Caleb MacLaren has won the Australian Christian Teen Writer award for 2023 with his manuscript entitled, The Journey which follows four teenagers as they navigate an empty world devastated by an alien attack.
The annual SparkLit awards recognises Christian writing and publishing that helps people discover Jesus in authentic and culturally meaningful ways.
A $1,000 prize is given for the best unpublished manuscript by an Australian citizen under 18 years of age. Entries are judged according to original nature of the work, literary style and how it meets a need for Christian writing in Australia.
The judges described The Journey as a modern twist on the Noah’s ark story with a complex plot, compelling characters and natural dialogue.
96five’s Steff Willis caught up with Caleb MacLaren to learn more about his writing process and his delight in winning the Australian Christian Teen Writer award.
“It was a bit surreal, I guess… It was very exciting” Caleb said.
“One of my hobbies is doing theatre and one of our projects for the end of the year was to make our own short plays… we came up with this concept of what The Journey is. We wrote a 10-minute play and then we performed that, and it was a great experience. Come the start of 2023 I started rewriting The Journey… I used the idea and adapted it [into a screenplay].”
Despite moments of writer’s block, Caleb has continued to hone and work on his craft and would encourage others with a creative dream to do the same.
“I’m not expert but I would say… keep doing it” Caleb said.
“Whatever it is that you want to do. I actually notice myself getting better at things and learning when I just do it.
“I found I’ve learnt a lot over the year about actually telling stories and how to craft good stories.
Christopher Watkin was also a winner taking home this year’s Australian Christian Book of the Year for his book Biblical Critical Theory: How the Bible’s Unfolding Story Makes Sense of Modern Life and Culture.
In his book, Mr Watkin, who is also an associate professor at Monash University in Melbourne, uses the Bible to analyse and interpret contemporary Western culture.
Listen to the full interview with Caleb MacLaren in the player above.