Monday, January 25, 2010

Is This Your First Writers' Conference? Learn the Ropes from John Vonhof

Here’s an overview of the three workshops John Vonhof will be teaching at the 2010 FCWC:

Thinking Like an Editor ­

This pre-conference evening workshop (included in your registration fee) focuses on making your conference the best possible by knowing how an editor thinks.

From an editor's point of view we’ll talk about:
  • your writing idea
  • perfecting your pitch
  • pitching your idea
  • making your proposal, sample chapters and articles right for their publishing house
Fine-tuning your Writing Niche ­

We'll look at fine-tuning our writing niche by exploring the importance of ideas, niches in various genres, keyword searches, market size and value, Web sites, and type of writing to exploit your niche.

Writing and Publishing an E-book ­

E-books are a great choice for writers.

We'll explore the best types of writing for an e-book, software, formatting, adding value, where to sell them, pricing, marketing, and resources. CD of resources for participants.

John Vonhof writes for Christian and secular markets. He is the author of self-published and mainstream books and booklets, with articles in print and on the web. He is an expert on finding ideas and writing for niche markets.

His niche book, Fixing Your Feet, is going to a 5th edition in 2011 while his book on The Pastoral Search Journey is being released in early 2010 in a 2nd edition.

John is the owner of, a Web site to help writers get the most out of attending a writers’ conference. He loves helping new writers discover their writing niche and how to market their writing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Power of Personal Experience

By Sherri Langton
2010 FCWC Faculty

The August of my sixteenth year, I did something I’d never done: be a live-in babysitter for one week. The married couple (the man was my sister’s boss) wanted to attend a Christian camp in the Colorado mountains, and they offered me $25 to stay at the cabin and watch their four girls. I didn’t realize my guardian angel would be there as well.

The week had its challenges. I struggled to fit in with a family I barely knew. I came down with a bad case of homesickness and fought depression. The topper occurred the morning the adults attended their Bible study at the lodge. While the oldest girl, Kristin, was popping popcorn on the stove, the oil from the pan dripped on the gas flame. Poof! Instant ignition!

I remained amazingly calm. Telling the older girls to get help, I balanced the baby on my hip and turned off the burner. In seconds, the flames extinguished. By the time the adults made it back to see if the cabin had burned to the ground, all was well.

I earned more than 25 bucks that week; I got a wealth of material to make a story. Months later in my high school creative writing class, I poured my babysitting experience on paper and concluded it with what I’d learned: that nothing since that week in August had been too hard — for me or for my guardian angel.

My teacher loved the story. She awarded it an A and read it to the class.

I’ve come a long way since that creative writing class. Over the last twenty years, my personal experiences have appeared in magazines and book collections. With these and my work as an editor, I’ve learned the ingredients of a good story and what makes it marketable.

Would you like to know? Join me in my workshop From Personal Experience to the Printed Page at the upcoming Florida Christian Writers Conference. I look forward to hearing your stories!

Sherri Langton is associate editor of the Bible Advocate magazine and Now What? e-zine. She is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Focus on the Family, Discipleship Journal, Today’s Christian Woman, and other publications. Sherri has contributed to several book collections, including Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause. You can find her on Facebook.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Planning to Pitch Your Writing Project to an Editor or Agent? Follow These Guidelines

By John Vonhof
2010 FCWC faculty

Sixteen years ago I went to my first writers’ conference. I was a rookie. I had my proposal and a sample chapter – such as they were. I had studied the list of speakers and knew who wrote what and who I wanted to talk to.

Looking back, I thought I had done my homework. I’m an analytical person, thinking things through and trying to plan ahead. I had a book idea. It was good. At least I thought so. But I went home with rejections. Deflated.

I returned year after year and kept learning. Having attended more than 36 conferences as participant and speaker, I’d like to share a few thoughts on planning for a conference.

At every conference, I talk to writers who are frustrated because they can’t interest an editor in their idea. Just like I was when I attended my first conference.

Let’s start with your writing idea. Whether it’s for a book or article, it must be the best you can do. Maybe you think it’s your best. But until you have studied the craft of writing and received feedback from others, it’s probably not your best. Here’s where critique groups come in. Join one if you can (on-line or face-to-face) and learn from the feedback of others. And don’t forget to read a book about writing in your genre.

The same goes for your proposal or query letter. It’s your responsibility to know how to write them. If you haven’t read a book about queries or proposals, take the time to do so and then implement what you learn. You have the opportunity to submit proposals, queries, articles, and sample chapters to the faculty. You want them to be professional.

How about your idea? Have you identified its audience? Is it large enough to make the publisher money through book or magazine sales? Publishing is a business and while we love our ideas, they have to stand on their own merits. Too small a market makes it hard for publishers to earn back expenses. An over done idea will be a hard sell. An idea whose time has come and gone will receive no support.

On the other had, an idea that has been thoroughly explored and vetted, an audience identified as well as how to reach them, is timely, has been written as close to perfect as possible, and is a good match for the publisher to whom it is being pitched, has a better chance of catching an editor’s interest.

Did you catch that last point – a good match for the publisher? Billie does a great job of getting publishers, editors and agents to the conference. Look over the faculty list and do your due diligence to learn what they publish. Spend a few hours exploring their Web sites to see what type of books they publish, or if a magazine, what articles they use. Find several that might be a good match for your writing. Your pre-conference submissions should go to these individuals.

Then at the conference, meet them and get feedback on your submission. Remember that the faculty at the conference is a small representation of the much larger Christian publishing industry. While you may not find a home for your writing at the conference, you will learn a lot to help you polish your work and this will help you submit to other publishers after the conference.

I love to talk to writers about their writing interests. Many are well thought out and with patience and perseverance, they will be published. Unfortunately, many others are not. When you decide to go to a writers’ conference, you need to make a plan that will not only help you be successful, but also the editors to whom you pitch your ideas.

If you want to learn what came out of my first ideas and rejections, ask me at the conference. It may inspire you. I took those rejections and turned them into a positive outcome.

John Vonhof writes for Christian and secular markets. He is the author of self published and mainstream books, with articles in print and on the web. He is an expert on finding ideas and writing for niche markets. His niche book, Fixing Your Feet, is going to a 5th edition in 2011 while his book on The Pastoral Search Journey is being released in early 2010 in a 2nd edition.

John is the owner of, a Web site to help writers get the most out of attending a writers’ conference.

Friday, January 8, 2010

8 Ways You Can Help Promote the FCWC

The Florida Christian Writers’ Conference doesn’t hire paid staff to promote the conference, so we’d appreciate it if you would spread the word about the FCWC.

Here are eight things you can do:
  • If you’re attending or teaching at the conference, list the FCWC on your schedule of events (on your Web site, blog and social networking calendars).
  • Blog about your preparations for the conference.
  • Link to the conference from your Web site or blog’s “Favorite” links page (also known as a blogroll). The conference Web site is
  • Encourage others to become a fan on Facebook, and interact with other conferees on our Facebook page:
  • Follow the conference on Twitter:

Tweet the following:

I’m attending the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference @FLWritersConf March 3-7. Hope to meet you there. #FCWC

(You can also tweet during the conference; if you do, use the hashtag #FCWC so those who can’t attend in person can vicariously experience the conference via everyone’s Twitter updates.)
  • Include a listing of the conference in your newsletters, e-zines, and mailings.
  • Mention the conference (word of mouth) as you interact with writers via e-mail or other venues. Encourage them to subscribe to our blog’s RSS feed so they’ll receive all the latest conference news (they can sign up on our blog:
  • Embed the YouTube conference video on your blog, or forward the link to the video to others. Here’s the link:

To grab the code to embed the video, click the "YouTube" logo in the lower righthand corner of the video. In the right sidebar of the video's YouTube page, click "Embed." It will highlight the code for you. Copy the code and paste it into the HTML area of your blog's text editor.

Here’s a conference logo you can upload to your Web site or blog:

Thanks for your help promoting the conference! Please share your own ideas for how to spread the word.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Join the Template Queen at the Florida Christian Writers’ Conference

By Cheri Cowell
2010 FCWC Faculty

Over the years as I’ve taught at writers’ conferences, I’ve become known as the Template Queen. If it is a repetitive writing activity, rather than recreating the proverbial wheel each time that task is required, I look for ways to take the drudgery out by creating a template.

I have templates for cover letters, proposals, mailings, and press releases. Yet, the most requested of all of my templates is the one for query letters.

Queries are those one page letters written to an editor “selling them on your article or book idea.” Many people hate the query letter because they are so difficult to write. We only have one page to pitch our idea, sell our writing ability, and tout our credentials. In essence, this is your first and only chance to impress this editor so you need to put your best dress on.

Several months ago I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Israel as part of a small group of Christian journalists, BUT I needed to secure some writing assignments to assure the Ministry of Tourism I was someone worth sinking some money into. So, I pulled out my tried and trusted query template and at the end of the day, I’d created fifteen query letters. Of those fifteen letters sent, I received ten article assignments and landed two regular columnist gigs.

At one of the first writers’ conferences I attended, I learned about the six items covered in every query letter. I also learned of six “never dos,” which I will also share in my class, Learn to Write a Dynamite Query.

So, if queries have you puzzled, and if you would like to simplify this part of your writing life by learning my winning query writing process, come join me Friday afternoon. I’d love to share it with you.

Cheri Cowell has published over 250 articles in such magazines as Marriage Partnership and Ideals, and her second book, Making the Story Real: Speaking Christ Into a Changing Culture, is set to release from Beacon Hill this June.

Connect with Cheri through and or her website

In addition to teaching two workshops at the FCWC, Cheri will be assisting in the Manuscript CPR room, where you will be able to bring your work-in-progress and receive one-on-one feedback from published authors.