Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

7 Steps to Writing Great Flash Fiction

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Ben WolfBLOGGER: BEN WOLF

Publisher, Splickety Magazine, Splickety Love, Havock 

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop, Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscripts and meeting with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

 

7 STEPS TO WRITING GREAT FLASH FICTION

Instant gratification reigns supreme in today’s fast-paced society. I could go into a spiel here about Twitter, DVR, multi-tasking, and Big Macs, but we all live it (and, in most cases, love it) every day.

Writing is no different. E-readers are replacing traditional books (some e-books even use short video clips throughout the story), and narrative summary, back-story, and omniscient POV are “four-letter words” in the writing industry now. Why? Because readers want books that read like movies. And it better not take much longer to read than it did to watch, either.

So that’s where we are. Sharp. Hard-hitting. To the point. In and out, nobody gets hurt. Enter: Flash Fiction.

First, let’s establish what flash fiction is not. It’s not a part of a bigger story, or a synopsis for a novel, or a short story trimmed down to fit the 1,000-word maximum. It doesn’t cause brain-strain with convoluted point-of-views and time shifts. And it absolutely, unequivocally, down right does not require the reader to go back and read the story again to understand what the heck is going on.

So what is it? A flash fiction piece is a self-contained story (beginning/middle/end), 1,000 words or less, that can entertain, intrigue, and satisfy a reader during an F5 tornado. That’s it. No genre restrictions, age requirements, or prior experience needed. Just quick, clean stories.

So how does one craft a fresh, unforgettable story in less than four pages? The same as with every other story, just quicker. Here are some good ideas to get you started:

1) You’d better have one heck of a hook. Flash fic readers have busy lives and short attention spans, so your first task is to convince them your story is worth their time.

2) Put your characters in conflict with someone or something. You have less than 1,000 words to create a character, to mess with her so she feels totally wrecked, and then to resolve the problem one way or another. Not all conflict has to be resolved for the character’s benefit. In flash fiction, you don’t have to have a happy ending, but there needs to be some sort of problem or issue for your character to face, otherwise we’re bored.

In other words, something has to happen.

3) Satisfy your reader. “To be continued” works for sitcoms and comic books, but not for flash fiction. In and out, remember? Wrap your story up so tight and so fast that your reader can’t help but love you for it.

With that in mind, be creative. Use a Bible verse to form a thoughtful allegory. Write something from a wasp’s viewpoint. Kill your MC in the first line. Have a grandma tell about the time she stubbed her toe if you want, but for your readers’ sakes please make it interesting.

Finally, here’s a list of personal pet peeves sure to push you to the back of the line when it comes to acquisitons:

  • Leave your reader confused even after she’s re-read the story 3 times.
  • Bore your reader to tears even after he’s re-read the story 3 times (or use clichés like “bore me to tears”).
  • Use hokey dialect instead of giving a character an actual voice.
  • Send in your submission without a title or author name.
  • Fail to provide a plot.
  • Use incorrect (or un-factual) history or information in a genre where accuracy matters (like historical fiction).
  • Use your story as a soapbox.

Any questions? If not, then go forth and write on. If so, well, go forth and write on anyway.

Here are the Seven Steps to Writing Great Flash Fiction:

  1. Subscribe to Splickety’s newsletter and get three free issues of Splickety’s magazines to see how it’s done.
  2. Create a compelling character. Highlight only his/her most important features and details.
  3. Pick a setting. Describe only its most unique aspects. Your readers will fill in the rest.
  4. Put your character into conflict with something/someone externally, then identify his/her internal struggle(s). Please note that you need both kinds of conflict, even in such a short story.Remember: something has to happen.
  5. Don’t forget your plot: plan your beginning, middle, and end.
  6. Add some more conflict in there. More tension for your character usually makes for a better story.
  7. After you’ve written and edited your story, give it to a test reader, a critique partner, or your editor. Then submit it for publication.

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Come meet Ben Wolf at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW FOR THE CONFERENCE!

$75. Early Bird Discount expires February 1!

You Want to Speak at Schools? Do Your Homework.

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Tim ShoemakerBLOGGER: TIM SHOEMAKER

Tim will serve as a fiction mentor for a Morning Mentoring Clinic at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016 and lead a bonus session Friday night, Preparing for the Appointment 

 

YOU WANT TO SPEAK AT SCHOOLS? DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

Speaking at a school is a pop-quiz—and a quick way to ruin your reputation. If you don’t do your homework, that is. Some authors seem to feel that just showing up for a classroom visit is enough. They go in with a celebrity mentality, and that’s a big mistake. Huge.

There was a day when meeting an author was rare. Now you can hardly ride an elevator without bumping into a writer. Authors aren’t the novelty they once were. If we want the admiration of others, we need to earn it.

One of the biggest obstacles to getting into schools is other authors who have been there before you. Authors who thought they were celebs. Authors who bored the students. Authors who left faculty unimpressed—and consequently gun shy to bring another writer in.

You want to create a good impression … so here are some things to remember when you’re doing your homework for a school visit.

-Be normal in the way you talk, act, and dress. Building a quirky character for your story? Great. Being a quirky person in real life? Weird.

-Find out how the teachers dress. You don’t want to overdress, and definitely don’t want to be more casual than they are.

-Trying to be cool is not cool at all. Don’t wear jeans and a T-shirt because you’re a cool author—or want the students to think you are. News flash … if you’re over twenty-five you’re old in their eyes.

Don’t try to be like the students. Kids don’t respect that. You’re older. You have wisdom to offer. Share that, and many students will long to be as smart as you. You’ll inspire them and give them something to aim for. Dumb speakers try to be like the kids … and give the students little to shoot for.

-Arrive early. Stay late. Try to deliver more than the teachers/staff expect.

-Bring a gift for the teacher or librarian. A poster of your book. Your book.

-Bring something for the kids. A bookmark picturing your book works well.

-Have more prepared than you can possibly use for an author visit. Have things ready to fill time if kids aren’t asking questions. Was there some actual event that inspired your story? Is there some inside scoop … some little detail about your story that nobody else knows? Kids love to hear about that stuff.

-If they offer you a stool or chair, thank them … but stand. Sitting up in front of a bunch of kids in some elevated king-chair drips with self-importance. Stand. Move around closer to the students.

-If you’re not a people person, stick with a blog. Please. You’ll hurt your reputation—and people may think you’re writing is just as awkward.

Speaking at schools is like a pop-quiz. Whenever students are involved, you never really know what’s coming next. But the grade will stick. Do your homework, and you’ll do just fine.

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Come meet Tim Shoemaker at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW FOR THE CONFERENCE

$75. Early Bird Discount expires February 1!

 

Words–Love’s Sacrifice

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

BLOGGER: JAN KERN

Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor; Morning Mentoring Nonfiction Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 16-22, 2016.

Jan Kern Grapes

 

WORDS—LOVE’S SACRIFICE

Recently, on a whim, I turned my smaller sofa toward my fireplace. Yes, this made for a crazy living room arrangement, but it seemed like it could be a fun way to enjoy our winter evenings. Then I discovered that it also created a restorative morning space where I can prepare for a day’s work and writing.

Settling into my cozy corner one morning, I reviewed a quote I had found:

Measure thy life by loss and not by gain, 


Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth, 


For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice, 


And he who suffers most has most to give.

(from a sermon by Ugo Bassi)

The quote emphasizes the pouring out of our lives, offering what we have from our experiences—particularly from places of deep sacrifice or suffering.

Sounds like a writer. We dig deep into the trenches of our lives where we have wrestled and suffered and paid a cost.  Then we pour out heart-laid-bare, honest words and stories, not for our gain but for our readers’.

The Apostle Paul, who was radically transformed and inspired by Christ’s complete and powerful sacrifice, encouraged the Ephesian church with following:

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children

and walk in the way of love,

just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us

as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV

Walking in the way of love includes knowing well love’s sacrifice:

  • We seek to understand and to be fully grateful for the depth of Christ’s sacrifice.
  • We consider our own suffering with vulnerability, humility and prayerful reflection.
  • We compassionately acquaint ourselves with the sufferings of others.

Only then can I, or any of us, pour out love’s sacrifice, a fragrant offering that serves our readers well.

This is where I want to begin each day. As I turn away from the warmth of the morning fire, my writer’s prayer becomes:

May the words I write today pour out of time spent with you, Lord. May each phrase, reflection or story be a fragrant offering to you and love’s sacrifice for my readers.

 

Want to read another Writer’s Devotional by Jan Kern?

A Courage Challenge

Unleash Wonder in Your Writing

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Jan Kern smlCome meet Jan Kern at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22, where she will coordinate the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics and coordinate the Nonfiction Morning Mentoring Clinic. Jan is also a nonfiction mentor in both programs.

EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT OF $75. expires February 1st.

Click here to REGISTER NOW for the conference.

 

Two Things You Do Not Want in Your Manuscript

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Kathy IdeBLOGGER: Kathy Ide

Coordinator of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Critique Team; Freelance Editor

TWO THINGS YOU DO NOT WANT IN YOUR MANUSCRIPT

You want life-changing content in your nonfiction manuscript. Or an intriguing story with lots of conflict and interesting characters in your fiction manuscript. But you don’t want anything that’s going to decrease your chances of getting a traditional publishing house to accept your manuscript. Or pull your readers away from your content or story.

There are two things that can ruin your manuscript, no matter what genre you’re writing: typos and mechanical errors (punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling).

Why should you bother proofreading your manuscript for typos and “PUGS” mistakes?

Here are a few reasons:

1. They can cause miscommunication.

A colleague of mine recently sent me an e-mail about a local writers’ conference, asking if I’d be on board for it. I responded that I would definitely be on board, especially since it was close to my home. When I reread her e-mail later, I realized she had asked if I was interested in being on the board! I gulped. That’s a whole different ballgame. I was certainly “on board” with the idea. But serving on “the board” would require a significant investment of my time—something that’s always in limited supply for me.

I quickly decided the Lord must have wanted me to accept the invitation, and that He allowed me to misread the e-mail so I wouldn’t say no without even considering (or praying about) it. And I have thoroughly enjoyed being on the board for this exciting conference.

This is an example of reader error, not author mistake. But it does point out how one little missed word can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

2. They can cause confusion.

My older son, Tom, is a very busy professional, and even before he moved out of my home, a lot of our communication took place via e-mail. One Sunday, I asked him what he wanted me to make for dinner that evening. His response was: “When you decide what you can say I decided this and if it’s not OK that’s OK.” It took me a while to decipher it. And when I asked my son for permission to quote that, his response was, “Did I write that? What on earth does it mean?” Even he didn’t know! Well, after reading that line several times, I came up with this: “When you decide what, you can say, ‘I decided this,’ and if it’s not OK, that’s OK.” Pretty confusing without the punctuation, isn’t it?

3. They can give an unprofessional appearance to publishers and readers.

Most acquisitions editors, people on publishing committees, and avid readers know a lot about proper punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. And they can spot a typo a mile away. You don’t want them looking at your manuscript and thinking, This author has some good things to say, but she doesn’t know a comma from a semicolon.

Even if your manuscript has already been accepted by a traditional publishing house, if their in-house editor has to spend all her time fixing your mistakes, she won’t be able to catch the deeper, more subtle nuances of your text. Besides, you won’t be presenting a very polished, professional image to your publisher.

4. They can be embarrassing.

A friend of mine once picked up a book at a bookstore and noticed a typo on the back cover. When she reported it to our critique group, she didn’t say she’d found a mistake on a book published by “XYZ Publishers.” She said she found the mistake on a “Jane Doe” novel. She didn’t connect the error to the publishing house, but to the author.

5. They may cause readers to take you and your message less seriously.

Ireland On-Line ran an article on their website on November 15, 2004, with this title: “Crowe Turns Hero to Help Snake Bite Boy.” The story was about actor Russell Crowe helping a boy who’d been bitten by a snake. But by spelling snakebite as two words, this sentence implies that Mr. Crowe helped a snake bite a boy! Now, I got a good laugh out of that. But I sure don’t want those kinds of mistakes showing up in my own writing.

And take a look at this headline: “Rachael Ray finds inspiration in cooking her family and her dog.” An image of a Tails magazine cover featuring the celebrity chef and that jaw-dropping teaser went viral on Facebook. The magazine cover turned out to be a fake done with Photoshop, but that’s a great illustration of how a missing comma can turn a serious piece of writing into a joke.

6. They can affect the sales of your book.

Readers who find a lot of mistakes in your book will not be as likely to recommend that book to their friends. And who knows? You may have a high school English teacher reading your book, and she just might recommend it to her students … unless there are a lot of mistakes in it.

7. They can give you a poor reputation.

If you self-publish, or work with a small, independent publisher that doesn’t proofread carefully, your book may go out to the public with several typos or PUGS errors. Readers who catch those mistakes may consider you an amateur. For a lot of avid readers, typos practically jump off the page. And many are familiar with the rules of punctuation, usage, grammar, and spelling. If your reader finds mistakes that you missed, that’s not going to make you look very good.

If you have a hard time finding typos and “PUGS” errors in your writing, consider hiring a professional proofreader. A careful proofread might make a life-or-death difference for your manuscript.

NOTE: It is an infringement of copyright law to reproduce this publication, in part or in whole, without the express permission of the author. To request permission, please e-mail Kathy@KathyIde.com.

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Come meet Kathy Ide at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW!

$75. Early Bird Discount expires February 1!

 

Morning Mentoring Clinics

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

The Morning Mentoring Clinics are filling up fast.

As a matter of fact, Kathy Gillin’s Fiction Clinic for Fantasy/Speculative writers is full! Good news is . . . . we’ve added another fantastic mentor to the faculty roster for a second group of Fantasy/Speculative writers.

WELCOME, JEFF GERKE!

Jeff Gerke  |  Morning Fiction Mentor / Fantasy & Speculative  |  www.jeffgerke.com

Jeff Gerke New Fiction Mentor

 

Jeff Gerke is known for his canny book doctoring skills and his encouraging manner. He’s authored The Irresistible Novel, Plot Versus Character, The First 50 Pages, Write Your Novel in a Month, and The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction–all published by Writer’s Digest Books. Jeff ran Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction, which he sold after an award-winning 5-year run. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and three children.

Hurry! Only six slots. They’ll go fast.

Click here to register for the conference!

OTHER FICTION MENTORS (with openings as of this posting)

Tim Shoemaker  |  Morning Fiction Mentor—Middle Grade, YA ,Contemporary Suspense, & Mystery  |  timshoemakersmashedtomatoes.com

Tim Shoemaker

Tim Shoemaker is the author of eleven books and is a popular speaker at conferences around the country. Code of Silence, the first in his middle grade series, was listed by Booklist in the “Top Ten Crime Novels for Youth”.  Tim has a passionate style of teaching that makes the mentoring enjoyable and helps make even difficult topics clear.  If you want to strengthen your fiction, Tim will show you how to do it. Happily married for over thirty-five years, Tim has three grown sons and continues to do volunteer youth work.

 

Sarah Sundin  |  Morning Fiction Mentor— Romance, Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction  |  sarahsundin.com

Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin enjoys writing about the adventure and romance of the World War II era. She is the author of seven historical novels, including Through Waters Deep (Revell, August 2015), the Wings of the Nightingale series, and the Wings of Glory series. Her novel On Distant Shores was a double finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. In 2011, Sarah received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. A mother of three, Sarah lives in northern California, works on-call as a hospital pharmacist, and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. She also enjoys speaking to church, community, and writers’ groups.

March 1 is the Application Deadline for all Morning Mentoring Clinics! Although I suspect all of the clinics will be full by then.

 

NONFICTION CLINICS and MENTORS (each has openings as of this posting)

Nick Harrison  |  Morning Nonfiction Mentor—General Nonfiction/Self-help/Men’s/Devotional  |  nickharrisonbooks.com

Nick Harrison

Nick Harrison is the author of ten books and a freelance editor based in Eugene, Oregon. For fifteen years he served as a senior editor at Harvest House Publishers, acquiring both fiction and non-fiction. Nick has a long history of championing new and unpublished writers. Nick and his wife, Beverly, are the parents of three grown daughters and grandparents to two boys and two girls.

 

Jan Kern  |  Morning Nonfiction Mentor—Women’s, Spiritual Formation, Devotional, Bible Study & General Nonfiction / Coordinator  |  jankern.com

Jan Kern sml

As 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 non-fiction 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.

 

B.J. Tayor  |  Morning Nonfiction Mentor—Personal Experience Stories & Memoir  |  bjtayloronline.com
B.J. Taylor.2

 

B.J. Taylor writes for Guideposts and Angels on Earth and has 40 stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul. She wrote her latest book, P MS to a T: the winning formula for writing nonfiction short stories that sell, to help writers become published authors. Home for B.J. is in southern California with her husband and rescue dog Charlie Bear.

TO RECEIVE AN SPPLICATION FOR A MORNING MENTORING CLINIC, CONTACT:

FICTION: Mona Hodgson |mona.hodgson@mounthermon.org

In the subject line of your email, please write MH Morning Mentoring Clinic, your last name, and specify your fiction genre (fantasy, historical, contemporary, suspense, YA, etc.). Example: MH Morning Mentoring Clinic, Smith, Historical.

NONFICTION: Jan Kern | jankern@gmail.com

In the subject line of your email, please write MH Morning Mentoring Clinic, your last name, and specify your nonfiction genre (Memoir, How-To, Personal Experience, Women’s Issues, etc). Example: MH Morning Mentoring Clinic, Jones, Personal Experience Book.

March 1 is the Application Deadline for all Morning Mentoring Clinics. Although I suspect all of the clinics will be full by then.

Click here to register for the conference.

Cross-Train Your Brain

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Marci SeitherBLOGGER: MARCI SEITHER

Marci Seither will serve on the Resource Team as an Airport Shuttle Team, on the Critique Team, and lead a Night Owl at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 16-22.

 

CROSS-TRAIN YOUR BRAIN

I will never forget the day my sister talked me into signing up for the Donner Lake Sprint Triathlon. It was 13 years ago and I didn’t really take into consideration all that would be required.

I was a certified lifeguard and had taught swim lessons for several years. Confident that, despite the high elevation and frigid snow fed temperature of the lake, I would be okay with the swim part of the event.

The bike and run sections were going to be a challenge for me. A serious challenge.

After moving to the countryside when I was in 3rd grade, we weren’t allowed to ride our bikes down the thin tar and gravel road that stretched beyond our short driveway. We did a lot of other activities, but the bikes were soon stored under the deck, which is where they stayed until they became antiques.

I borrowed a bike to start training for the triathlon. It was the first time I rode anything with two wheels that didn’t have a banana seat and long handle bars.

I remember making the long climb up a hill near our home. My legs felt like Jell-O. Gasping for air, I took a long drink from my water container, only to have it come out my nose. Someone pulled to the shoulder to see if I needed medical assistance. I waved them off and, in-between gasps, reassured them I was totally fine. I wondered if I could get a refund if I backed out of the race.

A few days later, I contemplated the run and what it was going to take to actually complete the event.

I figured if I needed to “Stop-Drop-and Roll” the last half mile or so, I would still get the T-shirt, so I kept going.

I spent the summer training, getting up early in the morning before the kids got out of bed, and charting out my progress each week. Muscles I didn’t even know I had began to ache less and less.

By the middle of Summer, I was able to ride up the steep hill without stopping. My swim time increased. I felt healthy and stronger than I had in several years.

The weekend of the race came. I carefully packed my gear and headed to Donner Lake.  When we arrived at the staging area, the volunteers handed us our race numbers and marked our age on the back of our calves in black permanent marker. Each age group started at different times. Some people obviously had trained for much longer and with more intensity than I had, but I was just there to prove to myself that I could make it across the finish line.

When the staring gun popped, it was time to put my training to the test.  I don’t remember much about the swim, or even about the run, but the one thing I will never forget is when, after several miles of grueling straight up the mountain switchbacks, I reached the lookout where we turned around. The sight of Donner Lake below, sparkling like a million diamonds under the morning sun, was my ah-ha moment.

“If I can do this…” I felt a renewing of energy. “Who knows what else I can do.”

It wasn’t about the race, or the T-shirt, it was about challenging myself to stretch beyond my comfort zone to a place I had never imagined.

The same is true with writing. We might be equipped in one area and focus all of our energy on that one aspect of the craft, but what would happen if you cross-trained your brain?

I do it all the time and I think it has made me a better writer article writer. Taking classes on fiction, screen writing, speaking, and even writing for children have been beneficial in being able to hear, write, and market my work better than if I had only focused on my original skill.

I learned how to weave the fiction technique of “show-don’t-tell” into my articles. I learned to write with more creative imagery through poetry. I understood scenes and movement because of scriptwriting.

Because I love seeing how far I can take a project with what I have learned, I have ended up with a few published works outside of my specific focus of article writing. Does that mean I am genre jumping? No. It means that I love seeing a project through to the end and watching it take flight whether it is shared with only a few friends, or a few hundred kids.

As a Christian writer, it is a comfort, and an added discipline, to put all of our work into the Lord’s hands. For me, I think of the passage in John, where Jesus feeds the multitude. There was a boy who had a few barley loaves and a couple of fish. Not a huge lunch by any means, but he gave it to the Lord anyway. After everyone was fed, the Lord told his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”

I have heard people say that going to a conference without having something to pitch might be a waste of time, or that they have already taken the track in their area of interest.

“Great!” I respond. “That means you are more open to learning something new. Something that might stretch you beyond what you would normally consider and work part of your brain that hasn’t been used for a while.”

It is not genre jumping to cross-train your brain. It is taking advantage of opportunities to strengthen your writing skills. To become better at the craft and calling you have as a writer. To trust that when you take your meager offering and put it into the Lord’s hands, he will gather what is left and not allow anything to be wasted.

Cross-training your brain helps to better equip you in your area of focus. It gets you out of your comfort zone and makes you think in ways that might feel as awkward as getting back on a bike that doesn’t have a banana seat.

Like making it to the top of that mountain on that crisp morning, it might take all you have to prove to yourself that you can do the unimaginable.

Side note-I have been in the Mount Hermon gift store, they have a variety of awesome apparel. If you make it to the end of the conference, treat yourself and get the shirt.

_________________

Come meet Marci Seither at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 16-22, 2016.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW FOR THE CONFERENCE

$75. Early Bird Discount expires February 1!

How to Move Your Cover Letter to the Top of the Pile

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Have you seen the plethora of Editors–both for adult and children’s periodicals and books–joining us at Mount Hermon in March? Exciting! And many of them are blogging for you here. Today, I’m welcoming Elizabeth Mazer back tot he Mount Hermon Writers Blog.

Elizabeth Mazer head shotBLOGGER: ELIZABETH MAZER

Associate Editor, Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense, Love Inspired Historical

Teaching two afternoon workshops and meeting with writers at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016

 

HOW TO MOVE YOUR COVER LETTER TO THE TOP OF THE PILE

Writing a cover letter is a little like dressing for a blind date. The right choices can be key to winning someone over…but what’s the best option? What outfit says “I’m funny, charming, and make a killer apple pie”? How can you guess what your date will like or hate? There’s no hard-and-fast rule about what makes a good cover letter. But there are some things you can keep in mind. As someone who reads a lot of cover letters, here’s my two cents (or rather, three hints) to help your cover letter stand out in the best way.

1) Cover the basics: Writing your cover letter may be like prepping for a blind date, but receiving it is like speed dating when I first skim through it to see if your story fits my requirements. Help me out by starting the letter with some key facts: word count, genre, main selling points (in romance fiction, these can be things like “reunion romance” or “secret baby”). Also be sure to let me know that the manuscript is complete. (I’m afraid I can’t review works-in-progress.) And what I want to know most? The title! You’d be surprised how often I get cover letters where the book’s title isn’t mentioned at all.

2) If you know it, show it!: You’ve done your research before targeting an agent or editor, right? You know what books we’ve worked on already, and what types of stories we’re seeking. Pique our interest by pointing out how your writing style fits with what we’re requesting. If you’re targeting me with a Love Inspired story, be sure to note how your sweet-rather-than-sensual romance grows as the hero and heroine face challenges together and achieve happiness in a realistic but still faith-driven manner. Show us that you know what we’re looking for, and that you have it, ready to deliver.

3) Toot your own horn—especially if your hero’s a trumpet player: The information describing your story (word count, title, plot highlights) definitely needs to come first, but when you get to the end of your letter, leave room for a little bragging. Has this story won awards from your local writers’ organization? Have you won awards—or maybe landed on a bestseller list—for any other books you’ve written? Or perhaps you have personal knowledge or experience that enhances this particular story? If you’re writing a story with a special forces hero/heroine and you served in the military for fifteen years, then that’s great information for us to know. But please keep it professional and related to this project—sell me on your book, not yourself.

There aren’t any guarantees in life, but by following these tips, you stand a much better chance of getting a second date—or at least a letter from an editor/agent to say something other than that s/he’s just not that into you!

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You’ll meet Elizabeth Mazer at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, where she will review manuscripts, teach two workshops, and meet with writers.

Click here to REGISTER NOW!

Why Investing in Your Writing Career is a Good Idea

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

B.J. Taylor.2BLOGGER: B.J. TAYLOR

Editorial Representative, Guideposts Magazine

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop, Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscripts and meeting with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

 

WHY INVESTING IN YOUR WRITING CAREER IS A GOOD IDEA

The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the transmission of ideas and enthusiasm.” – Thomas J. Watson

The Mount Hermon Writers Conference has ideas, enthusiasm and more!

l  Choose from a variety of classes (all at the same place).

l  Meet many other writers (think writer’s group/critique group potential).

l  Touch base with editors and agents (think sales down the road).

Benjamin Franklin said: “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” When I first started attending the Mount Hermon conferences, I was a newbie writer with a few small successes in publication. I kept coming back, year after year, and learned more and more, and today, well, I’d credit a great deal of my success to attending those conferences (adding in a lot of perseverance and a lot of work on my writing skills).

Do you want to change the world with your writing? Steve Jobs said, “…The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Be one of those people. And if it scares you to think of attending a conference where there are hundreds of people, just remember this from John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.

Investing in your writing career by attending a conference is important because it’s the place where you can hone your skills, listen to other writers talk about how they succeed, and make a plan for yourself on how to be successful and make money with your writing. And making money isn’t a bad thing. Selling what you write helps to offset the money you invest.

When thinking about where to come up with the funds needed for the conference, take it from Steve Martin who said, “I love money. I love everything about it. I bought some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks. Got a fur sink. An electric dog polisher. A gasoline powered turtleneck sweater. And, of course, I bought some dumb stuff, too.” lol Like Steve Martin, I’ve bought dumb stuff, too, but I’ve learned to put priority on what I need, and that’s the infusion of ideas and enthusiasm that Mount Hermon brings.

A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Lao Tzu

Take that step of investment in your writing career. I’d love to see you at Mount Hermon in March.

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Come meet B.J. Taylor at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register Now!

10 Steps to Better Time and Stress Management for Authors

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Are you vowing to better manage your time and stress in 2016? This post is for you.

Ben WolfBLOGGER: BEN WOLF

Publisher, Splickety Magazine, Splickety Love, Havock 

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop, Reviewing Pre-Conference Manuscripts and meeting with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

 

10 STEPS TO BETTER TIME AND STRESS MANAGEMENT FOR AUTHORS

Walk the dog. Take out the trash. Make dinner. Get the kids to their activities. Volunteer at church. Work your day job. Spend time with your spouse.

Oh, and somewhere in there, you need to write, too.

So how do you make it happen? How do you carve out time amidst all the stress of your life to write?

Short answer: have a plan, and stick to it.

I created a 10-step process to get me from being stressed to being productive—ultra-productive—with my writing. I’m going to share it with you today with the hope that you can make use of at least some of them.

Before you jump into the process, you have to determine when you’re going to try to do it. Make sure you set aside time–at least an hour, if possible.

With your time set aside, you can dedicate yourself to following these steps and get your butt in the chair to write. So, once you’ve set the time aside, the first thing you do is…

  1. Freak Out.

No, I’m not kidding. One of the best ways to deal with excess stress is to vent it. Scream in a pillow, or pound it. Whoop and holler. As long as you’re not harming yourself or being destructive, this is an important step to follow.

Once you’ve done that…

  1. Take a Breath.

You have successfully freaked out. Congrats.

Now regain your equilibrium—if you can’t get back to a nice, balanced point, you can’t advance beyond that level to a proactive, productive point, and you certainly won’t get to the ultra-productive point where your stress actually becomes your fuel (more on that later).

So, take that breath (or two…or three…or seventeen) and center yourself. Then…

  1. Pray

God WILL help you. He’s faithful. Jesus said not to worry about what you will eat, drink, wear, where you’ll live, and so on. He said don’t worry about tomorrow because today has enough worries on its own (see Matthew 6:25-34).

Besides…when is prayer NOT a good idea? This segues into our next one…

  1. Prioritize.

Put off ’til tomorrow what you can do today.

I prioritize in two ways: I do the projects that need to be done first (to make sure I’m not late), and then, if I’ve somehow managed to not procrastinate, I do the hardest project first.

The opposite can work well also. The momentum you get from finishing small projects can inspire you to dive head-on into the big ones and take them down. But suppose you need a bit of extra inspiration while you’re working. You could…

  1. Medicate.

I’m not talking about booze or drugs or even caffeine (at least not necessarily). I’m saying find something that motivates you to get started. Something that gets you writing (or working on whatever you need to accomplish).

Maybe get yourself a snack, or your favorite beverage, or both, and chow down on them. And while you’re at it…

  1. Get comfy.

Ideally, you’re going to be in that spot awhile writing, so you might as well enjoy your stay. Round up pillows and blankets, find a comfy chair, etc. Just don’t take too much time with this step—you still have work to do.

The crucial part of this step is to physically set yourself up to succeed. Be sure to cut out distractions, create an environment that fosters creativity, and start working. Once your writing realm is established…

  1. Jump in headfirst.

You just have to do it. Abandon your reason, your worries, and your fears. Go for it, and go for it hard, because the sooner it’s done, the sooner it’s done. Once you’re in the zone…

  1. Make the stress become your fuel.

Remember how I mentioned that you could become ultra-productive? This is how you do it: find a way to channel the anxiety and stress of your deadline into your energy reserve OR ignore that external stress entirely.

Those are your two options. If thinking of your stress empowers you to work harder, use it to spur you on. If, on the other hand, that stress tends to cripple you, then push it out entirely and set your sights on only one thing: that manuscript.

In either case, you’ll find yourself being ultra-productive because you’veyou’re yourself up for success (Steps 1 through 7) and now you’ve dealt with your stress the right way for you personally. Once you’ve been ultra-productive for awhile…

  1. Finish strong.

Write that last chapter with zeal. Type that concluding paragraph with gusto. Compose those final song lyrics and notes with fire shooting from your fingertips.

In other words, don’t tank at the end. Why give yourself something to stress out about tomorrow if you can help it? The point here is to finish if you’re close. Power through to the end if you can. If not, don’t sweat it, and when you’re done…

  1. Make a break for it.

Regardless of whether you’ve got more to do or if you finished, take a break. During this break, your task is simple: celebrate.

You’ve got to expend your extra energy somehow. Sometimes it’s through celebration, other times it’s through relaxation. Depends on your mood.

Those are the 10 Steps. But sometimes you may find that those steps aren’t enough. In that case, I recommend that you venture outside the 10 Ssteps to something I like to call…

Step 0: Delegate.

You don’t have to do everything. You have lots of choices in life. Someone else can dot he dishes every now and then. Hire a service to mow your lawn. Have the kids or your spouse vacuum the living room carpet or take out the trash.

Yes, everyone’s circumstance is different, but if this is your career choice and not just a hobby, isn’t it worth investing a bit of money and/or energy in carving out more time in your busy schedule to write?

If you can delegate something—anything—to someone you trust, then do it. It will give you freedom to do the other things you need to do, which means more efficiency and less stress.

If delegation and the ten steps still aren’t enough, it may be time to cut something out of your life. Our time on this planet is limited. Use the principles in Step 4 and figure out if something’s got to go.

There you have it. What are you waiting for? Start these 10 Steps today and get writing!

__________________

Come meet Ben Wolf at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register!

WHAT’S TIMING GOT TO DO WITH FINDING AN AGENT?

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Jessie Kirkland stripeBLOGGER: JESSIE KIRKLAND

A Literary Agent with The Blythe Daniel Agency, Jessie will teach two Afternoon Workshops, review Pre-Conference Manuscript Submissions, and meet with writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22.

WHAT’S TIMING GOT TO DO WITH FINDING AN AGENT?

Watch photo

Poor timing could sabotage your ability to snag an agent. Some writers can’t get an agent because their craft still needs work. Other writers fail to come up with a unique idea that helps them stand out amongst the competition. However, many writers have put in the time and hard work necessary to get published, and they are still empty-handed when it comes to signing with an agent. For some of those talented writers, it simply comes down to poor timing. So, how does timing affect the “yes” you so badly want and need from an agent?

Although I would say that I’m always open to submissions, the truth is I’m not always in active signing mode. I tend to sign people in rounds throughout the year. And these signing sprees are typically concurrent with writers conferences, not the queries in my inbox. I do review queries, but it’s not the best way to pitch me personally.

Here is a typical rundown of my calendar year. I have a conference a month in August, September, and October, then I take a break until February. Then, I have a February, March, and May conference, and then I break for the summer. In the spaces between these writers conferences and retreats, free time is scarce. Most months, I’m focused on servicing my existing clients: negotiating contracts, talking with editors and publishers, and helping clients with marketing & social media. Many agents have much busier schedules than me as they go to multiple conferences a month—every single month of the year.

It can be very difficult for agents to find time to stop doing the work that is right in front of them, in order to think about acquisitions. The workload from already existing clientele always takes priority over potential clients. I can’t switch my brain into acquisition mode sometimes, until I’m leaving on a plane for my next conference. At almost every writers conference, agents teach, speak on publishing panels, and take pitches via 15-minute appointments. A writers conference is your best chance at getting signed by me personally. And yet timing plays a role at these conferences, too.

Agents typically meet with acquisition editors and publishers in 30-minute appointments in between all the duties we have scheduled for us at conferences. So, what if you come to a conference and don’t get the time you wanted with an agent? Then, what should you do? My advice is that you send an email to the agent with a title like “Mt. Hermon Writers Conference meeting” in the subject line. We don’t normally stop checking email, even if we are at conferences. Tell the agent that you weren’t able to get an appointment with them like you requested, and would it be possible to meet with them at a meal or during some of their free time? You might have a good chance at not only getting this appointment, but also standing out more because you emailed them and now you are on their radar.

NOTE FROM MONA: Mount Hermon doesn’t do pre-conference or arbitrary sign-up sheets for appointments. You and the faculty member schedule your own appointments. You can read more about the connection process here.

A few years ago, I was sprinting through a hotel lobby trying to get to a dinner meeting with a publisher when a conference attendee stopped me as I was hurrying past, and told me that they didn’t get an appointment with me. I replied, “Oh, I’m so sorry. If you’ll send me an email, maybe we can make some time.” The guy was determined to force me to hear him out—right there in the lobby. He started to recite his pitch when I had to interrupt him and say, “No. I’m sorry I can’t listen right now. I have an appointment.” He kept pitching, and moved in front of me to block me from leaving. And so I stood there, feeling odd, and by that point…mad. When he was finished I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.” and stepped past him. My point? If he would have been wise with the time I offered him, instead of pushy, then it might have turned out differently.

Don’t ruin your chance by forcing a moment with an agent when they don’t have time to listen. Particularly if they’ve already politely said no. There’s so much instruction out there on how to take your moment and deliver your elevator pitch, but if you force your moment into an agent’s already-filled-up schedule, then you’ll probably be staring a quick no in the face. Pick a meal to do an impromptu pitch, not when an agent is running to the restroom or another meeting and doesn’t even have the time to think about what you are saying. I think all of us expect to be stopped, and we don’t mind at all. It’s only when writers get forceful that things can turn south quickly. That type of bad timing pitch will never turn out in your favor.

Agents are busy. Our calendars are full, and although another agent’s calendar may look different than mine in a lot of ways, I assure you there are patterns to the bulk of their signing. They might not have my habits, but they have habits. Their calendars, inboxes, and time available still affect your ability to get their attention. And when you know these patterns, you’ll be able to pinpoint more optimal times to query or pitch them face-to-face, and therefore have a better chance at getting an agent.

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Come meet Jessie Kirkland at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register!