Why Should I Go to a Writer’s Conference?

I believe there are three compelling reasons to go to a writer’s conference and as many, or more, conference “genres” to choose from.

Mount Hermon Azalea

Mount Hermon Azalea

  • You will dwell with a community of writers. The benefit is not only the chance to meet other people who think like you, but you will gain affirmation, encouragement and support. Perhaps you will meet a Facebook friend or an online writer’s loop member face to face for the first time and a lasting friendship blossoms. Or you might sit next to someone at dinner   who writes in your genre or lives nearby and a friend and/or critique partner is found. “A generous man will prosper, he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25.
  • There is no better place to learn the writing craft. Most conferences will have an ???????????????????????????????array of workshops and tracks for every level of writer, whether you only have a vague idea about what you want to write or you have a whole drawer full of manuscripts. You can learn specifics about the publishing world from editors and agents and gain insight to what each is looking for. And you can learn from authors who have found success and are generous in sharing what they have learned along the way. “For wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul, discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you.” Proverbs 2:10-11
  • You will have the opportunity to make an appointment with an agent, editor or mentoring author. Beyond learning, building relationships is really the core and the blessing of writer’s conferences. Editors and agents are very interested in finding excellent writers who they enjoy on a personal level as well. The ability to work together is almost as important as your ability to write. If the thought of sitting down
    A meeting waiting to happen.

    A meeting waiting to happen.

    and chatting with an industry professional fills you with anxiety, say a prayer, take a breath, and know that the person you are talking to is interested in what you have to say and wants you to succeed. One of the biggest blessings I have found at conferences of any size, is that those who are there to instruct have a big heart for what they do, and are glad you are there. “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

There are many conferences to choose from, Christian and secular. And there are many good secular conferences so don’t be afraid to attend and be a light to the world. But if you desire to write for the Christian market, you really need to also attend Christian conferences. I like to break them down by size, and each has its benefits. I’ve attended the Romance Writers of America conference (this July it’s in San Antonio!) and a plus is meeting with the Faith, Hope and Love Chapter.

  • The small, weekend workshop. You can usually find one of these close to where you live, and they often are the best place to dip your toe in the water, or your pen into
    Beachside 2011      The Weight of Words

    Beachside 2011 The Weight of Words

    the ink. Especially great for newbie writers. and also those who write because they love to, but don’t necessarily aspire to be traditionally published. Choose one that is lakeside, beachside, or mountaintop for an extra dose of inspiration! My favorite is Bob Welch’s Beachside Writers with Jane Kirkpatrick. They are a dynamic duo and the weekend offers a unique blend of learning the craft and practicing your writing skills. It’s on the Oregon coast in Yachats, and I try to go as often as possible.

  • Regional conferences. Once again, most likely you won’t have to travel far to find a writer’s conference that is still small but offers much to the writer who wants the chance to meet editors from publishing houses and magazines, agents, librarians, freelance editors, and multi-published authors who enjoy “giving back” and sharing techniques or writing methods they’ve learned along their journey. Most likely there will be an amazing keynote speaker. I have just returned from the Mount Hermon
    Mount Hermon Check-In

    Mount Hermon Check-In

    Christian Writer’s Conference in Santa Cruz, CA. Author and speaker Glenna Salsbury was the inspiring keynoter this year and next year Author Robin Gunn will be speaking. The campus is in the redwoods, with dogwood and azalea in bloom, and I can’t imagine a more beautiful spot to be inspired to write. The sense of being among a community of writers is awesome, and as you drink in the beauty and tranquility you can’t help but experience God’s presence. And  the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference has fantastic conferences ranging from one-day to a full four-day conference in Portland with keynote speakers such as Author Jane Kirkpatrick, Allen Arnold of Ransomed Heart Ministries and Author Dan Walsh.

  • National conferences. This is where you will find a compendium of knowledge about all aspects of the writing world. It’s most likely located at a conference hotel and
    Enjoying friends at ACFW

    Enjoying friends at ACFW

    maybe only occasionally near you. But it’s worth the time and effort to attend. The pace might seem hectic and you will literally fall into bed each night, but you will come home filled with enthusiasm to finish the book or start the next one! My favorite one is the American Christian Fiction Writer’s Conference, held this year in beautiful St. Louis, MO, with keynote speaker, Author Lauraine Snelling. The conference dates this year are September 25 – 27th. And remember, if you feel overwhelmed, there is always a chapel or prayer room arranged at ACFW with Brandilyn Collins and volunteers there to pray with you and/or beside you.

I’d love to know if you have attended a conference or if you are planning on attending one in the future. Which are your personal favorites? Why? If you’re attending one for the first time what do you look forward to the most? What do you fear?

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WordServe News: September 2012

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

On the final post of each month you’ll find a list of WordServe authors’ books releasing in the upcoming month along with a recap of WordServe client news from the current month.

New Releases

Wayne Cordeiro, Jesus Pure and Simple (Bethany) (GJ)

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Cheri Fuller & Jennifer Kennedy Dean, The One Year PRAYING the PROMISES OF GOD (Tyndale) (GJ)

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Leslie Haskin, When Life Doesn’t Make Sense (Bethany) (GJ)

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Rick Johnson, The Marriage of Your Dreams (Revell) (GJ)

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Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall, Brink of Chaos (Zondervan) (GJ)

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Kathi Lipp, 21 Ways to Connect With Your Kids (Harvest House) (RG)

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Lynn Morris, Secret Place of Thunder (Hendrickson) (GJ)

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David Murrow, What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You (Bethany) (GJ)

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Olivia Newport, Accidentally Amish (Barbour) (RG)

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In the, “We didn’t represent these books, but are happy to make the announcement because Rita is now a WordServe author and we like her writing a lot…” category, we’re excited to tell you about these books.

Rita Gerlach, Beside Two Rivers: Daughters of the Potomac, No. 2 (Abingdon)

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Rita Gerlach, The Rebel’s Pledge (Re-release, Kindle Version)

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New Contracts

Dave and Claudia Arp, with Peter and Heather Larson, are collaborating on four new books for couples. The first will be 10 Dates to Grow Together Spiritually. The others will be books on “dating” sons and daughters. They will all be published with Bethany House Publishers. (Agent: GJ)

Ken Gire signed with Harvest House for a gift book called Winters Promise. It’s a collection of his best writing from previously published books about how God uses life’s trials to bring about a spring in our life and faith. (Agent: GJ)

Tara Reeves and Amanda Jenkins are writing two children’s books for B&H Kids. The first is called The Knight and the Firefly, and the second will be a sequel. (Agent: BS)

Dr. Dave Stoop signed with Revell for a nonfiction book called The Power of a Renewed Mind, a message about how today’s science is proving the wisdom of Scripture and its ability to thrive in a chaotic world. (Agent: GJ)

Robert Wise signed with Revell for a new novel called Network of Deception, a contemporary thriller. (Agent: GJ)

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What We’re Celebrating!!

Greg Johnson and Sarah Freese, along with nine WordServe authors, were able to attend ACFW this month. It was wonderful to connect with so many writers from the WordServe team. YOU are what make WordServe such a wonderful place to work and serve!

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Welcome, Alice Crider!

While WordServe is very sad to be losing Barbara Scott (resigned to go back to freelance editing), we’re honored that Alice Crider has joined WordServe. She’ll get the handoff from Barb on many of her clients, and will be working to find her own select stable of authors to serve. Greg worked with Alice at Alive Communications 10 years ago. Alice then worked at WaterBrook Press for many years, the last several as an acquisitions editor. When Alice left that position in December of last year, she started her own editioral and coaching company. She’ll get to use those same skills as an agent.

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Carol Awards at ACFW

Though these authors are no longer with WordServe, we were honored to represent their books when Rachelle Gardner was with the agency. Congrats to all of them!

Rosslyn Elliot won in two categories for her novel with Thomas Nelson, Fairer Than Morning. She won in the “Debut Novel” and the “Long Historical” categories.

Karen Witemeyer won in the “Long Historical Romance” category for her book with Bethany House Publishers, To Win Her Heart.

Lisa Jordan won in the “Short Contemporary” category for her book with Love Inspired, Lakeside Reunion.

What can we help you celebrate?

What is “Good Enough”?

just got back from the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Dallas. This is an annual event and is the largest gathering of Christian fiction writers anywhere. Close to seven hundred (that’s right– a reverse 007!) writers attended. I know because my good friend’s name ends with a Zw, and she was 688/688.

Amazing.

While there, I attended a talk given by a MAJOR Christian publisher about a relatively large survey they did on Christian fiction readers. Don’t quote me, but the survey included over 200,000 participants and focus groups were conducted in three large cities. Just to say a lot of people participated–not just me and Grandpa Joe.

Since many of you may be salivating over some of those results, I’ll share a few here. The largest categories selling are: #1 Amish (shouldn’t be a surprise, just look at any CBD catalog and they are leading by 5-10 pages), #2 Mystery/Suspense/Thriller (my eyes glazed over with excitement right here!) ,and #3 Historical Romance. The romance categories were split among three genres: Contemporary Romance, Historical Romance, and Romantic Suspense so if all three were lumped together, the romance category may have had a higher overall percentage.

They asked “what would you like to see more of in Christian Fiction?” and the intriguing answer there was gritty is okay. Not everything needs to be wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end. Dangling questions are okay.

What surprised me was when one of the presenters said, “Should we move away from highly curated content to just good enough content?”

To be honest that floored me–in a bad way.

What is the purpose of a traditional publishing house? Some say they are gatekeepers. I like to view them more as museum curators. What is the benefit of having a museum curator? It’s so that my seven-year-old’s finger art isn’t next to Rembrandt. That when you pay your money, in the form of a museum ticket or as a book on the shelf, you know someone somewhere who gets exposed to LOTS of art and books picked the very best ones. And you’ll be getting your money’s worth.

Are there some self-published authors who are putting out high quality novels? Yes, absolutely. Are they the majority? No. If we are honest, they are not.

Can you buy a horrible, traditionally published novel? Yes, but it should be edited to near perfection. That’s the other part you pay for.

Proof, my debut medical thriller, went through four rounds of edits. Are there typos–yes. But I can guarantee there are fewer in the whole novel than in the first chapter of a few self-published novels I’ve started to read.

What disturbs me is when a curator/publisher says perhaps we don’t need as many editing runs. Perhaps “good enough” is okay for the masses. They won’t notice the difference anyway. Those are my words–not hers.

But isn’t that the implication? There are so many “so-so” things out there that we really don’t need to be consumed with quality anymore?

To me the quality of the editing is the one thing differentiating traditional and self-published books in many cases. So, if that’s gone, the strive to put the best product out there–what will be the difference then?

Will traditional publishers actually place the last nail in their own coffin if they adopt such an attitude?

What do you think? If you’re published, do you think there are too many editing rounds? Would fewer be better? How should traditional publishers continue to offer value in ways other than editing?

Author FAQs

It doesn’t matter where I am. A party. The vet. Getting my teeth cleaned. Whenever people find out for the first time I’m an author, one of three questions pops out their mouth…

How are your sales? How much money do you make?

Really? Are plumbers asked this? Does anyone ever ask the Walmart greeter what he or she nets for pay? I’m guessing not, so why?

Why do people feel comfortable asking writers how much money they make? 

Because, doggone it, everyone has a book in them, and they’re curious how much money they can make. It’s really not about the author, to shame them or to pry. This question simply flies past the curious lips of people who have a secret hope they can pound out their story and become a millionaire.

Compassion is needed to answer this one. Sure, the Rowlings and Kings of the world do make big bucks, but most authors don’t. It’s a dream-crushing bit of information, so remember that sometimes truth stings. Be gentle.

How many chapters is your book?

This one always stumps me. Not because I’m on mind-altering drugs and don’t know how many chapters I’ve written in any given book, but mostly because chapters are subjective. Haven’t readers figured that out by now?

Apparently not. Apparently garden-variety readers award badges of honor to books with lots of chapters.

So I put on my teacher’s hat and explain in one-syllable words that publishers don’t require mandatory chapters; they look at total word count. At that point, I whip out my sunglasses because a brilliant light bulb flashes on.

I wrote a book, too. Can you help me get it published?

This is a tricky one. I love to help others. Who doesn’t? But the brutal truth is, I am a lowly writer, not an acquisitions editor.

Much care is needed in the answering of this question. The danger is you’ll get cornered for at least an hour listening to the synopsis of an entire epic saga. I’ve found the best way to handle this situation is to offer sources other than yourself. I frequently recommend joining ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) for networking purposes. I also advise author-wannabees where they can attend local writer meetings or possible critique groups they can check out.

Those are the top three questions I get asked. How about you? What’s your FAQ?

Strip down and never lose sight

Crisscrossed with knee-high boundaries of grass, the field stretched far below the hilltop. To the distant right, the sound of a fast-moving four-wheeler buzzed louder until I saw it speed toward the horizon, followed seconds later by a skinny-ing mass of runners.

Along with all the other camera-laden parents, I  darted across the fields, staking strategic positions to capture my son rounding a corner or blazing down a hillside. I hurdled boulders, pushed through sluggish throngs, and catapulted my rattling, aging body from one carrefour of the course to another.

When my runner passed by, I whooped.

I hollered.

I scurried across the field to the next junction to cheer him on some more.

Hundreds of spectators gathered to watch the state middle school cross-country championship. Hundreds of kids flashed by. Yet within that undulating motley horde, I found and locked eyes with my son. 

The corner of his mouth turned up when he saw me.

He gulped more air.

He lengthened his stride. 

He disappeared.

And I scurried to the next junction to cheer him on again . . . until I met him at the finish line, red-faced, breathless, and satisfied.

We’re not unlike these cross-country runners, you and I, especially if we feel called to write for the Christian market. After returning from the 2011 ACFW conference, I spent days processing not only that event, but also my writing journey as a whole. I argued with my muse, re-evaluated my purpose, and gasped for clarity amidst the torrid winds of the publishing industry.

Until I watched my sons race last weekend.

And I remembered.

I remembered running up the hill of uncertainty after taking years off writing to focus on parenting.

Around the corner was an industry professional who said no to a query, but invited me to Mount Hermon, where my heart for Him and writing collided like a flare on a pitch black highway.

I rounded the craggy corner of tens of rejections.

Then I “happened upon” a newspaper editor who just “happened to need” a new weekly columnist.

I fell behind, distanced from hope by whispers that no one needs or wants to hear my pathetic story or craftless words.

On the back stretch I caught sight of the waving arms of a friend who led me to my agent.

I lost sight of other runners sprinting ahead of me, pouring out multiple books a year, and I wanted to give up my goal to publish even one.

Around the next bend, a blog reader commented that the words on my website changed her life.

I coveted the bold, new uniforms of other runners and wondered if I should water down or change my message.

A fan on the sideline told me how a Christian book by a Christian writer saved her husband’s soul.

We are in a race, we faith-focused writers . . . a race to make Him known . . . a race to further the inbreaking of His Kingdom . . . a race beckoning us to finish hard, finish well, and finish strong . . . no matter where we fall in the pack.

And around every corner . . . along the loneliest stretches . . . down the effortless hills and up the steepest inclines, He runs to meet us . . . to cheer us on . . . to lock our wandering eyes upon His countenance above all others along the swarming sidelines.

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! . . . Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way . . . ” (Hebrews 12:1-3, TMV)

What about you?

Where have you felt God’s presence along your race course? How have veteran Christian writers inspired you? When have you heard Him whooping and hollering, redirecting your steps and restoring your focus on Him?