Monday, December 28, 2009

Choosing a Biblical Writer as Role Model

By Les Stobbe, Literary Agent
2010 FCWC Faculty

Who is your writing model?

As part of celebrating 90 years as a magazine for writers the Writer’s Digest introduces the “secrets” of best-selling writers whose writing appeared in the magazine. For decades many of them have become models for writers.

While I agree that we can learn a lot from these writers, early on in my writing career I decided to focus on biblical writers as my primary role models. I loved the transparency, the honesty of David; the lofty, God-centered writing of Isaiah that inspired Friedrich Handel, composer of The Messiah; the purpose-driven writing of the apostle John; and the reader-focused writing of the physician Luke, which inspired my address, “Earning the Right to Be Published.”

Yet it is the apostle Paul that I turn to most often when considering my writing style. I never get the feeling that he is writing solely for the sake of spilling his guts or unloading information. In every letter he figuratively looks the reader in the eye and focuses on issues raised in a communication that came to him.

Consider his opening statement in Romans 1:8-10:
“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times, and I pray that now at least by God’s will the way may be opened for me to come to you.”
In the next verses he continues interacting with the Romans before he gets to what he has heard is troubling them.

That’s why I chose to interview the apostle Paul on becoming “The Authentic Christian Writer,” one of my workshops at the Florida Christian Writers Conference.

Monday, December 21, 2009

10 Tips for a Terrific Writers’ Conference

By Jerry B. Jenkins
2010 FCWC Keynote Speaker
Owner, Christian Writers Guild

Take it from one who has been to dozens of writers conferences over the last nearly 40 years in capacities ranging from first-time attendee to speaker: there are ways to maximize your experience.

You’ll be happier and more productive if you follow a few simple guidelines:

1. Plan your itinerary carefully and don’t include errands and intermediate stops that may make you late or wonder if you’ll be late. There’s enough pressure at a conference without adding to it.

2. Get as much sleep as possible the night before you leave home; it may be the last time you get enough for a few days. You’ll need every ounce of energy you can store.

3. Plan to arrive with time to spare so you don’t have to start running as soon as you show up. Leave time to settle in, gather your materials, find the meeting rooms, and get ready to learn.

4. You’ll stay up late enough with the scheduled activities, so resist the urge to stay up even later, despite all the new friends and acquaintances. If you’re a zombie by day two, you’ll regret it.

5. Choose your workshops carefully and buy recordings of the ones you hate to miss. If you need to skip one for a nap or an appointment with an editor or speaker, do it.

6. Bring a little more money than you think you need. If you still have it by the end of the conference, reward yourself by buying that extra book or resource you didn’t expect to find.

7. Don’t trust your memory. Take lots of notes and, if a speaker particularly inspires you, buy the recording , too. It’s a small investment for an experience you can re-live whenever you want to.

8. Bring business cards that include your address, phone, and email address. Be prepared to exchange cards with many new friends.

9. When meeting with an editor or speaker, be prepared, plan to make just a point or two, and do a lot of listening.

10. Develop a thick skin. Every piece of published writing is a duet between editor and writer, not a solo. If you just want someone to love your writing, show it to your mom.

Writers’ conferences are almost always feasts for the senses, but it’s easy to overload. Everything is new and unforgettable, until you try to rehearse it in your mind on the way home.

Free time is built in, so strive to make every general session. Often the speaker you’ve never heard of turns out to be your favorite.

Visit Jerry at the following sites:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Finding Your Niche... or Not

One of our 2010 faculty members, Renee Gray-Wilburn, recently launched a blog for writers called "A Way With Words Writing."

I love her tagline:

Encouraging and equipping those who love to write. Rescuing those who don't.

Renee shared links to some recent thought-provoking posts that I know you'll enjoy:

Finding your niche–or not

Renee writes:
"It’s good to be specific so you can begin to build your brand, and therefore your platform, and therefore sell your books. But wait…"
In the Hands of God

Renee asks: "Do you feel like a pencil in God's hand?"

Be sure to visit Renee's new blog and leave a comment!

Monday, December 7, 2009

What to Expect from Keynoter Jerry B. Jenkins

By Karen Whiting

Jerry B. Jenkins is best known for the mega bestselling series Left Behind (co-authored with Tim LaHaye). He says he can’t take credit for its success, as it’s a phenomenon that spread by word of mouth.

I recently interviewed Jerry and asked what can we expect when he comes to the conference and gives a keynote talk. He remembers the time he was unpublished and unknown and hopes to be an example who inspires us all to persist. He will tell stories and weave in hints and tips to help writers. Jerry wants to engage his audience to be touched by stories, motivated to write better, and laugh with him. Hopefully we will all come ready to do that.

What is Jerry Jenkins like as a person? I barely know him, but in interviewing him, one answer spoke volumes about keeping a balance between relationships and work. Jerry said:
“I keep family first. Fortunately our sons are grown, but we have five grandchildren, soon six, and we believe in investing time in them. I write when I’m on deadline, and then it’s all I do. I get away and hunker down.”
Jerry recently made the move into social networking because colleagues and his publisher insist it’s the wave of the future. On his blog he invites writers to share their stories. He has found these outlets fun. It’s good to know he enjoys interacting with writers and readers.

The legacy he’d like to leave is simple, but shows his priorities. I’m honored we made it in to his list: “Husband, dad, grandfather, writer, and teacher of writers.”

So come to the conference in March and be prepared to listen to one of the men behind Left Behind.

To learn more about Jerry’s views on mentoring and his tips for getting published, check out my article on Suite 101.

You’ll also find Jerry at the following sites:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Scholarships Available for 2010 Conference

If you’d like to attend the 2010 Florida Christian Writers’ Conference and need a little extra financial boost in order to attend, consider applying for one of our scholarships.

Our beloved Cec Murphey, who is well-known in the Christian writing community for his “give back” vision, has offered to provide scholarships for several writers to attend in 2010.

Another one of our faculty has caught the “Cec thing” and has also offered to give several scholarships.

In addition, we’re starting a brand new scholarship fund in honor of Christine Harder Tangvald. Christine (who will be co-teaching the Writing for Children Continuing Class with Carol Wedeven at the 2010 conference) has served at countless writers’ conferences. She has worked upfront, downfront, behind the scenes and wherever she’s needed for many, many years.

Christine’s mission statement is classic Christine:
We are a team, working together, to bring honor and glory to God’s holy name.
You may be surprised to learn that hidden behind the illuminating smile and ready wit lurks an award-winning author of over 100 picture books in 147 editions in 12 languages. She has over 3.5 million books in print, two #1 bestsellers/CBA and has been on the bestsellers list over 10 times.

If you’d like to contribute to the Christine Harder Tangvald Scholarship, please send a check to FCWC and note that it’s for the “Christine” scholarship fund.

If you’d like to apply for a scholarship, send (or e-mail) a brief bio, snippet of your current writing projects, and a brief explanation of your financial need to:

Billie Wilson, FCWC Director
2344 Armour Ct.
Titusville, FL 32780

Fax: 321-747-0246

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Conference Director Billie Wilson Needs Our Prayers

From Laura Christianson, FCWC blog manager:

Many of you know and love Billie Wilson, the FCWC director (if you haven't met her yet, you're in for a treat). You may not be aware that Billie's husband, Doug, has been battling severe health issues these past few months.

I asked Billie to share some details with us so we can be praying for Doug -- and for Billie -- as she attempts to organize a major writers' conference in the midst of life's turmoil.

Here's what Billie shared:
In 2004 Doug had heart bypass surgery which went well. He then got MERSA and it just about killed him. His health has gone downhill since that time and is subject to various ailments since that time.

His recent spa at the hospital was to treat a systemic infection that had settled in his knee. He came home with a picc line and I’ve been infusing with antibiotics for the past month.

He is getting the picc line removed today (Dec 2) and will begin a new round of oral antibiotics.

The worst thing of all is that he has lived his life to the fullest – a great participator in everything and now his life has become so narrow – from the recliner to the kitchen – from the kitchen to bed – from the bed to the recliner (I’m sure you get the picture).

My prayer is that he will just regain a small measure of vitality so that he can enjoy his family and the hobbies that catch his fancy.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Calling All Children’s Writers

By Crystal Bowman
FCWC 2010 Faculty

If you are interested in writing for children, then we need to get acquainted! I’ve been writing kids’ books for nearly 2 decades and have had some incredible learning experiences that I’d love to share with you. I have written over 60 books and consider it a privilege to write for the best publishing houses in the business.

A Whole Different Ball of Wax

Writing for kids is a whole lot different than writing for adults. Many writers think it should be fairly easy. Let me put it this way—it’s not! And there is so much more you need to do besides create a good story. You need to know what is already out there. You need to know what the market needs. And you have to offer something that is clever, unique, original, and well written.

I Think I Can…

I am excited to be a presenter at the 2010 Florida Christian Writers’ Conference. My session, I Think I Can, I Think I Can: Writing for Kids 0-8, is a study of the subgenres within the genre of children’s literature.

We will take a detailed look at board books, picture books, and book for beginning readers. This information will help you understand what type of children’s books fit your writing style, and it will also help you decide what age group you should target.

I will be giving you tons of helpful information, but do not fear—you will get a detailed handout so you won’t get carpal tunnel syndrome from trying to write it all down.

Writing in Rhythm and Rhyme

Another session I will be presenting is Writing in Rhythm and Rhyme. Many writers attempt to write a children’s story in rhyme because kids love a rhyming text. However, publishing companies cringe at rhyme because much of it is poorly written.

If you have a flare for rhyme, this session will give you many tips on how to polish your rhyming text and write like a pro. If you’ve written something in rhyme, please bring it along.

The Bowman B & B

I am a recent resident of Florida and am happy to welcome you to our lovely state! My friends and family back in Michigan are becoming regular visitors to our home, which I appropriately call The Bowman Bed and Breakfast.

What Clothes to Pack for the Conference

If you are traveling from the northern climates, please keep in mind that even though you will be in Florida, it is still winter here. It will not be 90 degrees! The days are usually warm (but not hot), and the nights can get chilly. I recommend layering. Be ready to add a light jacket or sweater if you get chilly.

And, this is the most important thing: wear comfortable shoes! You will be doing lots of walking so forget fashion and aim for comfort.

See you soon!

Crystal Bowman is a best-selling children’s author. She writes for Zondervan, Tydnale, Standard, and Boyd’s Mills Press. She also writes stories for Clubhouse Jr. magazine, and she has contributed to several anthologies. Crystal is a national speaker and has been a guest on Christian radio programs as well as local television programs. Visit

Monday, November 23, 2009

Marketing for Today's Publishing Industry

By Karen Whiting
FCWC 2010 Continuing Class Instructor:
Marketing for Today's Publishing Industry


I’m Karen Whiting, an author of ten books, and looking forward to meeting you at FCWC. Besides teaching a continuing class on marketing I’m on the staff behind the scenes working on promoting the conference. Look for my articles on suite 101 that will help you gain the most from the conference (

I’m a grandmother of six now (youngest is a few weeks old) and a mother of five. My oldest son will leave for Iraq (AF) in mid-January. His wife and two little children will live with us during his deployment (life change coming up). Since my husband is retired Coast Guard and spent months at sea on ice breakers and other vessels I understand a little of the upcoming stress my loved ones will face).

What people probably don’t know about me…
  • I actually chased a garbage truck to a dump to retrieve something—and that triggered writing about over-commitment
  • My two previous homes were both struck by lightning twice, had a spontaneous combustible fire, and had a major hurricane hit (Andrew severely damaged half of one house). (shh… my current neighbors don’t know)
  • My favorite speaking engagement was a three-day creative ministry conference in Malaysia.
  • I’m a country girl at heart (grew up in dairy country and learned all those homemaking skills of knitting, sewing, needlework).
Sneak Peek

At FCWC I’ll be teaching a continuing class (6 hours of instruction) called Marketing for Today's Publishing Industry. I want it to be interactive and look at going to the next step in promoting our books. I’ll provide examples of real success stories and we’ll use participants’ books to brainstorm how they can apply the concepts to their books.

Here are two examples of topics we’ll delve into:

1. We’ll look at how we can harness the power of social networking (not how to get on or what social networks are out there). We’ll study having successful network parties (Twitter party or Facebook party) surrounding a book’s topic and the type of comments to make in social networking to engage an audience on issue of your book and to build yourself as an expert.

2. Release and promotion day specials for Amazon that drive up sales will be discussed (works for new and older releases). These work best with a combination of activities: scheduling radio and blog interviews before the release date, offering free downloadable files, tip sheets, or podcasts/audio files, and contests.

Other topics include:
  • Using the media to promote
  • Timelines on promotion and what can be done ahead of the release
  • Choosing strategies that work for your personality and book
  • Developing a workable marketing plan

Monday, November 16, 2009

Learning to Crave Criticism

By Elaine Creasman
2010 FCWC staff member

“I’ll never show anything to that editor again,” I vowed after reading his critique at one of the first writers’ conferences I attended: “This article is preachy and negative.”

For months I stewed. Then a gentle whisper came: “What that editor said is true.”

I looked objectively at the article and prayed for God’s help. Back at the same conference two years later, I gave the same editor a piece on the same subject–grief. He bought my article on the spot and many more in years to come.

In my 23 years of leading a critique group and over ten years of being on staff and helping with manuscripts at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, I’ve met many writers who become defensive or crushed when someone critiques their work. Here are tips to help you move from hating and resisting criticism to craving and benefitting from it.


“I haven’t written in two years,” admitted a friend. “I brought a poem to a writers’ conference, and an editor wrote a two-page critique. I was devastated.”

Having become more mature when it came to criticism, my first thought was, “Wow! That experienced writer and editor wrote a critique that long? It must be a great poem.”

I read the excellent poem and what the editor wrote, then explained why a two-page critique from this editor was a good thing. She returned to writing and has had many pieces published since.


A piece of writing can seem like your baby. None of us likes having our child criticized.

I’ve learned to view what I write as a gift from God, just as Scripture tells me my children are a gift from Him. (See Psalm 127:3 TLB) And just as I’ve released my children to God repeatedly, I’ve learned to release my writing. Lately I’ve thought: what I write doesn’t come from me, but through me.


My earlier delusion was that editors delight in rejecting writers and telling them what’s wrong with their writing.” The truth is most find great joy in helping writers succeed. Editors and fellow writers who critique my manuscripts are like personal trainers who assist clients in working on “trouble spots.”

People willing to honestly critique what I write are my allies. A quote by Abraham Lincoln opened my eyes to that: “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.”


A teachable heart is a key to writing success. Those willing to learn are also eager to improve. And editors–like teachers–enjoy working with eager learners.

Proverbs 19:20 reminds me to maintain a teachable heart and be open to criticism. “Hear counsel, receive instruction, accept correction, that you may be wise...” (AMP)


All writing is a collaborative effort. Many people contribute--the pastor who sparked the idea and authors I quote in my pieces. Then there are members of my critique group, friends who help with final edits, and editors who give excellent suggestions for rewrites. When I see writing as collaboration, I don’t have an “all mine” attitude, and I welcome input from others.

Criticism in the form of honest critiques has helped make me a better writer and to sell what I’ve written. I thank God for those who have the courage and honesty to offer it. Yes, it can sometimes hurt, but if taken the right way, as a friend put it: “It hurts real good.”

Elaine Creasman has written for over 30 Christian publications and local newspapers. She has contributed to numerous gift books and writes greeting card verses. She has led the Suncoast Christian Writers Group since 1986 and lives in Largo, Florida with her husband, daughter, and granddaughter. She also works part-time as a mental health tech. Visit

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why You Should Attend a Christian Writers’ Conference

By Jeff Gerke
2010 FCWC faculty member

You should go to a Christian writers’ conference. They're wonderful. Where else can you find hundreds of other weird people like yourself? [grins innocently]

Seriously, writers’ conferences are great places to meet like-minded people who want to write and who love the Lord. You can laugh and weep with these folks because they understand you like perhaps few other people in your life do.

Conferences are places to attend seminars by experts in the field you're trying to break into: acquisitions editors, accomplished writers, influential agents.

Sometimes, depending on the conference, you can even catch VPs of publishing, sought-after speakers, and that holy grail of Christian writing: famous authors. I've had the pleasure of rubbing elbows with the likes of Frank Peretti and Jerry Jenkins at some of these conferences.

It's a tremendous place to network too. Sometimes "who you know" really can help you out. If you meet an agent and you two hit it off, who knows but that a beautiful professional relationship might just be born. If you meet an aspiring author like yourself and you critique each other's work, who knows what might happen if that author gets published and is willing to put in a good word for you with her editor?

Best of all, Christian writers’ conferences are the only place I know of where you can pitch your book idea directly to the acquisitions editors at major publishing houses, even if you don't have an agent. Almost every CBA house is closed now to unagented authors. The Christian writers’ conference is your way to bypass that restriction and get right to the person who can get you in the publishing door.

The classes and seminars and panels you can attend at these are often worth the price of admission unto themselves.
  • Imagine learning plotting from James Scott Bell, Writer's Digest author and Christian novelist.
  • Imagine learning how to market yourself from Rebecca Seitz, a professional publicist who works with all the major Christian houses.
  • Imagine learning suspense from master storyteller Angela Hunt.
Writers’ conferences afford you opportunities you'll not get anywhere else.

And did I mention the wonderful people you'll meet?

Some of these conferences (like the Florida Christian Writers' Conference) are held at beautiful retreat locations too, giving you the chance to get into the mountains or the forest or the beach when you're not in class.

But you might be having too much fun yukking it up with your new lifelong friends--or pitching to editors--to do much sightseeing.

After you attend one Christian writers’ conference you will be hooked. You'll think, "That's the best thing I've ever done for my writing career." And you'll be back next year.

Attend a Christian writers’ conference. You won't be sorry.

Jeff Gerke has been called the de facto gatekeeper of Christian speculative fiction. After writing his own speculative fiction and spearheading the launch of a fiction imprint dedicated to Christian speculative fiction at a major Christian publishing company, Jeff branched out on his own to launch Marcher Lord Press, the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction.

Monday, November 2, 2009

How to Make Your Characters Breathe

By Lee Emory
2010 FCWC faculty member

I will be teaching two workshops at the 2010 FCWC:

Connecting to Your Characters

Learn to make your characters stand up on the page and breathe. Following my suggestions you will learn to create a real person on paper BEFORE you begin writing your story. This will be a character/s with traits you can relate to or it won’t work with your readers and you will not believe in them either.

Using History to Create Stories Today

You can take any era of history and tailor it into a contemporary story. We’ll discuss some examples in class and have fun with it. If there’s still time, I’ll give you a dose of my talk on “Solid Writing versus Chopped Liver.” Warning, this talk may contain common sense. Anybody remember what that is?

What’s sparks your interest? Florida history? Biblical history? Victorian Era history? Western history? Napoleonic history? Medieval history? U.S. history? Roman history? The list is almost endless, as are the stories we can create from that list.

How to prepare for Appointments with Lee

  • Bring yourself. (Don’t be a no-show if you’ve signed up.)
  • Be yourself.
  • Bring copy of your first chapter page hook (one page only).
  • Do not ask Lee to take home your proposal or manuscript.
  • Learn to state the premise of your story in less than 50 words.**See below for a tip from Robin Perini regarding the story question. This helps you pin down your story premise briefly and concisely.
  • Do not ramble and keep to the subject of your manuscript.
  • Answer her questions as clearly and concisely as you can.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask her questions.
  • Stop shaking. Lee is human.
**The Story Question (by Robin Perini):

(Your Protagonist)____________MUST_____________( Critical Plot Goal) BY ______________(Conflict with the Antagonist) ONLY TO REALIZE__________________(What the character learns about life that helps him change his goal during the journey of the book).

Here is the example:

Jacob Marshall must avenge his father's honor by implicating Serena Jones' father, only to realize revenge often hurts the innocent.

About Lee Emory

“I’m definitely a morning person. Call me jack of all trades, master of them all. Uh-huh, sure I am.” Lee likes to write a variety of genres, fiction and non-fiction. Her books and articles have been published in numerous magazines and publishing companies.

In her publishing company established in 2001, she decides within 90 days whether or not to accept a manuscript for publication. She assigns manuscripts to her reading staff and editor, analyzes the reports, creates the physical book layout and design, plus critical last edit/corrections of the book before it goes to print; she designs most of the book covers, fills book orders, sends invoices, packs and ships the books to customers, designs booksigning table posters and magazine ads if the author decides to do them.

Don’t forget she does the royalty statements, writes the checks and envelopes and year end tax prep, while she slowly tears her hair out by the roots. Oh, yes, answers hundreds of e-mails and phone calls. She travels, speaks, and presents workshops across the country from her home in Arizona. There’s even more, but after paying the bills enough is enough.

Visit Treble Heart Books

Squidoo pages:

Monday, October 26, 2009

In Writing Critique Groups, Trust Nobody

By Ken Kuhlken
Fiction Mentoring Track instructor

Everybody who reads your work is liable to respond differently. Even in a group of smart, knowledgeable writers or editors, you might get responses ranging from abject boredom to wild acclaim.

The graduate school I attended is famous, so good writers apply. I went there expecting that most every participant in the workshops would give me wise insights. Most of them didn’t.

But I didn’t need the comments of 15 people. From the critiques of two or three with whom I felt some accord, I learned plenty.

Everybody brings his background to his reading. When a reader appreciates my work, I know it could mean he relates for his own reasons. Or he may dismiss my story in reaction to something personal, such as a hurt he suffered or a bias with which he has armed himself. A person who grew up with alcoholic parents may bond with a story about a boozer or recoil from it.

Suppose several readers point to some problem. Odds are good your story has failed to communicate the way you’d like it to. But that doesn’t mean the readers’ suggestions for fixing the problem are correct. They’re worth considering, but not necessarily the best way to solve the problem.

When critiquing an early draft of a novel by Kevin McIlvoy, I noted that a certain section dragged. I suggested cutting some details to speed it up. Kevin later told me he’d solved the problem by adding to the section, using more details that made it more gripping.

Your task is to listen to critiques with your mind open, then ponder each comment as much as it deserves, all before you decide whether to revise. And if you decide to revise, consider suggestions, but also look for alternative ways. Suggestions can come from other people, but revisions have to come from you.

Ken Kuhlken’s novels have been honored as finalist for the Ernest Hemingway Award for best first novel, won the Private Eye Writers of America/St. Martin’s Press Best First Novel competition, and been chosen as a finalist for the Shamus Best Novel Award.

His Tom Hickey California Century novels are: The Loud Adios (1943), The Venus Deal (1942), The Angel Gang (1949), The Do-Re-Mi (1971), The Vagabond Virgins (1979), and coming in May 2010, The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles (1926).

At the Florida Christian Writers Conference, he leads a group in the fiction mentoring track.

Visit Ken at and

Thursday, October 22, 2009

30 Reasons to Attend the Florida Christian Writers' Conference (Video)

Thinking about attending the 2010 FCWC but not sure what to expect?

Watch our brand new video (2:26 minutes) -- you'll get an up-close-and-personal overview of everything from the gorgeous conference facilities to conferees dressed up as tacky tourists to our keynote speakers and faculty.

Hope you enjoyed the video. Please share it on your own social networks.

Here's the YouTube link:

A huge thank-you to the following people for contributing to this video:
  • Karen Whiting - producer
  • Carmen Leal and friend - music
  • Leann Weiss-Rupard - most of the photos
  • Jeanne Gowan Dennis - Jerry Jenkins photo
  • Sarah V. Tinsley - Sunrise photo

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Path to Publishing Success

By Ava Pennington
Guest Columnist

I dreamed of writing for years, but never considered publication a realistic goal. Writing took a back seat while I worked in New York City. When a co-worker published her first novel, it validated her effort to follow her dream, and it gave me hope for my dream, too.

When we moved to Florida, I put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard. My passion is teaching, so I first completed an inspirational non-fiction book. Rejections from several publishers were tempered with comments that although I had a fresh writing style, the content had already been addressed by more well-known names. I was crushed that my first manuscript did not enjoy the same overnight acceptance my friend’s did.

Then I submitted a story to Chicken Soup for the Soul, and eagerly waited. A year later I learned they received over 5,000 submissions. I’m happy to say my story was selected.

This writing business seemed easier than I first thought. My friend was published on her first try. My first anthology submission was published. Surely an agent or editor would soon recognize the quality of my writing and offer me a book contract.

After I finished patting myself on the back, I continued to submit my book to agents and publishers. No takers. I also continued to submit short stories to anthologies. Still no takers.

I finished my second book, a novel, but no one was interested in that one, either. In fact, no one was interested in my work for the next three years. I kept plugging away. I joined a writers’ critique group. I had much to learn about writing and publishing!

Then I attended my first writers’ conference, The Florida Christian Writers Conference, in 2006.

Several speakers suggested the participants think “outside the box.” They encouraged us to develop our skills and our platform by writing articles for periodicals. I showed a chapter of my non-fiction manuscript to one editor of a monthly magazine. Based on that sample, he gave me a freelance assignment for one article.

That article led to several more, and in the past three years they published five articles. A meeting with another editor at the conference also resulted in an article published by his magazine.

I attended the FCWC again in 2007. There I met with additional magazine editors, and subsequently published more articles. In 2008, I met the editor of a monthly devotional, and have now published a month of devotionals through her organization.

Since 2006, I have been published in sixteen anthologies, including twelve different Chicken Soup for the Soul books and three Cup of Comfort books. Additionally, I have published (or am contracted to publish) more than thirty magazine articles with more submissions in the pipeline.

But here’s the best news of all:

In 2009, I attended FCWC and pitched a one-year devotional guide which will be published by Baker-Revell, to be released in 2010!

Another writer and I also pitched a children’s book series at the same conference. The proposal has since passed Committee with another publisher and we are awaiting word on a contract.

I’ve learned that overnight successes in publishing are rare. For me, the path to success consists of a series of small steps: membership in writers’ groups, attendance at writers’ conferences, writing magazine articles and short stories, co-authoring a children’s book, and finally, authoring my own book. In the process, I’m becoming a better writer.

Ava Pennington

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Publisher Considering Novel from Writer of the Year

The first twenty pages of Johnnie Alexander Donley's novel, tentatively titled Twirl, won two awards at the 2009 Florida Christian Writers Conference: Novel of the Year (tie) and Writer of the Year. Winning the awards gave her the courage to include the first two pages with her thank you note to an editor who wasn't that impressed with a different fiction project that he had critiqued.

"I didn't expect a reply so when an email from him popped up in my inbox, I momentarily forgot how to breathe," says Johnnie.

He requested a proposal and additional chapters. A few weeks later, he asked for the completed manuscript.

"I spent the summer writing, rewriting, and revising to meet the September 30th deadline. Now the novel is in his hands and I'm trying not to think about it too much. This opportunity only came about because of the Florida Christian Writers Conference and I'm so grateful for it."

Through the writing process, Johnnie learned significant lessons about creativity, expressing her chosen theme, trusting her characters, and resolving what she calls sticky-wicket plot knots. She shares her Novice Novelist Novel Notes at

Johnnie will be attending her fourth FCWC in 2010. She says that the conference isn't just a great opportunity to meet editors and agents, it's a chance to network with other writers.

Johnnie is a Kindred Heart Writer, one of five women who met at the 2007 FCWC and joined together to form an online writing group. The FCWC is their reunion time. They post about writing and their experiences at

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Blogs from Our Conferees

Here are links to blog posts written by conferees... enjoy!

Conference Plans, by Shirley Corder
Follow along as Shirley prepares for the Florida Christian Writers' Conference 2010. Read articles on how to prepare for the conference of a lifetime, plus the story of a trans-Atlantic trip to get there. From Port Elizabeth, South Africa, to Leesburg, USA. Nine articles and counting...
Imagine, by Beth Willis Miller
Terrific strategies for learning to think creatively by using our imagination, including examples applicable to both children and adults.
Kindred Heart Writers
This on-line writing group met and organized at the Florida Christian Writers' conference. Every Monday and Thursday, they post articles about writing. As the conference draws near, they will write more posts about preparing for it. They even have a Conference Countdown Clock on their blog!
No Whiners, Please
Kathy Helgemo expected whining. But after attending the Women of Faith Conference in Tampa, Florida, she shares the pleasant surprise of finding inspired music and spiritual food in the midst of thousands of women.
Do you blog about writing? Do you plan to attend the 2010 conference? We'd love to feature links to some of your best articles. Please check out Calling All Bloggers for instructions on how to submit your link.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Calling All Bloggers!

Do you blog about writing? Will you be attending the 2010 conference?

If so, we'd love to feature links to some of your best articles geared to help your fellow writers.

Just e-mail me (Laura Christianson, blog manager) the following:
  • title of your post
  • link URL to the published post
  • your byline and blog name
  • 1-sentence description of your article's topic
Here are two samples from my blog, so you can see the format:

The Three Best, All-Time Tips for Increasing Your Blog’s Readership

  • Want more traffic to your blog? You have to do only three things -- and do them well -- to pump up your blog’s readership (by Laura Christianson, Blogging Bistro).

7 Pros and Cons of Group Blogging
  • If you're considering starting or joining a multi-author blog, consider these 7 plusses and minuses first (by Laura Christianson, Blogging Bistro).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Visit Our New FCWC Facebook Page

Last week we joined Twitter, the micro-blogging service that's taking cyberspace by storm.

This week, we launched our Florida Christian Writers Conference Facebook page:

You could say we've gone bonkers over social media.


Because we want you get pumped up for the 2010 FCWC via the social media channel that appeals to you most.

If Facebook is your social hub, you can engage in conversation with conferees and faculty, browse the blogs of many Christian writers, ask questions about the conference, and do all the other stuff people normally do on Facebook.

We've also joined Facebook's NetworkedBlogs; if you prefer to read our blog from your Facebook account, here's what to do:
  1. In this blog's righthand sidebar, scroll down until you see the "NetworkedBlogs" box.
  2. Click "Follow This Blog"
If Twitter is more your style, you'll find links to our blog posts, quick conference updates, and other entertaining tidbits from the writing world.

If you'd rather stick to reading our blog posts, you can get the latest posts delivered to your Inbox, or read them from your favorite RSS feed reader (see the top of the righthand sidebar to get set up). Or just come right here to the site.

Feel free to reprint this post, or links to the FCWC Twitter, Facebook, and blog on your own social media sites.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Value of a Writing Critique Partner

By Laura Christianson

A magazine editor called me out of the blue (I love it when they do that!) and assigned me a docu-drama.

Befuddled, I asked, “Uh…what’s a docu-drama?”

She explained that it is a dramatic, first-person, as-told-to story – similar to those “drama in real life” features in Reader’s Digest. “It’s written like fiction, with scenes and dialogue.”

Uh oh. I’m not a fiction writer, but the assignment sounded fun and challenging, so I agreed to tackle it.

I conducted the interview, wrote out the whole story so I could get the big picture, and then started cutting. And cutting. And cutting. After the fourth draft, the story sounded so disjointed I wasn’t even sure it made sense anymore.

Laura Christianson & Jenn DoucetteIt was time to call in the rescue squad. I dashed off an email to my writer friend, Jenn Doucette, asking her to highlight places in the article I could condense and to suggest a headline (I’m headline-challenged; Jenn cranks out perfect headlines like nobody’s business).

A couple of hours later, I received her reply: “I’m on it, girlie.”

An hour after that, she returned my marked-up draft, accompanied by the terse message, “The story seemed way too choppy and disjointed.”

Whoa…she doesn’t mince words!

But I appreciate Jenn’s blunt honesty, because it’s exactly what I needed to hear. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that the story was… er… choppy and disjointed. I just needed another writer to confirm it.

During the last five years, I’ve been a member of a writers’ critique group, joined my local writers’ association, and had several writer friends (such as Jenn) who I can call on in emergencies.

These sorts of relationships are invaluable for us writers, for several reasons:
  • Writers tend to be solitary people, scribbling away in dimly lit rooms for hours on end. We need human contact to stay sane. Even if they are other writers.

  • We writers tend to fall in love with our words. We pen (what we assume is) the perfect phrase, and we dread the thought of someone criticizing our words.
But constructive criticism is most often just what we need. I sent my draft to Jenn because we have developed such a deep trust over the years that I knew she’d tell me exactly what I needed to hear, without sugar coating it. And I knew she’d get back to me quickly.

I wasn’t disappointed. While I disagreed with some of the changes she suggested and didn’t incorporate those edits into my next draft, the vast majority of her suggestions were right on target and had me smacking my head, saying, “Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?!”

Jenn (who is a fiction writer) pointed out gaps in the story’s timeline, places where I’d made choppy transitions, and stilted dialogue (among other things). After her honest critique, I felt much more confident tackling the next revision. All it took was a second pair of eyes.

Do you have a critique partner/group? Tell us about one thing your critique partner has said that has helped you improve your writing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

We’re all a-Twitter

The Florida Christian Writers Conference is now on Twitter. You can follow us at:

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging service in which you get 140 characters (that’s characters, not words) for each update (updates are called tweets).

Twitter is one of the fastest-growing social networks, due to its ease of use and giant chat room feel. You can search for and follow users who share your interests, sound interesting, or are from your geographic region.

From the Florida Christian Writers Conference Twitter account, we’ll post:
  • The latest conference news and updates
  • Links to our blog posts
  • Testimonials from conferees
  • Tidbits and links of interest to writers (if you blog about writing and want us to link to your post, please notify blog manager, Laura Christianson)

Of course, you can follow our Twitter stream right here on our blog, too (check out the sidebar to the right).

Yesterday on my business blog, I posted an article called, “Why Every Writer Needs to be on Twitter.” If you’re ready to join Twitter and want some tips for how to craft your Twitter profile, consider reading that post.

Are you a tweeter? If so, introduce yourself in the comments area and provide a link to your Twitter account so we can find each other.

And don’t forget to follow @flwritersconf on Twitter; we’ll follow you back!

One more thing: If you re-tweet one of our Twitter updates or talk about the conference in your tweets, please include the hashtag #FCWC. That way, everyone who tweets about the conference can easily search for and find information.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Three New Pre-Conference Tracks Added

How would you like to spend an afternoon with a master instructor? You’ll have the opportunity to do that at the 2010 conference.

On Wednesday, March 3, you can choose from three pre-conference tracks (four hours of instruction for $75) in the following areas:
  1. Fiction – Davis Bunn, instructor
  2. Non-Fiction – Patricia Lorrenz, instructor
  3. One Sheet – Shellie Arnold, instructor
I’ll provide in depth information for you about each of these three tracks once I have a chance to interview the instructors, but I can tell you a bit about Shellie’s One Sheet course.

A “one-sheet” is a writer’s tool (think of it as a sales brochure) for using when pitching your project to editors and agents.

Shellie says:
“It’s kind of like a one page, quick-captioned advertisement about a writer and the writing project that’s being pitched. It’s not part of the proposal; it’s something to hand to an editor or agent when the writer pitches in person.”
I spent time with Shellie at the 2009 conference and she is such a fun, high-spirited person. I’m sure that her one sheet workshop will help you prepare for those editor and agent appointments you’ll have during the course of the conference. And even if you don’t have your one sheet ready for the 2010 conference, you’ll still need it for future use.

If you want to see a sample of my one sheet (this is for my Blogging Bistro business, not for my books), you can download the PDF.

Do you have a one sheet? Share a link to it in the Comments area, so we can get ideas of what different types of one sheets look like, and see what info they include.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Attend 2010 Conference; Get a CD of Every Session

You’ll receive an added bonus when you register for the 2010 conference: a CD that includes a recording of every single session, keynote speech, workshop, and continuing class. What a deal!

A couple of years ago, I purchased a CD of a writers’ conference I attended for $100, and it was well worth the investment. I still listen to those workshops on my MP3 player whenever I go for a walk or go rollerblading (I love multi-tasking, and what’s better than learning while working out?).

At the 2009 conference, I was busy teaching, so I didn’t get to attend several workshops that sounded interesting. Then I got sidetracked and forgot to buy CDs of those workshops.

So getting a free CD of the entire conference is a deal I won’t pass up.

You may be wondering: What’s the catch? This sounds too good to be true.

There’s only one small requirement, which is that you are a full-time registrant. Doesn’t matter when you register – you’ll still get the CD. On your registration form, check the box that says, “Complete Conference Tuition.”

There are several options from which to choose:
  • Complete Conference Tuition, without meals or lodging - $465
  • Complete Conference Tuition, with meals but no lodging - $625
  • Complete Conference Tuition, with double room (1 roommate) and meals - $775
  • Complete Conference Tuition, single occupancy and meals - $975
  • Teen Track Special (ages 13-19), includes complete conference tuition, food, and lodging - $450
If you register by December 24, 2009, you’ll get a $20 discount off your fees.
If you pay by check or money order, they’ll lop off another $10.

To guarantee your spot, you can submit your $150 deposit now, and pay the balance by February 9, 2010. So start saving your pennies now, folks. This is one conference you won’t want to miss!

Here's a PDF of the 2010 registration form.

**If you aren’t already subscribing to get the latest updates about the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference via e-mail, I recommend that you do so, right now. In the coming months, we’ll be posting periodically on the blog, and subscribing to e-mail updates ensures you won’t miss an important announcement. As we get closer to the conference dates, we’ll be updating the blog regularly.

To subscribe, type your name and e-mail in the sidebar form. You'll receive a verification e-mail from Feedburner within seconds. Click the link in the e-mail, and you're set.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, when we’ll reveal another exciting new addition to the conference.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Keynoters Named for 2010 Conference

Conference Director Billie Wilson and her team are hard at work planning the 2010 Florida Christian Writers' Conference, scheduled for March 4-7 at beautiful Lake Yale Conference Center in Leesburg.

If, like me, you're from a non-Florida locale (I live near Seattle, WA), Lake Yale is about a 1 1/2-hour drive from the Orlando airport.

And now, for the announcement of 2010s keynoters...

...drumroll, please...

Jerry Jenkins and Cecil "Cec" Murphey!

The FCWC is growing to be the premier Christian writers' conference on the East Coast; Billie has secured commitments from four editors who've never attended the conference before:
  • Sherri Langton, editor with Bible Advocate
  • David Long, editor with Bethany House Publishers
  • Jeff Gerke, publisher of Marcher Lord Press
  • Suzette Jordan, editor of JourneyForth

And there's more!

Two new continuing classes (6 sessions each, offered daily throughout the conference) are scheduled:
  1. Screenwriting, with Zena Dell Lowe
  2. Branding Yourself for Maximum Impact, with Laura Christianson of Blogging Bistro
(that's me)

And that's not all. Three mentoring tracks will be offered:
  1. Fiction, with Ken Kuhlken
  2. Fiction, with Eva Marie Everson
  3. Non-Fiction, with Janis Whipple

You'll be learning more about all of these courses, instructors, keynoters, editors, and publishers throughout the year, so be sure to subscribe to our blog so you'll receive the latest updates via e-mail. To subscribe, type your e-mail address into the form in the sidebar. You'll receive a confirmation e-mail. Click the link and you're subscribed!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Will There be Books in Heaven?

Do you think we’ll have books in heaven?

I twirl that one back and forth in my mind, sometimes deciding yes, sometimes no.
I do know we’ll have friendships. Deep friendships that go to the core of our glorified bodies.

That’s why I’ve said, “Relationships” when people have asked about my conference highlights.

Relationships with new friends like Al Gansky, Matt from Dayspring, Tim Shoemaker, Loyd Boldman, Ginny Smith, Jon Vonhof,
Ken Kuhlken and many others.

Spending time with long-time buds like Carla Williams, Athena Dean, Randy Ingermanson, and Bryan Davis.

Meeting my wonderful friend Twila Belk in person for the first time.

These are rich moments that will carry into eternity.

Getting the chance to chat with Johnnie, Shelly and so many other talented aspiring writers.
Discovering Torry Martin is the creator of Wooten Basset on Adventures in Odyssey. (Wooten is my family’s fave character by miles.)

Seeing Billie up there on stage simply being herself, not aware of how warm and funny and wonderful she is.

Walking in the morning sun with my teacher, mentor, and dear friend Cec Murphey.

Five years from now will you remember the classes you went to this past week? Snippets maybe. But what you won’t forget is the encouragement you gave or received. The thrill of meeting a kindred spirit. The
laughter you shared with a new friend.

Yes, the publishing world is about writing in the here and now, but the friendships we build are forever.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

You are a Brand…Now Act Like One! - Katie Sukowski

What are publishers looking for?
Is this the first question you ask yourself when choosing a topic to write about?

Publishers do not think like marketers. Effective marketing will always be a big part of your job in addition to doing the writing, and it is your responsibility.

The top two questions you ought to be asking yourself first are:
  1. Who is my audience?
  2. What is my brand?
If you understand the audience that you and your product provides a solution or need for, you’re half-way to successfully identifying what your brand can be.

What exactly is a brand, and how do I turn into one?

A brand is a living, breathing animal. There is no one shape, no one form. In fact, if you create a new brand, all the better because now you own a niche market and you’re the only one in that space.

David Foster discovered Josh Grobin and cites him as a great example of someone who has carved out a niche, created a new brand, and owns that category.

What’s my brand?

Just like your agent cannot tell you what to write, your agent cannot tell you who you should be. The origin of this must come from you once you’ve done some serious soul-searching or thinking or whatever is your way of knowing who and what you are about.

I recommend beginning by asking yourself: What am I passionate about?

I, Katie, believe if you tap into your passion—not trends—you will stay motivated, committed, and energized to continue to build your work and your brand. You’ll stay ahead of trends and/or outlast them; and when things are not going according to plan, you will have the energy and optimism to persevere because you wholeheartedly believe in the work you are creating.

We all know success happens in peaks and valleys. By defining your brand and implementing strategy to building and growing your brand and audience, you are increasing your chances for more peaks over the course of your career.

Recently, I opened a fortune cookie that read, Take aim, and you will increase your chances hitting your target.

Sounds obvious, but that day it wasn’t. That fortune gave me the permission to keep trying innovative strategies to grow authors’ presence in the marketplace, grow their audience in numbers, and to communicate their brand effectively.

So I offer this advice: Take aim at your brand and strategy, and you will increase your chances hitting your targets—be they greater book sales, increased audience, more trafficked blog and Web site, etc.

Now that I know I am a brand, what do I do?
  • Get a good Web site with all the necessary fixins
  • Collect e-mail contacts; service e-newsletters/blasts
  • Blog and publish in print magazines
  • Keep creating more content and submitting ideas to your agent
  • Form strategic partnerships
  • Submit your articles to credible journals for publishing
  • Concept amazing ideas
  • Publishing 501: Pay attention to sales copy and think like a book retailer
  • Hire a publicist to do ancillary PR pre-release of your book
  • Cultivate a street team
  • Do live speaking in any capacity to increase your exposure to your audience
  • Do TV, Web, podcasting, and radio
How you can get the most out of your agent working with you on your brand:
  • Feed him or her the latest news about your Website, PR you are doing, readings, and media you are doing and communicate how that can link into your book proposal.
  • Get podcasts/copies of press of your talks as they happen. Give to your agent so he/she can keep a EPK on you and send out to publishers.
  • Continuously dream up and pitch amazing ideas. Carve out time once a month or once every 2 weeks to dialog on those ideas and choose which ones to develop further.
  • Choose strategic partnerships to go after and put your agent in touch with them (if in your network). If not in your network, choose well so your agent can be successful in contacting that person, author, or personality’s agent.
  • Go over your goals with your agent. Let them in what you want to see happen over the next 3-5-10 years. Are you committed? If yes, be persistent and show up often. Agents need authors who can write excellent and write at a healthy pace. And authors, for the sake of your brand and growing your brand, YOU need to write at a healthy pace. We recommend releasing a book every year to stay current with your audience. If this is not where you are today, consider making this your goal in the near future and put a plan in place to get you there successfully.
Katie Sukowski is a Literary Brand Manager at Creative Trust Inc.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Our Calling as Writers

On May 4th of last year my first novel went to committee at B&H Publishing. I expected to hear yea or nay within a few days. Nope. May 7th, 10th and 17th came and went with no answer.

Around May 20th, as I was praying about it—no, not begging, praying—I felt God say, "Enjoy this."

Huh? Enjoy what? The anguish of not knowing if my book would be contracted?

Then he added, "It's going to sell; enjoy this time of anticipation."

Was I really hearing God's voice? I couldn't know for sure. But as I allowed his words to settle, a thought floated up from my heart. My calling as a writer means one thing. Obedience. Obedience to what God has asked me to do; write. Anything beyond that is out of my control.

In that moment I had a choice. Worry, or let go of my anxiety. I chose to rest in, and even enjoy his peace, knowing I'd invested the talents he's given me to the best of my ability. I had no regrets. I'd poured everything I had into my novel. That's my part.

Whether you're multi-published, longing to be published, or just starting to dream, remember this is not a journey of getting by-lines or contracts.

It's a journey of following him.

Jim Rubart