interesting word- from the Latin mort: death; and gage: pledge. Historically a nobleman’s son could borrow against his inheritance and when the father died he would repay the money. I digress. I’m pretty sure the idea to house sit and rent ours out was a download idea from God as neither of us is financially savvy enough to have thought it up. We have house-sat in palaces and pig styes. Mainly somewhere in between. One home owner,as she swanned out the door with a flourish of silk,  departing for her Pacific cruise, informed me that 5 teenagers would be staying the weekend on dirt bikes. Starting tomorrow. OK? Definitely very NOT OK.  What a cheek! They duly arrived next day and we endured a few hours of rap music and dust, then one of them cut his foot wide open and thankfully- needed my nursing skills as he passed out from shock. We shunted them all off in a taxi that somebody paid for- it wasn’t me. Oh yes- she also mentioned the house was haunted. Yay. So we spent the first night evicting a few squatters and jumping at the merest sound anywhere around  inside or outside. Full of faith, me.

I’ve sat writing happily on the back deck of a river front mansion, the $2.1 mil yacht moored down the bottom of the jetty, the pool and fountains bubbling behind me and a reasonably calm poodle on my knee. Then there was the time I had a publishing deadline and no internet. (‘Why would you need that?’ asked my otherwise switched-on home owner.) Why indeed? Maybe to correct the edits and re-write a few hundred times to get to the publisher on time ? This time my nearest WiFi ( or ‘wee-fee in Spain) was the local McCafe. Otherwise known as the local kindergarten and meeting place for shouting frustrated mums. I wedged myself in the farthest away bench seat and put my swimming pool earplugs in. To no avail. I had to beat off adventurous 2 year olds, all unsupervised, as they climbed over into my seat space, knocking over my coffee (sacrilege) and snotting on my paper. Pretty darn proud of myself though - got it in by deadline. Don’t start me of on ‘mothers today….’
I work pretty well to a deadline. It’s the stress that seems to produce the final results I guess.
I have written on a misty headland in Flinders Victoria, gazing out across Bass Strait in the winter, loving the Englishness of it all, knowing I would go home to a roaring fire at  and do the crossword out of The Age. Now there’s a sensible paper.

 We are currently on the Gold Coast, daily surviving the death-defying feats of P-plate drivers as they skid across our bows at death-wish speeds. We are in architect- designed intensive housing here with about an eyelash worth of space between each house. We have been supplied with WiFi anti dog bark devices which I use a lot. I can hear most conversations on both sides despite my hearing deficit so Lord knows what they now know about us! Plenty, probably. I am diligently (since the fabulous Writers Conference in Melbourne) applying myself to my novel completion now. Novel being a noun of course. I was thoroughly challenged by that fabulously wise lady Deb Porter who was suitably horrified that I would consider it an ‘indulgence’ to be even writing one. For me it was always about non-fiction and saving the world. I have fought with the wild beast of false guilt that whispered many things including ‘what good is that going to be to anyone?’ 

So….instead of applying myself to finishing my novel I am writing this. Must go - got to finish my novel.

Chris Wren James is a writer and word processor.  She has 3 published non-fiction books and is currently working on a novel due out next year.  She is the director of Life Streams International and lives with her husband on the Gold Coast.  They have 5 children, 8 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.  Last count.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Motivational Gifts and the Writer

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 speaks of three different kinds of spiritual gifts: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” (NIV) Of these, the first are normally taken to be the manifestation gifts of the Holy Spirit outlined later in the same chapter; the second are seen as the ministry gifts of Ephesians 4, bestowed on the Church by the ascended Christ; and the third as the seven gifts listed in Romans 12:6-8, often called the motivational gifts.

The motivational gifts are given by the Father to each person at conception, to enable him to fulfill the destiny to which God has called him. They are part of our spiritual DNA, an underlying influence on all we do. An understanding of these gifts can help us greatly in understanding our own writing habits, and in understanding our characters.

Before I move into talking about how these gifts influence our writing, I need to make two caveats: (1) The term, motivational gifts, does not appear in the Bible, but is a handy tag that has been applied to this particular set of gifts. Nor does the Bible go into great detail about their operation: that has been determined by various Christian groups who have studied these gifts in individuals over the last forty years or so. Their conclusions are helpful, but unlike Scripture they are not infallible.
(2) Although there are only seven motivational gifts, nobody has just one. There are endless possible combinations. Use them as a guide, not as a box into which you would try to fit yourself, your friends or your characters.

So, lets look briefly at these gifts as they affect us as writers. The internet has a slew of motivational gifts tests, some helpful and others less so, but the easiest way to determine your motivational gift set is to ask yourself, What motivates you? What excites you?

The first gift listed in Romans is prophesying. I must stress that this is not the same as the ministry of prophet as in Ephesians 4, or the manifestation gift of prophecy as in 1Corinthians 12. The thing that excites a motivational-gift prophet is spiritual reality. They are the most other-worldly of all the gifts. They are also the most likely to be poetic. As a writer, the person with this gift may tend to over-spiritualize, particularly if she is writing fiction, and if her poetic bent is not tamed it may lead to flowery prose. The prophet is also the quintessential introvert: he would really rather hide in the back of his cave. A prophet/writer must learn to break through this and actually go out to face the world.

Next is the server. What motivates the server is getting the job done. Think Martha. Interestingly, researchers have found that most servers are not good at organizing others: they tend to think that nobody else can do the task as well as them, so “please just get out of my way and let me do it.” Because of this trait, server/writers may not be very good at accepting feedback or criticism. Most servers are not particularly emotional (although they can be deeply hurt by lack of appreciation), and if they project that in their writing their characters may be flat.

Teachers are excited about information. They are bower-birds with facts, and have trouble controlling the desire to share their loot with everyone. Easily recognizable, teachers teach. All the time. Everywhere. To anyone who will listen. Often when there is no-one listening. (Confession: teaching is not my primary motivational gift, but it is certainly there in the mix. I often catch myself “teaching” an invisible class about whatever I happen to be doing as I go about my work.) Teacher/writers need to resist the temptation to see their story as yet another didactic opportunity. They find it hard to embrace the dictum of “show, don't tell” because there are just so many wonderful things that they want to tell their readers. Let it go!

Encouragers are motivated by bringing out the best in people. Whether the life-of-the-party extrovert or the person who likes to bring a simple word to lift you, the encourager is totally people-oriented. They are natural story tellers; absolutely everything is grist for the story-telling mill and they can be prone to elasticity in their recounting of events. (Think “the-one-that-got-away” fishing yarns.) Encourager/writers need to be careful that the stories they are telling are only ones they have permission to tell, and to beware of exaggeration. Because they are always thinking “right now” encouragers may be a little slack about the finer details, so need to be extra careful with editing.

For givers, the motivation is to see projects and people properly resourced. Whilst this is often financial, and givers may be astute business people, their generosity also extends to the non-material. As writers, they are likely to be torn between this desire to give of themselves - to pour their heart and soul into their work - and the fact that they are essentially extremely private people. It may take a while to find a balance that is comfortable for the individual.

The motivation for leaders is organizational: to see groups, teams or companies working together effectively. They are big-picture people, and may be content to leave the details to others. If working on a collaborative project, the motivational gift leader will inevitably end up as “the boss.” At the same time, a mature leader will strive to see others develop their potential, even stepping aside sometimes to allow someone else to tackle a task she would normally do herself. As writers, they are lousy editors, and need to be sure that they have someone to undertake that task.

Finally, the mercy person's motivation is empathy. More than any other gift, mercy people feel for others and are also extremely sensitive themselves. Think of Joseph in the book of Genesis, and the number of times he goes off to a quiet corner to weep. This sensitivity can be a great thing to bring to writing, but the mercy person needs to make sure that he is not overdoing it. Sensitive characters, good; maudlin characters, bad.

The difference between the various motivational gifts can best be illustrated by this scene: It is the church supper, and Sally is bringing a jug of milk for the teas when she stumbles and spills it. The motivational gift prophet asks, "What is God trying to show us through this incident?" The server runs to get  the mop and bucket, and shoos everyone out of the way so she can clean up the mess. The teacher says, "If you carry it this way next time, you'll be less likely to spill it." The encourager says, "Don't worry, it's just a jug of milk. I remember when I was a kid I spilled a whole bucket of milk ... a really big bucket. Mum was really upset because it was the only milk we had and we couldn't afford to buy any more, so she sent me to bed without dinner. Then Uncle Tom came along ..." The leader says, "Come on, everyone, let's get this fixed up," and starts assigning tasks. The giver goes out and buys a new bottle of milk. The mercy goes to Sally, puts a hand on her shoulder, and quietly asks, "Are you ok?"

Having an awareness of your own motivational gift mix can be a great asset to your writing, but don't stop there. Think also about your characters, and what their motivational gifts might be. Does their behavior line up with their gifts? If it does, your characters will be far more believable.

Lynn Fowler is a Christian minister and writer, and author of Real, Radical and Revolutionary - Building Kingdom Relationships with God, with Each Other and with the World; My Little Chats With God - Bible Meditations for Daily Life; and Sonshine and Shadows - A Lifetime of Poems. She has also compiled a book of her father's poems, Bush Ballads and City Songs.

Lynn can be found at and

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Introducing Australasian Christian Writers

I recently attended the Christian Writer’s Conference in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, along with Christian Writers Downunder members. It was a great weekend, and it was great to meet so many people I “know” from Facebook, and to put full-sized faces (and bodies) to the Facebook thumbnails.

The best part about meeting face to face is the ability to have longer conversations than are possible in a Facebook group or blog comments, and to raise (and answer) questions. One of the questions I heard several times was regarding the relationship between Christian Writers Downunder and another Facebook group I’m a member of, Australasian Christian Writers. What the similarities between the two groups, and what are the differences?

Like Christian Writers Downunder, Australasian Christian Writers have both a Facebook page and a blog. Both groups target Christian writers from Australia and New Zealand, whether they are writing for the general market or specifically for the Christian market.

How is ACW Different?

But Australasian Christian Writers isn’t just a replica of Christian Writer’s Downunder. We have more of an emphasis on Christian fiction than CWD. It wasn’t necessarily planned that way, but most of our contributing writers do write fiction (or a combination of fiction and non-fiction), and we therefore attract Australasian and international Christian fiction readers—and a growing number of international authors.

This emphasis means our blog posts tend to be aimed at readers and writers of adult and young adult Christian fiction rather than other forms of literature: non-fiction, poetry, screenwriting or books for children.

The other main difference is that Australasian Christian Writers post to our blog five days a week, with a theme for each day:

Monday: Writing craft

Our craft posts often run in series, and have included contributions from Jeanette O’Hagen (preparing for and participating in NaNoWriMo), Anne Hamilton (the opening hook) and myself (online book reviewing). 

Tuesday: New Releases, ARCBA blog tours, or guest posts

Our guest posts include regular contributions from SimonKennedy, President of Omega Writers, and Rel Mollet, reviewer extraordinaire.

ARCBA is the Australian Christian Readers Blog Alliance, which hosts monthly blog tours aiming to raise exposure and awareness, with preference given to Australian and New Zealand authors. If you’d like to find out more about touring a book with ARCBA, or becoming an ARCBA reviewer, visit the ARCBA blog:

Wednesday and Friday: General post from a member

We have a team of around twenty published and to-be-published writers who regularly contribute blog posts on a range of topics, mostly relating to books, reading, writing, or Christianity—the topics we all have in common! That’s our only criteria for posts: that they be something that will be of interest to our audience.

Thursday: Book review

We have a group of readers who review new and recent releases they’ve read, including books from Australian and New Zealand authors. Let’s face it: all writers should also be readers. Each reviewer selects their own books for review, which means we get a wide range of genres and authors, and I find myself adding far too many books to my to-read pile.

We don’t (usually) review books written for the general market: those we have reviewed have either been books written by a Christian author, writing craft books, or reviews intended to provoke discussion about the nature of Christian writing.  We also don’t review books from vanity or subsidy publishers (we don’t want to accidentally encourage authors to use an expensive vanity press), although we’re happy to review self-published books.

Check us out and join our Facebook group. We usually arrange our schedule each quarter, and will put out a call on our Facebook page for people who’d like to contribute to the blog either as guest posts, or on a regular basis. 

Thank you all for inviting me to contribute today. If you have any questions, please leave a comment

About Iola Goulton

Iola Goulton lives with her husband, two teenagers and cat in the sunny Bay of Plenty in New Zealand, between Hobbiton and the Kiwifruit Capital of the World.  She holds a degree in marketing, has a background in human resource consulting and freelance editing, is active in her local church and plays in a brass band.

Iola is a reader, reviewer and freelance editor who is currently writing her first novel, contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist, and her first non-fiction book, which aims to help first-time authors navigate the changing world of Christian publishing. You can find her online at Iola's Christian Reads, Christian Editing Services, and soon at her author page.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

How to identify a vanity press publisher and avoid being ripped off

By Narelle Atkins

Vanity Publishing

Vanity Presses make their money from authors rather than from selling books. They charge authors a fee, either directly or indirectly, to publish their book. They often try to up-sell additional publishing services eg. marketing packages. These publishing packages, sometimes marketed as self-publishing solutions, may cost authors many thousands of dollars.

Vanity Press books sometimes have a high cover price, which makes the vanity press book less attractive to readers. The vanity publisher has already made their money from the author, and they don’t have an incentive to set a competitive price and sell a high volume of books. The author has no control over the pricing of their book or the distribution of their book.

Vanity Presses often don’t invest time and money in providing professional cover art and editing is typically an add-on, with an additional fee. They have no incentive to produce high quality books because they make their money from selling publishing packages to authors instead of making money from selling books.

Vanity Presses will advertise their publishing services and actively seek to recruit authors.

Traditional, royalty paying publishers are inundated with submissions from authors. Many of the larger traditional publishers will only accept agented queries because there is an oversupply of potential manuscripts and a very limited number of traditional publishing slots. Traditional publishers have budget limitations that will dictate the number of books they can publish each year. They are selective because they are bearing all the financial risk. Vanity presses, by charging authors a fee to publish, are shifting the financial risk to the author. If the vanity press book has poor sales, it's the author who will suffer the financial pain, not the vanity press.

Vanity Presses may operate like telemarketers who are selling a product. They may want to know a prospective author’s contact details, including email addresses and phone numbers, to enable them to follow up and contact authors. They may make numerous international phone calls to prospective authors and use aggressive marketing tactics to try and sell their expensive publishing packages.

Differences between Traditional Publishers and Vanity Publishers

Traditional publishers pay a competitive royalty on every book sold.

Traditional publishers don’t ask authors to contribute money to finance the book production process.

Traditional publishers may pay authors an advance against future royalties. The money flows from the publisher to the author because traditional publishers make their money from book sales.

Traditional publishers don’t require authors to purchase a minimum number of books.

Publishing Contracts

A publishing contract is a legally binding document. It spells out the rights and obligations of both parties who sign the publishing contract. A publisher may claim to be a traditional publisher, but it’s the contract that will define whether or not their claims are valid.

All authors should seek professional advice and do their research before signing a publishing contract. Intellectual property lawyers, Australian Society of Authors, Australian state and territory Writer Centres, and professional writing organisations can provide services and resources to assist authors in making financially savvy decisions.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has written a number of helpful articles on publishing contracts. 

The Passive Voice blog also has archived posts that provide helpful information for authors on publishing contracts. 

Do not rely on general advice and hearsay from writing friends to determine if a publishing contract is a good deal for you

Once upon a time it was reasonable for writers to assume that most traditional publishers used a single boiler plate contract as the foundation for their contract negotiations with authors. The larger writing organisations eg. Romance Writers of America, ACFW, used to provide their members with a recognised publisher list. 

The writing organisations looked at the boiler plate contract of each publisher who wanted to be included on their recognised publisher list. To make the list, the publishing contract needed to meet certain minimum standards. A publisher would be excluded from the recognised publisher list if their boiler plate contract contained any vanity publishing clauses. 

But times have changed. It’s now becoming more commonplace for publishers to offer contracts to their authors with vastly different terms. The writing organisations no longer have recognised publisher lists. Indie publishing opportunities can potentially offer authors a better deal than a traditional publishing contract. 

Why can't you rely on advice from your author friends? Your friend may have signed a traditional contract with Publisher A and be very happy with their deal. But, that doesn’t mean Publisher A will offer you exactly the same publishing contract deal with the same terms. 

Authors can't afford to bury their heads in the sand and assume that a publishing contract will be a good deal. It's essential for all authors to take responsibility for their writing careers and understand all the clauses in their publishing contract before they sign the contract.   

The term ‘self-publishing’ has been hijacked by vanity presses

Self-publishing should mean DIY (doing it yourself). This is a very different concept to paying a publisher to partner with you to produce your book. If you are giving the publisher specific rights to publish your book, and if the publishing contract includes terms that specify the payment of royalties to the author, then you are signing a publishing contract. This is a very different proposition to self-publishing by DIY.

Indie (independent) publishing

Indie publishing is the term that is commonly used to describe authors who independently publish their books. Indie authors retain control of their copyright. Indie authors produce their own books independently and they don’t sign a contract with a publishing house. Indie authors are self-publishing because they are doing it themselves (DIY). They may choose to contract service providers for a set fee eg. editing, cover design, formatting, to produce their book.

How can you avoid being ripped off?

Education is key. Do your research and connect with other writers before you sign a publishing contract. Ask questions and seek advice from industry professionals. Book selling is a tough business and it’s very unusual for an author to recoup the money they have invested in vanity publishing via book sale royalties.

Online resources for writers

Preditors and Editors 

Writer Beware 

David Gaughran 

The Book Designer 

Iola Goulton has written a number of posts for Australasian Christian Writers that address the topic of vanity presses

I Wanted to Cry 

Spotting a Vanity Publisher - Part One and Two 

Deception in our writing

Jeanette O’Hagan has written two posts for Christian Writers Downunder that outline the different publishing models available for writers

Publish or Perish – Part One and Two


This post is being shared on the Australasian Christian Writers blog and the Christian Writers Downunder blog today because we are united in our mission to inform and educate writers on the pitfalls from signing with vanity publishers. This was a topic of conversation at the recent Christian Writers Conference held in Victoria, Australia.

Please share this post with your writing friends on social media and bookmark it for future reference.

If you’re looking to connect with writing groups online, you can join the Australasian Christian Writers Facebook Group and the Christian Writers Downunder Facebook Group.

Omega Writers Inc. provides helpful resources and membership benefits for writers who live in the Australasian region.

A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, Narelle Atkins was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle's contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia. In 2013 she sold her debut book to Harlequin's Love Inspired Heartsong Presents line in a 6-book contract. Her first independently released novella, His Perfect Catch, is available from Amazon for 99 cents. 

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins

Monday, 9 November 2015

Caleb Prize relaunch coming soon!

The Caleb Prize was a competition for Australian and New Zealand authors of Christian literature. Omega Writers administered the Caleb Prize from 2010 to 2014 but when the new Omega committee took over in 2015, we decided that our learning curve was steep enough without running a national writing competition! Now that we've settled in, we're setting our sights on relaunching the Caleb Prize in 2016.

Rather than roll out the same version of the competition, we saw this as an opportunity to refine the process and hopefully arrive at an even better result. After consultation with experienced members of the Australasian Christian writing and publishing community, we have altered a number of things. We haven't finalised the rules or timeline but below are a couple of the principles we expect to apply, along with some of our reasoning.

Omega Writers exists to educate, support and inspire Australasian Christian writers towards excellence, impacting society with grace and truth. We want our words to change the world.

Therefore, any competition run by Omega Writers aims to:

1. Recognise and encouraging excellence in writing by Australasian Christians

      In the past, the Caleb Prize has had a number of categories, including:

·        Non-fiction
·        Fiction
·        Poetry
·        Children’s
·        Biography
·        Devotional
·        Unpublished
·        Reviewers’ Choice
·        Booksellers’ Choice
While this allows us to better compare like with like, it has sometimes resulted in a very small pool of books for certain categories.

To counter this issue, and to decrease the load on judges, we plan to stagger the categories. For example, one year’s categories may be non-fiction, poetry, romance fiction and devotional; the next may be sci-fi/fantasy fiction, children’s and biography.

We will set a minimum number of entries for each category. If an insufficient number are received, we will roll that category over to the following year.

There will probably be an unpublished category every year but the categories for this will vary depending on the sponsoring publisher for that year. The prize for unpublished will not be guaranteed publication but our discussions with publishers indicates that part of the prize will be feedback, with a publishing contract a possibility.

2. Provide opportunities and advice for Australasian Christian writers

One of the main difficulties in previous years of the Caleb Prize has been finding judges. This stems back to the relatively small pool from which we are able to draw our experts, many of whom have had work they wanted to enter themselves, making them ineligible to judge.

A small number of judges increased the load on those who did volunteer. We hope to mitigate this by having two rounds of judging for most categories.

The first round will be based on a limited word or page count, maybe the first twenty-five pages or 5,000 words. Judges will be anonymous but experienced in that category. They will have a marking sheet and between them will create a short list.

Second round judges will be named and will base their decisions on the entire manuscript.

What we need

There is much more to say but my word count is nearly up. Check the competitions page on the Omega website in the following weeks, or become a member to receive notifications.

The Omega Committee is running at close to capacity. For the Caleb to run next year, we need a number of volunteers:

·        Sub-committee with roles devoted to oversight, finances, registration/ administration and marketing.

·        For each category, at least three first round judges, one named judge, and an administrative assistant.

If you would like to see the Caleb Prize run again in 2016, please consider volunteering. Comment below or contact me:

PS. The Caleb Prize is for authors of books. We envisage running competitions for other styles of writing in the future.

Simon Kennedy is President of Omega Writers. He has won national competitions in both short story and poetry and recently signed his first contract with an international production company to develop one of his original concepts into a television show. His YouTube channel, Songs with Simon, has over 2 million hits.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

We need diverse books

Recently, I read a blog post by Michelle Worthington talking about the need for diverse books. You can read the post here. Prior to this, I had seen a lot of posts talking about the need for diverse books. Most of those seemed to relate to race and sexual orientation. As they are not issues at the forefront of my mind, I hadn't paid too much attention - then I read Michelle's post.

Michelle says that "the modern child requires the connection of the story events to what has happened in their daily lives".

This is what connected with me.

Two years ago, my 11 year old was diagnosed with glandular fever, that has since developed into chronic fatigue. I've been hunting for books that has a child with CFS, and haven't been able to find any. In my search, I have connected with other families who have also been looking for books.

My 13 year old loves his Rubik's cube and is active in the cubing community. I have been looking for books for him with characters who also love cubing, but haven't been able to find any. I have discovered there is a huge community of teenage cubers around the World who would be interested in books that have characters who cube.
This is where Christian authors come in. From discussions I've seen in Facebook groups, readers are looking for a variety of stories that are told from a Christian perspective. My favourite Christian novels show normal people going about their daily lives and relying on their faith to help them through the difficult times. I know my 13 year old would like to hear some stories about teenagers dealing with issues such as bullying and growing up as a teenager of faith in Australia.
It can be challenging to find publishers for diverse books as they can be for a niche market, however there are some publishers who are willing to take to take a risk on diverse books.

Chances are, if you are looking for stories on a particular topic or that features a particular hobby or issue, there will be others out there looking too. So, keep writing those diverse stories and sharing life from a Christian perspective, whether you write for the Christian market or not.

Melissa Gijsbers lives in Melbourne and writes in between working as a bookkeeper and being the mother of two active boys. She is a blogger and author of flash fiction and children's books.She is currently crowdfunding her second book, Cubing for CFS.

Follow her writing journey at and

Monday, 2 November 2015

My First Writers Conference by Janelle Moore

Me? Attend a Christian Writers Conference?  You’ve got to be kidding!  Surely those who attend such activities have “made it” in the writing world.  They have probably studied writing, had a book or two published………they are “successful” authors.  They have the right to call themselves writers.

Not like me.  I only pen a few devotionals.
I have long dreamed of publishing a devotional book, but have been very hesitant and reluctant to write.  After all, who would want to read what I have to say?    A number of years ago, God led me to a writing group, Quirky Quills. I have received much nagging (sorry, encouragement) over the years, but still felt I had nothing to offer, nothing worthwhile to say.

How easy it is to accept and believe the lies of the enemy! With Quirky Quills cheering me on, I did attend the conference in question. (The recent Christian Writers Conference at Bacchus Marsh, Victoria).   The overarching theme seemed to be renewing our minds, not accepting the lies that the enemy shoots at us, but realising and living out our identity in Christ.  I attended various sessions, prayed with other attendees, met many beautiful likeminded Christian women and realised that I was meant to be at the conference. My heavenly Father had a plan. My being there was not a mistake.

Lake Dewar, Bacchus Marsh,
Writers Conference
After arriving home from the conference, I set time aside to spend with God.  He spoke to me and within a couple of hours I had jotted down a number of ideas for devotions.   As I opened myself to God, while making a determined effort to claim who I am in Christ and stand against the old familiar lies of the enemy, God confirmed to me his desire that I write and cemented in me a new found determination to honour Him in this.

At the conference, I realized that I had been my focus.  I can’t write….I have nothing to say…..I am inadequate….the list went on and on.  But now the list is changing. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus”, Hebrews 12:2……. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”, Philippians 4:13
Me?  Attend a Christian Writers Conference? Absolutely! I am looking forward to the next one!

 Janelle Moore lives in Toowoomba, Queensland, with her husband Mark, and their two teenagers. She loves to write devotions and true stories, and from now on will be writing more of these.