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.

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