Viva Mardi Gras!

VIVA MARDI GRAS 2020! JOEL CREASEY co-hosted the live broadcast of Mardi Gras on SBS this year on 29 February. Mardi Gras Co-Chairs, SGLMG, Kate Wickett and Giovanni Campolo-Arcidiaco, welcomed you to this year’s festival. ‘WHAT MATTERS: This season’s theme encompasses the spirit of our organisation and our festival. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gas, with its focus on diversity, inclusion, equity and social justice, provides a platform for individuals and groups to be visible and express what most matters to them. We welcome another season of self-expression and activism, showcased in the brilliant creative ways that our communities can.’ (Banner by L.J. May)


This page is devoted to events and activities of interest to writers, illustrators and readers! Go to entries below the quick list for more detailed information.  

The CWA’S MARGERY ALLINGHAM SHORT MYSTERY COMPETITION, and the DEBUT DAGGER 2020 both close on Saturday, 29 February 2020, and you don’t have to be a UK resident to enter (see COMPETITIONS ETC. for details).

The CWA (UK) sends you some WRITING TIPS by way of encouragement. Competition is always fierce, so why not have a look here for the CWA's crime-writing tips. On this page you can also sign up to receive the Debuts newsletter.

Also, see Preparing Your Entry for the Debut Dagger: Style Guide – with CWA secretary Dea Parkin on this page, Letting Your Characters Do the Talking – with Author John Dean on page WHAT'S ON AUTHORS P2, and Beginnings and Story Flow – some miscellaneous tips from Sheila Lowe on page WHATS ON AUTHORS P3. 

Although every writing competition has its rules and house style, this advice may be helpful for any competition you might want to enter.  


Style Guide

‘Quality of prose’ is one of the judging criteria for all writing competitions and most have a style guide that you must follow or be disqualified. Entries for the Debut Dagger competition is no exception. There are a few official presentation rules.

‘Entries must be in 12pt and double-spaced. Pages must have the title of your story included on each page, and page numbers are appreciated. Your name must not appear on the MS or synopsis. Ignoring these ‘musts’especially the last one may disqualify the entry.

‘If you struggle with any aspect of the above, try googling for how to do it.

Beyond these, however, there are all sorts of presentational elements that won't disqualify you if you get them wrong, but will make it much easier for us to read and enjoy your entry if you get them right.

Formatting and Layout

The best way to format text for fiction, used in just about every printed novel ever published, is as follows:

  • Start new paragraphs with an indented first line.
  • Don't use blank lines between consecutive paragraphs, like you would in most documents, such as this one. In a book, they break up the flow of the text.
  • Do use blank lines to show breaks between scenes.
  • Use a new paragraph each time a different character starts to speak.


  • ‘Check your spelling meticulously. Misspellings break the reader's concentration; they also make your work look sloppy and amateurish. If you can't trust the author to spell properly, how can you trust the story they're telling?
  • ‘Beware malapropisms – a word can be spelled correctly and still be terribly wrong. Some examples from past entries include a particularly ‘viscous murder’, a ‘burlesque policeman’, and – in a supermarket – an ‘isle of chips’. This is easy to get caught out by if you rely solely on the computer's spell-checker.
  • ‘People over-use capital letters. They are mainly for real nouns, so: ‘We've heard that Chipper is a blackbird who lives in a sycamore tree in the public gardens out west near the police station.’ My advice as an editor regarding capitalisation is always: if in doubt, don't. You'll make far fewer mistakes that way. Where you do use them, keep a list so you can ensure your usage is consistent.


Punctuation can be a bit of a minefield. Four things in particular to beware of: 

  • Apostrophes: It’s a shame that many people can’t put an apostrophe in its proper place. ‘It's’ is a contraction of ‘it is’. ‘Its’ shows that something belongs to ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ may be). It’s as easy as that. Apostrophes should never be used for plurals – no ‘bag’s of orange’s.’  But where you want to denote the possessive to a plural noun, the apostrophe comes afterwards: ‘writers’ rules.’ Where it comes after a name ending with s, such as Ms Jones, it used to be Ms Jones’s new car, but increasingly the usage is Ms Jones’ new car. Be consistent, that's the most important thing.
  • Quotation marks: Always use quotation marks around speech. Standard British usage is to use the ‘single quote’, while standard American usage is to use the “double quote”. Either is fine, as long as you're consistent. If you use single for speech, use single wherever you use inverted commas too. Thoughts are usually not shown within quotation marks.  
  • Exclamation marks! Try not to use exclamation marks. If a sentence is witty, funny or dramatic, the reader will notice anyway. If it's not, you won't make things better by drawing attention to it. Use of the interrobang – ?! – is not recommended for any formal writing.
  • Ellipses... Three dots only, never more. The third one counts as the full stop where it's at the end of a sentence. And please don't over-use them as they become irritating. Don't use them where speech is interrupted, for that you need an em dash with no preceding space.  


Read your entry aloud to pick up grammatical errors, or repetition of words or phrases – we all do that. Take care with your writing and demonstrate your professional approach.

If you know that spelling, punctuation and grammar are a weakness of yours, there is no rule in the Debut Dagger or indeed most writing competitions for adults against getting an entry professionally copy-edited. Best of luck!’






VIVA MARDI GRAS 2020! COURTNEY ACT co-hosted the live broadcast of Mardi Gras on SBS this year with a glam rainbow outfit and a metre or two of big blonde hair. Kat Dopper, 2020 Creative Director, SGLMG, said: ‘WHAT MATTERS is visibility, and for the first time in years, the MARDI GRAS PARADE will be broadcast LIVE on SBS, and streamed worldwide. Keep your eye out at Fair Day, Party and Laneway for artworks created by young artists repurposed from old Mardi Gras decorations, because WHAT MATTERS in 2020 is sustainability. I’m incredibly thrilled and honoured to work on this spectacular festival and look forward to discovering What Matters to you in 2020.’ Those who could get to Sydney, made their way to Oxford Street or Flinders Street early to get the best viewing places – there’s nothing like being there. For those who couldn’t be there, the live broadcast was the next best thing, as the world-renowned Mardi Gras Parade united hundreds of thousands of revellers for the biggest night on the LGBTQI+ calendar. The audience was dazzled, delighted and mesmerised as some 200 groups and floats rolled past, showcasing all things camp, queer, glitz and glamour, and also honouring those who have marched the street over the past four decades. (Banner by L.J. May)