Monday, 29 October 2018

The Delicate Art Of Criticism

by Charis Joy Jackson

I hate criticism. OK that’s not true, I used to dislike it, now, I’ve discovered how much constructive criticism has made me a better writer. I’m still learning and I hope I will still be honing this craft well into my 90’s. But most of all I hope by reading this, it will help you change the way you look at criticism.

Let’s be honest, none of us really like it. We want people to read our stuff and say it’s THE shining example of what the written word should be. We want to take home all the awards and praise of how amazing we are as creatives, but often we deny one of our biggest allies. Criticism.

Yes, you can receive criticism that’s hard to hear. But one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about it, is to accept it as often as I can, because it’s helping to sharpen my skill.

When we look at criticism and use our time and energy to fight what’s been said about our writing, we’re wasting our creative juices on negative actions and thoughts. We’re effectively shutting our creativity down and the next time we sit down to write, it’s gonna be harder for us to put pen to paper.

As a young creative all I heard was the negativity criticism offered and it hit me on a personal level. Now as a more experienced creative I actually understand the purpose of constructive criticism. Not just criticism, but constructive criticism.

The point is not to tear someone's work apart, but to make it stronger.

I think if more people understood the fine art of constructive criticism we'd live in a happier, more creative society. And I'm talking about people receiving it and people giving it.

The Art of Giving Constructive Criticism

Start with what you like about the writing. Talk about how it moved you. Be specific to point out things you especially enjoyed. It's ok to gush a bit about these parts. It's a huge encouragement for the artist.

Then move into areas you think could be strengthened. The more specific, the better. As a writer, I need those specifics. Especially if it's dealing with character development and the choices the character made.

The Art Of Receiving Constructive Criticism

On the reverse, if you struggle to receive criticism, the best thing for you to remember, is your work does not define you. Say it with me.

"Your work does not define you."

Your identity is not in what you do. So when you hear someone “tearing” apart your hard work, smile and remember they’re not talking about you.

If you get someone who doesn't know how to give criticism, have grace for them and take what they say with a grain of salt, because even some of the harshest critics may actually be hitting the nail on the head. Even if it isn't said the right way.

When I was first learning to receive criticism, I never wanted to listen or make the changes that were being suggested. I felt that if I did, it would no longer be my work, but a joint effort. Truth is, it's still your work and you should listen to that criticism, because you want your work to be the best it can possibly be.

If we all believed that to take on board someone's criticism made it no longer your work, then we'd never have any epic stories. There would be no Tolkien's or Lewis'. Your work is still your own.

And at the end of the day, you choose how much you take in from the criticism you receive. Use it as a tool and not your enemy.

Charis Joy Jackson works as a full-time missionary with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organisation in Queensland. During the day she mentors young adults, teaches on several topics including worship, intercession and how to makes movies. In her spare time she spins stories of speculative fiction and captures her crazy dreams in print. 

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Thursday, 25 October 2018

Meet Our Members: Raelene Purtill

Each Thursday in 2018 we will be interviewing one of the members of Christian Writers Downunder – to find out a little bit more about them and their writing/editing goals.

Today interview:

Raelene Purtill ( writes as R.A.Purtill)

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

I have been married to Steve for 25 years. We have three children in their twenties at home which is in the northern suburbs of Brisbane.

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

I have written all my life and I’ve written everything – journals, poems, plays, shorts stories, blogs and I’m now dipping my toe into the longer form of the novel. I am drawn to speculative fiction and love the imagination on which these stories thrive. As a Christian, I am aware of something greater, more than just this world and I enjoy the ability for these stories to explore the human condition. But I also like real stories too about real people and while I don’t write them, they are the stories I like to read.

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

Nobody and everybody!

Seriously, my editors and mentors and the members of writing/critique groups. My short stories have been selected for anthologies, so I must be doing something right!

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

I like to write longhand in pencil first. This gets it all out of my brain. I also make scrapbooks with images of places and people and things, and research. This is my reference tool. Then I type up what I’ve written – I use Scrivener. I do the following edits in the same document. I don’t keep various versions until I am well into late drafts, then I print them out and work on the hard copy. I share with my writing group before sending it to a professional editor.

My challenges are that in the real world, I care for our son and my creative time is limited. I overcome this by getting up early and making the most of the ‘edge of the day’ as someone has called it.

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

Zen In the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury. He was my first author. He introduced me to sci-fi.

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

I must acknowledge the input of our Omega chapter members who have nurtured and supported my writing and the lovely Christian editors who have given me advice and feedback. It’s a wonderful community and nice to know we are not only fellow creatives, but sisters in Christ too.

Question 7: What are your writing goals for 2018? How will you achieve them?

I achieved a long-time goal in 2018. I entered and was shortlisted in the CALEB prize for unpublished manuscript with my fantasy story ‘Asteros Rising.’

For 2019 I plan to continue writing my next book. An historical story based around the pearling industry of north Queensland at the time of Federation. Another ambitious project and through which I have had to deal with much Resistance – but at least the house is tidy!!

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

It keeps it clean. I am sure that I could easily slip into worldly thinking and writing if I did not have it. ‘Asteros Rising’ deals with a number of Christian themes: what it is to be human – there are android characters; healing and where the power to do that comes from; people of faith vs those with pagan views.

I pray and journal as part of my writing process.


Raelene enjoys all sorts of creative writing and she loves connecting with other writers at conferences, retreats and workshops.

She facilitates a local writing group and is a member of the Writers Anthology Group which produces an annual anthology.

She lives with her long-suffering husband and three millennial offspring in the northern suburbs of Brisbane.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Your Lights are On!

His Grace Abounds
I enjoy discussing life’s deeper issues at our church small group sessions. Presently, we’re studying Max Lucado’s series on Grace. Last week, even though I’d tucked into a hearty breakfast before I left home, I felt ravenously hungry during our Bible study. So when I drove home at lunchtime, a single thought raced through my mind like a wild wind rushing by at 99 kmph. I HAD TO FIND A DELICIOUS BITE TO EAT. And SOON. The plate of rice, veggies and lentils awaiting me at home had lost their appeal. My insatiable stomach’s loud grumbles were insistent—I had to have something more substantial.

Drooling saliva, I drove to the local shopping centre and bought myself a toasted subway chicken sandwich, adding a decadent melting brownie for dessert. Mmmm. I couldn’t wait to get home to enjoy my meal with a good book. Unfortunately, I was waylaid. A saleswoman selling artificial grass thrust a brochure into my hands, pelting me a dozen questions. As politely as I could, I cut off her sales pitch and kept walking. A travel boutique loomed to my right. Oh! I had to buy a plane ticket to Sri Lanka. Should I pop in and have a chat with a travel agent? On reflection, I decided to do that another day. A good thing too.

When I reached my car, my eyes opened wide in surprise. A lady walking past called out to me ‘Your Lights are On.’ What? How come? As a new driver, I had already done that. Twice. It had of course led to a dead battery each time and a call for roadside assistance. So ever since, I have had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder whenever I leave my car. I check if the lights are off not once but three or four times. I make certain all four doors are locked. I walk around my car ensuring all is well.

How had I left my lights on? Perhaps my rumbling stomach had a lot to answer for?

I jumped into my car, inserted the key into the ignition and turned it on. Would it start? A few anxious moments passed and then … it did. Hooray! A miracle. Thank you God. Thank you so much. As I sped home, the lady’s words resounded in my ears like a loud symphony.
Your Lights are On!
His Grace Covers Me

I thanked God for saving my car battery. I thanked Him that I didn’t dawdle any longer in the shopping centre as I could have done. I thanked Him that He often over-rides my failures with His grace. And I even found a few writing tips from that experience!

1.    I had eaten a good breakfast that day, but I was still hungry. Note to self: Feed on God’s Word several times a day and let it nourish my spirit. If I make the Word of God a banquet I feast on, His truths will permeate my being. They will take root within and will colour both my soul and my writing.

A Christian writer's feast

2.    I was sure I could trust my compulsions when it came to my car. Apparently not. As a writer, I edit my words over and over again. But … I am human. In spite of all that effort, I will not always get it right, which is why I need other writers to come alongside me to critique my work. I need professional editors who’ll show me what works and what doesn’t. I need writing books to teach me. I need conferences and writing groups. Just like I needed that lady who walked past my car. They may sometimes state the obvious, but perhaps the obvious needs to be stated?

3.    I know it was God who nudged me to keep going after I bought my lunch. There were numerous distractions in that shopping centre and had I stayed another five minutes, my car battery might have died. Whew. Thank you God for your whispers. I need those murmurs in my writing journey too. His inspiration and my perspiration work well together. We are a team. He is the Leader and the Author.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we need YOU
4.    I deserved to have a dead battery that day. God’s grace  saved me. An undeserved gift. And so with my writing too. The Holy Spirit takes the words I write and uses them to bless and encourage others. Without His input—my words, no matter how clever or profound will miss the mark. Without His touch they will be dead and useless.

5.    The car lights being on that day could have led to a dead car battery. But it didn’t. My writing might sometimes seem to be a failure, but God can use that too. Only eternity will reveal what He will do with it. He is a God of second chances.

Let your Light Shine! 

'Shine your light' says Jesus to us Christian writers. As we continue to surrender every day to the Holy Spirit, His Presence will recharge and renew our batteries. Not only that, we would do as He asks in shining His love and light into a dark world in dire need of a Saviour.

Let Your Light shine through our words, Lord!

"Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

Anusha’s been on many interesting detours in life, as a lab technician, a computer programmer, a full time Mum, a full time volunteer, a charity director, a full time job chaser, until one golden day (or was it a dark moonless night?) God tapped her on her shoulder and called her to write for Him. She has never recovered from the joy it brought her. She loves to see others enjoying life with Jesus and does her mite to hurry the process in her world through her writing and through her life. The goodness of God is her theme song through each season, as she dances in the rain with Jesus. 

Launch of Dancing in the Rain - May 12th 2018

Please stop by at her website Dancing in the Rain to say G’day. Her first book 'Enjoying the Journey' contains 75 little God stories that will bring you closer to your Creator. Her second book ‘Dancing in the Rain' was released in March 2018 by Armour Books and brings you hope and comfort for life’s soggy seasons. 

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Upcoming Events

by Jeanette O'Hagan

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

Writing is often thought of as a solitary pursuit - the reclusive artist scribbling away in the attic as words are distilled and preserved for future generations. And it's true that writers do spend many hours working alone. Even so, it takes a literary village to birth a book. From reading the greats, to teachers, mentors, critique partners, beta-readers, editors, agents, publishers, formatters, cover artists, publicists, distributors, booksellers and readers. More than that, writers can and do encourage each other to keep the flame of creativity burning bright.

There are a number of opportunities for Christian Writers Downunder to meet not just virtually (online), but also in the flesh. Here are some opportunities.

Omega Writers Conference 26-28 October 2018

Omega Writers Conference is on again at the end of this month. Be swept up by the ambience of The Monastery, Adelaide as we take you from `A whisper to a shout’ building your confidence as a writer through inspired plenary sessions and awards night, through educational workshops and supported host group connections.

26 – 28 October, 2018

The Monastery, Adelaide

The winners of the CALEB award will be announced on Saturday night.

Omega Writers Chapter Groups

Different Omega Writers chapter groups meeting together on a regular basis. You can find a list on the Omega Writers website. Non-Omega Writer members are welcome.

CWD Brisbane Meet-up

If you are in the Brisbane area, drop-in for an informal chat at 2pm Sunday, 28 October at the State Library of Queensland cafe.

An impromptu get-together of CWD members that has occurred in the past in Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide.

Omega Writers Book Fair 2019


Omega Writers Book Fair is on again next year.  We are planning on a wide range of published Christian authors, workshops, readings, prizes and giveaways.

Saturday, 10am-2:30pm 16 March 2019
Hills Church
79 Queens Road,
Everton Park, Qld 4053

If you live or will be in South-East Queensland on this date, come along and be part of a great event.

Toowoomba Retreat 2019

The Omega Writers Toowooma Retreet is a wonderful time of refreshment, inspiration and networking.

SAVE THE DATE 7-9 June 2019

Local opportunities

There are many local opportunities to meet other writers - local writers groups (e.g. Regent Writers), meet-ups (like the Moreton Bay Meet) and Greets, conferences, retreats.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Image courtesy of tratong at

Jeanette started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing. Her Nardvan stories span continents, time and cultures. They involve a mixture of courtly intrigue, adventure, romance and/or shapeshifters and magic users. She has published numerous short stories, poems, two novellas and her debut novel, Akrad's Children and Ruhanna's Flight and other stories.

Her latest release, Stone of the Sea, is currently on preorder for 31 October release.

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. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Find her on:

Monday, 15 October 2018

When a Tree Talks

Mazzy Adams

Mid-September is Carnival of Flowers time, an event celebrated annually in the mountain city I call home. This year, my husband and I wandered through the colourful vistas of Laurel Bank Park. We began our stroll in The Scented Garden which is a delight for the senses and a feature for those with visual impairment. I brushed the leaves of several plants, releasing their spicy aromas, appreciating their textures, this one crinkly and crisp, that one soft and furry. I was focused on the immediate, the close personal experience, until I rounded a bend in the path and saw, right there in front of me—

Two ordinary ladies. Blocking my progress.

They weren’t brandishing guns or wearing backpacks filled with explosives. They weren’t weird. They weren’t sinister. They looked normal and content. I confess, the fiction writer in me was a tad disappointed.  

What were those ladies doing? They were holding their phones aloft, photographing a tree. A truly magnificent tree. A tree I would have missed completely if not for their actions. Like a positive book review from a fan, or an enthusiastic tweet about an upcoming release, their focus and appreciation drew my attention to a wonderful creation. The moment they left, I employed my phone’s camera too.

But that’s only the beginning of the story. Their actions also had a profound impact on my thoughts and provoked contemplation. Since then, God has been whispering encouraging messages to me—messages about writing and life—revealed through that experience and the tree.

Taking a photo of that tree should have been easy, right? But no matter where I stood, I couldn’t frame or even see the whole tree. My perspective was limited. Only God (or possibly someone riding a hot-air balloon) could see the whole of that tree at once.

God’s perspective is never limited. He sees the whole picture. He sees the reason and purpose behind each and every action he calls us to take, and each and every thought he wants us to write down.

It was late in the day when that tree captured my attention. As the sun set and the light changed and the shadows grew and the darkness entered, that tree did not deviate from its purpose. It kept standing. It kept growing, remaining true to its essence, its DNA. And it kept whispering truth to me.

When did God call you to write?

Last week? A year ago? When you were a child?

Before the foundation of the world?

I thought about how very many decades that tree had taken to reach its current stature. How, as a small seed, it was planted and nurtured by people and nature. How it was fertilised, treated for insect attack or disease, pruned (it probably didn’t enjoy that much).

Have others nurtured you in your calling? Helped to establish you in it? Fed you? Protected you from interference, discouragement, or attack? Helped you shed unproductive habits?

Have you, likewise, nurtured others in their calling?

Late to bud after a harsh, dry winter, that tree looked stark and bare, remaining dormant till conditions favour letting those new shoots loose.

Is God calling you to write something new? Or to pick up the pen that has lain dormant through a long, cold, dry winter? Is it time to edit that stubborn draft? Enter that competition? Learn a new skill? Have you noticed the arrival of Spring?

Other gardens in the park were awash with colourful blooms. I had fun trying to name the various plants. I personally could not identify the species or genus of my talking tree. The person who planted it possibly needed to know, needed to understand its expected growth pattern, where it belonged in the park. My ignorance didn’t make the tree any less valuable or amazing. I loved the singular tone and tome of that tree just as much as I loved the sweet aroma of the massed planting of stocks, the elegant gentility of the tulips, and the bright, bouncy freedom flaunted by the poppies. Each had to grow into what they were meant to be and appreciated for what they are.

Likewise, a writer’s ability to identify, establish and conform to genre expectations is useful. But remember, reading and writing outside or beyond the norms, form and limitations of genre can be an exhilarating, enlightening and liberating experience.  

As I pondered each of these analogies whispered by the One who created the tree and created me, I felt a calming inner peace, reassured in my calling and in God’s timing. There is indeed a time and a season for every activity and purpose under heaven.

Then I had one more thought … trees allow our words to live on in print, for a very, very long time.

What have the trees, or their Creator, been whispering to you?  

Mazzy Adams is an Australian wife, mother, grandmother, creative and academic writing tutor and published author with a passion for words, pictures and the positive potential in people.


Wednesday, 10 October 2018

It's Conference Time

by Meredith Resce

Over the years, Omega Writers conference has continued to grow and develop as a highlight for Australasian Christian writers.

This year we are in Adelaide, South Australia, and there are a host of new South Australian delegates signed up to take part in our offered workshops and presentations.

Writing can be a lonely place sometimes, where our main company comes in the form of imagined characters. Coming back to reality after a day of adventure, danger and romance in interesting places, can sometimes be a bit of a thud. Family members (who do not share the thrill of writing) often don’t understand that sense of satisfaction a writer feels after having crafted a whole scene inclusive of drama, dynamic interaction and magnificent detail. Some non-writing family members might be dismissive of their loved-one’s literary efforts, wondering if it is just a huge waste of time. After all, it is a rare member of our ranks who will break into best-selling status, where their writing is in hot demand and likely to bring in a sensible income. The rest of us write because of our passion to write, and often times it is a glorified hobby that may end up costing us money.

So when we begin to build relationships with other writers, connecting particularly with those who write in a similar genre and medium, it is like finding—in the words of Anne of Green Gables—a kindred spirit.

Some kindred spirits here - Fiction writers and friends

Over the years, I have found those kindred spirits in our ranks of Omega members, and I truly love catching up with them at conference time.

This year, I am super excited to meet some members of a new class—our screenwriters. I have been part of Omega Screenwriters for the last number of years, yet we have never had opportunity to meet face to face. For me it is exciting to see another medium of writing and production finding a place in our conference.

Have you registered yet? Don’t miss out on our once-a-year focus-on-your-gift fest. You will meet new literary friends, and you will get heaps out of the planned workshops. If you write fiction, non-fiction, children’s stories, young adult fiction or if you are a screenwriter, there are presentations designed just for you. Added to this, there are focused sessions on marketing, for those of you who have your product ready to launch. Getting it into the hands of readers is your next big challenge.

For information on all of our presenters and workshops, please visit the Omega Writers’ website:

I look forward to meeting you (if you’re not one of my kindred spirit buddies already). If you have not yet registered, now is the time to do it. Register here.

Many blessings

Meredith Resce
Omega Writers Australasia

(Cross-posted CWD & ACW)

Monday, 8 October 2018

Using Digitised Magazines and Newspapers to Add Authenticity to Your Prose by Nola Passmore

You’re living in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1882.

You use your home telephone to ring someone in Ontario. Is that possible? 

You open the morning newspaper and see a photograph taken the previous evening. Could that happen?

These are just two of the hundreds of questions I’ve had to answer in writing my historical novel Scattered. I’ve found a lot of information through books and my friend Google, but they don’t always give me exactly what I need. If only I could access magazines and newspaper articles from the era.  Oh wait!  I can!  

Digital archives and libraries have been around since the early days of the internet and they’re expanding all the time. Billions of documents have now been scanned and made available for public use. You can find recipes, letters, diaries, church bulletins, shipping lists, birth records, financial statements and more. Perhaps the most interesting of all are the historical magazines, newspapers and academic journals. Not only can these documents answer your questions, but they provide a unique slice of life that can bring an extra dimension to your narrative. You can peruse the actual publications that your protagonists would have been reading in the time period of your book. What were they wearing? Where did they shop? What products did they have in their homes? What tonic did they use for stomach ailments? How much was a train ticket? Which bank did they use? What would they have eaten in a restaurant?

The Canadiana site ( has been one of the most useful for my novel. I now know that fashionable men preferred checked patterns on their trousers, and that the Church of Holy Trinity was looking for a competent church organist. I can also access medical journals to see what treatments my fictional doctor would have used.

Although I’ve given examples that relate to my novel, these historical documents are just as relevant for biographies and other forms of creative nonfiction. You might be writing about your grandmother’s life as a trapeze artist with a travelling circus, but you’ll really bring her story to life if you understand more about the times and the places she visited.


  • You could start with some of the resources I’ve listed below. If you don’t find what you need in that list, try searching for archives and libraries in your desired location. It’s trickier if these are in a different language, though some sites also offer language options.

  • Some online archives are completely free and allow you to download and print full texts of the documents. Others require a subscription in order to access most things. Then there those that are partially free (e.g. you might be able to access some resources for free, but have to be a member for full access; or you might be able to see the entire document, but have to subscribe in order to save and print a copy). If you’re after a particular publication, check if it’s available elsewhere before subscribing. For example, you have to subscribe to the British Newspaper Archive ( in order to access their copies of the Illustrated London News. However, you can read some copies for free on sites such as the Hathi Trust Digital Library (  It’s well worth subscribing to a site if you’ll be accessing it again and again. The $10 (CAN) I paid to use the Canadiana site for a month was a bargain, given the amount of  material I was able to find there. It’s also a lot cheaper than buying stacks of books or travelling long distances to access resources. 

  • Don’t just look for obvious publications, like metropolitan newspapers or women’s magazines. I found an eyewitness account of a Sable Island shipwreck in a newspaper called Canadian Methodist Magazine. I also found tons of helpful information about telecommunications, building projects, inventions and innovations, fashion and merchandise in a financial newspaper.

Don’t overlook seemingly inconsequential material such as advertisements and letters to the editor. In one Canadian magazine from 1882, I found ads for D. L. Moody’s new book on heaven and Mark Twain’s new book The Prince and the Pauper. The Canadian Pacific Railway Company was offering land in Manitoba for $2.50 an acre, Maltopepsyn was touted as a gastric wonder drug, and Carbolic Dog Soap could be used to wash your pig. Any of those little snippets could add extra realism to your tome. I also found a girl’s magazine from 1886 that responded to reader’s questions about all sorts of topics, ranging from affairs of the heart to raising silkworms to treating sunburn with sage leaves. Pure gold.

  • Remember that the purpose of your research is to answer questions relevant to your novel and to add colour and richness to your story. The aim is not to dump all of your fascinating information into the laps of readers. The iceberg principle applies. You’ll read a lot more than you use, but that reading will give you the background you’ll need to write convincing scenes and hopefully avoid the rewriting I’ve had to do.

  • Of course, it would be remiss of me not to issue a warning. These sites are highly addictive. You can start out looking for answers to your questions and end up spending the morning skimming through Women’s Weeklies from the year you were born.  “Oh look, here’s a pattern for making Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hat.” Set yourself a goal and try to stick to it (she says as she flicks through a 1942 Photoplay magazine).

 And to answer those questions from the beginning of this blog …

No, my protagonist can’t make a phone call from Halifax to Ontario in 1882. Although telephones were available in Canada from 1880, it took many more years to lay all of the telephone lines between different provinces.

No, a photograph taken one evening in 1882 was unlikely to appear in the newspaper the next morning because the processes needed to rapidly reproduce halftone photos was still being developed. However, it is feasible that a photo could feature in a magazine some time after the event due to the extra lead-up time.

I've included some web links below to get you started. What other resources have you found helpful in your work? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Suggested Resources

Trove ( – This is an Australian government initiative that has archives of newspapers, magazines, photos, diaries, music, videos and more. It’s free to access, and is being added to all the time.

Australian Women’s Weekly ( – Contains full-text editions of almost every Women’s Weekly published between 1933 and 1968. Can be read online for free. An invaluable resource for Australian lifestyle during that era.

Hathi Trust Digital Library ( – An archive of millions of books and magazines. You can access a lot of it for free and view full-text editions of magazines and newspapers online. You can also download pdf versions of many of these to print, though there are some restrictions. ( – An archive of billions of web pages, books, magazines, comic books and more.  Free to access.

Canadiana ( – For all things Canada, though it also has material that would be more widely relevant. You can browse and look at the first few pages of documents for free. However, you have to subscribe to have full access and download materials. The low monthly fee is well worth it.

Project Gutenberg ( – A collection of more than 57 000 digitised books, available for free.

And of course, don’t forget your national and state libraries, which also have many resources available online:

Nola Passmore has had more than 150 short pieces published, including fiction, poetry, devotions, true stories, magazine articles, and academic papers. She and her husband Tim run a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish.  You can find her occasional writing tips blog on their website.  She is currently editing and fact-checking her debut historical novel 'Scattered', which will be published by Breath of Fresh Air Press. Her next book will be called 'Things I will do differently the next time I'm crazy enough to write an historical novel.' 😉


Thursday, 4 October 2018

Abortion ‘What Ifs’

Abortion is a controversial topic, especially in the current political climate. I’m not going to judge anyone who has undergone an abortion. I’ve never been in their position, so I can’t and won’t judge them. But I am on the other side of the issue.

I’m an abortion ‘what if’, because I am the daughter of an adoptee.

My biological grandmother was forced to give my mother up under Australia’s past policy of forced adoption. This policy, which was in effect from the 1940’s to the 1980’s, dictated that unmarried mothers in Australia had no rights to their babies. Their options were forced adoption—or illegal abortion.

Abortion in 1940’s Australia was expensive, but it was a choice. It wasn’t as readily available as it is today, but it was available. Even remote towns had a backyard abortionist.

But my grandmother chose to carry my mother to term and give birth in an unmarried women’s hospital, knowing all through her pregnancy and birth that she would never be able to keep her baby. It was a great sacrifice and one that, thankfully, no mother in Australia has to make today.

She was our family’s heroine, and we are all here because she made that choice. The choice not to abort.

Consider the ‘what if’s’, because that is what I am.

My mother, sisters, brother, son, and nephews—all eleven of us are the ‘what if’s’. At one point in history, my mother could have been aborted. That could have been her biological mother’s choice. But, as heartbreaking as I know it was to give up her baby, my biological grandmother chose to give life to the ‘what if’s’. As a consequence, here we all are. We are three generations that may not have been.

I hear the arguments for allowing abortion. It’s a woman’s body, a woman’s choice—an important choice for both mother and baby. And I embrace the arguments against abortion. Life is sacred, and women should choose life.

"The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up.” 1 Samuel 2:6 (NIV)

I don’t believe that we ‘what if’s’ are discussed as much as we should be. We are the unknown factor, the potential, the future. I know it’s hard to conceive this element of uncertainty. Not everyone can. I am so grateful that my grandmother could. And did. For us, her choice signified great bravery, great courage.

I know from my family’s experience that adoption can be as heartbreaking a choice as abortion. How can you know what will happen to that child you give birth to? Will you spend the rest of your life wondering? I can tell you life still thrives inside the ‘not knowing’. We still don’t know who my biological grandfather was. We may never know. We would all like to know, but healing, joy and peace, can all exist without the knowing.

Thankfully, these days we have open adoption where children can and do know their biological parents. How wonderful that the ‘what if’s’ don’t have to be unknown any more. With open adoption, the ‘what if’s’ become the ‘what follows’.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14 (NIV)

Please pay mind to we ‘what if’s’. Remember my grandmother’s story. My mother’s story. My story.

Tell it to those women and men you come into contact with who are considering abortion. It’s still their choice. I would never dispute that it is their choice, or judge them for whatever choice they make. But the truth is, I would not be here if my grandmother had made that other choice.

By my very existence, I am compelled to beg you not to dismiss or harden your hearts to the ‘what if’s’. A pregnant woman has the potential to give life, not only to one child, but to generations. 

First seen in Book Fun Magazine:

Rose was born in North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her Resolution series.
Two of the three Resolution novels have won Australian CALEB awards. She has also released The Greenfield Legacy, a collaborative novel highlighting the pain of Australia’s past policy of forced adoption, as well as standalone novel, Ehvah After. Her most recent release is A Christmas Resolution, which is part of the novella box set, An Aussie Summer Christmas.
Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and her desire to produce stories that point readers to Jesus. Rose holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, and resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband and son.
Visit Rose at:

Monday, 1 October 2018

Exploring Genres - Picture Books & Chapter Books

by Penny Reeve

Picture books and middle grade – invitations to the world!

I was in conversation with my daughter the other day and, as is fairly common at our place, the
conversation turned to books, children’s books in particular. She related how, upon sharing her
excitement at discovering the children’s books section of her university library, none of her young adult friends understood her enthusiasm.

‘They don’t understand,’ she commented. ‘They think, just because they’re grown up now, they should leave children’s books behind. They don’t realise some of the best books written are children’s books.’

Of course, I agreed. I’m a children’s book writer!

But, feelings of successful parenting aside, I do believe she has a point. Somehow our society has decided that children’s books, picture books and middle grade novels and the like are simple. But I’d encourage you to go browsing, next time you’re in a library or a bookshop, and take a closer look.

Children’s picture books and novels can be fun, silly, hilarious, rebellious, challenging, heart breaking, tear jerking, thought provoking and altogether beautiful in a way that no other genre can imitate. AND they have the incredible ability to do all of this, frequently at multiple levels (so each reader – despite their age and experience – can connect with the text in their own way).

So what exactly are the features of the genre that allow for such depth and, in my opinion, treasure worthy pieces?

Picture books

A picture book is a book in which illustrations carry a significant (if not majority) role communicating a story. A picture book cannot exist without it’s artwork, but some can exist without text.

The conventions of writing a picture book are very strict and they are known, for good reason, to be some of the hardest pieces of writing to pull off. Here’s why:

- A picture book needs to fit within 32 pages (and this includes the title page and imprint pages). So it’s typically 14-15 page spreads.
- Picture books are typically only 600 words long. (So that’s the WHOLE story in 600 words, or less if possible)
- The text of a picture book must be written in a way that allows an illustrator to extend, enhance and fulfil the storytelling.
- Many times illustrators and authors never meet, so the text must be as perfect as possible, often richly poetic (though not necessarily rhyming) with absolutely NO wasted words.

It is this mysterious interplay between words and pictures in great picture books that is the wonderful strength of the picture book genre.

Some highlights in the genre:

Check out the illustrations of Jesus as a child in Mighty Mighty King (Penny Morrison and Lisa Flanagan)
Notice the powerful role of illustrations in When I See Grandma (Debra Tidball and Leigh Hedstrom)

See the gentle communication of emotion and personality in Same (Katrina Roe and Jemima Trappell)

Children’s novels

Children’s novels are another genre that’s worth dipping into for us ‘grown ups’ but also for sharing with kids. 

From a literacy training perspective, they bridge the space between picture books and young adult novels. Whereas picture books assume an adult reader and child listener, children’s novels assume a child will, at some point, approach the book alone. This inevitably creates child friendly structure for the book in terms of:

- Word count. At the lower end of the scale are ‘Chapter Books’, these are a child reader’s first foray into the novel genre and word counts can be as low as 1000. The upper level nudges closer to 40 000 words for what is considered ‘Middle Grade’.
- Chapter length. This can vary, but is usually kept shorter than YA to encourage a fluid, realistic reading experience for young readers.
- Child protagonists are usually at a similar age to their intended reader.
- Plot complications, characterisation and description. Although these must be heavily worked by the author to make for authentic writing, they are communicated sparsely and with precision. Young readers aren’t going to tolerate long descriptive passages of the view from the cliff top, and yet (especially if that cliff top is important to the theme/setting/plot) they need to know what it looks and feels like. So a light touch is required.
- Illustrations. Many children’s novels include illustrations of some sort. The occasional black line illustration etc. The longer the novel, the smaller a role such illustrations play.

Some highlights in the genre:

The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler (Lisa Shanahan) is a beautifully written story of friendship, bike riding, courage and family.

My Tania Abbey novels tackle issues of faith, friendship and responding to poverty amid a setting of everyday life.

Kelsey and the Quest of the Porcelain Doll (Rosanne Hawke) is a lovely adventure story for young readers and considers topics such as belonging and learning about different cultures.

Author bio:

Penny Reeve is the Australian author of more than 20 books for children, including the CALEB Children’s Category award winning Madison picture books. She writes to empower children to engage with - and respond to - the world around them. Her most recently published books are Camp Max (a children’s novel for 6-10 year olds) and Out of the Cages (a YA novel about human trafficking). You can learn more about Penny and her books by visiting her websites: and