Our Most Embarrassing Moments at a Writers Conference

Writers conferences are a great source of instruction, encouragement, and blessing to the writer, but they can also cause stress.  Writers know attending a conference can be crucial to their success.  They’re told that the agents and editors are the gatekeepers to publication and they usually have less than three minutes to get through the gate.

Shaking voices, trembling hands, and sweat-stained armpits prove writers are aware how  each encounter could fulfill or flounder publication dreams.

embarrassing moments

In the final countdown to the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal April 11-12, 2014,  with Davis Bunn, the proverbial butterflies have begun their migration to registrants.  To relieve pressure with laughter, NCWA members decided to share our worst conference experiences.

 

 

Ocieanna


Ocieanna Fleiss
– An editor from a prominent Christian publisher told me to not be afraid to write a @#$% first draft. LOL! At my first writers conference EVER! I about lost it and the very sweet, conservative older lady sitting next to me almost fell off her chair.

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Roberta-Kehle

Roberta Kehle -  I used to  pick up our speakers at the airport, but often got lost going to the hotel, usually when they needed to go to the bathroom and were in misery.  Another time I was trying to get a Starbucks for an agent and had a minor parking lot mishap. They quit asking my pick-up help. Wonder why? Hmm, this might scare off attendees.

 

sonjaSonja Anderson – My most embarrassing moment related to a writing conference came after the conference. I had the opportunity to submit a manuscript to an agent and an editor from the annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference in Seattle. After I wrote a query letter to the female editor from a fancy New York publishing house, I thought I’d save time and cut and paste the letter for the male agent from Chicago.

Big mistake! Imagine my great grief and embarrassment when I looked at the letter more carefully (after hitting “send,” of course, to the male agent ), and saw that I never removed the line about hoping that the rest of her PREGNANCY went well!
Needless to say, I never heard back from that agent. Sigh.

 

LynnetteLynnette Bonner – At an NCWA conference several years ago, I sat in on a pitch session with a big-name agent. She liked what she heard and requested that I send her a proposal after the conference. Later that same day she was chatting with Jim Rubart.

I needed to talk to Jim about something so I approached and was standing off to one side as they chatted. Jim turned to me and in his gregarious way said, “Hey! How’s your day gone? Did anyone request your stuff?”

And I replied that yeah, “Actually she requested that I send her a proposal.”

To which the agent jolted back and gasped, “I didn’t request a proposal from YOU!”

Jim did a double-take between the two of us as I said, “Well, actually you did.” She then apologized profusely and admitted she remembered me. Needless to say, I never sent her a proposal.

 

Mindy HeadshotMindy Peltier - After hearing how volunteering at a conference can impact your ability to get published, I arranged to meet two editors at the airport. They were from the two Christian publishers I dreamed of writing for some day.  I’d rehearsed a line I thought was clever and would prove my passion and need for writers conferences.

Feeling brave as I deftly merged into I-5 rush hour traffic,  I said, “Writers conferences have become counterproductive for me. I’m writing less…

One editor didn’t realize the airspace was meant to be a dramatic pause before my brilliant punch line.

He began defending conferences and instructed me on my need to attend and appreciate them.  I didn’t want to interrupt.  I merged into the carpool lane. The editor in the back seat added to the defense.

Shocked, I was convinced the misunderstanding had crash-dummied my  publication dreams.  I figured my name would be passed around the editors’ circle, along with the guy who tried to pitch his book at the urinal.  I couldn’t even finish my sentence.

The punch line he missed was “… because the more conferences I go to, the worse my writing becomes.

I was trying to cleverly reveal how conferences were impacting my writing life.  I was learning about writing, but on a larger scale, I was understanding how much more I needed to learn about writing and the publishing industry.

I’ve relived that agonizing moment over and over since then, and even in my dreams, I crash before the punch line.

Every year I attend and volunteer at several  writers conferences, and I’ve even taught at a few. But, they’re still counterproductive for me, because the more writers conferences I attend, the worse my writing becomes.


If an embarrassing moment at a writers conference occurs, don’t worry, it won’t affect your publication dreams.  All of the above writers were published after their  blunders.

Brush it off and move on, but only after you send the story to us.  We’d love to use in a blog post next year.

 

TweetEmbarrassing conference moments didn’t hinder chance of publication.

TweetNCWA writers expose most embarrassing conference moments.

Don’t Worry Before a Writers Conference, PLAN!

Does the thought of attending a writers conference make you nervous?

Winston Churchill said, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”

Instead of worrying in advance, plan in advance by reading past blog posts with valuable advice on preparing for a writers conference.

TweetNervous about attending a writers conference?  Prepare, don’t worry.

Top Ten Reasons pmEdie Melson from The Write Conversation guest blogged “Top Ten Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference.”

 

Prayer Power Tool“Plug in Your Power Tool — Prayer” was written by Lydia E. Harris to provide instruction in gathering a prayer support team for your writing.

 

Terry Whalin 2Pack your proposal, not your manuscript, in your tote bag, because Terry Whalin advises that “Editors Read Book Proposals, Not Manuscripts.”

 

CWC Buy NowThe Northwest Christian Writers Association wrote a book just to relieve conference jitters and help conference attendees know exactly what to do before, during, and after a conference. Purchase on Amazon here.

TweetThe Christian Writer’s Coach book details what to do before, during, and after a writers conference.

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And while you’re planning and preparing, don’t forget to register!

 

 

Reel in Assignments at Writers Conferences

By Lydia E. Harris, prolific writer and author of Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting.

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“Cast your net on the other side,” Jesus told his discouraged disciples after they fished all night and caught nothing. They did—and caught more fish than their nets could hold.

Similarly, as writers, sometimes we fish and fish for assignments but catch nothing. Perhaps then we need to cast our nets on another side and attend a writers’ conference. Often the fish are biting there, and writing assignments will be pulled in. “Net”working with authors, editors, publishers, and agents often results in landing a big catch now or in the future.

TweetNetworking with authors, editors, publishers, and agents often results in landing a big catch.

Reel in Assignments

For example, when I attended an American Christian Writers’ one-day conference, I met Lin Johnson, the managing editor of Church Libraries and Advanced Christian Writer (and now also Christian Communicator). As Lin answered our questions during lunch, I asked, “What are your editorial needs?” I hooked five assignments, which I tackled and completed. The fish were biting at that conference.

Later, at the Oregon Christian Writers’ summer conference, I netted useful information for an assigned profile article about a publishing house. The publisher attended the conference, so I interviewed her there. Plus, she brought the latest issue of Christian Retailing, which featured an article with useful information and quotes for my assignment.

The Oregon conference supplied additional resources to strengthen my article. I snagged a quote from marketing expert Sally Stuart’s talk, interviewed a conferee who had recently published her book through the publishing house, and caught a quote from a Chicago writing instructor. I also cast a line to fish for slant ideas from a seasoned author. When I left, my net bulged with help and valuable information to complete the assignment.

At other conferences, I’ve netted opportunities to write for new publications and caught publishing houses’ interest in my book proposals, articles, and recipes. Another big conference catch was finding an agent.

Fish Story pm

I’ve learned that writers conferences are excellent fishing holes. Sometimes so many fish bite that our writing nets stretch to bursting. And that’s no fish story.

TweetWriters conferences are excellent fishing holes. And that’s no fish story.

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Lydia HarrisLydia Harris, MA in Home Economics, has attended numerous writers conferenes and teaches at them.She has accumulated hundreds of bylines, contributed to 17 books, and writes a bimonthly column titled “A Cup of Tea With Lydia.”  Her five grandkids call her “Grandma Tea,” and together they develop and test recipes that are published in Focus on the Family magazines. Lydia wrote the practical and inspiring Bible study, Preparing My Heart for Grandparenting.

Love of Jesus and Her Job Motivate Agent Rachel Kent

Each year, NCWA member Kirk Kraft posts interviews with the agents and editors that will be speaking at the Northwest Christian Writer’s Renewal.

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Rachel Kent


Rachel Kent is an agent with Books & Such Literary Management. She has more than seven years of agency experience. Rachel represents fiction and nonfiction. Her goal is to develop strong relationships with her clients and to help them to develop lasting relationships with their publishers.
 


1. What is the most important attribute you look for in a prospective new client?

I’m not sure I can pick just one! I guess being a great writer comes first, but I won’t represent a great writer who isn’t a kind, friendly person with perseverance and the ability to work well with others.

2.  Is there a particular story or genre you’ve been looking for recently & haven’t found?

I have clients writing in all the categories I like to represent, but I would like to find more romantic suspense and also nonfiction books for those in their teens, twenties, and thirties.

The nonfiction I’m looking for would be books that help those in these age groups get through life at the stages they are in for example: Surviving high school or college; dating; early years of marriage; raising children when the parents are like ships passing in the night to make ends meet; etc. The books do need to bring something fresh to these topics though and platform has to be strong.

I’m open to short romantic suspense (Love Inspired-length) and longer romantic suspense projects.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not looking at other types of projects too, though.

3. Do you have any publishing heroes or role models? Who are they?

The amazing agents at Books & Such are instructive and inspiring to me on a daily basis. Janet Kobobel Grant has really dedicated herself to helping each of us at Books & Such and she is a hero in my book!

My clients also inspire me. They all work so hard and do what they do with joy and dedication. I can see Jesus in them.

Tweet “My clients inspire me…I can see Jesus in them.”

4.  What advice can you give aspiring writers who believe they’re ready to submit work?

Please have some critique partners read your work first! It makes a difference. And ask them to look at your query letter, too. The query letter can be the gateway to your publishing career and you want it to be the best it can be so editors and agents request your project.

TweetThe query letter can be the gateway to your publishing career.

5.  What brings you the most joy in your life as an agent?

I love helping all of my clients get contracted, but there’s a special joy that comes with placing a debut author for the first time. Placing that new writer with a publishing house makes me so excited and happy.

I also love reading a brand new idea from a client. There’s so much potential in new ideas.

6.  If you could go back in time, would you choose a different career? Why or why not?

I don’t think so. I really love being a literary agent. I find joy in my job and I don’t think I would if I did something else–or it would be harder to. I also feel like I’m able to reach people with the love of Jesus through what I do. And I have some flexibility with my job so I can spend a lot of time with my daughter.

7.  What are you currently reading?

I am currently rereading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s amazing how different life is today. Laura had only a few toys growing up and Ma only had one special glass figurine to put on her homemade shelf. And there wasn’t any technology! They were happy and thankful and unselfish. I think every adult should read these books again. It’s been eye-opening and they are so good!

 

Rachel Kent CollageRachel Kent’s Workshop Description:
Chasing down the facts for a manuscript isn’t easy. We will go into detail about the research process–including tips from some of Rachel’s multi-published clients and a list of resources to help with researching for multiple kinds of projects. This class is for every writer. Research and fact checking are important for all genres.

Read More of Rachel’s wisdom from her Friday posts on  the Books & Such blog:

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Kirk-Kraft_thumb.jpgKirk Kraft has been gripped by the “Writing Monster” for many years. A husband and father of four, he’s instilled a love of reading in all his children while chasing his dream of publishing. His favorite genre for both writing and reading is epic fantasy. He has been a member of NCWA since 2008.

Pitch and Tell – Avoiding Story Stumbling

By Kathleen Freeman, Critique Coordinator for NCWA and Renewal Volunteer

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They ask about our story—editor, agent, fellow writer, the guy slicing the beef. We freeze. We panic, and what could have been a fun and meaningful conversation, and possibly begun a friendship, turns to disaster.

If someone asks what we love about our spouse, kids, or pet, we don’t panic, don’t get tongue-tied or fearful. Confidence oozes as we tell strangers and friends alike about little Lucy’s first steps carrying Tolkien’s The Hobbit. We confess that our face might be purple because we spent the last two hours helping our son write an essay.

Avoiding Story Stumbling

People don’t ask about our work to measure or judge us. Okay, some do, but they are the exception. Most ask because of burning curiosity. They want to know what fills us with the passion to neglect other things in our lives and write when we know the pitiful publication odds… let alone the chances of writing a NY Times best seller. What is our story about, and why is it so important? If we can articulate the answer in five words, thirty-two words, or 100 words of eye-sparking passion, it’s a powerful jump-start to the most flagging confidence. If we can’t, we’re not ready for a pitch—plain and simple.

TweetWe neglect other things in our lives and passionately write despite pitiful publication odds.

Unfortunately, passion, even articulated well, only goes so far. If asked about Bible verses pertaining to the deity of Christ and we’re not prepared, Bible fumbling and umming will ensue. We have to have pages marked, words highlighted. In the same way, when someone asks about our kids, pictures go a long way toward reminding us why we love them despite struggles.

Whether telling our story to the book table lady, or pitching to an editor or agent, a picture of our “baby” can help break the ice. A One Sheet, writing sample, and story proposal make a great snapshot. A One Sheet is an introduction to us and our story using artistry and character representative of our book. It’s a business card and photo rolled into one page. A transparent, gem-colored, $2.99 Rite Aid plastic folder makes a great showcase and will also hold writing samples and our proposal. Some have a place for a business card, as well.

In addition to making a great conversation starter, a folder looks professional—a step in the right direction beyond one-line zingers, elevator pitches or thirty-two word summaries. If we stumble, trip on our words, or develop rubber lips, we still look like a player.

Organization isn’t always a writer’s greatest gift. Receipts and napkins often carry our inspirations home. But failure in this can undo both preparation and passion. If our artistic, stream-lined folder is shoved in a bag among schedules, a pile of magazines, a semi-melted Hershey’s Kiss, a hairbrush, and receipts from the bookstore, our mind may feel like the chocolate is melting through it. A horror story of great proportion may ensue as we reach in and pull out our Arm and Hammer Essentials deodorant. While such a blunder might lead to a new friendship founded on mutual anti-aluminum beliefs, it’s more likely to make an editor flag down the time-keeper, eyes pleading for Calgon. No. We’re better off leaving anything extraneous in the car if we have an appointment.

Though due respect and admiration, editors and agents seek what anyone does—something excellent to read, and maybe a new friendship or two. To help him or her feel welcome and appreciated, we might do some internet research before the appointment. If we know her company switched from Prairie Romance to Steampunk Murder Mysteries, we can leave And the Bluebells Ring in our bag and dust off It Goes Whir, Thud. If horror terrifies him, we shouldn’t pitch ours. If she just lost her dog, we might be sensitive to that and not tell our story about Fido gifting the new neighbors with our bloomers.

We pitch, tell our story with proud passion, and then we’re done. Whether she wants us to send her something or not, we need to maintain an air of thankfulness. A “thank you for your time” is always appreciated. Beyond that, a no is not by any means the end of the story… unless we spin in angry circles and vanish in a puff of blue smoke.

TweetWhen we pitch, we tell our story with proud passion.

As chairs are stacked and conference attendees stare into space, smiles stiff, brains overflowing with information, we might ask the editor sitting alone if it was a good conference for him. We could ask the agent if she has a place to worship on Sunday, or offer coffee or a cup of water. Grace. Love. A bit of kindness. It may even help her move past our blunders and ask, once again, to hear our story.

It could happen.

 

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(Your next opportunity to pitch!)

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Kathleen Freeman 2Kathleen Freeman serves on the Board of Directors for the Northwest Christian Writers Association as the Critique Coordinator. She’s also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and she’s been writing and critiquing for enough years to be told she’s been around the block a few times. Her work appears in Raising Small Souls, the NCWA Newsletter, Vista Journal for Holy Living, and Clubhouse Magazine. She was the 2012 winner of the Genesis contest in the YA category, 2013 semi-finalist in the Mystery category, and the 2013 3rd place  winner of the Category 5 contest, Contemporary category. You can find her at www.findinghopeinhardtimes.com.

Insider Advice for Writers from Agent Sally Apokedak

Each year, NCWA member Kirk Kraft posts interviews with the agents and editors that will be speaking at the Northwest Christian Writer’s Renewal.

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Sally ApokedakSally Apokedak, Associate Agent for Leslie H. Stobbe Agency, has been studying, reviewing, and marketing children’s books, as well as giving writing instruction, for a dozen years. She is presently the YA contributor to Novel Rocket and she teaches at general market and Christian writers conferences across the country. She is interested in children’s books from picture books to young adult (Christian or general market), nonfiction for all ages (Christian or general market), and women’s novels (Christian market).

Could you describe a typical day in the life of an agent?

I don’t know about other agents, but my days are ruled by my Google Calendar and my email. I get to work (my home office) by about 8:00, usually. Sometimes 9:00. (One of the great perks of being self-employed: I can roll into work when I feel like it. I detest alarm clocks.) I check emails fast—answer a few and delete a lot. Then I open my Google calendar and do the first thing. Then I move on to the next thing. Then the next. Usually I am reading or editing a couple of days a week and I’m researching publishers, working on proposals, or writing cover letters a couple of days a week. I also answer a lot of email and look at contracts rarely. (I wish I looked at contracts a lot and at email rarely, but that’s just not happening.)

I take a long lunch—from 1:00 to 4:00—so I can get up and move, instead of being stuck in my chair all day.

And then I usually work from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on clients’ work. After 7:00 I answer more email, work on handouts or presentations (or interview questions) for conferences. All my life I’ve been a night owl, but I’m trying to be more disciplined and healthy now, so I’m trying to shut the computer down by 9:00 and go to bed at a decent hour. If I have freelance editing work or consulting work, I do that on Saturdays.

Sundays I don’t work.

How vital is maintaining an online presence to writers today (website, blog, Twitter, etc)?

It’s very important. If you have no page at all—no online presence—you’re losing an opportunity to show yourself to an editor or agent who wants to see who you are and what you’re doing.

But it’s also important to make sure your webpage accurately reflects you and your work. When you go for a job interview, you dress nicely and put makeup on. You brush your teeth and comb your hair and wear deodorant. If you are going to apply for a job on a construction site, you wear jeans and work boots. If you are going to apply at a bank, you wear a business suit.

TweetMake sure your webpage accurately reflects you and your work.

When I send out your proposal to an editor and that editor Google’s your name, you really want her to open a page that looks like you. You want your page to be clean and to look intelligent and happy and friendly. If you’re a children’s writer you want some bright colors or fun pictures, maybe. If you’re a women’s writer you may want flowers or photos of your children or pets. You want something that reflects your personality and shows what you write.

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter . . . ? Pick a couple that you like and work them. You don’t have to do everything. But try to do as many as you are able to do, while still doing them well. (I’m preaching to myself. I’m probably the worst tweeter and status updater around.) Be engaged with others and try to look confident and popular. Editors do look at this stuff. And agents do, too.
 

Who do you consider your publishing hero or role model?

Oh, this is a great question. I thank God regularly for Les Stobbe, who inspires me because of his integrity and work ethic. He sometimes emails me at six in the morning and then he’ll send me more emails at eleven at night. He works hard, sells plenty of books, teaches at eight to twelve conferences a year, and he’s committed to helping new authors break in. He’s been in the business since the 1950s, he’s taught Christian writers all over the world, and he doesn’t look like he’ll ever retire. Les is a wonderful Christian man and I am so thankful that he agreed to take me on.

When considering a new client, what do you consider the most important attribute?

A finished manuscript with a fresh premise.

I want to say that the most important attribute is the ability to make me care about the characters. That will happen if you have characters that are working toward a goal and if you tell me their story with a comfortable voice. I want to say that’s all it takes, because if I care about the characters I’m going to turn the page. But the more I talk to editors, the more I think you have to have the fresh premise to sell. It doesn’t seem to matter if your work holds our interest and we shut the book with a satisfied sigh.

My most common rejections read: I enjoyed the story but I don’t see it breaking out. Or the variation on that: I can see why you liked this. It’s a good story. But it feels like it’s been done before.

TweetA future client should make an agent care about the characters.

Name one key piece of advice you’d give a previously unpublished writer.

Study the current award-winning books in the genre you want to write.

I cannot tell you how many proposals I get from people who were playing with their children, or grandchildren, and got a good idea for a picture book. They write the books and send them to me and it is clear that their understanding of what picture books actually look like is nonexistent. Go to the library, check out a hundred picture books, take them home, and start typing them into your computer. Or check out ten award-winning middle grade novels and start typing them into your computer. If you will do that, it won’t take you very long before you will get a feel for POV, voice, tense, character . . . all kinds of things. You will see how plot works. And you will get to know, from studying the good books, what makes your books bad and what you need to do to fix them.

And then write books that have all the great elements that those books have—great characters, exciting plot, good pacing, wonderful voice . . .

. . . but make your books fresh (see question #4). Give us books that have never been done before. Simple!

Please describe your “dream” client.

My dream client writes a couple of books a year that bring in 250,000-dollar advances and debut on the NY Times Best Seller list. :) You did say dream, right?

But my favorite clients write books I love. Books I enjoy reading three and four times as we edit and tweak. And if these clients make me laugh, that’s a huge plus.

And patience is a virtue! I am new and I don’t have an assistant. So it takes me a while to get things done.

What are you currently reading?

These interview questions. :) I’m not currently reading anything, because I don’t read that way. I never stop in the middle of a book to answer interview questions. But what have I read most recently? Client manuscripts, mostly.

The last published books I’ve read in various categories are:

  • Picture book – “The House on Dirty-Third Street,” by Jo Kittinger
  • MG novel – “Okay For Now,” by Gary Schmidt
  • YA novel – I can’t remember. UGH. It’s been too long for me. I don’t have time read nice, fat YA novels. But I’ll put in a plug here for Marie Lu’s “Legend.”
  • Adult novel – some romance novel I got free at RWA. I can’t remember the title or plot. I abandoned it halfway through, actually.
  • Nonfiction Theological – “Knowing God,” by JI Packer (For the fourth of fifth time. Because I’m doing a study with my sister.)
  • Writing books – I always have one at hand. This month it’s Rebecca LuElla Miller’s “Power Element’s of Story Structure.”

Salley Apokedak pm

What Sally is looking for:

  • Picture Books – I’m looking for quirky, fun, characters and delightful language, with lines that roll and rhymes that rock. Conflict and growth for characters always helps.
  • Middle Grade Books – I’d love some funny boy books. Boy scientists and boy geniuses are great. I love fantasies, but really want anything with a strong voice.
  • YA Books – Fantasy is my favorite, and if there’s romance, I love it even more. I still like dystopian, and fairy tales. I love mysteries.
  • Nonfiction For All Ages – I’m interested in devotional books, Christian living, science for young children, and biography. But you may try me on anything.
  • Adult Inspirational – I’m looking for adult books for the Christian market, particularly fantasy and romantic suspense.

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Kirk-Kraft_thumb.jpgKirk Kraft has been gripped by the “Writing Monster” for many years. A husband and father of four, he’s instilled a love of reading in all his children while chasing his dream of publishing. His favorite genre for both writing and reading is epic fantasy. He has been a member of NCWA since 2008.

Wowful (not Woeful) Websites

Terri Picone, guest blogger, attended The Christian Writer’s Coach Technology Conference sponsored by NCWA.

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I attended the Laura Christianson’s workshop to learn how to improve my website. Laura owns Blogging Bistro which designs websites as well as provides expertise on other social media services. Her qualifications to teach this workshop and enjoy a good cup of coffee speak for themselves. (And her webpage bloggingbistro.com illustrates both very well.)

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Early on, Laura suggests we consider our brand. The obvious choice may be our name. This works for many, but always consider how long, simple, easy to spell, and memorable our choice for a brand is—name or not. And it’s wise to check, by doing a Google search, whether it already has other associations with it which we’d rather avoid. Once we know what our brand name is, we need to buy it.

Laura explains the importance of tying together our website and all we do (logo, blog, business cards) to show our brand, down to the font and colors we choose for them. Using continuity on all our branded products reinforces their impression about us. In fact, everything we do online represents who we are and what we stand for. We want to highlight what we want them to know and show our how we are unique so they can relate to us.

When setting up or evaluating our website, Laura suggests thinking about what we hope to accomplish with it. Getting our name out there? Our writing? Books? Speaking topics and availability? The design should accomplish our purpose which seems simple, but without planning, many websites just take up cyberspace and fall short.

TweetWithout planning, many websites take up cyberspace and fall short.

On every page a visitor opens, she should feel oriented and able to locate the most important thing for that page. Each page should carry only one call to action. Pages that are clutter-free with planned white space create a professional-looking website. Laura shares that visitors spend 80% of their time above the fold (the area which is seen without scrolling down) so that area needs to be well planned.

Tweet Website visitors spend 80% of their time above the fold, so plan well.

Other considerations for a webpage include how many pages are needed and which sidebar elements to use. The color scheme should be simple but reflect us, and limiting our websites to only a few basic fonts gives a professional appearance.

To read or not to read? Since a visitor makes a decision in seconds as to whether or not he will read the content, headlines are critical. Make the reader wonder, draw him in. Besides headlines, the overall impression, subheadings, bold words, and scan-able pages also contribute to his decision to read on or close the page. (A scan-able page is one that is quickly scanned by the reader.)

As far as content, the copy needs to be stellar. Sentences should focus on the reader’s needs. Christianson says to talk directly to the reader, keeping in mind he is asking himself, “What’s in it for me?” consciously or unconsciously as he reads.

TweetTalk directly to the reader, because he’s asking, “What’s in it for me?”

I definitely gained some valuable information at Laura Christianson’s workshop. Her site (bloggingbistro.com) has many more free tips and resources plus the contact information for her professional services. If you get a chance to attend one of Laura Christianson’s workshops, you’ll learn a lot and, if you bring coffee, you’ll fit right in.

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Terri PiconeTerri Picone writes short stories and is (still) working on a novel. After homeschooling her three kids, she went back to college and got her English: Creative Writing degree in 2006. She’s a member of ACFW, Oregon Christian Writers, and Inland Northwest Christian Writers. The Technology Conference was her first NCWA Conference and she looks forward to others. She is on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and blogs at www.terripicone.com