Posts Categorized: Writers Conference

Make the Most of the Pre-Conference Manuscript Submission Opportunity

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.


John VonhofBLOGGER: JOHN VONHOF

John coordinates the Manuscript Retrieval Process during the Main Conference.

 

MAKE THE MOST OF THE PRE-CONFERENCE MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSION OPPORTUNITY

One of the benefits of attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference is the opportunity to submit manuscripts for review by faculty. You may submit two manuscripts, pre-conference, by following the guidelines on the conference website. In this blog post, I’ll summarize the process.

Pre-Conference Manuscript Submission Guidelines

You have several options. You can request an editorial review (not a critique) by an editor or agent as a possible match for their needs or you can request a critique by a professional writer. You may submit one or two manuscripts – one for a review and one for a critique, or both for one or the other.  Not sure which to do? Here’s help.

  • Critique – A manuscript for pre-submission consists of:
  • One article or short story (1800 word maximum)
  • One article query, with outline (3 pages maximum)
  • One book proposal. Please do not send complete books.
  • Up to three devotionals or fillers (250–400 words each, maximum)
  • No more than three poems (24-line maximum each)
  • Editorial Review – If you want to discover if a publishing house or magazine would be interested in publishing your manuscript or if an agent might like to represent you, request an editorial review. The same rules as above apply.

Complete details are on the conference website. Click here to see the submission guidelines. It’s important to read the instructions for submitting manuscripts.

  • Manuscripts should be typed, with your name on each page.
  • Your manuscript should be double-spaced. Other parts of your of your submission package may be single-spaced.
  • Manuscripts must be original (your work) and unpublished.
  • The manuscript is limited to 10 pages plus the other components (a cover or query letter, a book proposal, a 1 or 2-page outline for nonfiction or synopses for fiction, etc.).

Choosing Whom to Review or Critique Your Manuscripts

The Resources page  has tabs for Editorial Needs by Genre and Editorial Needs Alphabetical. Use these lists to learn what the editors and agents are looking for. For critiques, use the Critique Team Listing.  Once the conference has started, the Manuscript Retrieval Team can help you think about faculty to approach about your manuscript.

What to Submit

The Query Letter & Book Proposal Guidelines webpage has information to help you prepare your submission. If you are unsure how to write a query letter or book proposal, you are encouraged to check out any of the books available about proposals. My favorite book is Ryan G. Van Cleave’s The Weekend Book Proposal: How to Write a Winning Proposal in 48 Hours and Sell Your Book. It includes fiction and nonfiction proposal examples, a chapter on query letters, and lots of tips on the different components of a successful proposal. You can also Google query letters and book proposals to see examples.

Make sure whatever you submit is your best work. Double-check everything for spelling and grammatical errors. If you are part of a critique group, have them review your manuscript.

Packaging and Sending Your Manuscripts

The Resource section on the conference website has a Letters, Forms & Guidelines webpage that has the Pre-Conference Manuscript Submission Form that you need to print and fill out. It needs to be sent with your manuscripts. For each manuscript submitted, you need to fill in your: name, title of manuscript, email, cell number, circle the type of manuscript, check either critique or editorial review and by whom, and add any comments. Make sure you read and follow the instructions on how to package and send your manuscripts. Be sure to check the appropriate box on the manuscript submission form—Critique by a Published Author or an Editorial Review.

Each manuscript must be in a 9×12 manila envelope with the submission form taped to the top front side. Do not seal the envelope. If the envelope has a metal clasp, please tape over it and do not use it. Manuscript pages should not be stapled, clipped, or bound.

Make sure you do not send your only copies of your manuscript. Either print an extra copy and bring it in a folder or save your files to a USB thumb drive. The Hospitality Center can make copies from either source as needed for a nominal fee.

If you hope to submit manuscripts to additional faculty at the conference, please bring a few extra 9×12 manila envelopes.

All the above information and more can be found on the Free Manuscript Review webpage.

Deadline for Pre-Conference Submissions

All pre-conference submissions must be received at the conference center by Monday, March 14. Make sure your manuscripts are mailed early enough to make the deadline.

When You’ll Get Your Manuscripts Back

Saturday after lunch is the first opportunity to get any manuscripts the faculty has returned. Some are returned after that, depending on faculty’s timing.

Submissions After the Conference has Started

Once the conference has started, you may talk to a faculty member who asks to see your manuscript. Request a signed form from the faculty member and process your manuscript through the manuscript retrieval system in the Hospitality Center. The Manuscript Retrieval Team will get the manuscript to the faculty member. The faculty’s first obligation is to those who submitted pre-conference submissions.

All manuscripts must go through the Manuscript Retrieval System for tracking. Please do not hand your manuscript to an editor for review. Likewise, do not allow an editor to hand you your manuscript if it has not been checked back in through the system.

The Manuscript Retrieval Team

The Manuscript Retrieval Team, located in the Hospitality Center, is eager to help you with your manuscript questions. The team can look over your manuscript, query letter and book proposal; and help with ideas on faculty that you might talk to about your manuscript. We’d also be happy to answer any questions you may have about the manuscript process. Feel free to email me at: john@johnvonhof.com.

John Vonhof and Dan Kline

Manuscript Retrieval Team

~~~~~~~~~~

Come meet John Vonhof at the 47th Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22!

Click here to Register now!

Don’t Miss The Facebook Giveaways

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Only SIX WEEKS to go before we gather at Mount Hermon for the 47th annual Christian Writers Conference, March 16-22! I hope you plan to join us. The main conference begins Friday, March 18!

Check out the FACULTY!

Check out the PROGRAM!

 

In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to celebrate the upcoming conference with FACEBOOK FRIDAY WEEKEND GIVEAWAYS!

OT Studios, the Olneys and the Beckwiths who record the General Sessions, Major Morning Tracks, and Afternoon Workshops for sale during the writers conference each year, donated FIVE complete sets of the 2015 recordings (CDs/Thumbdrives).

20150514_075852_resized (570x760)

 

First, visit Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference FACEBOOK PAGE and Like the page.

Then stop by every Friday and leave a comment on the GIVEAWAY post to enter the drawing for a 2015 set of recordings from the General Sessions, Major Morning Tracks, and Afternoon Workshops.

Friday, February 5 ~ Friday, February 12 ~ Friday, February 19 ~ Friday, February 26 ~ Friday, March 4

ENTER GIVEAWAY

Comment on the GIVEAWAY post on Friday, then check back each Sunday afternoon to see if you’ve been selected to receive a set of the 2015 recordings. See your name listed as the winner? Email me at mona.hodgson@mounthermon.com with your mailing address.

In the meantime, be sure to finalize your plans to join us in the California redwoods next month!

Click here to REGISTER NOW for the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

PLEASE SHARE!

Self Ambition, Self Preservation

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Susie LarsonBLOGGER: SUSIE LARSON

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

 

SELF AMBITION, SELF PRESERVATION

We love to write. We long to be published. We decide to step out of the boat. Others seem to skate right through the publication process. Yet for us, progress often feels slow and the frustrations, constant.

Over the years I’ve met writers who experienced quick success only to fizzle out within a few years. And, I’ve met writers who had great potential but allowed their fears to keep them from taking the risks necessary to succeed. Looking back, they now feel only regret. What happened in these situations?

When we finally awaken to the idea that God wants to do great things in and through us, two temptations may also surface for us:

  • Self-ambition
  • Self-preservation

 Self Ambition:

The minute we decide to pursue our dream, we notice those with similar dreams who seem a little farther down the road. We feel impatient. And even frustrated. We’re tempted to posture and plan and to use people as a means to and end. We justify grabbing quick solutions and shortcuts to our goal.

So what’s the problem with a healthy sense of self-ambition? And is all ambition bad?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. 

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,

not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” 

Philippians 2:3-4 NIV

Self-ambition compels us to drive beyond what’s healthy or even realistic.  We sacrifice relationships for opportunity. We strive in our own strength instead of humbly stewarding our current assignment. Self-ambition makes us self-focused; it blinds us from seeing the value in others and the significance of their call. Self-ambition neglects the wisdom in God’s timing.

As Christians, our God-given call to write will always make life better for others. God brilliantly designs our call to fit our story and to nourish many.  And, as an invested, loving Father, He will not send us out until we’re ready.

If you’re frustrated and tempted to take matters into your own hands, I dare you instead to humble yourself and trust God’s timing in your story. Apply yourself to the task before you. Learn what you need to know. One day you’ll break through.

Self Preservation:

When we take the necessary steps to learn the craft and to educate ourselves on the publication process, we eventually find opportunities designed just for us. Where in the past, our ambition and impatience compelled us to strive forward and self-promote, oftentimes it’s our fears that compel us to pull back and self-protect.

When our humanity touches our dreams, it’s tempting to hit the breaks and think, I could really mess this up. What if I fail publicly? What if I make a fool of myself? Maybe I’m not ready. I’m definitely not ready.

Publishers tell us that of the conference attendees who actually receive an invitation to send them a book proposal, only 25% follow through with this invitation! Think about that for a moment: 75% of writers who dream of being published, when faced with an opportunity to submit a proposal, never walk through that door.

Do not let fear keep you from achieving your dreams.

And do not let self-ambition drive you to strive in ways that are beneath you.

You can trust God’s timing.

Work hard. Stay the course. Be humble. Be teachable. And one day your hard work will pay off and your faith will become sight.

“Work like it all depends on you. Pray like it all depends on God.”[1]  –Mark Batterson

[1] Mark Batterson said these words on my show, Live the Promise with Susie Larson

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Meet Susie Larson at the 47th Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in the California redwoods, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to REGISTER NOW for the conference.  EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT OF $75. expires TODAY, February 1st!

Tips for Capturing Emotions in Your Novel

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Angela BreidenbachBLOGGER: ANGELA BREIDENBACH

Angela will teach an Afternoon Workshop and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

TIPS FOR CAPTURING EMOTIONS IN YOUR NOVEL

Emotions are often scary because we feel out of control. Enter the writer who needs to infuse emotion into the character and story so the reader can feel them as the story world unrolls page-by-page. The problem isn’t knowing the words to use. Anyone can write dictionary words like angry, funny, afraid, hurt. But the story doesn’t evolve from just words, does it?

Capturing emotions in your novel means capturing your own emotions—and then being willing to let some stranger get really intimate with you by, gasp, reading them. Writing a novel is much like writing a journal. A journal is a safe place to pour out all those secret feelings in any order. No one is editing. No one is judging. But a novel?

My favorite “secret” place to capture my emotions for a novel is my personal journal. I don’t mean telling all my secrets by writing them on the page for those unknown eyes. I mean looking at the actual words I use to describe how I feel. When I’m angry, I let my pen leave fiery, ferocious words like an avalanche. They roar down the page until I’m spent. When I’m jotting a funny moment, the ink chortles in spurts of glee. And when I write of love the prose dances in swirls and loops caressing the memory.

Journals are excellent places to write your thoughts, memories, and experiences. But they’re a treasure trove when you need just the right word to express an emotion happening in your story. The way you express yourself in your real world is invaluable to the way your characters express themselves in a fictional world.

How, you ask?

Make column headings for basic emotions like anger, sadness, joy, fear, Surprise… (Think of those words as the simplest form.) Go through your journal and put the emotional words you find in the appropriate category. Once done, you’ve just created your own emotional thesaurus in words you would use. As you’re mining those gems, you’ll make another amazing discovery — your writing voice. A little refining, you’ll see characters leap off the page without revealing your personal secrets.

Share an emotion word from your journal that one of your characters could express. (Remember, just the emotion word, not your secrets.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Come meet 2016 faculty member Angela Breidenbach at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22.

Click here to register now.

The $75. Early Bird Discount ends Monday, February 1, 2016!

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.

__________________

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

~~~~~~~~~~~

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.

____________________

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!

____________________

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.

___________________

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

Click here to Register Now!

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

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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.

________________

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

Click here to Register!

Making Your Speculative Story World Unique

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Kathy Tyers GillinBLOGGER: KATHY TYERS GILLIN

A freelance author, mentor and editor, Kathy will serve as a fiction mentor for the Morning Mentoring Clinic and teach an Afternoon Workshop.

 

MAKING YOUR SPECULATIVE STORY WORLD UNIQUE

People who write fantasy and science fiction read a lot of it. We love the way it lets us stand outside life-as-we-know-it and look at what it means to be human in this world. And as authors, we tend to imitate what we’ve read.

That means it can be a little too easy to recycle the common tropes of speculative fiction: dragons that can be ridden, planets that have gravity so close to earth-normal that people can walk unassisted, spaceships that go BOOM when they blow up. Last year at Mount Hermon, I passed out a cliché list I’d found online—and since it’s well-nigh impossible to tell a readable story without using any well-established ideas, I had to confess I’d written many of them into my books.

But in a speculative story, not everything unusual should come out of the consensus universe. How can we add something new to the conversation?

Try brainstorming across different disciplines.

  • Combine botany and culture to imagine the farming community of an imagined era or planet
  • Mingle the culinary arts with microbiology to imagine new fermented foods.
  • Cross anatomy with aerodynamics, and create fantasy dragons that people really could ride.
  • What about combining speculative geology with architecture and homebuilding?
  • Or applying your imagined culture’s history to the planet’s orbital cycle, to create a believable list of holidays?
  • The possibilities are endless.

You might discover that mingling seemingly unrelated crafts and sciences is just as much fun as using the results to deepen your story—so don’t get carried away! Remember story is character in conflict.  That’s why 90% of your scientific brainstorming won’t be explained in the story.

The deeper and wider your knowledge pool, the more interesting the ideas that might come swimming past. Speculative fiction’s target audience tends to be bright, introverted, and well-read in what’s already published. They’ll know where we borrowed our ideas, if we only borrow.

So add something fresh to the conversation. Some day, when other writers borrow your fresh ideas, you’ll know they aren’t just acknowledging Tolkien or George Lucas, C.S. Lewis or J.K. Rowling. They have also acknowledged you.

_____________

Come meet Kathy Tyers Gillin at the the 43rd Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to REGISTER NOW!

Nailing the 3 C’s of the Writing Sample

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

MickSilva_2 (800x577)BLOGGER: MICK SILVA

A freelance editor and mentor, Mick will speak at the opening Friday afternoon session, serve as a fiction mentor for the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinic, and on the Critique Team during the main conference at the 2016 Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in March.

 

NAILING THE 3 C’s OF THE WRITING SAMPLE

This is the best advice I have on writing the sample, the first 30 pages included with the proposal. I promise.

And I give it to you now, free of charge. I can personally guarantee it’s better than anything else out there on this because it goes further and encompasses more. I’ve done my research,recommendations here. For memoir, get my ebook and as part of the professional community of book developers, I know my competition. And just for fun, if you don’t agree this is better than a similar piece on this topic, please send me a link and I’ll see to it that you’re destroyed, er, fairly compensated for your time and effort.

I considered calling this post “The C-3 for Writing Your Sample,” as in C-3, the dangerous plastic explosive. But I wondered if enough people know what C-3 is. And it turns out C3 in military terms can also refer to “command, control, and communications,” which is neither relevant nor particularly amusing. So if it helps here to think of a pliable gray substance used in blowing things up, have at it. I’m using 3 C’s that are just as powerful and equally deadly to editors and agents who come across them in proposal samples at writers conferences.

Ready? Content, Craft and Community.

Boom.

Okay, why are these are the 3 big categories to focus on, the 3 essential things I look for to see if an author has nailed the writing sample?

 

Content

Content refers to the concept you’re promoting. It reveals your specific belief about that idea, your unique take on it, and your expertise as a representative. There’s a lot to unpack in that definition, so I’ll elucidate (and don’t worry: understanding craft and community is a whole lot easier).

First, identify what you’re selling. My vision form can help a lot here (it’s free: micksilva.com/define-the-vision) by distilling your idea to the felt need it most directly answers. There’s always a “best way” to say things, and an explosive concept will reveal a unique specific answer to a big, well-defined problem. Mark that. Even with fiction, if you read the back cover or endorsements you’ll see this kind of thing: “Dazzling!” “Masterful!” “Full of the universal longing for freedom,” “Restored my hope in humanity…”

Those words describe the big need that that book solved.

Of course, a proposal builds this case, so the writing sample is less about the content than proving your craft. But it does need to show you’ve worked to define your target. So ask yourself, How will people describe this? And how does this sample speak to deep needs?

Remember, often, our first ideas, or second or third, are not good enough. You’ve got to dig deeper than surface-level and initial impressions. People will find what you say compelling when you go further, dive deeper, look harder. Show you’re committed to this message for the long haul.

And since it’s very difficult to know if your concept is compelling enough, we need to move on to refining (that you’re committed is plenty good for now).

 

Craft

If your idea is compelling, you’ll know it by how people respond to the sample. Craft refers to how well your sample is written—which of course means how well it’s been rewritten, edited and polished. First-time authors, get professional content editing, line-editing, copyediting and proofing—four separate editors with good experience and a track record (expensive, I know, but so is publishing a sub-par book). Pro editing is increasingly critical in ensuring work that’s clear, concise and above all, complete.

Even if the sample hooks an editor, he or she will likely need the full book to prove you can deliver.

If your first 30 pages demonstrate your book will stand out amongst the dozens of other books just like it, it will be because it reflects your 1) research and 2) reduction of what doesn’t connect to your central point or theme. Again, several books on editing can help (see above) you make it your best before professional editing.

There’s some overlap between content and craft since “content editing” is often needed to determine the right focus and that distractions are eliminated. But this is also why, unequivocally, the right editor can be your most important step in building your community.

 

Community

Who do you have around you helping create, campaign and convince people to read your work? (Sorry, I must like C’s.)

Every writer needs endorsers and partners who will commit to be vocal about your book. Be sure to refer back to my other post on writing the proposal using your “heart goal.” Taken together, they cover all you need to prepare your work for the conference.

For many writers, building community is some of their hardest work. If that’s you, you’re not alone. You just have to be diligent and be yourself. If you’re a quiet type like me, do things that aren’t too taxing. Get help from your more extroverted friends and remember if your goal is to help more people with your work, you have to mention it and ask for help with that.

I’m not a good model here, but I’m getting better. Who you know is absolutely how popular authors succeed. I’m actually discovering building community isn’t that hard if you commit to helping people, and what I learn about myself in the process is a great hidden reward.

Success comes in knowing what you value by having worked through that yourself. And a community of like-minded, passionate professionals is an often-unspoken-but-vital key to writing that sample that’s keenly insightful and based in a broad experience (you’ll also hear people say reading is important, which is definitely true too).

This coming year at Mount Hermon I’ll be taking a small group of novelists through these steps in the Pre-Conference Next Level Clinics. I hope to read some exciting, edgy samples full of bold commitment and insight.

And if I get my ultimate wish, I’ll find that one explosive work I could see submitting to an agent or editor eager to be blown away.

 

Which of the 3 Cs do you think you most need to work on–Content, Craft, or Community?

________________________________

Come meet Mick Silva at the 43rd annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 16-22, 2016.

Click here to REGISTER NOW!

Workarounds: Finding an Agent

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Wendy LawtonBLOGGER: WENDY LAWTON

Literary Agent and Vice President of Books & Such Literary Management

Co-Teaching a One-Hour Workshop and serving on the Agent Panel.

WORKAROUNDS: FINDING AN AGENT

Too often we hear writers mourning the “fact” that one can’t get published without an agent (which is not true) and that it’s near impossible to find an agent in this seemingly shrinking market.

Anytime the front door to a problem seems blocked, I like to find a workaround. Let’s look at the problem and see if we can figure out the workaround.

Problem: Catching the attention of an agent and getting him to ask for a proposal or manuscript.

Traditional Solution: Write a smashing query letter, send it to multiple agents and hold your breath.

Workaround: Meet the agent or publishing professional in person. Sounds complicated, but it’s not. And we’re not talking about the fabled literary dinner parties and salons of Maxwell Perkins, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

A century ago, people didn’t travel like we do today. Writers, agents & editors gather together in person more than ever before. Forget the dinner party, you can now spend an entire week with your favorite publishing professionals, practice the craft and learn about the business of writing. Agents and editors are committed to making ourselves available at writer’s conferences. It’s my favorite way to meet writers who are willing to invest time, energy and fiscal resources in their careers. I’m preparing for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in three months. It’s still one of my favorite weeks of the whole year.

Simple fact: Agents attend writers conferences to meet new writers. The good conferences give us plenty of time to connect with writers. Mount Hermon is one of my favorites. In addition to the appointments we schedule, we share seven or eight meals with writers. Those relationships forged around a table of eight are the basis for many a professional relationship.

It may take a number of different face-to-face meetings until your target agent decides he can’t live without you, but there is something about that real-time connecting that overshadows the traditional methods. It’s the perfect workaround.

____________

Come meet Wendy Lawton at the Mount Hermon, March 18-22, 2016, where she’ll participate in a couple of workshops, review pre-conference manuscripts, and meet with writers!

Are you looking for the agent who is right for you? Eight agents plan to join us at Mount Hermon in the spring. I hope you’ll consider doing so, too.

Click here to REGISTER.

Success! Are You Ready?

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

Tamela Hancock Murray
BLOGGER: TAMELA HANCOCK MURRAY

A Literary Agent with The Steve Laube Agency, Tamela 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.

SUCCESS! ARE YOU READY?

Recently one of the faithful readers of The Steve Laube Agency blog asked if I would write a blog on how to handle success. Here are a few of my thoughts, in no particular order:

Once you are successful, prepare to…

Be gracious. Whether you struggled for years to be published or if you’ve never heard the word “no” from an agent or editor, when writing in public forums or speaking in a group setting, always temper your enthusiasm about your success. No doubt and you simply want your friends to celebrate with you. We all want that. But in a public forum, there will always be the person your success makes feel small, and words that can be interpreted as boasting can hurt, no matter how pure your heart.

Deal with backbiting. Since we live in a fallen world, even if you are the most gracious and lovely person you can be, someone will be envious of you. Someone will say your writing stinks. You may never hear this. Or you might. Either way, keep walking with God, and realize that writing touches the gamut of emotions. We cannot control responses to our writing. No one is immune to criticism. Don’t believe me? We just celebrated Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us, His crucifixion brought about by His actions — and His words.

Realize that people who were never on your team still won’t be. We’d all like to think that if only we could appear on TV and become rich and famous, we could finally prove our critics wrong. Nope. They’ll just hate you more. Don’t worry about them. Enjoy your true friends. You know who they are.

Adjust your financial plan. You may receive no advance, a four-figure advance, or an advance large enough to make a real difference in your life. But please remember, you will be taxed on that advance and any royalties so hold back at least 30% for when the tax bill arrives. And if you are using an advance to live on, make sure to budget so that the money will last well past the date you can expect your next payment on your contract. Unsure of how to handle your new finances? Your local bank should be able to help you find professional help so you can form a plan. Bottom line: it’s easy to spend a fortune so don’t get caught short on money if you can avoid it.

Be watched. People who never looked your way before may suddenly notice you. You may gain more friends than if you had just issued a public invitation to a vacation home on the beach. Enjoy the popularity, but keep a balance of how much to let others into your life so you don’t become overwhelmed. This is a good time to solidify friendships you already have with other published authors and get a few tips from them on how to form boundaries with fans.

Expand your social media presence. Now more than ever, you will need to communicate with fans. Set up a schedule for Twitter, Facebook, and your newsletter and/or blog. Remind fans that you are still writing, and keep them up to date on important events in your life so they will feel as though you are a friend. Don’t hawk your books, though. Let readers find you and your books, although letting your fans know when your publisher is offering a free download can be a great idea.

Be asked to speak. Speaking engagements may start coming your way. If you need to hone your public appearance skills, many people recommend Toastmasters http://www.toastmasters.org/.

 Master time management. You will no longer have the luxury of taking as long as you want to write a book. You will have relentless deadlines — several with each book. Be prepared to meet them all and schedule your time accordingly.

Be with those you love. Make spending time doing fun activities with everyone you love a priority.

Enjoy your success!

Do you have other suggestions for those experiencing success?

______________________

Come meet Tamela Hancock Murray at the 47th annual Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Click here to register. 

Procrastination: Muse & Writer

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

BLOGGER: ANGELA BREIDENBACH

Angela will teach an Afternoon Workshop and serve on the Critique Team at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, March 18-22, 2016.

Angela Muse Image

 

PROCRASTINATION: MUSE & WRITER

Muse: No.

Writer: But I’ll just watch the news while I eat on break.

Muse: You are on deadline. No.

Writer: Hand over the remote. Please.

Muse: You want to reach your goal, focus on the little tasks.

Writer: 15 minutes won’t matter.

Muse: But you won’t stop there.

Writer: I bet I can–

Muse: Go ahead – try to take them.

Writer: You wouldn’t…

Muse: Try me.

Writer: Fine, I’ll just go write then.

Muse: I’m sure you made the best choice…

 

Ever had a similar conversation with your self, uh, your muse?

_________________

Angela BreidenbachCome meet 2016 faculty member Angela Breidenbach at the conference, March 18-22.

Click here to register.

Podcasting for Writers and Authors

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

John VonhofBLOGGER: JOHN VONHOF

Manuscript Retrieval Coordinator

 

PODCASTING FOR WRITERS AND AUTHORS

Writers want to write. Between query letters and proposals, research, one or more manuscripts in various degrees of completion, critique groups – we keep pretty busy. Then we learn that as writers, published or not, we should have our own website. And of course, if we are published, we need to do marketing. And whether published or not, we need to be working on building our platform. Building your platform can take many forms: websites, blogs, speaking, article writing, events – and more. For years, blogs were seen as the “must have” for writers. Then along came podcasting. Statistics from 2014 revealed that for every 1,700 bloggers, there was one podcaster. It’s a very small, wide-open arena for those wanting to build an even larger platform.

Podcasting in simple terms is often called on-demand radio – generally without the advertisements. A more detailed definition of a podcast is a digital medium consisting of an episodic series of audio files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device. It allows anyone to become a radio announcer, talk show host and a recording artist in just a snap. The majority of podcasts are listened to on mobile devices, with Apple’s iPhone leading Android phones by a five to one margin. Podcasts can be listened to anywhere and anytime: commuting, cooking, gardening, exercising, and walking – anywhere you have time to fill. I listen while I ride my bike and run. Apple’s iPhone has a built-in podcast app. Android phones can download podcasts through the Stitcher radio app. Shows can be listened to on the podcast host’s website, online in iTunes or Stitcher, or better yet, subscribe to the podcast and you’ll automatically get each episode downloaded directly to your smartphone or tablet. Podcast can be listened to at 1.5 speed, allowing you to hear more in less time. I find listening at 2x or higher makes it hard to understand the content.

Anyone can start a podcast and it can be incorporated into any WordPress website. Podcasting can be done with relatively inexpensive equipment – your computer, earbuds from your smartphone, and a website. There are podcasts about podcasting, teaching listeners about equipment, interview and hosting techniques, editing, where to host your podcast, software and WordPress plug-ins, publicity and marketing, and more. In addition, there are websites offering the same information through free and paid courses about starting a podcast.

There are many options in podcasting. You can do a solo show or find one or more people to co-host with you. There are different formats: monologue, interview, back and forth banter with a co-host, and questions and answers are the most common. You determine the frequency of releasing new shows. Most podcasts are weekly, but some are twice a week. Shows can be any length. My shows are interview style. I edit my own shows and create a blog post page for each show.

Writers and authors can host a podcast about whatever interests them and they think will interest others. Fiction authors can do shows about their writing, how they do research, character and plot development, dialogue, and more. Non-fiction authors can record shows about their writing topics, research, style and structure, sections within their books, choosing topics, and more. Both of these, and poets and devotional writers, can read selections from their writing and dissect the content. Talk about motivation, writing skills and techniques that help you, finding time to write, and more. Give it a unique slant and title, determine your audience, decide on the format, practice recording, and then get set to go live.

In addition to my podcast, Writers & Authors on Fire, there are other faculty members at the conference who have podcasts. Kathi Lipp’s podcast is You’ve Got This with Kathi Lipp, Erin Taylor and Karen Ball co-host their Write From the Deep podcast, and Angela Breidenbach hosts Grace Under Pressure Radio. I know any of us would be willing to answer your podcasting questions. Kathi is also teaching a workshop on podcasting. I’m in the manuscript retrieval center during the conference and would be happy to share resources and help you brainstorm about whether podcasting could help build your platform, and possible topics.

I encourage you to listen to a few of the shows of the above podcasts before the conference. They are available through iTunes and Stitcher Radio, or your favorite podcasting app. You’ll be surprised at the variety of show topics and what you’ll learn.

________________________

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

If you’re interested in learning more about podcasting, plan to attend Kathi Lipp’s afternoon workshop, Beginner’s Guide to Podcasting.

Click here to Register Now!

Become a Published Author by Writing Short Stories That Sell

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.

BECOME A PUBLISHED AUTHOR BY WRITING SHORT STORIES THAT SELL

You want to write novels. Me, too! But something happened along the way in my writing career. I became good at writing short stories that sell. And it helps me write novels. No kidding.

Here’s what happens when you write short stories:

It teaches you to write tight. If you can write a beginning, middle, and end in 1,200 to 1,500 words that captivate and entertain a reader, you can sell short stories. And with that, you have the ability to write a novel (which is a beginning, middle, and end). Think of your novel as also captivating and entertaining a reader one chapter at a time.

It teaches you to work with an editor. Every story you submit for publication goes through an editor who will work with you to make the story acceptable for the publication. You might be asked to make changes, delete some of your precious sentences, or cut a paragraph or two. When you graciously work with an editor, you build a reputation for being a joy to work with.

It teaches you to meet deadlines. Submissions must be received by a drop-dead date. Writing for a short story publication will help you to focus on a deadline and meet it.

It provides you with a byline. Seeing your name in print never gets old, even for me after 40 stories published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, multiple bylines in other magazines, and even on my nonfiction books. The fact that you’re a published author is huge! It will help you to snare an agent and even a publisher. Many will ask you where you’ve been published. If you can list your success, it’s a true bonus.

It provides you with an income. Hey, making $200 for a short story (or more depending on the market), is a lot more than fish bait. I never sneeze at an opportunity to sell my writing because every dollar counts in today’s expensive world. Would you agree?

It provides you with a shot in the arm. There isn’t anything better than feeling really good as a writer. And being published accomplishes that. As you toil on your novel writing, short story sales keep your spirits high and your enthusiasm soaring.

For more information on the formula used successfully by many short story writers, see the book on Amazon, P MS to a T: the Winning Formula for Writing Nonfiction Short Stories that Sell.

_________________

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

Ready to learn more about writing essays and short stories for periodicals? Plan to attend Jesse Florea’s Major Morning Track ~ Magazine Writing: Starting Point or Destination?

Click here to register.

Why Are Children’s Books Important?

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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

Posted by & filed under Writers Conference.

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?