Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

Writing Workshops for Children’s Writers

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chalk drawing of children

The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference has opportunities for all writers, and this year we have the most offerings for children’s writers we’ve ever had! Mentoring clinics are available at the Pre-conference Next Level Clinic (April 5-7). During the main conference (April 7-11), we have a Major Morning Track and Afternoon Workshops geared especially for authors who write for children. Check out these exciting options:

Pre-conference Next Level Clinics
The Pre-conference Next Level Clinic is an opportunity for writers to go to the next level in their writing journey. Crystal Bowman will be leading the clinic on “Take Your Children’s Writing to the Next Level.” She offers personalized mentoring for writers of board books, picture books, and readers ages birth to 10. (Additional fee. Application deadline has been extended to March 27.)

Major Morning Track
Mona Hodgson will be teaching a continuing session on “The Art and Exercise of Writing for Children.” This interactive course provides an overview of writing for children from birth to age 12. Come learn about age group divisions, fiction and nonfiction formats for books and magazines, the skill of writing for children, and much more. Receive marketing information too.

Afternoon Workshops

Christine Tangvald
Writing and Formatting Picture Books
Age Groups. Word Counts. Formats. Picture books. Board Books. Die Cuts. Novelty Books. Secrets. Come join our picture Book Adventure as we hop, skip, and jump through dozens of facts you must know to write in this delightful but difficult genre.  I’ll share a few secrets I’ve picked up to hopefully help you jump up into the top 20% of consideration.  I’ll also bring a ton of handouts.  And maybe we can actually brainstorm a picture book in class … together.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?  See you there!

Catherine DeVries
The Top 5 Categories for Christian Children’s Books
Go beyond your great book idea to a deeper understanding of the Christian children’s publishing industry. How do book sales break out by category? What are the most popular books? What are the least popular? Discover where the growth opportunities are, as well as watch outs and risks. And learn about another opportunity to get published without landing a book contract.

Tim Shoemaker 
Reaching Boys through Fiction
This is about writing for a tough market … but one of the most rewarding. Learn why it’s smart to target boys with your writing—and the secrets to doing it well. We’ll show you the ten “gotta haves” when writing for boys and the ten “kisses of death.”

Sarah Rubio 
Secrets to Writing a Great Book Proposal
How many times have you had your proposal completely ignored or sent back to you with a polite “no thank you” letter? Publishers are looking for proposals that are well crafted, engaging, and make a promise that a reader can’t resist. Come learn how to create the kind of proposal that will invite publishers to ask for more.

Crystal Bowman
Writing for Beginning Readers
Writing for beginning readers is challenging! A writer needs to know the guidelines and formulas before tackling this genre. In this session, we will discuss the specific structure and techniques used to write an engaging story with limited vocabulary, short sentences, and dialogue.

In addition to these great learning opportunities, the 2017 Mount Hermon writers conference will have agents and publishers who work with children’s authors:

  • MacKenzie Howard, editorial director of the gift and children’s areas of Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing
  • Catherine DeVries, publisher of children’s resources at David C. Cook
  • Courtney Lasater, editor at Keys for Kids Ministries (formerly Children’s Bible Hour)
  • Sarah Rubio, editor of children’s books at Tyndale House Publishers

Check the website for more information.

 

Extended Deadline for All Mentoring Clinics

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized, Writers Conference.

by Jan Kern

Do you have a writing project that’s nearly ready to be birthed? Could you benefit from a small mentoring group of no more than six writers? This can be the perfect setting for focusing in on developing your writing and taking your manuscript to the next level.

The Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics, April 5-7, offer mentoring groups for children’s writing, fiction,  nonfiction, and platform. The fiction and nonfiction clinics have beginning and intermediate levels.

The main conference, April 7-11, offers Morning Mentoring Clinics in both fiction and nonfiction.

The good news is, it’s not too late! Most of these clinics have room for you to join them. And we are extending the application deadline to Monday, March 27.

If you’re interested in the pre-conference clinics, check out the application details here.

If you’re interested in the main conference clinics, follow the directions at this link to request an application.

Take advantage of the extended deadline and sign up for a mentoring clinic that will help bring your writing and that manuscript into the world.

Challenge Yourself

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people on rope course

by Marci Seither

One of the most often asked questions when I talk to school-age kids about writing The Adventures of Pearley Monroe is “How long did it take you to write your book?”

When I tell them it took eight years, their eyes widen. Eight years!

I started my writing journey with a family humor column for a small town paper, then moved to human-interest stories, and later wrote feature articles.

Basically, I have a 750- to 1,200-word attention span. And to top it off, all I wrote was nonfiction.

There is a world of difference between writing newspaper articles for adults and writing a historical novel for middle-school readers. I had to learn everything about writing for that age and that style, and still maintain my skills and writing experience in the nonfiction area.

How did I accomplish the task of bringing a wonderful story to print? I went to conferences, such as the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, and took classes outside of my area of writing expertise. I submitted my manuscript to be edited. I learned and rewrote. I learned more and rewrote again. That cycle lasted until I finally had a story my audience would love. A story my kids would have loved.

Receiving an Honorable Mention Award from Writer’s Digest for The Adventures of Pearley Monroe was a huge affirmation that my time of perfecting the writing craft was worth it.  Interacting with students who have told me they “feel like they are Pearley Monroe” tells me I hit my mark.

Along the way, I became a better writer. It was the difference between training for a 5k run or a sprint triathlon. The cross-training had carryover value that opened doors I hadn’t considered before.

Several years ago I participated in a few sprint triathlon events. For me, the swim part of the triathlon came easy, but when it came to the biking and running … well, let’s put it this way: I figured even if I had to Stop, Drop, and Roll over the finish line I would still get the T-shirt.

Just like cross-training your body is good, so is cross-training your brain. The skills you learn in writing help you become stronger in areas you may never have considered.

Recently, I talked with the editor of Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine. They loved The Adventures of Pearley Monroe and wanted to know if I could write a short story based on the book and characters. It would almost be a “missing chapter” from the middle of the book.

That is a huge undertaking. It is not moving from one chapter to the next, it is starting from scratch and writing something that is historically accurate with characters and goals that are already established. I would be lying if I told you it was easy. I was a bundle of nerves.

But I did it.

I focused on all the things I had learned about writing fiction. I could hear the voices of those I had taken classes from. Lauraine Snelling, Gayle Roper, and Brandilyn Collins were just a few of many who helped me learn the craft. I wrote and rewrote until I had a 2,400-word story they loved and accepted.

I did something I would have never been able to do had I not been willing to stretch myself beyond my comfort zone. That is cross-training, not necessarily genre hopping.

I do not consider myself a “children’s author” or a “fiction writer.”

What do I consider myself?  A lifelong learner who enjoys putting into action what I have learned and accepting challenges that stretch me as a person and as a writer.

That is the value of writers’ conferences.

The Mount Hermon faculty is an amazing group of people who are there to help you stretch and strengthen your writing skills. They know it is hard work and they are there to help you along your writing journey, cheering you on every step of the way.

Maybe you’re wondering if you have something of value worth sharing. You do.

Maybe you’re feeling that you already know everything about your area of writing. Cross-train.

Maybe you’re afraid that you will fail.  Consider how you will feel if you actually move toward your goal. Now consider how you will feel if you never try.

Make 2017 the year you take action on making your dreams and goals a reality, even if it is just taking a baby step forward.

Was it worth spending eight years working on The Adventures of Pearley Monroe?

More than I could have ever imagined.

Do you want a challenge? Take part in the Mentoring Clinics at Mount Hermon Writer’s Conference: Pre-conference Next Level and Morning Mentoring Clinics.

Here is a list of sessions to cross-train at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference.

Marci SeitherMarci Seither has written hundreds of feature stories, op/editorials, and human-interest articles for local papers as well as contributing to national publications. She has been married to her husband almost thirty years and is mom to six amazingly rowdy kiddos who have provided her with volumes of great material, loads of laundry, and symphonies of laughter. Marci encourages others with humor that packs a punch and entertains other moms with her Urban Retro style. She recently had two books published and knows how to make marshmallows from scratch. Marci is an airport shuttle assistant for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Get Your Professional Head Shot

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With the ease of taking a selfie and relatively inexpensive photo editing software, why pay a professional photographer for a head shot? Maybe your cousin is a hobby photographer and will be happy to take some photos in your living room for you.

photographer's cameraYour head shot is your introduction to your audience, and you want to put your best face forward. Just as they judge your book by the cover, they may judge you by your photo. Featured on business cards, manuscripts, your blog, and other media, a high-quality, professional head shot shows readers, agents, publishers, and others that you take your career seriously. A professional photographer will help you look your best when you meet your audience.

Plus, if you haven’t updated your head shot recently, your photo may reflect how you think you look but not how you appear to others.

Not sure whether you need a professional head shot? Or what a professional head shot can do for you? Check out this article “Why Do You Need A Professional Headshot?

Mount Hermon has a team of professional photographers offering a great deal on author head shots this year. Here’s what Angela Breidenbach, president of Christian Authors Network, said about the photo shoot she had done at last spring’s Mount Hermon conference:

I am thrilled with both the result and the variety of photos taken for my head shot at Mount Hermon during the Christian writer’s conference! I use these photos for branding on my podcast, book covers, business cards, blog tours, website, and all my social media bios. Love, love, love how professional and versatile the experience and the photos have been for me.

Check out the details for getting your own photo shoot at Mount Hermon 2017!

Homeschooled Students Get Career Help

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by Susan K. Beatty

photo of kara swansonAre you a Christian homeschooled teen or young adult who dreams of writing as a career? Do you wonder what it would be like to meet best-selling authors, agents, and publishers in person?

I’d like to introduce you to Kara Swanson, a recent homeschool graduate who saw that dream fulfilled. Kara attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference twice. She was the 2015 winner of the conference’s Most Promising Teen Award.

Let’s find out more about Kara and how the writers’ conference changed her life.

Q: Hello, Kara. Tell us about yourself–background, education, age (if you don’t mind).

A: I am 20 years old, and I graduated from high school last year. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and I think my childhood as the daughter of missionaries, growing up in a remote tribe in the middle of the jungle, greatly influenced my love of fantasy and science fiction. I could relate to characters finding themselves in a strange world. I’ve been published in multiple magazines. At seventeen, I independently published a fantasy novel called Pearl of Merlydia, which I coauthored with my friend Charis Smith. Since then I have attended several writers’ conferences and garnered interest in my novels from both agents and publishers.

Q: When did you attend Mount Hermon’s Christian Writers Conference and how did you hear about it?

A: The first time I attended Mount Hermon was in 2015. I’d heard about it from my grandmother, who attended in 2014, and my mentor, Joanne Bischof, who has been on faculty several times.

Q: What attracted you specifically to Mount Hermon’s conference? And what made you decide to attend?

A: Mount Hermon is one of those rare conferences that is just as much about relationships as knowledge. The beautiful facility, nestled in the redwoods of Northern California, is a wonderful place to gain wisdom from many industry professionals.

As a teen writer who had never been to a writers’ conference before, I was a little nervous that I’d be overwhelmed. But the faculty members were all friendly and willing to answer my questions—in and out of sessions—so it soon felt like a home away from home. Beyond the comfort of spending a week among writers who all were all putting their soul-stories out there, and penning novels with the intent to change lives, there were sessions on every imaginable aspect of writing. And the vast host of faculty was amazing.

A: What were your expectations? Were they met, and, if so, how?

A: I didn’t really go in with too many expectations. Both times I attended, I brought manuscripts to pitch and showed my work to agents and editors. The first time I went, there were very few faculty who were interested in the genres I write (mostly Young Adult Speculative Fiction). So I spent that week learning as much as I could from the workshops and sessions. I was in a Morning Mentoring Track with Bill Myers, and it was a wonderful experience! Bill had so much knowledge and skill and humor that it was definitely a highlight.

The second year I went, I prayed a lot. There were ten industry professionals who were interested in the genres I had, but I didn’t want that to be my focus. I brought proposals, but I wanted to take the time to make lasting friendships and glean as much as I could from the faculty. Many amazing authors and editors, including Francine Rivers and Mick Silva, encouraged me in my writing journey.

That first night, I sat in the back row of the auditorium. As the keynote speaker began, I bowed my head and prayed, giving my stories to God once again—they were only ever his to begin with. I prayed that he would bring along the right publishing houses and agents for my novels. I also told him that even if no one cared about these stories that were a piece of my heart, I’d still praise him. I’d still write for his glory. Because his approval mattered most.

With that attitude, I went into the rest of the conference and approached agents and editors confidently—but also humbly. I let the stories he’d given me speak for themselves. I had an amazing amount of interest from nearly everyone I approached. The only rejections I got came from agents and houses that weren’t looking for young adult in the first place. God definitely went before me in the whole process!

I’m still continuing to walk through the doors God provided at Mount Hermon, and I expect that every year from here on will hold things I cannot imagine.

Q: Congratulations for winning the 2015 Mount Hermon Most Promising Teen Writer Award. Tell us about that.

A: Thank you! It was one of the most amazing and affirming moments of my life. Not something I had expected, considering that I’d only been to the conference once and never before dared show my writing to anyone outside of close friends and family. Not only was it special to be recognized in such a way, it was also a moment I’ve looked back on as a reminder that yes, this is what God wants me to do.

Q: Tell us what you are doing today. How are you using your writing, and what did you learn at Mount Hermon that is helping you?

A: Oh, fun question! I’m blogging on several venues—The Fandom Studio, Christian Teen Writers, and my own blog, Read Write Soar (which is soon to be switched over to karaswanson.com).

I am currently working as a virtual assistant to Kathy Ide—writer, editor, and director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. That was totally a God-thing because with Lyme disease I’m not able to hold most jobs. It helps me stay abreast of the publishing industry, and I’m learning so much.

In addition, I’m the marketing coordinator for the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, which Kathy Ide also directs. I have a freelance editing service (most of which is me trading critiques/edits with authors who will do the same for me). Right now, I’m working on a sci-fi/urban fantasy novella and overhauling my full-length novel Skyridge, which is about a girl with wings whose father is a fallen angel, and it’s set during the end times.

Each of these parts of my life has been impacted by Mount Hermon in one way or another. My stories are better because of feedback I received there. I met Kathy Ide there. I started blogging seriously after receiving input there. The two times I attended the conference have resulted in countless long-term blessings!

Q: What would you say about attending Mount Hermon to a teen or young adult who likes to write?

A: Go! Mount Hermon is the perfect place to sharpen your craft, learn about the industry, and decide what your next steps are. Whether you are a bit of an over-achiever like me, ready to dive headfirst into this whole publishing business, or you want to get your feet wet and learn what it takes to write full time, Mount Hermon is the place to do it. The atmosphere is perfect for newcomers and for advanced writers. I’d love to see you there!

Q: Writers’ conferences can be a little pricey, particularly for a homeschooled teen. How would you rate the cost versus the value? And did you do anything special to pay the conference fees?

A: I received a scholarship based on three criteria: 1) My family are missionaries, 2) I have Lyme disease and am therefore unable to hold a steady job, and 3) I’m homeschooled. I saved all year to cover the conference costs that weren’t covered by the scholarship, taking any odd jobs I could. For my birthday and Christmas, I asked for funds to go toward the conference instead of gifts. And my grandmother graciously helped me with the rest.

The price does seem steep, but it’s understandable. Mount Hermon is nearly a week-long conference with an impressive staff of industry professionals. You can meet best-selling authors and representatives from the large publishing houses. There is a wealth of knowledge to be found in the sessions, the critique team, one-on-one mentoring, and appointments with editors and agents. Writers at any stage can hone their craft and progress on their writing journey. All that plus gorgeous lodging, delicious catered meals, and fun activities like a ropes course and kayaking!

All things considered, the price is definitely worth the value of attending the conference. This is an experience that will forever change your writing career!

Thank you, Kara, for your inspiring story.

If you’d like to explore the idea of writing as a career, bring your writing to the next level, and hang out with agents, publishers, and other writers, register now for the 2017 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Homeschooled teens and young adults receive a 30% discount. (Young people under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, who may pay full price and attend as a conferee or solely be the teen’s chaperone and take $500 off–basically only paying for lodging and meals.)

Learn more about Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

photo of Susan BeattySusan K. Beatty is the author of An Introduction to Home Education manual. She and her husband, Larry, began homeschooling their three children in 1982, graduated all three children from their home school, and is the cofounder of one of the oldest and largest statewide homeschooling organizations in the United States, Christian Home Educators Association (CHEA) of California.  She recently retired as the member of the Board of Directors and is soon to be retired as general manager and events manager. She is a professional writer/journalist with a BA degree in journalism from Cal State University Los Angeles.

Morning Mentoring Clinics and More

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sunrise over the mountains

Unlike other writers’ conferences, the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference offers many options for attendees to choose from. One option is the Morning Mentoring Clinics.

The clinics are designed for writers who have some writing and publishing experience. The goal is to give fiction and nonfiction writers concentrated time for having their works-in-progress critiqued in a knowledgeable, supportive, and realistic manner. Skilled professionals in each genre are committed to coming alongside the attendees.

Sarah Sundin says this about the fiction mentoring clinics:

Imagine spending three mornings with half a dozen other serious novelists, learning from one anther and from a published author. In the Fiction Morning Mentoring Clinics at Mount Hermon, authors James Scott Bell (mystery, suspense, and thrillers), Ben Wolf (fantasy and speculative), and Sarah Sundin (historical, contemporary, women’s fiction, and romance) will lead groups of no more than six writers.

In these groups, writers will have a chapter or two critiqued by the other participants and the published author. By analyzing one another’s writing, we learn techniques that sing and pitfalls to avoid. Each published author will tailor the time to the needs of the group, offering writing exercises, teaching, or discussion time. For example, in my clinic last year, we had mini-workshops on dialogue and point-of-view, topics the participants had requested.

If this appeals to you, and if you have some writing experience and wish to take your fiction skills to the next level, apply for a clinic today!

Jan Kern, one of the nonfiction mentors, says:

Our nonfiction mentoring clinics offer a dynamic small-group setting that is perfect for writers desiring focused direction for their works-in-progress. This year we have three mentors, each ready to come alongside you in your specialized area of interest: general, men’s or women’s nonfiction, spiritual formation, devotional, Bible study, or personal-experience stories.

Participants will interact with their mentor, a skilled professional in their genre, along with five other participants in their group. Come and make connections, layer in new learning and perspective into your writing, experience the synergy of creative interaction, and discover momentum for your work in progress.

The Mentoring Clinics meet each morning opposite the Major Morning Tracks and are by application only. Fiction and Nonfiction Clinics are limited to six students each. Applications are processed and the writers placed in groups in the order the applications are received. Application deadline has been extended to March 27.

Other morning options include Major Morning Tracks. There are seven comprehensive courses to choose from, each one designed with three parts packed with benefits. All included in the main conference fee.

  • Receive instruction from top-notch industry professionals.
  • Apply some of the principles in your own writing.
  • In an afternoon critique group Saturday and Monday, share your writing for constructive response and/or brainstorming.

If neither of those options is right for you, why not make the Mount Hermon writers’ conference a writing retreat? Start your day in a Prayer & Praise session with Kim Bangs, or take a prayer walk along one of the beautiful redwood trails, or seek divine guidance in the Mount Hermon chapel. Join us for a delicious, healthy breakfast. Then spend the rest of the morning writing whatever God lays on your heart to work on.

After lunch, do more writing or take some workshops, meet with the Critique Team, have appointments with faculty members, or enjoy some of the recreational opportunities available to conferees. If you get stuck, spend some time with our Prayer Partners in the chapel. After dinner, be inspired by our evening worship and keynote speaker … or do more writing. You’ll be amazed at how much quality work you’ll get done in this inspiring atmosphere!

Register today for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference!

 

 

 

Writing a Captivating True Story

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man reading story outdoors

by Jan Kern

What draws you into a nonfiction book or article and keeps you captivated? Many readers find  themselves drawn in through story.

Why Story?

A few years ago, Diane Turbide, an editor at Penguin Publishing, said:

People nowadays are assailed on all fronts. They’re busy, they’re overwhelmed by the pace of life, by information. They can’t make out the shape, or the path, or the arc of their own life. Everything is a blur. . . . People are looking for some kind of narrative thread, some kind of plot that makes sense that doesn’t feel so formless. (Penguin Publishing, December 2011)

In our busy culture, readers are looking for connection and grounding through a narrative thread that helps them build a framework to discover meaning for their lives. A well-told true story is one way to effectively create space for that discovery and connection.

The Craft of Storytelling

Lynn Vincent, a master in the craft of narrative nonfiction, naturally creates this space for discovery and connection for her readers. In Same Kind of Different as Me, she does this in part by capturing the nuances of the voice and personality of the two main characters, Denver and Ron. As readers, we get to know these men at first through their independent stories, and then as their paths cross and a connection is formed. We gain not only an expanding view of their lives but also of our own. That’s masterful storytelling.

When I mentor writers, I often use this book as one example of strong narrative writing. I believe great fiction can be researched so well that you believe it must be true, and nonfiction can tell a true story with such excellent use of fiction techniques you have to take a second look to confirm that you’re not reading a novel.

Of course, the scaffolding of the nonfiction story must be research, facts, and reality. That’s a given. But couch this with creative, well-told narrative, and you amp up reader connection several notches. It’s more likely your readers will remember your key message when they put down your article or close the cover of your book.

What’s Next, Storyteller?

Which story will you tell? Here are ten tips as you begin to write your story:

  • Look for life-changing moments: a triumph or a failure, a poignant discovery or monumental decision, or the intersections of conflict.
  • Tell the human story: the real, the authentic, and the fallible.
  • Watch for unique or inspiring angles that will connect well with your reader.
  • Have in mind a key focus question that your story will explore.
  • Decide how much of the story is emotionally appropriate for the purpose of your project and especially in caring for your reader.
  • Consider which POV (point of view) would present the strongest story.
  • If the story is lengthy, consider layering in dialogue and setting, and develop it through a story arc.
  • Watch chronology. Make sure your reader can follow the unfolding of events.
  • Plan the conclusion of your story with a strong takeaway for your reader.

So go ahead, begin. And then bring your story—your own or someone else’s—to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference and share it.

photo of Jan KernAs an author, speaker, and life coach, Jan Kern is passionate about story—both how we live it with hope and intentionality and how we write it with craft and finesse. Her nonfiction series for teens/young adults garnered ECPA Gold Medallion and Retailers Choice finalist awards. Currently she is enjoying new ministry and writing opportunities for women. When Jan isn’t writing or coaching, she serves alongside her husband, Tom, at a residential ministry for at-risk teens. Jan will be mentoring the nonfiction clinic at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

 

Four Ways Money Can Add Depth to Your World

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized, Writers Conference.

british coins

by Chris Morris

Many novels hardly even mention currency in the story. And most characters never run out of money or supplies … unless it’s a convenient plot point.

But a creative author can use money as a way to introduce the intricacies of the world that is created. Currency can shine light on the motives of a character. In fantasy, the currency is often based on one or more types of metal. Classic science fiction fare typically has paperless credits or universal currency. So long as authors stick to the mantra of “show, don’t tell,” economies can serve as much more than background.

  1. Political unrest

Imagine a world where a usurper just commandeered control of the kingdom where your story takes place. As an indication of his newly established dominion, he mints new currency with his face on the coins and issues an edict that all commerce must be conducted with his coins only.

Those who support the usurper will gladly comply, while those merchants with less-than-loving feelings toward him will be inclined to continue to accept the “old money.”

Placing your protagonist in the midst of this political intrigue opens a variety of options that will enhance your story.

  1. Bartering with a twist

Picture a universe where a horse with a lame leg has more value to a merchant than a healthy horse. There are  myriad reasons this could be the case, each giving you the chance to expand your world.

Perhaps the sacred texts of your world include this proverb: “The favor of the gods will shine upon the man who cares for a lame animal, for his heart is pure and worthy of reward.”

This uncommon bartering system would create some particularly memorable scenes in a time-travel plot line like Outlander, where the protagonist is not familiar with the world. Your readers would then be able to experience confusion with your main character, which creates further connection with your story.

  1. Black market

It would be easy to “play the religion card” in this scenario. To use an example that could potentially occur in our actual world, consider what the market for hamburgers in India might look like if India were a militant Hindu nation.

But religion is not the only reason a black market might exist. There are many creative concepts that could be applied here. The monarch of a kingdom could be deathly allergic to nuts, so they are banished. But there are certain indigenous tribesmen who still rely upon the sale of Brazil nuts. Welcome to the Brazil nut black market.

Your protagonist can enter this black market for a variety of reasons, ranging from an insatiable desire for Brazil nuts to a need for extra income.

  1. Money exchangers can provide insight into the prejudices among the races.

Consider for a moment what it would be like for a Romulan in the twenty-fourth century to work at a currency exchange for a Klingon world? Try as he might, his strong prejudice against Klingons would come out. This can be brought into the narrative using a short dialogue scene like this:

“We don’t want to exchange our money until Sbardi is working. Like all Romulans, he hates Klingons and gives a better exchange rate.”

In two sentences, the readers are clued into racial tension and see how it impacts the protagonist. The possibilities are endless when you introduce money exchange as a component of your universe.

I am a CPA, but I realize that most people would not want to read a treatise on the economic conditions of Diagon Alley. I’m not suggesting the focus of your stories be on the intricacies of how goods are bought and sold. Instead, I’m pointing out the opportunities that exist in the context of money exchanging hands. Rather than quickly moving over these exchanges, and treating money as a non-entity in the stories you craft, you can add depth and vibrancy to your world.

What other ways could you see currency being used to open up your world to your readers?

Chris is presenting financial workshops for creative people at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference April 7-11, 2017.

photo of chris morrisChris Morris is the founder and managing partner for Chris Morris CPA, LLC, an accounting firm focused on meeting the tax and accounting needs of creative entrepreneurs. He has the privilege of counting editors, digital designers, magazine publishers, authors, photographers, online marketing firms, and book illustrators among his clients. He is the author of the book I’m Making Money, Now What? A Creative Entrepreneur’s Guide to Managing Taxes & Accounting for a Growing Business.

 

The Psalmist Had a Day Job

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the text of psalm 23

by Cynthia Ruchti

For every writer who slogged through a day where interruptions outnumbered hours spent writing…

For every novelist who left a hero in deep distress because the family car needed its oil changed or the substitute teacher position turned into a financially helpful but creatively draining three-month maternity leave sub…

For every memoirist at the edge of a breakthrough in a gripping opening line, called away by a spreadsheet due on a client’s desk…

I offer hope.

King David managed roles as writer, worshiper, and warrior, among other things. He had a day job—king. But what he wrote in pensive, reflective, or desperate hours while listening to, praising, or arguing with God formed among the most frequently visited pages of history’s all-time best seller: the Bible. King and lyricist. King and musician. King and warrior and worshiper and writer.

Aspiring writers might be surprised at the number of veteran authors who—despite multiple books to their credit—have day jobs in addition to their writing careers. They teach fitness classes, work for non-profit ministries, hold down part-time jobs at coffee shops or dental clinics. Among many prolific authors are those who offer home daycare, run ranches, sit in uninspiring cubicles working on uninspiring projects until the end of the workday when their paycheck will provide more printer ink for their heart’s true passion: writing.

You mean I can have it all? I can have a prolific writing career while single-handedly managing a national or international ministry and teaching weekly cooking classes and traveling more than I’m home at my desk and raising organic goats and getting my doctorate in advanced nuclear physics and refinishing museum-quality fifteenth-century furniture and caring for my elderly parents?

No. Key words from that paragraph tell the story:

  • All. The only “alls” we can successfully handle are all God has for us and all God wants us to be.
  • Single-handedly. If the “all” God is asking of us can’t be listed in one breath, we’ll need help: His, obviously, and the help of others who can assist or, better yet, take over responsibilities we thought were ours to manage.
  • Weekly. The writer who is serious about using the gift of words, story, and language for holy, God-directed purposes will have few additional weekly, regular, time-consuming commitments. We’re not told that King David had time for a golf league or that he played the lyre in nursing homes every weekend.
  • Goats. David may have insisted on organic goat’s milk on his breakfast table, but he left his animal-herding days behind when God called him away from tending livestock. The committed writer soon learns that some activities become archives and memories in order to create time for writing.
  • Caring. God too may have glanced over all the other words in that paragraph of piled on responsibilities and landed on this one. Caring is dear to His heart. If what we abandon in our pursuit of a writing career is the caring part—caring for our families, about our relationship with the God for whom we write, about our readers, caring for those entrusted to us—the words we write will ring hollow in His ears and hollow to those who know and love us.

King David was writer, worshiper, and warrior. How did he juggle those interconnected but distinct roles? And what core principles guided all three careers?

Ah! That’s the stuff of which workshops are made.

Cynthia will be mentoring nonfiction writers in inspirational and personal-experience stories at the 2017 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Cynthia Ruchti headshotAuthor and speaker Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed-in-hope. Her novels, novellas, devotions, and nonfiction have been recognized by a number of significant industry awards. She and her husband live in the heart of Wisconsin, not far from their three children and five grandchildren. Her prayer is that those who finish reading one of her books or attending an event where she’s speaking will gain the confidence to say, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in hope.”

17 Questions to Ask When Researching for Your Novel

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

historical book, glasses, clock

by Sarah Sundin

When I started writing my first World War II novel, I thought I just needed to read a history book, find some cute outfits for my heroine, and have her hum a popular tune.

You may now stop laughing.

Those initial research questions ended up raising more questions. I fell in love with the era and longed to bring it alive with thorough research.

Here are seventeen questions to ask when conducting research for historical fiction. Many are also useful for contemporary novels and when building a story world for fantasy or science fiction. You will not need deep research in every area, but you should be aware of them.

  1. Historical events
    You need to know the events occurring in your era. Even if your character isn’t directly involved, she will be affected by them. Be familiar with the preceding era too.
  2. Setting in historical context
    You may know your setting now—but what was it like then? Towns grow and shrink, businesses and streets change, ethnic groups come and go.
  3. Schooling
    What was the literacy level? Who went to school and for how long? What did they study? If your character breaks the mold (the peasant who reads), how did this happen?
  4. Occupation
    Although I’m a pharmacist, writing about a pharmacist in WWII required research. How much training was required? What were the daily routines, tools, and terminology used, outfits worn? How was the occupation perceived by others?
  5. Community Life
    What clubs and volunteer organizations were popular? What were race relations like? Class relations?
  6. Religious Life
    How did religion affect personal lives and the community? What denominations were in the region? What was the culture in the church—dress, order of service, behavior? Watch out for modern views here.
  7. Names
    Research common names in that era and region. If you must use something uncommon, justify it—and have other characters react appropriately. Also research customs of address (“Mrs. Smith” or “Mary”). In many cultures, only intimate friends used your first name.
  8. Housing
    What were homes like? Floor plans, heating, lighting, plumbing? What were the standards of cleanliness? What about wall coverings and furniture? What colors, prints, and styles were popular?
  9. Home Life
    What were the roles of men, women, and children? What were the rites of courtship and marriage? Views on child rearing? How about routines for cleaning and laundry?
  10. Food
    What recipes and ingredients were used? How was food prepared? Where and when were meals eaten and how (manners, dishes)?
  11. Transportation
    How did people travel? Look into the specifics on wagons, carriages, trains, automobiles, planes. What was the route, how long did it take, and what was the travel experience like?
  12. Fashion
    Most historical writers adore this area. What were the distinctions between day and evening clothing, formal and informal? How about shoes, hats, gloves, jewelry, hairstyles, makeup? Don’t forget to clothe the men and children too!
  13. Communication
    How did people communicate over long distances? How long did letters take and how were they delivered? Did they have telegrams or telephones—if so, how were they used?
  14. Media
    How was news received? By couriers, newspapers, radio, movie newsreels, TV? How long did it take for people to learn about an event?
  15. Entertainment
    How did they spend free time? Music, books, magazines, plays, sports, dancing, games? Did people enjoy certain forms of entertainment—or shun others?
  16. Health Care
    Your characters get sick and injured, don’t they? Good. How will you treat them? Who will treat them and where? What were common diseases? Did they understand the relationship between germs and disease?
  17. Justice
    Laws change, so be familiar with laws concerning crimes committed by or against your characters. Also understand the law enforcement, court, and prison systems.

Don’t get overwhelmed or buried in research. Remember, story rules. Let the story guide your research, and let research enrich your story. Your readers will love it.

Originally published by FaithWriters, October 8, 2012, http://faithwriters.com/blog/2012/10/08/historical-research-seventeen-questions/.

photo of sarah sundlinSarah Sundin will be teaching a Fiction Morning Mentoring Clinic and a workshop on “Historical Research without the Headaches.” She is the author of nine historical novels, including Anchor in the Storm and When Tides Turn (March 2017). Her novel Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award, won the INSPY Award, and was named to Booklist’s “101 Best Romance Novels of the Last 10 Years.” A mother of three, Sarah lives in California. www.sarahsundin.com.

Click here for more information about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.