Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

Why Are Children’s Books Important?

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Linda Howard (800x534)BLOGGER: LINDA HOWARD

Acquisitions Editor, Children and Youth, Tyndale House Publishers

Teaching an Afternoon Workshop

Reviewing Pre-Submission Manuscripts for Editorial Review and Meeting with Writers.

 

WHY ARE CHILDREN’S BOOKS IMPORTANT?

I have loved to read since I can remember. My mom loved to read as well. She modeled her enthusiasm for books to me and encouraged me to read regularly. I did the same for my daughter, even reading to her during my pregnancy, and she has grown to be a delightful young woman who regularly devours books and shares that passion with her children. I look back and see the strong influence of books in my family, and am grateful for their impact on my life from a young age.

These days, as a publisher, I have the joy of helping to create books that will be read by thousands of children around the world. I have a great sense of responsibility, purpose, and satisfaction in bringing formative stories to the market for kids. Why is it so important to provide quality, engaging stories for kids? I’ll outline a few of the top reasons below.

  1. Reading builds a stronger vocabulary in children. Descriptive language, emotive expression, and more are added to a child’s toolbox as they read books and learn new words that aren’t always used in their everyday conversations.
  2. Expanding a child’s imagination is another benefit of reading. Watching a child’s face light up as they “get” what is going on in a story is captivating. Hearing them describe a story in their own words after reading it can be hilarious, heart wrenching, illuminating, and just plain fun.
  3. Reading as a child also tends to lead to more success later on in life. Many studies show that students who are exposed to reading before preschool stand a much greater chance of excelling in all areas of their education including math, science, and communication skills – reading, writing, and verbal communication.
  4. Family reading time creates a special bond between children and their parents or grandparents. Time spent sitting together, reading and discussing books, helps to develop a bond not easily broken. I read to my daughter with her sitting in my lap when she was young, and then read alongside her as she grew up. When she got too big for my lap, I read the same books she was reading, and we talked about them afterwards. She is married and has children of her own now, but we still share books with each other.
  5. Reading helps children develop logical thinking skills. Because children tend to learn best through stories, the more they read the more they are better able to understand abstract concepts, develop problem solving skills as they watch characters in the books deal with issues, and understand the impact of cause and effect in various situations.

Books are powerful tools in building a child’s social, emotional, and educational skills. Make it a priority to expose the children in your life to quality literature. And enjoy it with them – you will both see benefits for a lifetime!

______________________

Come meet Linda Howard at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Click here to Register Now!

 

Small Houses Offer Big First Choices

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Ann Byle smallerBLOGGER: ANN BYLE

A Literary Agent with Credo Communications, Ann will teach an Afternoon Workshop, participate in an Agents Q&A, and meet with potential clients at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March.

 

SMALL HOUSES OFFER BIG FIRST CHOICES

Publishing is difficult these days as publishers work hard to do more with less. Big houses are struggling to create sales in a market that isn’t buying as readily, reach readers whose attention wanders, and attract authors with monster platforms that promise big sales.

As publishers tighten their belts and raise the bar for authors, more and more writers are seeking publication. As an agent, I receive queries in my inbox sometimes once a day, including Saturday and Sunday. Sadly, most of these authors have little chance of getting a contract with a big, traditional Christian publishing house. Even authors with previously published books and a good platform have no guarantees.

Small publishers, once considered second best, are stepping into the widening gap between big houses and author contracts, offering authors publication credits and royalties. Here are a couple of reasons to consider a small house for your novel or nonfiction title.

  1. Small houses are more open to debut authors. One of my clients recently signed a contract with a growing house for her debut novel. The publisher was delighted with her writing and didn’t much care about her medium-sized platform.
  2. Small houses are great for niche-market books. A big house isn’t going to take on a book that reaches a relatively small market (such as parenting a special needs child or caring for elderly parents), but a small house can recognize the need for such a book and offer a contract.
  3. Small houses don’t need huge sales to make a profit. Of course small houses want to sell a lot of books, but they don’t need sales of 15-20,000 to break even. In fact, many small houses are thrilled with sales of 2,000 to 5,000. Which means they’ll look at books that will sell that many, thus allowing authors of really good books to find a home.
  4. Small houses offer personalized service. You won’t get lost in a sea of new books published the same time as yours, or in a backlist so vast it’s impossible to find your book. Usually a small house can devote a decent amount of attention to your book and you, offering advice and help when you need it.
  5. Small houses provide an avenue for sales. Authors can accrue good digital and print sales, which can mean additional book contracts and additional sales. If sales are large enough, a bigger house may take notice. Some authors, however, may want to stay with that smaller house for its personal service and good relationships.
  6. Small houses help authors build a deep contact list. Any author worth his or her salt will use their publication with a small house to build an email list, blog following, or website visit tally. A vital and growing contact list is worth more than gold, as any author and publisher knows.

As you research book publishers, consider a smaller house. These houses often offer the same benefits of a big house—marketing and publicity help, distribution network, quality editing and cover design—with a much more open acceptance policy. A small house may be the perfect fit for you.

_______________________

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

Click here to Register Now!

Taming Time–Practical Tips to Increase Writing Productivity

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BLOGGER: SARAH SUNDIN

Historical novelist Sarah Sundin will serve as a mentor for the Morning Mentoring Clinic, teach an Afternoon Workshop, and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Sarah Sundin Taming Time image

 

“How on earth did you find time to write a book?” a friend asked.

Perhaps it was my ability to type at the speed of light or my complete lack of a personal life.

Um, no. Snails type faster than I do, and they don’t have fingers. I’m a mother of three, teach Sunday school, and have a part-time job. But I make time to write.

Four tools for increasing productivity are herding up goals, corralling blocks of time, lassoing the on-line beast, and harnessing snippets of time. Honestly, I don’t write Westerns.

Herd Up Goals

We’ve all been there—we finish a busy week and have nothing to show for it. Setting goals is the best way to prevent this. Even if you aren’t published yet, make deadlines. Set yearly goals, then break those goals down by month. At the beginning of each week, set daily goals. My goal sheet hangs over my desk. Staring at me.

Corral Blocks of Time

“I am a professional. I am a professional.” Repeat until you believe it.

Now, act like it. Keep office hours, no matter how short, and use them well. Review the day’s goals and get to work. No excuses, no distractions, no phone calls.

Having children at home complicates things, but even a toddler can learn to respect office hours. Despite what parenting blogs say, a child does not need constant entertainment—in fact, a child who learns to entertain himself becomes imaginative and independent.

Lasso the Internet

E-mail, blogs, Twitter, Facebook—they’re necessary, but they can drain away that time you corralled.

Designate a time for the internet, working with your schedule and personality. Reserve your best time of the day for writing and your less-productive times for the internet.

Then set strict time limits. A kitchen timer works wonders.

Harness Time Snippets

A great way to boost productivity is by using snippets of time while waiting at the soccer field or doctor’s office. Why not use that “wasted” time?

Here are some things you can do in ten minutes:

  • Research

As a writer of historical fiction, I always have a pile of books to read. A book and note paper, and I’m set.

  • Market Research

Study magazines or websites you’d like to target or read a book in your genre.

  • Pre-write

Outline an article or chapter, fill out character charts, or write a synopsis.

  • Edit

Editing is my favorite on-the-go activity, well suited to interruptions.

  • Critiques

Time snippets are great for reviewing your critique partners’ work.

  • Communications

With a smartphone, you can tackle e-mails and social media on the run—and free up time at home.

  • Publicity

Public writing means free publicity. People will ask what you’re doing. So tell them. Make sure you always bring business cards or bookmarks.

  • Write

Use a time snippet to write. Really. Try it.

How can you improve your time management?

___________________

Meet Sarah Sundin at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to Register Now!

Unleash Wonder in Your Writing

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Jan Kern smlBLOGGER: JAN KERN

Nonfiction Author

Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor

Morning Mentoring Nonfiction Coordinator and Nonfiction Mentor

UNLEASH WONDER IN YOUR WRITING

Living in California, drought metaphors come easily as we make our way through one of the driest years on record. I’m reminded every time I step out my door. But at my desk or in front of my computer screen, another kind of dryness threatens to invade my writing efforts. My fingers pause longer than I’d like above the keyboard.

Where am I going with this section of my book?

Is it what my readers are grappling with too?

Does my structure and voice make sense for this project?

What am I trying to say and can it really make the difference I hope for?

Where am I connecting with my potential readers so I can find out?

Is God leading me? Am I listening?

Sometimes we hit a writing drought and our creative progress crumbles like dry dust. We need reminders that rain is on its way.

Jan Kern WonderInDrought

 

Recently a ten-day vacation treated my husband and me to beautiful vistas of the northwest. While that area is also experiencing drought conditions, rain still falls. We saw evidence of that everywhere we looked. Lakes are nearly full. Waterfalls tumble down mountainsides. Rivers seemed to bounce and gurgle with life.

Home again, I stepped outside to enjoy a familiar walk along nearby pathways. The changes, even in the few days we had been away, were stark.  The drought continued to sap any remaining moisture. A bubbling spring-fed creek now dribbled into stagnant puddles. Manzanita seemed burnt, fragile and gray. My steps crunched on fallen brown leaves that had skipped their transitional colors of yellow or orange.

As I walked back toward my home, I prayed that I might catch glimpses of wonder in the drought-stricken landscape. I couldn’t see it. Not that day.

Waking the next morning, I pushed the covers aside and prayed, “Lord, let your Spirit flow through me today. Fill my heart with wonder again.”

Again?

The prayer startled me. Where had wonder gone? Had I let it drain away? With legs swung over the side of my bed, feet ready to hit the floor, I realized that my writing days had become much like my walk the day before—stagnant, lacking delight-filled engagement with wonder. I shifted my prayers toward more specific requests.

Lord, please unleash wonder in my rhythms of writing.

At that moment, wonder became the promise of rain for my writing drought.

Where do you need an infusion of wonder in your writing journey or current projects? Try these tips:

Reconnect to your purpose.

William Wordsworth wrote, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. Sometimes we’ve lost our heart along the way to filling our word quotas. One of the greatest places of wonder is found in reconnecting with our initial passion for what we’re doing or to what God has been recently stirring inside. Write a small piece simply for creativity sake.

Remember your readers.

God captured Moses’ attention through a burning bush and called Moses to a specific purpose and people. Step outside and take a walk in a new direction. As you do remember those to whom God has called you to write and what is important to them. When you return to your writing, start in a new place with your readers in mind.

Create your inspiration.

Create a motto that inspires you to keep moving forward with wonder and inspiration, one that you post near your writing desk. Or borrow this one: “Ignite the power of faith and creativity. Be unquenchable!” This happens to be the tagline for the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Whatever you choose to do, keep moving forward, keep writing. As a friend very wisely said to me, even in the drought there is still life if you look for it.

One place you can be certain to find the promise of rain for a writing drought and to take your current writing project closer toward publication is through Mount Hermon’s Morning Mentoring Clinics. The 2016 groups—both fiction and nonfiction—will focus on specific genres and types of projects. Apply, meet your mentor, bring your project and anticipate wonder!

_______________________

You’ll 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.

Writing for Children: Audience Awareness

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Jesse FloreaBLOGGER: JESSE FLOREA

Editor, Clubhouse and Clubhouse Jr.

Major Morning Track Instructor, Magazine Writing: Starting Point or Destination

Reviewing Pre-Submission Manuscripts for Editorial Review and Meeting with Writers.

 

WRITING FOR CHILDREN: AUDIENCE AWARENESS 

Whenever I speak at a writers’ conference, I tell those in attendance, “If you have a child, were a child or have ever seen a child, you can write for children.”

I stand by that statement. What I often fail to say is that it’s not easy. Many writers have the misconception that writing for children is simple. After all, kids have limited vocabularies and stories for them contain fewer words. So writers make the mistake of underestimating this audience.

In my nearly 20 years as the editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. and Clubhouse magazines, I’ve read countless stories where grandma swoops in with some sage advice to save the day or where the child is clueless until dad tells him what to do. Ugh. There’s nothing wrong with a clever granny or smart dad, but to quote a Writer’s Digest story by Deborah Churchman, “Imagine reading an adult novel in which all the cleverness, knowledge and decisions resided in children. Would you identify with it? Then why should kids appreciate stories that give adults all the power?”

Here’s the truth: Kids are thinking, feeling, smart human beings. They lack life experience, but they have quick minds that are ready to learn. Here’s an even bigger truth: No matter what demographic you’re writing for, you must know their desires, felt needs and thought processes if you’re going to be effective.

To share your story with any audience, you have to be able to connect. Even if you’re an expert in a subject, you can’t talk down. You just need to talk . . . in a relatable, relevant way. And when it comes to communicating with children, the wisdom you share in your stories can shape who they become in the future. Isn’t that awesome!

Honor your audience in all of your writing. The apostle Paul tells us to “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10, HCSB). That’s great advice in how we conduct ourselves in real life and when we’re on our computers. Kids are honest, energetic and funny. If you’re writing for this audience, those words should describe your stories as well. So before you send in a manuscript to a children’s editor, ask yourself, Is this honest, energetic and funny writing. If not, don’t send it. Go back and put a unique twist on a Bible story. Show how God takes the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary. Be unique. Don’t doubt a child’s ability to understand concepts and accomplish great things. Climb into their world and encourage them to become all God wants them to be.

Among my stable of writers for Clubhouse and Club Jr., there are doctors, missionaries, engineers, former teachers and stay-at-home moms. As I look through the magazines, I can remember the conference where I met each person. While their backgrounds might be different, they all have the ability to look at the world in a child-like—not childish—way. They possess a sensitivity toward words and their intended audience.

The older I get, the more child-like I become (my wife can confirm that fact). I want to be amazed at life and the gifts God gives us. And I want that amazement to be evident in every story that I write or edit.

So inspire your audience with your stories. Challenge them. And above all, respect them.

________________

Come meet Jesse Florea at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in March.

Click here to register.

Q&A with Bethany House Publishers’ Fiction Acquisitions Editor

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I’m loving hearing from our 2016 Conference Faculty on the Mount Hermon Writers blog each week. Today, an Acquisitions Editor answers some of your questions.

BLOGGER: RAELA SCHOENHERR

Fiction Acquisitions Editor, Bethany House Publishers

Raela is reviewing (at the conference) a few of the pre-submitted manuscripts and meeting with fiction writers at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

Q&A WITH BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS’ FICTION ACQUISITIONS EDITOR

Q: Since I’m guessing you would say that “strong writing” is what makes a manuscript stand out to you, what do you mean by that? What does that look like to you?

A: Here’s a laundry list of things of things that make for a good novel. This is far from comprehensive, but hopefully it’s a good start.

  • Interesting, varied word choice and use of the English language in a way that is appropriate to era, setting, characters, etc.
  • Non-generic narrative
  • Natural and readable dialogue
  • Distinct voices for POV (Point of View) characters
  • Delivering back story without info dumping
  • Foreshadowing without telegraphing
  • Clear character arcs for main characters
  • Secondary characters come alive
  • Logical, believable character choices
  • Pacing that neither drags nor makes awkward, abrupt jumps
  • Clear, compelling conflict
  • Paints the picture of a setting. Characters are clearly grounded in that setting and couldn’t be easily transplanted into another generic setting.
  • Distinct author voice. A very simplified example: if a reader was given a paragraph from you and three other authors, would she be able to tell yours apart from the others just by your tone and way of writing?

Q: What is one thing that makes an author stand out to you besides the writing quality of the manuscript?

A: Publishing savvy always makes authors stand out to me. Do they understand the world of publishing to some degree? Have they researched the industry? Have they read broadly in the industry? Do they have a realistic grasp for what sets them apart? If they’re writing something that sounds like a lot of other books in the market, can they articulate why their book is different? Or, if their book is pretty different from the rest of what’s in the market, can they articulate why it would appeal to our audience? Do they understand the aspects of being an author beyond simply writing a manuscript? Do they have ideas for helping to promote their book? Do they have connections or unique qualities we can leverage to help spread word of mouth? Do they have endorsements of themselves as an author or of their manuscript?

Q: What is one mistake you often see beginning writers make?

A: The showing vs. telling advice is a cliché for a reason. Authors who aren’t ready for publication often struggle with this—whether it’s info dumps, tedious setting descriptions that read like a “for sale” listing, clumsy and didactic explanations of character emotions and motivations, and so on.

Beginning writers often start their stories at the wrong place. Many times the story would be much stronger and more interesting if the reader is dropped right in the middle of a situation rather than having to wade through three chapters of set-up that explains how the characters got to where they are. And sometimes, but less often, beginning authors may start their stories too late. This is when all the interesting conflict has taken place in the past and only leaves the reader to learn about characters’ responses after-the-fact.

In general, conflict can be a big hang-up for beginning authors. Conflict needs to be believable and compelling enough to drive a reader to keep turning pages all the way until the end of a book. New authors might set up a good conflict but then not deliver on it, or they might have all external conflict and no internal (or vice versa). Conflict can’t be too easily resolved unless authors want to annoy or lose their readers. Beginning writers need to make the stakes as high as possible for their characters and put them into seemingly impossible situations—whether it’s solving the mystery, saving a life, defeating an enemy, chasing  a dream, or falling in love.

As for proposals, I can pretty quickly get a sense of an author’s industry savviness. For example, saying “I am available for book tours” and not much else under marketing shows a lack of understanding of the industry. Also, I always find the comparable titles section to be telling. I’ll have my own comparisons in mind, but I take note when an author’s are similar to mine or she makes an intelligent comparison I didn’t think of. On the other hand, if an author misses all the natural comparisons she should make or compares her novel to novels that are either nothing like her book or extremely out of date, I can tell she lacks an awareness of the market. Or, heaven forbid, if an author says there have never before been any other books like hers.

Q: How can writers best improve their craft?

A: Every time an aspiring fiction writer says they either don’t read fiction or don’t have time to read fiction, an angel loses his wings. Seriously though, I’ve gotten comments like this more times than I’d like to count and I have trouble not immediately dismissing those writers. Our authors here at Bethany House are some of the busiest people I know and most of them still find time to read because a) they like reading, and b) they realize it’s important for their career. Obviously a person who is trying to complete a manuscript is going to have less free time than someone who isn’t writing, but it’s nearly impossible to write a good book for your market if you have no awareness of what people are reading and you don’t have recent and consistent personal experience as a reader. Make time for reading, both in and outside of your genre.

Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has a great list of Resources for Writers on her blog. One I would add is Fiction University, a blog I follow and find often has great tips and resources. The Christian Writers Market Guide is always a good standby for general industry information. Most of your favorite authors will list their best writing resources on their own websites.

In general, I advise authors to learn as much as they can about the craft and technique of writing and then go out and make their writing their own. Everyone is going to have different rules and non-negotiables, so authors should do what makes the most reasonable sense for them. Just make sure it’s intentional and the result of research and not just laziness.

Thanks for having me on the blog today. I’m looking forward to meeting the writers attending the conference in a few months!

_____________________

Raela Schoenherr is a fiction acquisitions editor and has been with Bethany House Publishers since 2008. She grew up reading Christian fiction and enjoys being able to work with the kinds of books she always loved. When she’s not reading (or listening to audiobooks!), she’s probably cheering on the Green Bay Packers, running, or spending time with her wonderful family and friends. A graduate of Bethel University, she makes her home in Minneapolis, MN and is active on Twitter at @raelaschoenherr.

Come meet Raela at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March!

Ready to REGISTER for the conference?

 

Ready for a Promotion

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Susie LarsonBLOGGER: SUSAN LARSON

Susie is teaching two Afternooon Workshops and serving on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22.

READY FOR A PROMOTION

Someone once said that a person’s gift may open the door, but his or her character will keep it open. Though it’s important to hone our craft, we need much more than skill to stay the course as a Christian writer.

Many years ago I spoke at a women’s conference and had a humbling experience. At the time, my writing credits included my first book (which I self-published), and the numerous articles I’d written for Focus on the Family. I’d not yet reached my goal and dream of getting published with a mainstream Christian publisher.

During a break in the conference I met up with the keynote speaker in the green room. She walked ahead of me in the buffet line, kept her eyes on her plate and asked, “So you write for Focus on the Family, do you?” Feeling validated, I smiled and said, “Why yes, I do.” She scooped up more food and replied, “Hmmm. Well. I myself don’t write articles. I save all of my content for my books.” She then peeked over her shoulder, gave me a tight-lipped smile, and walked away.

While I embrace opportunities to humble myself, I don’t particularly enjoy feeling humiliated. I found my way to a corner chair and sat there with my little plate of food. I felt smaller than the pitiful portions I’d taken for myself. I bowed my head and prayed for my meal. And for the knot in my gut.

In that very next moment, God whispered to my heart something I’ll never forget. He said, “Susie, wherever you go, you’ll find people that I’ve promoted serving alongside people who’ve promoted themselves. From the outside looking in, they’ll look very much the same, but the difference will be in the fruit. When you abide in Me, you’ll bear much fruit, and that fruit will always nourish others, not diminish them.”

We don’t like to wait for our dreams to come true and it’s tempting to rush ahead to make something happen in our own strength and on our own timeline. But just look in Scripture to see how well that worked for some of the folks who’ve gone before us.

You see, it’s not enough just to ‘get there’ – wherever it is we’re trying to go. When it comes to our dreams and our calling, God intends not just to get us there; He wants us to be able stand there, win our battles there, so when we’re ready, we can move on from there. But that will never happen on gifting alone. We need Christ-like character to whether the storms, trials, and temptations that go along with this calling.

Self-ambition may give us a good start but it will never promise a good finish. In fact, scripture tells us that self-ambition, envy, and jealousy are gateway sins to every other kind of evil (see James 3:14-15).

God is good and He withholds no good thing from His kids who walk intimately with Him. He’s an invested Father and will not send us out unprepared. If He’s making us wait it’s because He’s making us ready. We can trust Him.

A.B. Simpson wrote these wise words:

God is continually preparing His heroes, and, when the opportunity is right, He puts them into position in an instant. He works so fast, the world wonders where they came from. [1]

If it feels like your dream will never come to pass, lean in and trust God. Do the next thing He tells you to do. Hone your craft. Stay humble. And remember that at the best time possible, God will finish what He started in you.

[1] A.B. Simpson, Streams in the Desert, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1997, p.174

______________________

Come meet Susie Larson at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference in March 2016.

Click here to Register for the conference!

 

How (& Why) Not to Geek Out at a Writers’ Conference

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Kathi Lipp (533x800)BLOGGER: KATHI LIPP

Kathi is teaching the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic Workshop–PLATFORM: How to Find Your Readers, Lavish on Your Audience and Sell Your Book and Afternoon Workshops, also serving on the Critique Team at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March

HOW (& WHY) NOT TO GEEK OUT AT A WRITERS’ CONFERENCE

My husband and I have a particular weakness for The Big Bang Theory. In fact, living in Silicon Valley (where we have a higher than usual number of socially awkward geniuses), I like to refer to myself as the “Non-Hot Penny” the normal girl living among a sea of people with their PhDs. In fact, everyone in their group has their PhD, except Penny, and Howard Wolowitz – the Engineer.

But what Howard lacks in a Doctorate, he makes up for in experience. He is the only one of his group who has been to the International Space Station. Yes, Howard is an astronaut.

And he’s not going to let you forget it.

Scene: The Comic Book Store

Howard: Oh, hey, Stuart, I got you a little souvenir from my trip to space.

Stuart: Well, Howard, that’s very nice of you.

Leonard: Yeah, maybe. Open it first.

Howard: It’s my official NASA portrait.

Stuart: To Stuart, your comic book store is out of this world. Just like the guy in this picture was.

Sheldon: For the record, he also thinks the Walgreens and the dry cleaners are out of this world.

Howard: That’s not true. At the Walgreens I was “over the moon” for their store-brand antacids.

 

Howard can’t be in a conversation that doesn’t turn into a reference about his trip to space. And frankly, everyone’s a little sick of hearing about it.

So here’s my advice to authors while you’re at a writer’s conference: Don’t be a Howard.

Don't Be a Howard 600x600

A Howard is the author who can (and will) turn any conversation back into discussing their book.

A Howard is the author who says things like, “Wow, we’re having Italian dressing at dinner tonight? That’s so weird because my protagonist’s grandmother is Italian too!”

A Howard is the author who carries around a stack of their own books and a PayPal swiper at a writer’s conference to sell their own books to other attendees. (Yes, I’ve actually seen that happen.)

I know you need to market your book. I get it.  And if you’re yet to be published – or even if you are – you need to market you.

What Howard was forgetting was the person on the other side of the conversation. That there was a real,  live, breathing human who has wants and needs, who is looking to connect – not just to be impressed by him.

Don’t be a Howard.

When you get to your writer’s conference, yes, people are going to want to hear about your project, but remember – they are people. They are excited to be at a writer’s conference with real, live writers like you.

Here are some suggestions when it comes to not completely geeking out a writer’s conference.

Ask other people questions. I know it seems pretty obvious, but at writer’s conferences, we all tend to lose our minds a bit. You just can’t wait for someone to just stop talking so you can share about your character’s love of the harp. But you are going to learn more (and have more writing friends) if you ask other people about their loves and passions.

Find out about their project.  I had a consultation with a writer at a conference and when I asked her what other projects she’d heard about that she found interesting, she said, “I didn’t spend all this money to talk to people about their projects.” Part of becoming a writer is developing a writer’s life. That means having other writers in your life. Find out about what they do and what makes them tick. You will be a better writer for it.

Ask editors about what they love to read. Editors are editors because they love to read. Find out what those editors love to read – and then share some of your favorite books. When you are not labeled the crazy writer who is stalking all editors, it’s much easier to develop a relationship.

Because here is what I’ve found – when it comes to publishing a book, editors want to work with people they want to work with. In other words, people they like. Be an author – a human being – worth liking.

 

Be honest. Ever geeked out a writers’ conference?

_______________

Come meet Kathi Lipp at Mount Hermon in March!

Ready to Register for the conference?

Attending a Writers’ Conference: How Would Your Life Be Different?

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BLOGGER: MARCI SEITHER

Marci Blog Graphic cropped

 

HOW WOULD YOUR LIFE BE DIFFERENT?

My husband walked through the room as I began repacking my suitcase for the umpteenth time.

“What’s up?” he looked at the pile of clothes strewn across my bed and the tall stacks of writing samples and business cards I planned to take.

“You are only going to be at the writer’s conference for four days. Why do you need five pairs of black shoes?” he asked.

I felt my lip quiver and the familiar tightening of my stomach. “What if they find out..” The words stopped.

“Find out what?” John asked, realizing that I wasn’t kidding around. The tears at the rim of my eyes were real.

“They find out that I am NOT a real writer.” I sighed.

That was in 2002. I had worked all summer lifeguarding and teaching swim lessons so that my teenage daughter and I could attend a writer’s conference together. After looking online I found one that sounded great and only a few hours from where we lived. Calvin Miller and Randy Alcorn were the keynote speakers and they had a teen track for Emma and an article track for me. Perfect.

I had my samples, my spreadsheet of editors who would be attending and what they might be looking for, and all of the outlines from the classes I might want to take.

The interesting thing was that I had been a published humor columnist and article writer for about two years for a small town paper, but I never considered myself to be a writer.

My writing adventure started after a story I wrote about a cookie baking fiasco with my kids appeared in the local paper. I would have never sent in anything if it hadn’t been for my mom’s prodding. After my husband and I, along with our three kids, moved from my home state of California to Minnesota I began faxing updates to my mom, who encouraged me to get them published.

“They are just funny to you, because they are about us,” I replied.

“No,” she responded. “The whole office enjoys reading them.”

I swallowed. The whole office!  Obviously they didn’t know I wasn’t a writer.

In fact, if there had been an award for “Least likely to be published” in my high school yearbook I would have won, hands down. I was the only student in the history of Ponderosa High School to ever be demoted from electric typewriter back to manual typewriter. I also never read a book that wasn’t assigned and read in class. When extra books were required to be read and reported on for English, I lied. I made up the book, the author, the publisher, and created a believable story line that usually involved espionage and cold-war tactics. I just made sure I mentioned that it drug in the middle or didn’t have noteworthy characters.

Yet there I was, in my room surrounded by shoes and paper, having visions of someone looking over my pieces and advising me against quitting my day job.

It was about the third day of the conference when I called my husband outside the little cabin room Emma and I shared. I had been to the critique center earlier that day to have someone look over my samples.

The woman on the other side of the table chuckled while she read over the humor piece I brought. Finally, she looked up and said, “You are a really good writer.”

Tears stung my eyes as she gently handed me a Kleenex. She understood.

I will never forget my first meeting with Barbara Curtis.  She was one that encouraged me to keep writing.  We stayed in contact until she passed away a few years ago. She was one of many wonderful people who helped encourage, instruct, and even critique my work over the years. She inspired me to write to the best of my ability.

That first conference was so precious because it helped solidify the fact that God has a plan for me, even if I didn’t feel worthy or capable. In fact, the Bible is full of unworthy and incapable people that God used so really, am in good company!

I have only missed a few years since 2002. Each year I learn something new. Each year I find that The Lord uses something or someone to help me along in my writing journey.

I think it might have been Lee Roddy who said one time, “Writers write. Waiters wait. So stop waiting and start writing!”

How would your life be different if someone you trusted said, “You are a writer”?

Guess what? If you are reading this, chances are that God already did.

So start. Commit to giving Him your best.

What are you waiting for? Register now for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference.

Note to self…only one pair of black shoes is really necessary, however, you might want to bring a small package of Kleenex, I will be in the critique room waiting to help cheer you on.

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Marci SeitherCome meet Marci Seither at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

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 16-18.

Passive Vs. Active Verbs

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Kathy IdeBLOGGER: KATHY IDE

Coordinator of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference Critique Team

Freelance Editor

 

PASSIVE VS. ACTIVE VERBS

Wherever possible, strive to use strong, precise verbs rather than weak, vague verbs. Instead of saying, “They were going,” write, “They went.” Or better yet, show how they went. “They jogged,” “They raced,” “They ambled,” for example. A single descriptive action verb is almost always better than a weak passive verb.

Here are some examples:

Passive: It is believed by Sue that a curfew must be placed on her son, Matthew.
Active: Sue believes that she must place a curfew on her son, Matthew.

Passive: It was earlier demonstrated that Matthew could be intimidated by too much freedom.
Active: Friday’s party showed Sue that too much freedom could intimidate Matthew.

Passive verbs often indicate that a subject exists, or that something happens to the subject. Active verbs describe something a subject does.

Passive: Andrew had dark, curly hair and a bushy beard.
Active: Andrew ran his fingers through his dark, curly hair and stroked his bushy beard.

Passive: Two cups of coffee were on the table.
Active: Joe picked up two cups of coffee from the table.

In nonfiction, there are a few acceptable reasons to use passive verbs:

1. To emphasize the action rather than the subject.
Example: Jim’s bioengineering proposal was approved by the committee.

2. To keep the subject and focus consistent throughout a passage.
Example: The astrobiology department presented a controversial proposal to the committee. After long debate, the proposal was endorsed by …

3. To be tactful by not naming the subject.
Example: The e-mail message was misinterpreted.

4. To describe a condition in which the subject is unknown or irrelevant to the sentence.
Example: Every year, many people are diagnosed with Environmental Illness.

5. To create an authoritative tone.
Example: Visitors are not allowed after 9:00 p.m.

Even in fiction, the occasional use of a passive verb is acceptable. But do a search of your manuscript for is, was, are, were, be, been, would, could, has, had, and have, and wherever you find one of those words, see if there’s a way you can show what’s happening instead of just telling about it.

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.

How about it, are you seeing opportunities in your article or book proposal for tightening your writing using active vs. passive verbs?

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You’ll meet Kathy Ide at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, March 18-22, where she serves as the coordinator of the Critique Team.

Register Me Now!