The Church Doing What The Church Does


Lunch at the Biola University cafeteria during the SoCalCWC

Last week I conducted two workshops and took appointments at a local writers’ conference. A Christian writers’ conference.

In my first class, I was part of a panel of editors/former editors/publishers who gave feedback to conferees who had submitted their first 300 words of a manuscript to us ahead of time.

In the mornings I attended a fiction continuing session, and then the last day I taught a class on point of view. In between I ate meals with conferees and faculty, talked with them in the appointment room, and generally had a great time interacting with other writers about writing.

But one thing was absent—well more than one thing. There was no mean spirit. No jealousy. No angry response. Not that the professionals who were teaching softened the truth. Well, maybe the softening was there in the form of love. After all, the clear intent of all the interactions I witnessed was to help these writers become better writers.

Because I’m an editor, I even had other faculty ask me in a class they were teaching, to add or suggest or to give my opinion. No sense of feeling threatened. No selfish hoarding of the spotlight. And that attitude was replicated over and over.

In the appointment room another faculty member brought a conferee to me, saying that I would be a good fit as an editor for this person. No dismissal of the person attending her first conference, though the faculty member could have said flat out that she no longer did any editing and let the newbie go her way. Instead there was care and concern and a willingness to go the extra distance to help someone in need.

Over and over on Facebook, conferees have said how helpful and friendly and encouraging the faculty was. Even though we critiqued their work and gave them better ways to do things. Even though we told them their formatting was wrong, that there was this or that error in their first page.

These attendees stayed open and willing to listen, willing to try, willing to put their writing out there for the world to give them feedback. The faculty and their fellow conferees responded with truth and with love. This is the mix that works. This is the feedback that helps a writer to learn and grow and become better.

But in reality, truth and love are the ingredients Christians are to mix whenever we relate to others.

And there we were, Christian writers, supplying truth and love for one another. For people we had not known before last weekend. But funny thing, the love of Christ for fellow believers is not hard, not when we purpose to let it shine in our hearts and for other people.

I met people from Texas and Michigan and Tennessee and Florida and Arizona and here in California. I met fiction writers and nonfiction writers. I met some people who weren’t sure what they wanted to write. I met men and women. I met some older people and some young. I met people of various ethnic groups. Despite our differences, we were united in Christ. The way the Church is supposed to be.

We sang worship songs together, we listened to inspirational messages from the keynote speakers, we prayed together. I’m sure we were all from a variety of different churches and denominations, though that never came up. We simply were there to serve one another and help each other grow and prosper as writers. As Christians who write.

That’s the Church being the Church.

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The Oregon Christian Writers Conference


Agent Sally Apokedak at Red Lion Inn at Jantzen Beach, Portland, Oregon

Agent Sally Apokedak at Red Lion Inn at Jantzen Beach, Portland, Oregon

I number of years ago, I had an editing client, Carol S. Fitzpatrick, from Oregon whom I met when she and her husband were down in Southern California. They came to church with me, then took me out to lunch. We had a delightful time and became friends. I not only edited her middle grade novel but a nonfiction project she had—a help for classroom teachers in their task of teaching reading.

More than once she told me that I really needed to go to the Oregon Christian Writers Conference. Even after we both attended Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference (which I love), she told me how wonderful the Oregon one was and how she was sure I’d like it.

As it happened, another couple friends, agent Sally Apokedak and author Jill Williamson also raved about what a good conference OCW is. Well, I finally got my chance to go, and they were all right. The carrot on the top, though, is that I attended as a presenter, not as a conferee.

From start to finish, the conference was wonderful. Several weeks before the event I received a handwritten note from the prayer team with a beautiful, detailed prayer for this newbie. I suspect there’s a standard template they use from year to year, but that doesn’t minimize the effort, thought, and prayer that went into that note.

I had a very disruptive email glitch right about the time that Things Were Due for the conference. Except, I didn’t know that these things were due, nor that the things I was sending hadn’t gotten through. In spite of this, the organizers of the conference, in particular director Lindy Jacobs, were kind, professional, and unruffled.

We worked around the problem while I discovered what was happening with my heretofore exceptionally reliable email provider which I’d long recommended for its attack on spam without disrupting legitimate communication. (Needless to say, my faith in my email provider has taken a hit).

The overall feeling I have of this conference is calm. Yes, there was an air of excitement among the writers as they registered that first day. You could tell they were anticipating the conference with joy and expectation, but there wasn’t a frantic rush to get the attention of the top agents (there were more agents in attendance than I’ve found at any time at Mount Hermon).

There was a variety of “Coaching Classes”—morning instruction by a single writing professional centered on a particular topic. Sally Apokedak taught “Middle Grade and Young Adult Novels That Sell,” for instance, while Karen Ball taught “Taming the Most Common Fiction Dragons” for beginning writers, Jane Kirkpatrick taught “Weaving Story Threads in Fiction” for intermediate writers, Nancy Ellen Dodd taught “The Language of Screenwriting” for screenwriters, and Randy Ingermanson taught “How to Be an Insanely Great Indie Author.” There were others, some fiction, some nonfiction, some on marketing. The point is, there really was something for everyone.

On top of these great Coaching Classes, the afternoon included a wide variety of workshops (including “Blogging And Blog Tours—The Whys And Wherefores” by yours truly). There were also a couple panels—an editors’ panel the first day, then an agents’ panel on day two.

The evenings included excellent talks by our keynote speaker, Pastor Ed Underwood (Church of the Open Door in LA), followed by Night Owls—a pitch session one night (led by Jill Williamson, teaching writers how to pitch their books to editors or agents), a critique clinic the next (led by me, giving writers the opportunity to have the first three pages of a manuscript critiqued by a small group), and an autograph party following the awards ceremony on the last night.

Meanwhile, writers could sign up to have 15 minute appointments with agents and editors to pitch their work or ask questions.

The thing that I think set OCW apart from others I’ve attended were Mentoring Appointments. These were half hour writer-to-writer meetings. I had the opportunity of serving as a mentor and realized after a few appointments how great this aspect of the conference is. The other writers weren’t pitching me something. They simply needed someone to listen, offer advice, and pray with them.

To be honest, they were similar to the parent-teacher conferences I participated in during my years as a middle grade teacher. Then I was answering questions about how a parent could help his child do better in school. In the mentoring appointments I was offering advice about how the writer could help his writing project in one way or another.

That’s a bit of an over-simplification, but the point is, people often need a neutral individual with some experience to give them guidance. These mentoring appointments offer that opportunity to conferees.

Would I recommend the Oregon Christian Writers’ Conference? Absolutely! Would I return as a presenter? In a heartbeat if I were asked. It was a wonderful experience and I met some great people, reconnected with others I’ve met throughout the years. For instance, Sally Stuart, founder of The Christian Writers Market Guide, was there, and I was able to thank her in person for endorsing my first writing book, Power Elements Of Story Structure.

Author Jill Williamson, winner of the 2015 OCW Trailblazer Award

Author Jill Williamson, winner of the 2015 OCW Trailblazer Award

I was sitting with Jill Williamson during the awards when she won the 2015 Trailblazer Award. I attended Sally Apokedak’s Coaching Classes. I met Ben Wolf for the first time and was able to congratulate him for his engagement and for winning the book award in speculative fiction. I had a delightful dinner talking with Susan Maas, a long time member of the Oregon Christian Writers Association responsible for the conference. I met Sherrie Ashcraft and Christina Tarabochia who founded Ashberry Lane, the publisher whose author Angela Ruth Strong won the Young Adult/Middle Grade Book Award for The Snowball Fight Professional.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Great time hanging with writerly people. Such a wonderful conference.

Fantasy Friday: The Realm Makers Conference


RealmMakerslogo

Today the second annual Realm Makers Conference got underway, a symposium specifically for people of faith who are interested in speculative fiction. I wish I were there. Starting with the talented author Tosca Lee as the Keynote Speaker, the lineup of presenters is impressive and the courses they’re offering, intriguing.

Here’s a look at the schedule:

Thursday, May 29
3:00 pm-On Campus housing check in available
8:30 pm-10:30 pm – (Early Bird Event) Flash Critique Party sponsored by Splickety Magazine

Friday, May 30
Breakfast
8:00 am – Conference Check-In
9:00 am – Opening Keynote with Tosca Lee
10:00 am-12:00 noon – Class Sessions
12:00 noon-1:30 pm – Lunch
1:30 pm-5:00 pm – Class sessions
7:00 pm-9:30 pm – Awards Dinner

Saturday, May 31
Breakfast
9:00 am-12:00 noon – Class Sessions
12:00 noon to 1:30 – Lunch
1:30 pm-4:00 pm – Class Sessions
4:00 pm – Closing Keynote with Tosca Lee
5:30 pm – Dinner
7:00 pm-9:00 pm – Multi-Author Book Signing Featuring Tosca Lee (open to the public)

2014CSA_Small copyDid I mention that at the awards dinner, Realm Maker founder Becky Minor will present the winner of the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Should be very cool.

Wish I could be there. *Or did I already say that? 😉

Here is the information about the presenters:

Tosca Lee
Keynote speaker

Tosca is NY Times Bestselling author of Demon: A Memoir; Havah: The Story of Eve; Iscariot; and The Book of Mortals series with NY Times bestselling author Ted Dekker. She’s best known for her exploration of maligned characters.

Steve Laube

Mr. Laube, president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency as well as the new owner of Marcher Lord Press, is a 33 year veteran of the bookselling industry. After running an award-winning bookstore in Phoenix, he spent 11 years with Bethany House Publishers, rising to the position of editorial director. in 2002, he was named the AWSA Golden Scroll Editor of the Year. The next year he become a literary agent and formed The Steve Laube Agency. In 2009, he was named the ACFW Agent of the Year.

Steve is a long-time advocate of Christian Speculative Fiction. He’ll be teaching two sessions as well as taking manuscript pitches at the conference. I hope you are as excited as we are to have him lend his amazing expertise to our attendees.

LB Graham

Mr. Graham joins us for a second year at Realm Makers, offering an encore presentation of his powerful class on Worldview in Speculative Fiction as well as a second course the characters we love to hate: Villians. LB will unravel the mystery of when it’s actually OK to have a two-dimensional villain vs. when they need to be more fully-realized, explain why we (and our heroes) need bad guys, and discuss why evil is attractive, even though that attractiveness is a lie. He’ll also delve into how to keep our portrayals of evil age-appropriate and how to avoid glorifying evil while admitting it’s sometimes fun to write.

LB has published eight novels with a ninth on the way, and had eighteen years of teaching experience. According to Realm Makers:2013 attendees, LB “owns the classroom,” and you will be challenged and encouraged by the content he presents.

Torry Martin

Mr. Martin teaches at conferences across the country, and his personality and presentations are both hilarious and packed with take-away. He’ll be presenting content on the ins and outs of networking, including a spiritual perspective on effective network-building. Torry’s second class will offer attendees wisdom, drawn from Torry’s own career, on how to swim with industry sharks without becoming one yourself. Too valuable to miss for writers at any stage of their career!

Jeff Gerke

Mr. Gerke served as our keynote speaker for Realm Makers: 2013, and we’re excited to have him back in attendance, this year in his preferred role as session teacher. Jeff will be presenting content on the craft of fiction writing, though his exact presentation content is still coming into focus. For anyone who’s ever sat in one of Jeff’s classes, you know he teaches at warp speed, and his takeaway is at once challenging and brimming with encouragement. Jeff has written novels under the pen name Jefferson Scott, worked all over the publishing industry in an editorial capacity, edits on a freelance basis, and has written multiple books on the craft of writing. He is the founder of Marcher Lord Press, and continues to advocate for, teach, and build up Christian writers of speculative fiction with his constant contributions to the geek community.

Jeff’s classes:

Class 1: The So-Called Rules of So-Called Fiction and What to So-Called Do with Them–Jeff’s newest book for Writer’s Digest covers the conflicting “rules” of fiction put out by teachers of craft, rules that can leave writers feeling paralyzed and frustrated. Come hear his solution.

Class 2: The One Rule: Engaging Your Reader–Jeff debunks the so-called rules of fiction and swaps them all out for One Rule to Ring The All (er, or something.) Come here Jeff explain what the one rule is, and how to make it happen.

Kat Heckenbach

Ms. Heckenbach participated as a loved panelist at Realm Makers: 2013, and is back this year to teach one solo session and to team-teach another. Her solo session, “Writing in YA mode” will explore how writing for young adults is not the same as simplifying fiction for adults. The major point of the session will emphasize that meeting teens where they are does not mean dumbing down a stories language or content. She’ll also explain the difference between writing “teen fiction” and writing adult fiction that is safe for teens. Kat Heckenbach is the author of Finding Angel and Seeking Unseen, YA fantasy that incorporates satisfying scientific principles. She has published countless short works as well, in anthologies ranging anywhere from Chicken Soup for the Soul to horror. Attendees will benefit from Kat’s dry wit and extraordinary literary range.

Andrew Winch

Mr. Winch joins us once again to offer an encore presentation of his 2013 class on writing flash fiction that sells, a class that will offer attendees the opportunity to enter into a Splickety Magazine-sponsored flash fiction contest. He will also be team-teaching with Kat Heckenbach a session that explores ways to connect scientific reality with fantasy to build believable and consistent story worlds. This team session promises to offer an excellent toolkit to either get you started or bolster any writer in their world building. Andrew is the senior editor of Splickety Magazine, Splickety Love, and Havok. His training as a physical therapist gives him expert knowledge in the science of the human body, and he finds no shortage of ways to utilize that knowledge in his own writing endeavors.

Randy Streu

Mr. Streu, a member of the very popular horror panel at Realm Makers: 2013, joins us once again, this time to teach a full, solo session on “the Ins and Outs of Christian Horror.” The class will feature an examination and critique of modern secular and “sacred” horror in literature and film against classic horror. We will explore the question of what makes horror, horror, while critiquing modern expectations of the genre, such as sex and gore. Finally, the class will look at Christian horror from a publishing perspective, specifically writing well within the genre without breaking trust with Christian readers–or with God. Randy is the administrator and lead writer for A Flame in the Dark, the premier Christian horror blog on the web. He’s also is the co-founder, director, and developmental editor for Diminished Media Group.

Travis Perry

Mr. Perry joined us in 2013 as a contributor to the discussion of Splashdown Books’s Avenir Eclectia, and this year will draw upon his experience as an Army Reserve Officer to teach about the real toll of mortal danger in fiction. Travis deployed five times into combat zones, once as a medical specialist and served over ten years as a combat medic. His real-world experience with warfare and his established body of work in speculative fiction make him an ideal candidate to keep the rest of us straight when we write about the physiology or psychology of wounding and danger.

Kristen Stieffel

Ms. Stieffel is also a returning presenter at Realm Makers:2013. This year, she’ll explore how the work of Mark Okrand and JRR Tolkien can help us give distinct languages to the people groups in our storyworlds. She’ll unpack how studying real languages other than English can provide inspiration for our fiction. Kristen is a writer and writing coach, helping writers polish and non-writers write. Kristen is a member of Christian Editor Network and the Editorial Freelancers Association. Her fantasy novel Alara’s Call is under contract with OakTara, along with three additional books in the Prophet’s Chronicle series.

Gary Kwapisz

Mr. Kwapisz joins us as a new faculty member in 2014 to discuss the detailed process of taking a graphic novel from idea to print. His session will cover the current realities of the marketplace and the differences writers and artists encounter if they traditionally publish vs. taking the self-publishing route. Gary has a passion to encourage Christians to re-engage the popular culture and help infuse the general market with values-based content. Gary offers a wealth of industry experience, having worked as a professional artist for virtually every publisher in the comics industry, from 1980 to the mid 90’s. (Just Google him—you’ll be amazed.) He’s drawn characters as diverse as Conan, Batman and Harvey Pekar. Even if you don’t necessarily intend to delve into the world of graphic novels, Gary’s breadth of skills and depth of experience will offer Realm Makers attendees encouragement, wisdom, and a dose of reality not to be missed.

Avily Jerome

Ms. Jerome joined us in 2013, primarily as a “Splicketeer,” but has much to offer in her own right. This year, she will present content of supernatural elements in real-world settings. As an author of books that incorporate fantasy and supernatural elements into a real world setting and as the editor of Havok, a speculative fiction magazine, Avily’s perspective is unique and will be beneficial to writers who are also interested in this type of world.

Lisa Walker England

Ms England is an author of far-flung steampunk and fantasy adventures as well as a branding expert, and we are thrilled to have her joining us at this year’s Realm Makers conference. Lisa will bring her expertise gleaned from writing anything from serial fiction to sequential stories (think graphic novels and films) and share them with us in her session, which will explore the ins and outs of the steampunk genre.

So it’s too late for this year, but why not make plans to attend Realm Makers next year? I’m hoping I can!

Published in: on May 30, 2014 at 7:08 pm  Comments Off on Fantasy Friday: The Realm Makers Conference  
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The Joy Of Conferencing


Not Mount Hermon, but not so very different either.

Not Mount Hermon, but not so very different either.

I love writers’ conferences. I’m not going to any this year, but my favorite one–Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference–starts this week, and a number of people I know are planning on attending either as conferees or as presenters.

Years ago I attended a conference here in the Southland, which was nice because I didn’t have the added expense of a hotel room. It was held at a Christian university in the area so the facility couldn’t have been better. However, the director changed and the venue changed, and then the conference ended.

Another small–I’m talking, fifty people at most–conference, ACW, used to be held in the area at a hotel. I could still commute and liked that one too depending on who the presenters were. There was something really intimate about such a small gathering.

I went to another one day conference in the area put on by the Orange County Christian Writers’ Fellowhip, and that was good too (they recently expanded to a two day conference, I believe). It was medium sized and had some good workshop instructors.

Then there was the ACFW conference a number of years ago. I liked my classes and had a chance to meet a number of online friends in person.

In fact, the best part of conferences, I think, is getting to hang out with writers. I like learning the important content the instructors give, too. I’m an incurable note-taker so fill up pages at these conferences. I also use up all the slots I’m given to meet with editors and agents.

Mount Hermon seems like a good conference for those of us attending–we get to have our work in front of either editors or agents as a submission, if we choose, or we can ask for a critique from one of those or from an experienced writer. Then we can make appointments with staff we’d like to talk with or we can sit with them at lunch or dinner. Since the conference officially runs from Friday noon to Tuesday noon, that’s a lot of meals to spend pitching projects or just getting to know professionals in the business.

Besides all that, there are continuing classes on a particular subject of your choice, so you can go in depth. There are also editor and agent panels and other workshops about interesting topics. Of course there are also keynote speakers that tie the whole conference together. I’ve been there when Ted Dekker was a keynoter and another year when Jerry Jenkins was. But my favorite was Liz Curtis Higgs.

Mount Hermon has another thing going for it–it’s in Mount Hermon. I don’t know that there’s a more beautiful spot for a conference–and my favorite place in the world is Colorado. So you can see, I think a lot about the Mount Hermon Conference site. There’s something about those redwood trees. They’re not just big, though they are that. They are majestic. Or noble. It’s one of those things everyone tries to capture on film, but it just doesnt’ translate to an image. Besides, they create this amazing separation from the busy urban coastal communities nearby, so you feel as if you are miles and miles away from distractions (unless you bring them with you).

I love writers’ conferences, all types–small, large, short, long. I love talking about writing, hearing stories about writing, getting feedback about my writing. I even like writing, so one of the things I’d like to do is go to a writing retreat where much of the time is spent writing.

For now, though, I’m content to troll the Internet for news about conferences in the hopes that someone is blogging about their experience so I can live vicariously through them! 😉

Meet A Winner


The first time I went to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference, I rode the bus. It was not a happy experience, mostly because I went at night, arrived tired, and stayed that way a good bit of the time.

The following year, some while before the conference, I pulled out the trusty list of attendees Mount Hermon supplied and started emailing locals to see if anyone from my area was driving up and might have room for a passenger.

While several people replied, only one looked like it would work out. I have to be honest. I had reservations. My traveling buddy was to be a man I had never met. Didn’t know him from Adam or from Jack the Ripper. 😀

Rich with his wife Sheryl

I laugh now because Rich Bullock, the writer who offered to car pool the six hours north, is one of the top-of-the-line Good Guys.

But I had another concern. What would we talk about for all that time? Or would it be OK for me to nap or stare silently out the window?

Silly me. I had prayed about this trip, and God has a way of giving abundantly more than we ask or think. I was driving with another writer, and we pretty much talked about writing non-stop.

Pretty much. I did learn that Rich and I are twins. Well, not actually, but we do share the exact same birth date—month, day, year.

So began a writer friendship. For the next three years Rich and I carpooled to Mount Hermon, adding in a couple other passengers along the way. One year we even had the opportunity to be in the same Mentoring Clinic, so I got a chance to read and critique Rich’s work, and he mine.

I soon learned he had an excellent eye and spot-on suggestions. For a short time we were in an online critique group together, and I saw more and more that Rich knew what he was doing on both sides of the writing desk. Even after that group petered out, I’d occasionally shoot a piece of work to him for his feedback, and he to me.

Consequently, it was my privilege to read a chapter from his new work in progress, Storm Lake, back in February when he was preparing it for another mentoring clinic at Mount Hermon.

And now, seven months later, after a somewhat hopeful agent rejection, Rich hit contest pay dirt. He submitted Storm Lake/Storm Song to the ACFW Genesis contest, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category, and won!

I can’t tell you how excited I am for him. Here’s a writer who has taken the time to learn the craft and isn’t afraid to have his work before a group of tough critics. He’s one of those writers who gives back, too, having volunteered for years as a contest judge himself.

Hats off to all the ACFW winners—in all categories of both the Genesis (opening pages of an unpublished writer’s manuscript) and Carol (formerly the Book of the Year) contests. But I have to say, I’m especially happy for my friend Rich.

His is a name you’ll want to remember, especially if you enjoy mystery/suspense. His writing is sensory and transports you into the scenes he writes. I can see readers up late at night, all lights burning, covers pulled tight under the chin, but unable to put the latest Rich Bullock novel down!

Published in: on September 24, 2010 at 7:39 pm  Comments (5)  
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The People of Mount Hermon


I promised more about Mount Hermon, and this seems like a good time to squeeze in a little more about the writer’s conference. However, if you want lots more, including some interesting pre-conference info, I suggest you click on over to the Mount Hermon blog.

Where to start?

Regulars here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction might like to put a face with the name of one of our frequent commenters—speculative fiction writer Morgan (she’ll have her own Web site soon) Busse. I was tempted to give her a hard time about not having her own blog until I learned what a busy woman she is and how disciplined she has to be just to eke out an hour a day for writing. Now I feel privileged that she takes the time to stop by ACWoF from time to time!

I don’t think Mount Hermon would feel like Mount Hermon if I didn’t see Becca Johnson and her mom Susan. I first met Becca in 2005, I think, when she was fifteen and part of the teen track. I was excited to meet another fantasy writer and we hit it off right away. Becca joined the CSFF Blog Tour and was quite active until college intervened. Now writing takes up her “free” time.

Some other regulars who make the conference feel like a reunion of sorts are people like now faculty member and former co-mentoring clinic attendee of a Randy Ingermanson group—Jeannette Hanscome, pictured with writer and one time keynote speaker Kay Marshall Strom; Harvest House editor Nick Harrison just before one evening general session standing beside novelist, biographer, poet, and seminar instructor Ethel Herr; strap-yourself-into-your-seat suspense writer Brandilyn Collins; fellow SoCal’ers, novelist Julie Carobini and mentoring group/transportation buddy Rich Bullock; lots others, but I see I’m not going to be able to load all these pictures in this post, so I’ll do a Part 2 another day. For now you’ll have to trust me. Those people really were there!

Published in: on April 15, 2010 at 5:52 pm  Comments (3)  
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More Mount Hermon, 2010


If you’ve been around A Christian Worldview of Fiction for any length of time, you already know I think the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference is topnotch. Every time I go, I learn more about writing and the business end of publishing, meet more writers, and get more inspiration.

This past conference was no exception.

I arrived a day early, having driven up from SoCal with Rachel Marks and Merrie Destefano (yes, the award winners!) That night I attended the Early Bird session taught by Austin Boyd (no picture! What was I thinking??)

The full conference started the next day with the noon meal (you can hardly call the abundant food provided by Mount Hermon “lunch”), followed by separate orientations for the first timers and the alumni. Author James Scott Bell taught the session for the latter group. About half way through, he invited agent Steve Laube to join him. They held an interesting dialogue about agent stuff. 😉

I had the privilege of sitting at Steve’s table for dinner that night for the purpose of asking him if he ever looks at a work he’s rejected a second time (he does). I was impressed by how much help he gave each of us, even those just getting started who aren’t close to the agent stage. He brainstormed ideas with everyone, listened to projects, and asked intelligent questions.

Later I thought to ask him for an appointment. When we met the last full day of the conference, he was just as engaged, and gave me some helpful suggestions. A+ for Steve Laube. 😀

A good part of my conference time was spent in Rebeca Seitz‘s Major Morning Track—Painless, Purposeful Publicity. I took one picture which is good for blackmail, but this one gives you the real Rebeca. As head of Glass Road Public Relations, Rebeca was full of information about the promotion side of publishing. She had stats and studies, anecdotes and outlines.

I’m nowhere near this part of the process, but I like to be informed. Rebeca gave us loads of info, all from the perspective of what an author can do.

I’ll be honest—there’s so much that at one point I thought my only hope, should I become a published author, would be to hire a PR firm. But that, of course, is crossing the stream before I know if I need to get to the other side.

More on Mount Hermon another day.

Mount Hermon in a Nutshell


I don’t think I can ever do justice in a blog post to a writer’s conference like the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. Much of the value comes from the interaction with the people, and most of these are unplanned. Well … by me, anyway. I’m pretty sure God planned them from before the beginning of time! 😉

Some years, I’ve learned practical writing technique information or had especially helpful critiques. Other years the Keynote speaker has had wonderful, humorous, helpful things to say. Then there have been years when I learned more about the business side of things, especially how books are actually acquired.

This year’s conference was different. Yes, I had a great Major Morning Track with Rebeca Seitz of Glass Road Public Relations, LLC. But I think the over all value for me was two-fold.

One came in the people I encountered. From unexpected sources I received ideas, encouragement, support. There were unlikely connections, such as learning that Deb Raney calls home the little town my family moved to the one year we lived in Kansas, or meeting Doug Wolven, a new writer and first-time Mount Hermon attender who lives a mile or so from my place.

Other folks seemed divinely placed in my path to give me a piece of information I needed at a timely moment. Carol was one such person, Wendy another, and Kim, a third.

In a fiction class, I was most surprised by what became, from my perspective, the second great aspect of Mount Hermon this year. Author Marlo Schalesky started the workshop by getting on what she called her soapbox.

She said, to write because we want to isn’t good enough. Christians are called by God to affect lives. If we as writers can show readers God, from wherever we stand, they will know Him better. Story can be the vehicle because it is powerful; it can move and change people.

I love that focus.

Back from Mount Hermon


So the big news is, the two women I rode with to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference both won awards—two of eight offered.

Rachel Marks, on the left, won the True Grit Award, described as honoring a writer who perseveres under personal difficulty. Rachel is a cancer survivor. In the last year or so she had two surgeries with chemotherapy sandwiched between. By God’s grace and mercy, she is doing well and has continued to write.

Merrie Destefano, on the right, won the Mount Hermon Writer of the Year Award. Besides her many past accomplishments in the business, including her work as the editor of Victorian Homes magazine, she sold a novel to a general market publisher that will be releasing later this year.

I can’t tell you how happy I am for them both. What a fun/wonderful Awards event that was. More on the conference later.

Why Writers’ Conferences


I’m a believer in writers’ conferences and would go to more if I could afford it. Not so long ago I attended Mount Hermon in the spring and the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) in the fall.

I’d even like to attend smaller conferences such as the one the Orange County Christian Writers’ Fellowship sponsors or the nearby Antelope Valley Christian Writers’ Conference. I used to periodically attend the ACW conference in the Los Angeles area, but for the last several years they’ve held their western US workshops in Arizona.

Why would I want to go to all these conferences, you might wonder. After all, isn’t much of the information the same?

Some is. But I go to these conferences because I learned when I was teaching that there’s always room to improve. Hearing someone else speak and interacting one on one or in small groups with other writers may supply me with some new way of networking or plotting or deepening character.

Besides learning more about the craft, however, I go to conferences just to hang with other writers. I have wonderful, caring friends and family who are interested in my writing and who pray for me, but other writers are going through what I go through. They know what yet another rejection letter feels like. They understand the level of dependency and trust in God’s sovereignty this business takes (or the level of worry and bitterness it can foster for those who go it alone! 😮 ) Sometimes it’s just nice to be with a bunch of people who are in the same boat.

A third reason I like going to Christian writers’ conferences is because they remind me of my reason for writing—I desire to glorify God through stories, and now through nonfiction as well. In a tight economy, for those of us trying to earn a living as writers, it’s easy to get off track and think making money is the point of it all. For me, the point is obedience to the job God has called me to, and conference speakers often remind me of that.

Here’s another one—I like to go to writers’ conferences because I get to see friends I’m making in this business. I may have started out attending another writer’s class, exchanging some emails, chatting at meals, and before you know it, these colleagues are friends. It’s good to get together with friends.

Lastly, writers’ conferences put me in touch with the professionals on the other side of the table—agents and editors. I like hearing their perspectives, picking up their tips, getting whatever insider information they’re willing to share. Writing is a different business, and if those who know are kind enough to offer help, I want to be there to accept.

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