Why Should I Attend the Asheville Christian Writers’ Conference?

Lori Hatcher-1“Tell me why I should go to the Asheville Christian Writers Conference,” my friend Melissa asked. “I’m swamped at work, discouraged about my writing, and behind on my W.I.P. (Work In Progress). I’m not sure I can afford the time away.”

Melissa and I have commiserated on the ups and downs of the writing life for years. She’s a seasoned writer who could probably teach most of the workshops at the conference. She doesn’t need another class on self-editing or how to write dialogue. Yet I still encouraged her to attend.

Here’s why:

1. A writer’s life is hard. We get weary. We lose sight of the big picture. Sometimes we’re not even sure what the big picture is. A strategically timed Christian writers conference reminds us that we are not the genesis of our work—God is. It is “God, who is working in you, enabling you, both to will and to act for His good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).

I get discouraged when I think it’s all up to me—that it’s my ideas, my creativity, my energy that propels my writing life forward. The wise mentors at a good Christian writers’ conference remind me this is backward. My responsibility is to pray hard, work hard, and trust God with the results.

2. If left to myself, I would work all day every day, always pouring out, and never taking in. And I would be an empty vessel with nothing left to give. Writers’ conferences fill me up again. Instead of wasting time, I’m actually investing time in my future writing. I come away inspired, encouraged, and filled with enthusiasm. I think I’m losing time, when in reality, I’m actually I’m gaining time, because the energy and inspiration I receive empowers and propels me forward.

3. Writers’ conferences remind me of why I love being a writer. From the starry-eyed newbies who just wrote their first blog post to the seasoned authors working on their tenth book, my fellow writers share the crazy desire to change the world through the written world and help me believe it can be done.

Who else cares whether I should use a serial comma? Who else spends 30 minutes combing through a thesaurus to find THE word? Who else goes without sleep, food, or showers to birth a book baby? Only crazy writers, God-called writers, God-inspired writers who get it and really understand that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word WAS God,” and that God is still using words to change the world.

4. Writers conferences give me space to breathe, and dream, and hope. The grind of the daily writing life squeezes this out. The beautiful mountains and wide sky of The Cove in Asheville lift my eyes beyond the page, my desk, and my life. They remind me that the world is big and beautiful, God is even bigger and more beautiful, and he created me to be part of his big, beautiful work in the world.

5. Writers’ conferences provide the opportunity to give back. Eddie Jones, one of the founders of this conference, was the first person who said to me, “This could be a book.” Two years later, it was. Cindy Sproles taught me a simple method for writing a Christian devotion. Three years later, a magazine paid me for my writing. Fellow writers I’ve met at this conference have become my mentors, colleagues, and friends. I wouldn’t be where I am today in my writing life if I hadn’t attended the Asheville Christian Writers Conference every year since 2011.

Whether I’m volunteering at the registration table, leading a workshop on how to use Pinterest to grow your blog, or praying for the conference leaders and directors, attending writers’ conferences gives me a chance to pay it forward. It allows me to invest in others the way others have invested in me—and repay a debt of gratitude.

6. Writers’ conferences introduce me to friends—friends who are interested in what God has called me to do. Friends who will talk me off the ledge when I’m ready to end it all. Friends who will snatch my manuscript out of my hands the second before I toss it into the flames. And friends who will help me feed it into the flames when necessary while simultaneously helping me plan the next, better, stronger project.

I don’t have the time or the money to attend a Christian writers’ conference every year, but I go anyway. The way I see it, I can’t afford not to.

I hope I’ll see you there.

Lori Hatcher is an author, blogger, and women’s ministry speaker. She’s the editor of South Carolina’s Reach Out, Columbia magazine, and has authored two devotional books, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women and Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms. An award-winning Toastmasters International speaker and Christian Communicators grad, she uses her speaking and writing ministry to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of life. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time (www.LoriHatcher.com).

Make the Most of Your 15-Minute Conference Appointments – Cindy Sproles

Photo courtesy of pixabay.com & geralt
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com & geralt

As conference time nears, conferees dig down and prepare to meet one-on-one with publishers, agents, and editors. The wonderful advantage of attending a conference is this “free-card” to meet face-to-face with industry professionals. The publishing market has tightened to the point of strangulation. Publishers are overworked and understaffed, so to meet with them at a conference is an amazing opportunity.

During these meetings publishers (and agents) will extend an open door opportunity for writers to submit their work directly to them during a specific time frame. Does this increase your opportunity at publication? Some.

The advantages of the 15-minute appointment? Believe it or not, a lot can be accomplished in 15 minutes. Publishers and agents are looking for individuals who can be concise. Sitting across the table from these folks offers writers the opportunity to pitch their work, develop a relationship, and to network – all of which increase your opportunity at publication. Don’t misunderstand. Increase and promise of publication are two different things; so if a publisher requests your proposal, it’s not a promise to publish . . . it is merely an opportunity to look at the work. One, a writer may not otherwise get for several years.

Come Prepared
Bring a business card.
Have a one-sheet.
Come with paper and pen.
Have a list of questions you’d like to ask.
Be ready to share your pitch.

When you sit across from a publishing professional don’t find yourself upside down digging in your briefcase for these things. For lack of better words, when your backside hits that chair, these things should land on the desk.

Why choose an appointment time? This is the one time a writer can obtain a free-card. During conferences, publishers and agents (who are snowed under with manuscripts), allow writers to send unsolicited work to them. Most publishers offer a time frame (maybe six months to a year) for conferees to submit work to them for review. This opportunity in itself is a prime opportunity.

Follow these steps for your 15 minute appointment:
*Be courteous about the 15-minute time limit.
Set your watch on the table and be courteous about the 15 minutes. WATCH THE TIME.

*Have your business card and one-sheet ready
Introduce yourself, shake hands. Handshakes say a lot about a person. So have a firm handshake, not a fishy one.

*Don’t babble. Some professionals will want to know a tid-bit about you. Not a life history. Rather, your length of time writing, the genre you write in, and your passion.

*Practice your pitch. If you can’t memorize it. Write it down. It’s alright to read it. Agents and editors don’t mind. They simply want a clear picture of the pitch.

If the professional wants to read your one-sheet, please be courteous and be quiet. Let them read. The more you talk the more you eat away that 15 minutes.
Should the publishing professional offer you constructive criticism – be gracious. Don’t be offended, be thrilled. You’re getting free, professional advice from folks who know the business.

Finally, understand before you sit down, if the publisher or agent wants your work, they will ask. Sometimes the opportunity to “not ask” is a gentle way to say no without hurting your feelings. So don’t ask them if you can send them your proposal. If they are interested, they will ask.

Remember, the 15-minute appointment is a prime opportunity to network. Many authors pick up free-lance work and special projects from publishers due to a 15-minute appointment. Publishers meet you, see your abilities and remember you when a special project opens. You may be the someone who might fill the bill. These appointments are more than just pitching one piece of your work. You’re pitching you and your abilities. You are a whole package, not just one project. Keep that in mind as you meet with publishing professionals.

Research the editors, publishers and agents at the conference and pick the ones who represent the genre you write and prepare your pitch accordingly.
Make your one-sheet (see below for instructions on a one-sheet).

Get business cards. They don’t have to be fancy. But make a business card on your computer so professionals can make notes on the back and remember you.

One-Sheet Requirements
Title, genre, word count, completion date
1-3 solid paragraphs that summarizes your book (think back of the book text)
A SHORT bio and your photo, agent information or your contact information.
ALL DONE ON THE FRONT OF ONE SHEET – Hence the name.

 

Your assignment this week is a hefty one. Prepare what you need to take to your 15-minute appointment. Practice or write down your pitch. Study the faculty. Choose who you’d like to meet with. Write down your questions, prepare your one-sheet. Get ready for your appointments. We’ll make those when you arrive at boot camp.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and photo stock.

7 Things to Do NOW to be Ready When Writing Inspiration Strikes – Edie Melson

coffe and notebookAs writers, we know that inspiration is a fickle thing. And while we all need to keep writing whether we’re inspired or not, that rush of creativity is nice. What’s not nice is not being ready.

There’s nothing as disheartening as those times happens when inspiration strikes and we’re not ready to capitalize on it.

So today I’m sharing 7 things to do now to be ready when writing inspiration strikes.

1. Always keep a notebook nearby. It doesn’t matter if it’s a digital app or a physical book filled with actual paper. All too often I’ve thought I’d remember an idea or a new twist without writing it down. I rarely do. Beyond that, I spend a lot of time and angst trying to remember the brilliant idea.

2. When driving, make sure you have a voice recorder within arms reach. My darling husband decreed note-taking off limits to me while driving—even if I was stopped at a red light. Because of that, I used to keep a digital recorder with me. Now that I have my smart phone, I use that to capture fleeting thoughts.

3. Snag headlines and news stories that intrigue you. You can take a screenshot of digital articles, or use a program like Evernote. For newspaper headlines, use old-fashioned scissors and a manila file folder to keep track.

4. When you snap or snip an interesting article, be sure to include notes to remind yourself why that particular piece caught your attention. There is nothing more frustrating than coming across something you thought was important with no idea why you thought it was important.

5. Set up a system to keep track of those illusive ideas. These can be digital documents on your computer or a filing system in a nearby drawer, just make sure you can retrieve those ideas after you record them. For me, I use a series of files on my computer. I have one for quotes, one for blog post ideas, another for clever names, one for possible articles, etc.

6. Add a visual prompt to your idea. I admit it, I’m a born lurker. I’ve been known to snap surreptitious pictures of interesting people when I’m out and about. I also take shots of places and things that I’d like to later describe—either in an article or a work of fiction.

7. Become a professional eavesdropper. Along the lines of always having a notebook handy, take note of the conversations going on around you. But don’t stop with just the words that are spoken, write down the body language, tone, setting, everything that makes up an intriguing scene.

Each of these things on the list came directly from a lost idea because I wasn’t ready to capture it and hold on. I’d love to know what you’d add to the list.

Look at your work. Make a to-do list that will urge you to get back to writing.  Date your list.

i.e. Week one – daily write 100 words

The point of this exercise is to get you writing.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net and photoraidz

You Need a Platform – Living A Story- Assignment 3

By La-tan Murphy

Photo courtesy Pixabay.com & UnsplashIn my workshop we will discuss YOUR platform. It’s OK if you are panicking right now, thinking to yourself: “I don’t HAVE a platform!” Trust me…we WILL build one together at Writer’s Advance Bootcamp!

But, before we cut the wood, or hammer any nails, we need to draw an outline of YOUR PLATFORM. This will enhance our time together as we meet on: February 19, 2016 at 3:30-4:30pm, in my Early-Bird Class entitled: YOU NEED A PLATFORM.

It’s important to discover what influences have shaped you as a person, helped you along your journey, influenced you to live the story you’ve lived – up to this point in your life.

The following assignment will:
_ Challenge
_ Establish who you are as a person
_ Help you discover what your platform will SPEAK

Perhaps, you lack confidence and don’t really knoPhoto courtesy Pixaby.com and DGlodowskaw
who you are. Perhaps you feel inadequate to write, or speak. Does the thought of building a PLATFORM overwhelms you? The only sure thing you know is: You are called to WRITE!

Welcome to the Construction Zone, friends. You are in good company. This assignment is not intended to spend unhealthy time psychoanalyzing ourselves but to:

*REFLECT
*HEAL
*MOVE ON with POWER
*BUILD

So, what I’d like each of you to do is:

1.) Think of YOUR LIFE as a STORY.

2.) Think about the people who have been “key-players” up to this point. (These people dug the holes in the ground of your life, placed the foundational posts into those holes, so that YOU can now begin building your powerful platform as writer, and speaker.

3.) List the names of each person and allow space to write more.

4.) Write the first thing that comes to mind beside each of the names you jot down.

5.) Give careful thought to how each shaped your life story: your thinking, the way you write, you confidence level, etc… (Be candidly honest with yourself – writing both good and bad ways these folk have affected your story. Remember…this is for your eyes only, unless of course, you wish to share in our class.

Example:

Mabel Thompson –

*Kind
*Taught me how to be patient with frustrating and rude people
*Encouraged my gifts of writing – allowed me to read my early work to her
*Applauded me for who I was and celebrated me for the woman I became (good, bad, and ugly)
*Made me feel I had something wonderful that the world needed to hear
*Shaped the way I responded to the world around me

ETC…

NOTE: This lesson is intended to help you reflect back to the past, in order to discover how your life was constructed. As you work through this process, I pray you will become more aware of how each past experience and each relationship can be transformed into repurposed building supplies for the construction of YOUR needed, future platform.

Happy preparation day, friends. I look forward to helping you cut, hammer, and build your platform at Writer’s Boot Camp.

LaTan Murphy
latanmurphy.com

Redundancy: An Excessive, Oppressive, Pervasive Disease

51miBhhdYdL._SX295_BO1,204,203,200_“Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.” That’s #47 in William Safire’s entertaining and enlightening book, Fumblerules. The principle is simple, but its mastery elusive, even for seasoned writers and editors.

Too often we’re unaware of the redundancies that lurk undetected in our sentences. Did you catch the needless repetition in the previous sentence? Using unaware and undetected with lurk is redundant. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, lurk means “to lie in ambush, to be hidden but capable of being discovered.” I should have written this: redundancies lurk in our sentences. Use precise verbs.

A devotion in the December 2014 edition of a daily devotional magazine was titled “Free Gift.” Again, Merriam-Webster exposes the redundancy. By definition, a gift is “transferred … without compensation.” If it isn’t, the writer should use reward, bribe or exchange. Use precise nouns.

In a book written by a well-known author, I came across “unsuspected surprises.” By definition, a surprise is “something unexpected or astonishing.” The fraternal twin of unsuspected surprises is unexpected surprises. Avoid both. And use a dictionary.

Sir Ernest Gowers provides some helpful advice in The Complete Plain Words. And no, helpful advice isn’t redundant. Haven’t we all received plenty of unhelpful advice? Back to Gowers:

“Cultivate the habit of reserving adjectives and adverbs to make your meaning more precise, and suspect those that you find yourself using to make it more emphatic. Use adjectives to denote kind rather than degree … economic crisis or a military disaster … [not] acute crisis or a terrible disaster.”

Recently, I almost used actual proof in a FaceBook post. See what I mean? Redundancy is a virus that can threaten the health of any sentence. (Check the definition of virus, and you’ll realize that adding an adjective like destructive or pernicious would be redundant.)

Here’s your assignment this week: Examine a page of your work in progress, sentence by sentence. Probe every noun and verb, checking for preciseness. Interrogate every modifier: what value does it add to the sentence? Scrutinize every word under the light of its dictionary definition.

Search for redundancies like these:
Basic necessities
Filled up
Up above
Brand-new
Close proximity
Gave away
Future plans
Reflect back

And while you’re editing, reduce phrases like these to one word:
Made a decision
Faced a need
Have the opportunity to see
Is in need of
Look forward to the future

A reward (not a gift) for the diligent: E-mail me (denise@lightningeditingservices.com) a list of ten redundancies you found in your W-I-P. You then will be eligible to receive a copy of William Safire’s Fumblerules, which I’ll award at Boot Camp.