Monday, 30 March 2020

Writing Brave (Even if Your Knees are Knocking) by Nola Lorraine

Image by Viktor Ivanchenko at Pixabay

Meltdown in Aisle 3

Last Thursday, I launched my author website with the tagline ‘Weaving Words of Courage and Hope’. I’d come up with that line last year and it seemed like a good fit for most of my writing

Rewind to last Tuesday, and I was standing in the toilet paper aisle at Woollies, fighting back tears because the lady in front of me had grabbed the last pack of toilet paper. You know how it is when you want to cry, but you’re in a public place and don’t want to make a spectacle of yourself? So you open your eyes wide and work your tongue round the inside of your cheek, trying to hold it together. Yep, that was me.

Now to be fair, it wasn’t just the toilet paper. I think the enormity of everything suddenly hit me at that moment and I had a lot of things rolling around in my head. Would my parents’ nursing home go into lockdown? How could my cousin’s wife plan his funeral with only ten mourners? What if it’s months before I can catch up with friends for coffee? What about the people who were already isolated before COVID-19 reared its ugly head?

I felt like a hypocrite. How could I possibly have any words of courage and hope for people in this crisis when I was having a meltdown myself? But you know what? We don’t have to try to dredge up some skerrick of courage from within ourselves. God is by our sides right now and He can help us through this. He WILL help us through this.

The Example of King David

I did a study of David’s psalms a while back and discovered something surprising. Although he was described as a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), he didn’t sanitise his words. He expressed his fears, worries, griefs, frustrations and disappointments in poetry and song without censoring or filtering them. He was authentic before God.

I am worn out from groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears (Ps. 6:6).

I am forgotten by them [my friends] as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery (Ps. 31:12).

I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart (Ps. 38:8).

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash
But David didn’t stay in that place. After expressing his real feelings of fear and despair, he handed them to God. Where there was sin, he repented. Where there were fears, he stood on God’s promises and proclaimed His faithfulness. Where there was uncertainty, he prayed and put his trust in the One who holds our past, present and future in His hands.

But I trust in you, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands … Praise be to the Lord, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. In my alarm I said, “I am cut off from your sight!” Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. Love the Lord, all his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Ps. 31:14-15a, 21-24).

Writing Brave

So how does David’s example apply to us as writers, especially during these challenging times?

  • Be real. If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed, don’t deny what you’re going through. Do some journaling or free-writing and express what you’re really feeling and thinking at this moment. Don’t try to spiritualise it. Don’t censor yourself. If you’re angry with God, or don’t understand what He’s doing or why this is happening, tell Him. He can take it. He knows what you’re really thinking and feeling anyway, so cut to the chase and be authentic with Him.

  • But don’t stop there. Take what you’ve written and bring it before God in prayer. If there’s anything you need to confess, come before Him humbly and ask for forgiveness. If you’re afraid or frustrated or lonely, read scripture and pray out His promises. Listen to worship music or read an inspirational book. Give thanks for what you do have. Remember that there are still many blessings, in spite of the challenges. Connect with others by phone, Skype, or email and encourage one another. God will see us through this.

  • Ask what God would have you write in this season. For some, it might be a continuation of what you’re already doing. For others, it might be a nudge in a different direction for a time. For others, it might be the courage to start writing something that God has laid on your heart. You could step out of your comfort zone and start a podcast or run writing workshops via Skype or Zoom. Or maybe it’s as simple as writing a letter to someone who’s isolated. (For more ideas on that, see Adele Jones’ post You’ve Got Mail).

Photo by azboomer on Pixabay.

Please don’t feel you have to have it all together in order to speak into this situation. You’re not doing it alone. God is with you and He may have a word that only you can share. For more on that topic, see Belinda Pollard’s inspiring post on Being a Christian Writer During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Yes, these are challenging times, but it’s also a time of great opportunity. Many are looking for answers that only God can provide. He loves us intimately and cares for each one of us more than we can imagine. He is our protector and defender and He will never let us go. How will our responses to this current crisis influence those around us for good? What will it mean for us to ‘write brave’?

(N.B. All scripture references from the NIV Bible)

Nola Lorraine (aka Nola Passmore) lives in southeast Queensland, Australia, where she and her husband Tim run a freelance writing and editing business called The Write Flourish. She has a passion for faith and social justice issues, and loves weaving words that inspire others with courage and hope. She co-edited the Christian charity anthology Glimpses of Light; and has more than 150 short publications, including fiction, poetry, devotions, true stories, magazine articles and academic papers. Her debut novel Scattered is being published by Breath of Fresh Air Press later this year.

To find out more, please visit her author site:

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


Thursday, 26 March 2020

CWD Highlights - January to March 2020

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

Today's blog will highlight some of the achievements of our members from January to March 2020

New Releases, Acceptances & Cover Reveals

Elizabeth Klein

Elizabeth has a number of releases to announce.

She has republished her YA Fantasy books, Firelight of Heaven (15th February) and Greenheart of the Forest (21st February) with brand new covers through Amazon.

Firelight of Heaven:

When an assassin infiltrates a secret meeting and people are killed, brothers Robbie and Dougray are plunged into a fast-paced journey of discovery. Through their mutual hardships, the brothers discover they have a common destiny with an Elf maiden named Belle, one that involves searching for seven lost crystals that will heal Bethloria.

Greenheart of the Forest:

Two brothers and an Elf girl uncover dark secrets that drive them into another perilous land. Joined by an elemental, the journey takes the trio to an abandoned, underground city infested with giant, flesh-eating arthropods. Escaping that danger, worse awaits when they are captured by an evil tyrant and taken to Wychwyre.

Dreamscape: Rescuing Pancrates

Elizabeth will also be releasing in late March -  Book 2 of Dreamscape series called Dreamscape: Rescuing Pancrates
Sam Flynn’s life is about to change forever in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely blends the real world with the enchanting realm of traditional fairy tales. Through a portal that exists in a mysterious chest, he is transported back to a peculiar place full of fairy tale characters known as Dreamscape. But there’s a darker side to life in this idyllic world where evil has once again risen. Will Sam be able to stop the sorcerer's apprentice and save Dreamscape from being invaded by his army of brooms?

Elizabeth Klein grew up in a small village in NSW, trained as a teacher and now travels full-time in a caravan with her husband.

All of her books are available at Amazon:

Jeanette O'Hagan

Jeanette O'Hagan released Under the Mountain Boxed set in March 2020. This boxed set included the first three novellas of the five-novella series, with a special March price of 99c USD (about $1.50 AUD)

YA Epic Fantasy Adventure in the lost realm deep under the mountain.

Caught in a mountain blizzard, Zadeki, a young shapeshifter flies into the mountain side. Injured and alone, his only thought is to escape home to his kin. Twins Delvina and Retza's greatest desire is to be accepted as prentices by their parents' old crew when they stumble across the stranger.Little do they know that grave peril stalks the deep caverns. Will the three youngwuns pull apart or work together to save the underground realm? And where will the journey take them?

Set in the World of Nardva, Under the Mountain Boxed Set includes the first three novellas of the 5 novella series: Heart of the Mountain, Blood Crystal & Stone of the Sea.

Jeanette 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. Jeanette lives in Brisbane with her husband and children. 

Available on Amazon

Miriam E. Miles 

Miriam released Phoenix: an abstract poetic autobiography on 5 March 2020

She says:

"Phoenix is an abstract poetic autobiography chronicling my journey through mental illness, fighting the battle and coming out into a new awakening of who I am through the intersection of faith, mental health support and self-management practices. It was written after an unexpected redundancy in November 2019 and I decided to do something positive with my time. The result was a poetry book that revealed itself very organically from a collection of drafts written over about 15 years.

Phoenix is designed, not to share the details of what I have been through, but to reveal the inner workings of a mind, will, and emotions that have been given the chance to fight and overcome many battles and reveal a person’s capacity to be medically long-term stable.

Phoenix is accessible, written in a none-threatening and non-judgmental style. It allows the reader free and open access to embrace God’s direction and follow his guidance in order to win the mental wellness battle, and live and succeed in-spite of your particular mental health journey."

Miriam E. Miles is based in Sydney, Australia, has a passion to see the conversation around mental illness and faith open up in churches, schools, community groups and businesses and is available to share with your group, run a workshop or speak at your event.

Buy link:

Published March 5th 2020 on Amazon as eBook. Paperback coming April 2020.

Janelle Moore

Janelle Moore is delighted to announce that her devotional book - A Month of Hugs for Mums - 30 days of Encouragement for Tired Mummies has been accepted for publication by Deb at Breath of Fresh Air Press.

Janelle is married with two teenagers and lives in Toowoomba, Queensland. She is passionate about the playgroup she runs and enjoys mosaicking, aqua aerobics and walking around the family farm. She is a valued member of the Toowoomba Quirky Quills.

Nola Lorraine

In anticipation of the release of her debut novel, Nola Passmore has just launched her author website under the name Nola Lorraine. Her inspirational historical novel ‘Scattered’ will be published later this year by Breath of Fresh Air Press

In the meantime, why not check out her website:

Events & Opportunities

Omega Writers Conference Now 2021

Omega Writers Conference has been postponed to October 2021.

Due to the current Corona crisis, the 2020 Conference committee (Raewyn, Andrea and Narelle) have announced the postponement of the Omega Writers conference from Oct 2020 to Oct 2021 with no loss of funds.

Peppers Kingscliff is now rebooked for 8-10 October 2021.
Everything stays the same. Susie May Warren is happy to reschedule for 8-10 October 2021.

Other News

Omega Writers Book Fair 2020:

An enjoyable day for those who ventured out to the Omega Writers Book Fair 2020 (Brisbane).

Emmy-award winning, Simon Kennedy have a hands-on workshop, followed by a popular panel on Writing Disability, Difference and Diversity. Award-winning authors Kathy Hoopmann, Jenny Woolsey and Adele Jones answered a number of curly questions, facilitated by the lovely Mazzy Adams.

Overall,  twenty-three authors presented readers with an array of books from theology to picture books, fantasy to inspirational. Readings attracted willing listeners and door & scavenger hunt prizes given at the end of a enjoyable day. We are looking forward to the next Book Fair in March 2021.

Words of Encouragement

Last Thursday - in the midst of the rapidly developing Covid-19 pandemic - the Admin Team of Christian Writers Downunder gave some heart-felt messages of encouragements. Members also shared their much valued scripture and quotes that give then inspiration and encouragement in difficult times.  While the path a head looks dark and difficult and we may not know what the future holds, we do know who holds the future and we knows who walks beside us.  Stay safe and centred and remember to breathe. 

Monday, 23 March 2020

Filler words... and why they have to go!

neon light mounted on white surface

In the last little while I’ve worked through a few sets of edits on my new novel. When I sent off the final manuscript, all those months ago, I thought that the writing was as good as I could make it. But there’s nothing like an editor to show you up, amiright*?

My editors have picked up all sorts of issues, but a big one is my frequent use of ‘filler’ words. I make sentences more complicated than they need to be. I add in ‘very’ and ‘mostly’ and ‘a little’ much** more than is necessary.

I’ve wondered before if women use filler words more than men. There has been plenty written about the way women speak compared to men, however a recent experience editing a man’s memoir shows me that males are just as capable of using filler language.

What are filler words?
If you’re modifying every adjective with ‘very’, you’re using filler language. Other culprit words include: a little, mostly, almost, terribly, quite. There are: just, only, almost, slightly, seemed, perhaps, maybe, simply, somehow, absolutely, basically, actually, sort of and kind of.
Then there are the combinations: really quite, really very, almost a little bit, basically only, perhaps somehow.

What’s wrong with filler language?
1. It takes up space. If you’re writing a 700-word blog post, do you need five repetitions of ‘very’ or six ‘mostlys’? Words are precious. Make them count.
2. It doesn’t add anything. ‘It was a very dangerous trip’ has the same meaning as ‘it was a dangerous trip’. Dangerous is a strong word; let it stand on its own.  
3. It sounds apologetic. We don’t need to apologise for what we communicate. ‘Softening’ with filler words isn’t necessary. 
4. Brevity is clarity.

When might you use filler words?
If you’re a blogger with a distinctively personal voice, part of your repertoire of communication effects may be to use certain filler words. If you’re aware of using them, and choose them deliberately, go for it!

How do you know if you use filler words?
The ‘search’ function in your word processor is a useful tool. Crank it up and type in any or all of the words I’ve listed above. You might find you have an unknown penchant for ‘quite’ or ‘actually’. 

(Hot tip: If you get recklessly lethal and use the ‘Search and Replace’ tool to eliminate your ‘verys’ be sure to put a space before and after the word, otherwise ‘everybody and everything’ ends up being ‘ebody and ething’ through your document. This is complicated to repair.)

Read through your document. If you use a distinctive word (not just a typical ‘filler’ word) twice or more, throw it into the search function too. I discovered by doing this that I overuse the word ‘crazy’ when I write teen fiction. Too much crazy… well, it’s too much crazy.


What are your filler words? Why do you use them? How will you get rid of them?


Cecily Paterson is an author of eight ‘braveheart’ novels for girls, a memoir and a biography. Find her books at She also teaches writing at

*I say this with affection. I work as an editor.
**Oh look… I didn’t need that ‘much’ either.

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Such a Time as This

by Jeanette O'Hagan and the Admin Team

“Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

This is not the first time the world has been in turmoil (the spread of the Bubonic plague, the invasions of Genghis Khan, two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Spanish Flu, the year without a summer, the Cuban Missile crisis and so on). And it probably won't be the last either. Even so, I'm sure I'm not the only one who feeling we've accidentally wandered onto an apocalyptic movie set. It's like we entering a long dark tunnel - we don't know what the world will be like at the other end or who may be left behind or even how long it might last. It's a scary, surreal feeling. Yet we are not alone. There is light and hope and a future.

In view of the uncertainties we are all facing, the  CWD admin team have banded together to offer a few thoughts and reflections on the current crisis.

Sue says:

Fear is one of the most common emotions we experience when times are difficult. It affects people in all kinds of ways. From mild anxiety, to insomnia, to doing crazy, crazy things, fear is a wildcard that can make a difficult situation worse. I mean who would have thought the first shortage in a respiratory virus epidemic would be toilet paper? Or that people would fight – even stab – each other in Australian supermarkets over groceries. Bonkers. I certainly didn’t think that when I went to church last weekend, someone would deliberately cough all over me and my husband. I’m sure that was fear-induced denial on the part of that fellow but that doesn’t help my newly developed sore throat. So how do we deal with fear – be it from a pandemic or a job layoff or any other event that threatens the security of ourselves or those we love?

I believe the key is staying close to God and others. I think we need to be open with God about how we are feeling. Lift our hearts to him aka Philippians 4:6-7, saying I am anxious, help! The other thing we can do is remember. Write down all the times God has broken through in our lives. Like when he gave you that job at the 11th hour or when someone invited you to dinner when you had no food in the house. Don’t just think it – feel it and thank him for it. 

But it’s not just about Jesus – we also need to stay connected with others. Imagine how isolating social distancing would be if we didn’t have forums like this where we can come together and encourage one another. Stay in fellowship even if it’s a group like this or via skype or Messenger audio. Don’t just look to your own interests but be kind to others. Find new ways to communicate. I pray each week with a friend who lives in Malaysia using Messenger audio. How amazing is technology? We’ve been praying like this for a year now. There’s an old saying – necessity is the mother of invention. Difficult times often birth amazing solutions. Be wise, keep walking and keep trusting. God is with us and we are not alone.

From Mazzy:

Last Saturday’s Omega Writers Fair in Brisbane: To go or not to go, that was the question. Normally a no-brainer, but this time, the hype and legitimate concerns regarding Coronavirus required wise, reasoned consideration. With no clear reason to stay away, the Lord resolved the matter in my heart with the second part of verse 16 from Psalm 139 which immediately tested—and settled—my anxious thoughts.

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (NIV)*

Did I truly believe that? If so, what fear is there for me if I am living and acting in obedience to God and to those to whom he has given authority? Neither of these, nor wisdom and reasoned consideration, forbade my attendance, though I took care to practise responsible ‘social distancing’. I’m so glad I went, because much blessing ensued, and I now have a terrific new stash of reading matter for which I’m grateful. Christian Writers rock!

According to The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 1, we have cause to be very thankful for Christian poet and translator, Mary (Sidney) Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, for “contributing the larger number (107) of the verse translations of the 150 biblical psalms … Her free renderings re-create the psalms as English poems …” with some “… strikingly effective images … this influential collection was an important bridge between the many metrical paraphrases of psalms in this period” (Greenblatt, S, Gen Ed. p994). Her poetic rendering of Psalm 139 (circa 1595) is a particular favourite of mine. Her beautifully rhymed and metered rendering of verses 13-16 says:

Each inmost piece in me is thine:
  While yet I in my mother dwelt,
    All that me clad
    From thee I had.
  Thou in my frame hast strangely dealt:
Needs in my praise thy works must shine,
  So inly them my thoughts have felt.

Thou, how my back was beam-wise laid,
  And raft’ring of my ribs, dost know;
    Know’st every point
    Of bone and joint,
  How to this whole these parts did grow,
In brave embroid’ry fair arrayed,
  Though wrought in shop both dark and low.

Nay fashionless, ere form I took,
  Thy all and more beholding eye
    My shapeless shape
    Could not escape:
  All these, with time appointed by,
Ere one had being, in the book
  Of thy foresight enrolled did lie.  (Greenblatt, p996)  

The parts in italics are my emphasis—God knows our bodies, and their vulnerabilities, through and through. He knows each moment that marks our lives. He knows our every anxious thought. As Herbert puts the psalmist’s plea:

Search me, my God, and prove my heart,
  Examine me, and try my thought;
    And mark in me
    If ought there be
  That hath with cause their anger wrought.
If not (as not) my life’s each part,
  Lord, safely guide from danger brought. (ibid)

Kirsten shares her favourite quotes:

It’s better to walk alone, than with a crowd going in the wrong direction.
Diane Grant

Don’t be afraid to do you, but always remember to be considerate of others.

When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening.

Don’t let stress or fear control how you handle a situation. You’re able to see things a lot clearer when you’re calm and in control.

Looking at life from a different perspective makes you realise that it’s not the deer that is crossing the road, rather it’s the road that is crossing the forest.
Mohammad Ali

Try to look at it in a different light. Find something positive out of every situation, even if it’s only small.

Breathe, darling. This is just a chapter, not your whole story.
S.C. Lourie

Yoga is an amazing tool to reduce stress and anxiety. I have been doing this for over a year. I Yoga with Ariene. She fairly down to earth for a yogi and great for beginners too.

And from me:

Some years ago, I was sorting books with my mum. We came across one that had belonged to my Nanna with a handwritten quote inserted inside it. My mum told how, in 1939 on the eve of the second world war and the dark days of the battle of Britain, King George VI had given a speech, quoting from a poem which had profoundly moved his wife, Elizabeth, and presumably him as well. In turn, the poem, broadcasted across the waves to faraway Bowen in Northern Queensland, had greatly moved my Nanna and had given her the courage to face the days ahead, as a mother of four young girls, as a teacher, as wife and as a citizen. 

Here are the words she heard - and which some of you may remember - and which, I think, are as relevant today as they were then. 

"And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East."
“God Knows” (aka “The Gate of the Year”) by Minnie Louise Haskins
(You can read the full poem here.)

When the storm comes, do we like Peter look at the strength of the wind (Mat 14:29-31), or do we look to the Creator, our Lord and Saviour, who made the cosmos, who is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega, the one who controls the tempests?

Jeanette O'Hagan

*Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978 1984 2011 by Biblica, Inc. TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Monday, 16 March 2020

News from Omega Writers: 2020 Conference, CALEB Award, and SA Writer's Day

It's Iola Goulton here, and I'm sharing the latest news from Omega Writers:

South Australian Omega Writer's Day

The South Australian members of Omega Writers are planning their first meetup on 2 May. Christy Award-winning author David Rawlings will be speaking, along with James Cooper, who coordinates the Tabor College creative writing programme.

Time: 9am - 4pm, 2 May 2020

Location: Edwardstown Baptist Church, Dorene St & Rothesay Ave, St Marys SA 5042.

The cost for the day will be $25, which will include lunch, and bookings are essential.

Click here for more information, and to book.

2020 Omega Writers Conference

Plans are still going ahead for conference amid the ever-changing news around the COVID-19 pandemic. Omega Writers President Meredith Resce says:
We hope that we will not have to cancel. We hope that the swift action taken by our health authorities will see a containment of this virus, and that we may continue along as planned.
Our committee are mindful of the situation, but we are not making any calls one way or the other, at present, but will most certainly make a call in good time to reduce the liability as much as possible. Please stand by. Be sensible according to all health advice being issued, and keep in faith.
The original plan was to open conference registrations on 1 April, but this is now likely to be delayed given that both Australia and New Zealand now require visitors to self-isolate for fourteen days after arrival. As Meredith says, the committee are discussing the issue, and we pray they will have wisdom as they think through the issues.

We will profile the nonfiction and other speakers next month.

2020 CALEB Award

The 2020 CALEB Award open for entries on Wednesday 1 April, and entries will close on Thursday 30 April.

As the coordinator of the Awards, I’d like to encourage all members of the Australasian Christian Writers community to get involved. Today I’m going to share three ways you can be involved:
  • Entry opportunities
  • Judging opportunities
  • Sponsorship opportunities

Entry Opportunities

Entry to the CALEB Award is open to all Australian and New Zealand Christian writers (wherever they live), or writers living in Australia or New Zealand.

The 2020 Published Award will have the following categories:

  • Fiction (romance and women’s fiction)
  • Children’s fiction (early reader to middle grade i.e. 5-12 years, and no picture books)
  • Non-fiction excluding memoir/biography
The 2020 Published Awards are open to books with a 2019 or 2018 copyright date, subject to the book not having previously been entered. We will accept entries with a 2017 copyright date only if the title could not have been entered in the last two years because that category was not offered.

The 2020 Unpublished Award is for young adult fiction across all genres.

We will ask entrants to state their genre so we’re able to match them with judges who enjoy and feel capable judging that genre. We don’t want to give a romance title to a judge who loathes romance, or a fantasy title to a judge who hates fantasy.

About the CALEB Award

The CALEB Award is run by Omega Writers although books don’t have to be overtly Christian.

Some of our winners have been “defiantly Christian”. Others have been great books by Christian writers with underlying Christian themes like love, honesty, or the importance of family.

While we do accept entries that aren’t specifically aimed at the Christian market, we do ask that all entrants state their agreement with the Omega Writers Statement of Belief. We also remind entrants that we are judging books based on a Christian world view, so general market titles are unlikely to score well.

Judging Opportunities

Writing contests need entrants, but they also need judges. Some contests require entrants to judge in another category. We don’t, but judging is a great way of giving back to the Australasian Christian writing community.
  • If you’re entering the Unpublished award, then we’d love to have you judge the Published award.
  • If you write fiction and you’re entering one of the Published awards, then we’d love to have you judge the Unpublished award.
If you’re not entering the CALEB, then we’d love to have you judge whatever category you like!

What qualifications do I need to be a judge?

You need to be a keen reader of the genre you’re offering to judge. That’s pretty much it.

If you’re applying to judge the Unpublished contest, then it would be great if you’re also a writer, editor, or publisher, as we want to give our Unpublished entrants quality feedback.

Also, the CALEB Award is a Christian contest, so we do ask that judges agree with the Omega Writers Statement of Belief. But you don't have to be a member of Omega writers to judge the CALEB, or to enter.

What do judges have to do?

First-round judges will have approximately two months to judge between three and ten entries in the category and genre of their choice (so if you hate reading young adult romance, we’ll do our best to ensure you don’t get any romance entries). If you can only judge three entries, we’ll send you three. If you can judge more, we’ll send you more.

The Unpublished contest is the first 10,000 words of the manuscript, plus a 1,000-word synopsis.

Depending on how fast you read and how much feedback you give, judging should take between 30 and 60 minutes per entry.

Those judging the Unpublished contest will be asked to provide written feedback to support their scores, and this feedback will be given to the entrants. Feedback is one of the main reasons to enter an Unpublished contest, so we do ask that judges give fair, considered, and prayerful feedback. Click here to download a draft score sheet.

The first round of the Published contest is based on the 50 pages (or 25%) of the book for other categories (although you’re welcome to read the entire book). Judges will be asked to complete a score sheet for each entry, but will not have to provide written feedback, and score sheets will not be returned to the entrants.

Second-round judges will have approximately two months to pick a winner from between three and five finalists. They will be asked to read and judge the full book or manuscript (entries are capped at 120,000 words).

If you'd like to judge, click here and complete the form.

Sponsorship Opportunities

If you or your business would like to sponsor a category of the CALEB Award by offering a category prize (of either cash or a service), then please contact the Omega Writers Sponsorship team.

How will you get involved in the 2020 CALEB Award?

Do you have any questions I haven’t answered? If so, please leave a comment.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

CWD Member Interview – Cecily Paterson

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

Todays interview: Cecily Paterson

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

  1. I spent most of my childhood in Pakistan, where I went to a British school, and then an international boarding school in the Himalayas, so I’ve had some pretty outlandish and exotic family holidays, including a road trip to the border of China at 16,000ft altitude. 
  2. These days I’m a work-from-home freelance writer and editor, which I combine with being a stay at home mum of four kids, although one of them grew up recently and went off to uni, so technically I’m only a stay at home mum of three kids. 
  3. When I was 40, I took up learning the cello, which turned out to be a hard and frustrating, yet rewarding and enjoyable experience. My pleasures and pains in this endeavour have contributed plenty of life-lesson-type-wisdom fodder for my slightly neglected blog. (

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

Mostly I write what I call ‘bravehearted books for girls’. It’s realistic fiction for readers age 10-14 (upper middle grade and lower YA) and as all my main characters are female, I tend to pitch for female readers (although boys have been known to read and enjoy my stories.) My eighth novel, Lola in the Middle is being released by Wombat Books on 15 May this year. I’m in the process of re-releasing my Invisible series with adorably gorgeous new covers.
My first two books were a biography, Never Alone, about a man who was rescued from an orphanage in Israel and brought up by a single Australian missionary woman, as then a memoir of the five years following my son’s diagnosis with autistic spectrum disorder, Love Tears & Autism. 
Currently I’m the writer for a collaborative project with two friends who are not writers, but who have 9 fantasy/sci-fi/historical ‘gaslamp’ stories in their heads. We’re halfway through book 2. It’s fun to write things I wouldn’t normally.
In term 3 of this year I have plans to tackle a biblical fiction piece, based on the story of the mother of the man born blind from John 9. 
On another front, I really enjoy teaching writing. I have an online Write Your Memoir course and a blog full of writing resources at The Red Lounge for Writers. ( I’m currently cooking up a short course for fiction writers on how to nail Point of View. It’s something that seems easy, but isn’t always, and it can really let down our writing if we muck it up. Get right, though, and it’s the invisible ‘it’ factor that makes a book really shine.

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

Who has read my work? Not nearly enough people, as far as I’m concerned! Ha ha. Don’t we all feel that way? But seriously… every time I think about giving up writing, I get a beautiful email from someone (a young teenager mostly) who tells me how much my book has meant to them, and how I shouldn’t ever stop writing. It’s lovely. I always write back and tell them they are my current favourite person in the world – which is true. And I don’t stop writing. But I do find the whole process of finding a large and consistent audience slow, tedious and discouraging. 
Who would I like to read my work? Every girl in every English-speaking country who is inclined to read, who enjoys realistic fiction, who’s between 10 and 14. How’s that for being both specific and ambitious? One of my other dreams is to get my books into every public library in Australia. (If you like my stuff, you could suggest to your library to purchase it. Thanks.)
In terms of the Red Lounge for Writers, I’d love everyone who’s thinking about writing a memoir, or partway through the task, to look at my course. It’s helped quite a few beginner writers so far, and I think it could help more. 

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

My process is mostly this: sit down, start typing. Don’t get up until your word count is done.
That’s not quite all there is to it, but it’s the most important part. I have four and a half days per week, from 9am to 3pm, that I can use for my writing and promotional work, and any freelance projects I have on. It’s technically only 25 hours, once you take out breaks. I plan to write on three of those days, and I attempt to get 3000 words onto the screen per day, so 9000 words a week. 
Story planning is very important for my work: I’m definitely a ‘plotter’ rather than a pantser, mostly because my time is so limited that I like to know exactly where I’m going before I start, so as to be most efficient with the words I write.
I lose time for a few reasons: first, I get sick every 6-8 weeks with what I call an energy crash. (These started when I had glandular fever 29 years ago and lay me low for two to three days at a time. After long naps and a lot of ‘bed’ time, I get up and I’m fine, but they take their toll on my writing.) 
Second, I am SO easily distracted, it’s almost laughable. I have a mantra for myself: 45 seconds. Research shows that we distract our own brains every 45 seconds. If I can last longer than that, I’ll have resisted the urge to get sidetracked and can keep on going.
Third, sometimes I get lonely as a writer. I sit here all day in my laundry (seriously… I divided my laundry in half and put my desk is in one end) and talk to no one. It helps to have a quick online chat here and there with other lonely writers.
What helps me is to visualize the end result—the published book. I think I like ‘having written’, rather than writing itself. Also, food and drinks help. My preferred beverages and snacks to get me through are decaf tea (lots of it), dark chocolate and a bowlful of frozen vegetables. 

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

I have three.
  1. Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder. Yes, it says it’s about screen-writing, but really it's about story structure. It's funny, it's clear and it'll help you plan out your memoir or your novel and get a clearer idea on exactly what you're writing. 
  2. Story Genius, by Lisa Cron. Lisa’s the genius in laying out so clearly exactly what the emotional hook of your writing needs to be, and exactly how to do it.
  3. Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (and really getting it) by Janice Hardy. This book promises exactly what it delivers.
Check out my page at for more great writing craft books

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

Kristen Young is working super hard to finish book 2 of her trilogy that she was signed with Steve Laube. Keep that word count going!
Penny Reeve has been a tremendous support to me in the last year or so, and she writes great books too. Definitely worth a read. 
I can’t forget Raewyn Elsegood, who is a powerhouse in organizational prowess. She pulls together the Omega Writers Conference at great cost to her own time and energy and gives so expansively and generously to others. It’s almost impossible to over-appreciate her service to Christian writers in Australia.

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

Four books. Total word count: 285,000. I’m on track so far. Like I said, bottom on chair, hands on keyboard. 

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

I always feel weird about this question. We don’t ask car mechanics how their faith shapes the way they work on their cars, or baristas how their faith affects the coffee they make. I’m trying to make writing work for me as a job (I’d certainly like to write full time, for a reasonable amount of money … it’s not happening yet, but I keep trying). I don’t have a direct ‘calling’ to tell specifically Christian stories and I am writing for the general market. However, as my faith affects the way I live my life in private and public, it shapes what and how I write. I literally can’t write anything I feel uncomfortable with, in terms of sexual suggestiveness or violence. Instead, I like to put out positive, yet realistic stories for children embedded with hope, justice and mercy. As a Christian, I’m called to put good into the world, so I write things that I think will benefit people, or at the very least, not take them to dark places. 

Monday, 9 March 2020

God's All-Year-Round Christmas Stars

As I sit here at my desk, inquiring of the Lord what it is he wants me to talk about in this blog, my eyes fell on a Christmas decoration lovingly stored, (randomly shoved!), in my desk drawer. As I pondered its shape, and colours, and gold ribbon, it got me thinking about how strange it is, that this is instantly identified as a Christmas tree decoration. I showed it to 3 kids in my house, and they all looked at me quizzically, and then affirmed that it is, indeed, a Christmas tree decoration. 

So, Helen, how does this tie in with writers? In March?! (I must confess...I was asking God the very same thing; who writes about Christmas decorations in March?!). It's a very beautiful, very simple message, about two things:

Identity and purpose. 

We so easily identify things by their characteristics; in this case, the red/gold combo, the shape, the glittery ribbon, all of these things are standard Christmas things. Does it change because Christmas is over? Not at all! Given these things on their own have other meanings, does that affect the decoration's purpose? Again, no, it's still a Christmas tree decoration, and carries that meaning with it all year through. Its purpose is to declare the birth of Christ, and help us celebrate it; it heralds the joy and love and peace that he brings to our world

No matter what genre we write in specifically, every single day we have so many opportunities to bring Christ's light to the world, which is just oozing with negativity and the most horrid of comments and conversations. In today's world, we must be like this little red and gold star of Christmas, and point people to Christ, and his message of love. When people least expect to find us, we must be there, shining the light of Christ. Whatever it is we're writing, the undercurrents must be those of Christ: we should be standing out, and signalling hope to all, and make people stop and say, this author, this commentator, this narrator, this random person commenting on a Facebook post...they emanate something that makes me want to linger a little, spend a bit more time in their words, soaking them in, and hearing what they have to say. 

Because what they have to say, it speaks differently from most: 

Their words build others up, where others tear them down.

Their novel leaves their readers feeling positive and believing in the truest form of love, rather than leaving them negative and cynical.

Their comment on a viral social media video defends someone who perhaps doesn't have the voice to do so for themselves, rather than just joining in with the worldwide shaming and humiliation, just because someone caught them in a vulnerable moment and decided to video it, rather than help them.

Their reply to an acquaintance on a Facebook post is full of humility and grace, rather than a fighting, retaliative spirit that so many Christians are known for. 

Their blog posts encourage people to seek the Lord, the God of all creation, rather than believe that we are just here as accidents, unloved, unimportant, and with no future. 

Colossians 4:6 says, Be gracious in your speech. The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out. (The Message translation). 

The goal is to bring out the best in others!  

What is it that God is asking you to say today through your writing? Who is God asking you to build up in conversation today? Encouragement via an email to a boss? Strength to a friend via a prayerful message? Unconditional love and respect for a child who perhaps knows it, but needs to hear it? Perhaps it's an apology for a previously sent email, which was truthful, but not perhaps gracious...oh, I've been there, and I'm learning to temper my words. For our words...they are powerful! And in today's environment of fear, and selfishness, and filth, and a total lack of respect for other people, our words can be the reminder to the world that Christ is still on the throne, that his love is unchanging and his grace is all-encompassing! 

And the best thing? The more we do this, the more people will begin to identify us, through our writing, as people who bring Christ's joy and love and peace to this world. 

All year round. 

I can think of no greater inspiration to write, and no greater purpose: the love of God, and of his people. 

May the Lord help us to be Colossians 4:6 people, identifiable by our character, through our written words, in the power of the Holy Spirit, for the glory of God the Father, for the salvation of all through the blood of Jesus Christ.