Tag Archives: Canadian Christian Writing Awards

More Awards for A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider

A Second Cup of Hot Apple CiderWriters from A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider won an unprecedented 13 awards, consisting of six first-place prizes and seven awards of merit in the 2012 Canadian Christian Writing Awards.

The book won recognition for its excellence in all six categories in which it was nominated. The winners were announced at a gala presentation recognizing the best in Christian writing published during 2011.

It also broke records for being shortlisted 27 times, the most ever for any book, and for conducting the most extensive launch ever done for a Canadian Christian book, with more than 175 author events held in seven provinces.

Four of the anthology’s contributors received multiple awards.

Angelina Fast-Vlaar took two first prizes for her personal experience article “Forgiven,” as did M. D. Meyer for her short story “Bannock and Sweet Tea.” Judges gave the book’s co-editor, Wendy Elaine Nelles, one first prize and two awards of merit for her profile “Soulmates.” Adele Simmons won for her nonfiction piece, “Charlie,” plus collected an award of merit for “The Bulletin Board.”

Other awards of merit (acknowledging finalists who received judges’ scores very close to the winning entry) went to Bonnie Beldan-Thomson, Glynis M. Belec, Marguerite Cummings and Evangeline Inman.

The bestselling book A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider is a collection of stories by 37 Canadian writers who share a Christian faith perspective. It contains short fiction, poetry, and personal experience articles, all chosen to provide hope and encouragement. (Click to read the full press release A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider Wins Big at the Canadian Christian Writing Awards.)

It’s a great summer read for you or for a friend.

A Gift Book, and a Special Offer

A Second Cup of Hot Apple CiderA Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider released one year ago, and has already reached bestseller status in Canada (5,000 copies sold). Many of the entries are short-listed for The Word Guild’s Canadian Christian Writing Awards, my story won an award in the InScribe members-only contest, and the anthology itself was awarded 2012 Book of the Year: Gift Book Category by the Christian Small Publishers’ Association.

To celebrate, the publisher is offering a special deal for the month of May 2012: Buy a copy of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider and get a free copy of the original Hot Apple Cider. Just in time for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day!

Visit the Hot Apple Cider website for more information. And follow this link if you’d like a sample of my story, “The Road Trip that Wasn’t.”

Canada’s Top Christian Writing Awards for 2011

On June 15, 2011, The Word Guild will present the Canadian Christian Writing Awards for work published during 2010. Contest Administrator Jane Twohey reports a record 260 submissions in the 35 award categories that include non-fiction books, novels, articles, columns, blogs, poems, and song lyrics.

Some of the books up for awards have been reviewed on this blog (see category list on the right-hand side of this page) and I’m pleased to have met many of the finalists through The Word Guild, Write! Canada and InScribe. Check out the complete shortlist of finalists for The Word Guild 2010 Writing Awards.

Finalists are distributed across eight provinces. British Columbia writers account for 8 finalist placements; Alberta 6; Saskatchewan 6; Manitoba 7; Ontario 51; Quebec 1; New Brunswick 2 and Nova Scotia 2. Canadians living in the U.S. and Africa are also represented among the finalists. Each winner will be presented with a cash prize, a certificate and a specially designed lapel pin to mark his or her achievement.

The judges looked for underlying evidence that the writer’s Christian worldview informed and influenced the writing. Entries were judged according to excellence of writing; impact (the inspirational or informational value); fulfillment of stated purpose; suitability to target audience; originality and freshness of style.

The awards are sponsored by The Word Guild, a national association with the mandate of connecting, developing and promoting Canadian writers and editors who are Christian. Formerly known as The God Uses Ink Awards, these writing prizes have been awarded annually since 1988. The Word Guild assumed responsibility for the awards in 2002, revamping and expanding the program from its original eight categories to the current 35.

The Word Guild Canadian Christian Writing Awards gala in Toronto is open to the general public. (Get more details here.)

[Adapted from the original press release from The Word Guild.]

Review: Promises You Can Count On, by Natalie Gidney

Promises You Can Count On, by Natalie Gidney (Word Alive Press, 2009)

Bible promise books, complete with a helpful index, are great resources, and every Christian’s bookshelf should have one. But you only need one.

That’s why Promises You Can Count On takes a different approach. Natalie Gidney focuses on ten essential promises, including peace, salvation, grace and joy, and invites readers to “claim them and watch and see what He can do.” (p. 6)

This slender book is ideal for new believers or for those considering faith in Jesus Christ. It’s also a good refresher for more seasoned Christians. Each chapter draws on a number of Scriptures to explore one of God’s promises. With an easy conversational style, Natalie looks at what this promise can mean in our lives, and she offers candid examples of what it’s meant in her own.

Naturally, salvation is one of the early topics. It may surprise some readers, then, to see forgiveness rounding out the number ten spot as the final chapter. But as Natalie explains, forgiveness is something that’s required of us as well as something we need from God. That can be a hard truth to hear, and I think she’s wise to build up to it.

In some ways, forgiving others—or ourselves—isn’t possible until we’re sure we can trust God’s promises. So it makes sense to immerse ourselves in them first and grow our faith.

Promises You Can Count On was a finalist in the Relationships category of The Word Guild’s 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards (for books published in 2009).

Canadian author and speaker Natalie Gidney blogs at Promises for All. You can watch her interview on 100 Huntley Street: part 1 and part 2.

[book source: my personal library]

Review: The Tender Heart of a Beast, by Michael “Bull” Roberts

The Tender Heart of a Beast, by Michael Bull Roberts (Trimatrix Management Consulting Inc., 2009)

Michael “Bull” Roberts experienced overwhelming trauma and abuse as a child and a teen. As an adult, he dealt a lot of pain to those who crossed him. His purpose in this autobiography is neither to portray himself as a victim nor to glorify his successes as a crime lord. It’s to show how a loving God finally brought him to faith.

Michael tells his story in a conversational tone as if over coffee or in an interview. He avoids graphic detail and leaves much unsaid.

The Tender Heart of a Beast is a slim book, under 200 pages. The first half tells Michael’s story. The second is a collection of his unedited articles from Beyond the Walls prison newsletter, offering a window into his heart and to the challenges of a new Christian. There are also a handful of photographs, and it’s easy to see the difference in Michael’s eyes now that he belongs to Jesus.

What’s troubling about the book is that it’s non-fiction. It really happened, and this once-sensitive and fragile young boy endured so much from people who should have valued and nurtured him.

Reading how God drew Michael long before his conversion can encourage us to persevere with the hurting and angry people in our own lives.

The book is also a cry for Christians and churches to reach out to the outcasts—and to welcome a man who still looks dangerous but who is now uniquely equipped to share the Gospel with people who’d never listen to a preacher in a suit:

“How does a smelly, greasy biker or homeless person become a well-dressed, well-groomed example of the love of God? Well that’s easy. It’s up to you to love him, clothe him, mentor him and help him to the cross every time he falls until he becomes the man God has planned for him to become.” (p. 168)

I think I hear Jesus saying the same.

The Tender Heart of a Beast won a 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Award in the Books: General Readership category and an honourable mention in Books: Culture. A dangerous man. A chance at redemption. Heaven's Prey.

Copies are available from the author. For those who just want to hear Michael’s story, DVD copies of his testimony are also available. To order books or DVDs, please use this link to email the author.

Here’s a brief interview with Michael Bull Roberts

[Review copy from my personal library]

Review: What Rough Beast, by Shawn J. Pollett

What Rough Beast, by Shawn J. Pollett (Word Alive Press, 2010)

It’s 253 AD, two years after the events of Christianus Sum. The evil Valerianus is back, and now he’s Emperor of Rome. He establishes his son, Gallienus, as co-emperor, and plans to manipulate him into annihilating the Christians.

Valerianus schemes to eradicate the Christians. But will internal strife destroy them first?

Many of those who denied the Christos under Emperor Decius’ persecution are truly repentant and desperate for forgiveness.

Some church leaders offer certificates of peace, affirming their reinstatement in the body. Others refuse. And understandably, these lapsi have great trouble forgiving themselves.

Damarra’s and Valens’ past suffering at Valerianus’ hands gives them high status among other Christians, and many lapsi come to beg for certificates of peace. Damarra writes them, Valens will not. He, who passed the test in the first book, can’t understand how another could falter—until he reaches his own breaking point.

Before that happens, a stranger comes from one of the Germanic tribes, with a message from the Christos: Valens is to evade the emperor’s clutches and lead a “clan” of 13 to an unknown event at an unspecified time and place outside of the Roman Empire.

The novel follows the assembly and journey of the clan, along with the military and political struggles of each of the co-emperors. The empire is under attack from many sides, including King Kniva from Christianus Sum.

The characters are well-developed, and their relationships add richness to the story. When good characters make bad choices, the reader sees it coming and understands why. Reader tension increases as we keep hoping the individuals will see the truth and turn back in time.

The lapsi make an interesting subplot. This is a new aspect of church history to me, and I can relate to both sides of the issue. Canadian author Shawn J. Pollett has done his research, and he brings the early Christians’ surroundings and issues to life.

The novel’s title comes from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “The Second Coming,” which trembles at the horrors that precede Jesus’ return.

What Rough Beast is book 2 of the Cry of the Martyrs trilogy, and a worthy successor to Christianus Sum. Watch for it in next year’s Canadian Christian Writing Awards.

Both novels are available through local bookstores and online, in print and eBook versions. You can find an interesting introduction to the “Cry of the Martyrs” series at Shawn J. Pollett’s website.

[Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a fair review. A shorter version of this review appeared in Faith Today, Sept/Oct. 2010]

Review: Majesty in Motion, by Stewart Brown

Majesty in Motion: Creating an Encouragement Culture in all Your Relationships, by Stewart Brown, D. Min. (Word Alive Press, 2009)

I suppose while Jesus lived in Palestine in human form, those around Him truly saw the majesty of God in motion. Until He comes again, Christians have the responsibility of modeling God to those around us. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to live in us and empower us, but too many times we fail.

In Majesty in Motion, Stewart Brown has provided a helpful, practical resource to overcome that failure. The encouragement culture he calls us to isn’t one of superficial compliments, but a lifestyle of building others up toward their God-given potential. It’s rooted and strengthened in prayer.

Seeing others as God sees them, affirming their value and investing time in their lives, is to treat them as Jesus would—to display God’s majesty in motion.

Stewart writes,

To be encouraged is to experience the transformative power of God, which gives you the courage to be and act according to God’s eternal purpose for your life.” (p. xiv)

As such, we need both to encourage ourselves in the Lord and to encourage others in Him.

This type of encouragement is intentional. It comes from prayerful intimacy with God and an awareness of the needs of others. And as the title makes clear, it’s about relationships, not religion or human effort.

The book asserts that encouragement has three parts: strengthening the heart, coming alongside to help, and inspiring to move forward:

Real, authentic encouragement—the attitude and heart that reflects the greatness of God through the warm, caring filter of God’s grace—is meant to be constantly active in the lives of every follower of Jesus.” (p. 19)

If we accept encouragement as our mission, we need to be equipped to deliver it. Part two of Majesty in Motion highlights three vital elements that God’s encouragers must develop: joy, patience, and an imitation of Jesus’ example.

As well as looking at the life of encouragement and the foundation required in each Christian’s life, the book also addresses the intentionality and the practice of encouragement. We have the why and the how, with practical details and clear examples. Each chapter comes with questions and suggestions for individuals and groups, and there are appendices of extra material for encouragement partners and church greeters.

There is a huge amount of truth packed into this 200-page book, and it’s easy to digest and understand. Application will take work and personal discipline, but the benefits are worth the cost.

I was personally challenged by the repeated call for a solid, personal confidence in God. It makes perfect sense: if you’re not securely trusting God in your own spirit, how can you help others? We must first learn to encourage ourselves in God, like an airline passenger donning her own oxygen mask before helping the child beside her.

David’s friend Jonathan helped him find strength in God when he was in danger from King Saul. Later, by himself David found strength in God when his men were ready to turn on him. Both are needed.

Majesty in Motion sets high goals that are achievable with diligence, and challenges readers to make that effort. It’s on my list of books that I wish every Christian could read.

Stewart Brown, D. Min, is a Canadian pastor, speaker and author currently serving in Alberta. Majesty in Motion follows the theme of his popular speaking engagements. Click here to read more about Majesty in Motion.  You can check out Stewart’s recent interview on 100 Huntley Street (Stewart Brown interview, 1/2 and Stewart Brown interview 2/2) or visit his website, One Heart Ministries, to learn more about his ministry.

Majesty in Motion won a 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Award (for work published in 2009) in the Book: Relationship category, and was a finalist in the Book: Christian Living category.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards

The Word Guild’s 2010 Canadian Christian Writing Awards were presented on June 16 in Mississauga, Ontario, recognizing work published in 2009. For a complete list, see The Word Guild Awards site.

The awards cover articles, blog entries, reviews, short fiction… and books. Some of these books I’ve reviewed, and others are on my ‘to read’ list. If you’re looking for some good reading this summer, you might check these out:

Apologetics: Red Letter Revolution: If We Did Revolution Jesus’ Way by Colin McCartney (Castle Quay Books)

Biblical Studies: Jesus, the Final Days by Craig Evans (Augsburg Fortress Canada)

Children: Terrific Tuesday by Wendy van Leeuwen (Gumboot Books)

Christian Living: Beyond the Clutter: Discovering Personal Authenticity by David Wiens (Word Alive Press)

Christian Living Award of Merit: Master Mind: Thinking Like God by Dwight J. Olney (Word Alive Press)

Culture: Ninety-Nine Windows: Reflections of a Reporter from Arabia to Africa and Other Roads Less Travelled by Thomas Froese (Essence Publishing)

Culture Award of Merit: The Tender Heart of a Beast by Michael “Bull” Roberts (Trimatrix Management Consulting Inc.)

General Readership: The Tender Heart of a Beast by Michael “Bull” Roberts (Trimatrix Management Consulting Inc.)

General Readership Award of Merit: The Little Ones by M.D. Meyer (Word Alive Press)

Independently Published Fiction: The Lathe of God—A Quest For Noah’s Ark by Angus L. Franklin (iUniverse Inc.)

Independently Published Fiction Award of Merit: The Little Ones by M.D. Meyer (Word Alive Press)

Independently Published Non-fiction: In the Arms of my Beloved – A Journey through Breast Cancer by Sandra Crawford (independently published)

Independently Published Non-fiction Award of Merit: The Bishop or the King: How the Anglican Church of Canada Has Failed to Defend Its King by Ron Corcoran (Essence Publishing)

Instructional: The Leadership Edge: Seven Keys to Dynamic Christian Leadership for Women by Eileen Stewart-Rhude (Castle Quay Books)

Instructional Award of Merit: Your Best You: Discovering and Developing the Strengths God Gave You by Bonnie Grove (Beacon Hill Press)

Leadership/Theoretical: Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation by James K.A. Smith (Baker Publishing Group)

Leadership/Theoretical Award of Merit: 1 and 2 Peter: Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible by Douglas Harink (Brazos Press)

Life Stories: In the Eye of Deception by Nikki Rosen (McMaster University: Innovative Press)

Life Stories Award of Merit: The Bishop or the King: How the Anglican Church of Canada Has Failed to Defend Its King by Ron Corcoron (Essence Publishing)

Relationship: Majesty in Motion: Creating an Encouragement Culture in All Your Relationships by Stewart Brown (Word Alive Press)

Special: One Goal: A Praise and Prayer Journal by Gerry Organ (Word Alive Press)

Novel—Young Adult: If Only You Knew by Mags Storey (Kregel Publishing)

Novel—Contemporary: Talking to the Dead: A Novel by Bonnie Grove (David C. Cook)

Novel—Futuristic/Fantasy: After the Flood by Shane Joseph (Hidden Book Press)

Novel—Mystery/Suspense: Captives of Minara by Eric E. Wright (Word Alive Press)

Novel—Romance: If Only You Knew by Mags Storey (Kregel Publishing)

Novel—Romance Award of Merit: Shadows on the River by Linda Hall (Harlequin/Steeple Hill)

Review: Christianus Sum, by Shawn J. Pollett

Christianus Sum, by Shawn J. Pollett (Word Alive Press, 2008)

In third-century Rome, Christians have enjoyed a time of relative peace…until the installation of Emperor Decius. One of the emperor’s key supporters is Publius Licinius Valerianus, a cruel man who schemes to be next on the throne—and whose hatred of Christianity has already cost many lives.

To refuse to deny the Christos, to adamantly declare “Christianus Sum”—I am a Christian—is to die a martyr’s death.

Roman Senator Julius Valens disagrees. In honour of his dead wife’s faith, he allows a group of Christians to worship in one of the many rooms of his home. Equally indifferent to all deities, he designates other rooms for the other gods his slaves may want to worship.

He doesn’t expect to fall in love with a slave—a Christian slave, at that. The beautiful Damarra and her friends teach him about their faith. Although he’s not convinced, his efforts to protect the Christians from persecution draw him into danger.

Canadian author Shawn J. Pollett has created a complex plot with vivid characters and a strong sense of place and time. I was hesitant to read a novel set in such a troubled era, but the story quickly drew me in. When I wasn’t reading, I was thinking about it.

With long Latin names and authentic details, Christianus Sum (the ‘u’ in ‘sum’ sounds like the ‘oo’ in ‘cook’) isn’t a fast or light read. It slowed me down and made me feel like I was there in the past, in this ornate and formal time of Roman rule. It also let me see a bit of the life and times of the culture.

The novel has plenty of drama and emotion to keep you turning pages, and I appreciated the author’s sensitive handling of the brutality. Much of the suffering is off-camera, so to speak. Readers know what’s going on without being traumatized. The ending does get quite intense, but no more so than necessary and there’s nothing gratuitous about it.

The story is told in the third person with shifts into omniscient, and although occasionally I wasn’t sure of a scene’s point of view it always became clear within a few paragraphs.

As well as the spiritual, persecution and romance threads, Christianus Sum also explores friendship, duty, battles and political intrigues. There’s a lot in these pages to satisfy a reader.

I’m not strong in history and I found myself wondering about these characters, especially the emperors and generals. Were there actual people by these names? How much of this actually happened? The author thoughtfully included an afterward to answer these questions and more.

I’ve finished the novel, but its characters have stayed with me, and I find myself wondering how well I’d stand in such a time of trouble. How my brothers and sisters in Christ would stand. These fictional characters share such a vibrant love for one another and for the Christos, and mine feels so pale in comparison.

As well as love for God, the characters have a strong trust in Him. After one rare, happy experience, we read, “Sometimes, [Damarra] wondered if God worked in unexpected ways for the sheer pleasure of watching his people look up to the heavens, scratch their heads, and ask, ‘How did you do that?’” (p. 49)

In 2009, Christianus Sum received The Word Guild’s Canadian Christian Writing Awards in three of the novel categories: Historical, Mystery/Suspense and Romance. Before that, as an unpublished manuscript, it won Word Alive Press’ 2008 free publishing contest in the fiction category.

Christianus Sum is book one in the “Cry of the Martyrs” trilogy. Book two, What Rough Beast, released in April 2010. I look forward to reading it. Both are available through local bookstores and online. Ebook versions are available through various online stores although not from my favourite, fictionwise.com. I notice a variety of ebook pricing, so shop around.

If you visit Shawn J. Pollett’s website, you’ll find an interesting introduction to the “Cry of the Martyrs” series.

[Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.]

Review: Blooming, by Marian den Boer

Blooming, by Marian den Boer (Word Alive Press, 2009)

Blooming, subtitled “This Pilgrim’s Progress,” is a collection of short, slice-of-life vignettes from the den Boer household. Many were originally published as articles in The Christian Courier. Each one ends with a Scripture and the author’s thoughts as she looks back on the incident.

Marian den Boer writes with a friendly, engaging style, as if she’s sharing these events with a good friend. She’s not afraid to admit when she fails, and she has a keen eye for the humour in a situation. It’s interesting to read the lessons she draws from her life, and although our own experiences will often be different, the lessons still apply.

Marian sums the book up best herself:

The stories… reveal the day-to-day experiences of my sometimes frazzled self as I mothered six children over a period of approximately 15 years. The Holy Spirit subtly, yet dramatically, convicted and convinced me in the nitty gritty of everyday family life… I lived Christianity from my head. As the years progressed God patiently changed me into someone who attempts to live Christianity from the heart as led by His Spirit. (pp. xii, xiii)

Although each chapter is short, I kept turning pages for “just one more.” Watch for Blooming when the short-list comes out for this year’s Canadian Christian Writing Awards.

For more about Canadian author Marian den Boer, visit her blog, Blooming: This Pilgrim’s Progress (and Regress). You can read the introduction to Blooming here, and sample chapters here and here.

Review copy purchased by reviewer (at Miracles Christian Store).