Pilgrim Shares Thoughts about the Successful Writing Journey

Dennis Brooke memeBy Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

What does your writing journey have in common with a 500-mile pilgrimage?

This spring, former NCWA president Dennis Brooke, along with his wife Laurie, set out to walk the entire length of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela (the Way of St. James), a network of routes across Europe that leads to the town of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Since the Middle Ages, Christians have made the pilgrimage to visit the tomb of St. James the Apostle.

While in León, Spain, just as the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference was about to get underway, Dennis recorded a 3½ minute video to share with us key similarities he notes between being a successful writer and preparing for a Camino de Santiago trek.

Dennis is the author of the speculative novel The Last Apostle. While on pilgrimage, he’s finding plenty of opportunities to research his next novel, Thomas the Brave. You can connect with Dennis and Laurie at www.WorldRovers.com.

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and is coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym. Their latest coauthored book, Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects, will be released in August by Bold Vision Books.

Michael Duncan Explains Path to Indie Publishing

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

MichaelDuncanWhenever he preaches, NCWA board member and area pastor Michael Duncan receives immediate feedback. “I can watch the effect of my words in the eyes of those who are listening—and in the yawns of those who are not,” he says.

But he can’t see the faces of those who’ve purchased his books. “We writers want to know that our work is well received—wanted, even needed,” he points out. “It’s hard to continually remain motivated to do something when there are very few quantifiable indicators that the work is valued.”

As with many Christian authors, Michael tries to console himself with the idea that it’s not about the numbers. We truly do write to honor and obey God. But how can any of us know that our work is reaching anyone?

There is one singular gauge: sales. “Every book sale, to me, is like having another person come into the worship center—filling up the sanctuary with hungry hearts,” Michael says.

In his quest to continue honoring God through his writing and to fill up the “sanctuary” with hungry readers, Michael has authored or coauthored multiple fiction and nonfiction books through both traditional and independent venues. At the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, he will teach a workshop on the basics of indie publishing:

7 Keys to Becoming a Successful Indie Author7 Keys to Becoming a Successful Indie Author – Learn from someone who’s been there what it takes to be a successful indie author; investing in your career; selecting great covers; tips on selling books, building your platform, and growing your readership; as well as how to diversify for added benefit.

At the Renewal, Michael will also serve as worship leader in the general sessions.

To learn the basics of publishing your work independently and/or to request an appointment with one of our seven editorial reps at this year’s conference, sign up for the Renewal today!

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Conference Sponsor Assists Writers Who Avoid Financial Planning

By Debbie Austin, Northwest Christian Writers Renewal Vendor Coordinator

I have to admit. I know very little about financial planning. And frankly, thinking about beginning the whole process makes me want to do anything—anything—else. When choosing between getting my physical house and my financial house in order, even cleaning the toilet takes on a certain allure. I’d much rather write a children’s picture book than write a plan for making sure I can eat in retirement.

WenLiangLuckily for me (and maybe a few of you?), one of our vendor sponsors at the upcoming Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference, is Wen-Liang Huang. Wen has been a financial advisor at Waddell & Reed in Bellevue for more than two years and in the industry for over five years. He describes his job as “providing investment and financial planning services that put your financial needs, goals and objectives first.” It turns out that financial planning is not one-size-fits-all. Wen says, “My goal is to develop a financial plan tailored specifically to your needs.”

Having experienced a recent, drastic change in my financial situation, I felt overwhelmed at first. But following Wen’s step-by-step suggestions proved to be helpful. The key is to start with the basics. Using the tools Wen provides to track fixed expenses, discretionary expenses, and income—while planning for emergency needs and managing debt—I’m figuring out my current financial picture. After that I can think about planning for retirement.

Others may be more interested in achieving specific financial goals, such as educational expenses or transferring wealth to loved ones in the future. It reassures me to know that Wen has had extensive training. (Just take a look at all the letters after his name!) One of these prestigious designations, Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC®), is described as “the highest standard of knowledge and trust in financial planning.”

When you visit our vendor booths this year, consider talking more with Wen about the financial advising services he provides, and while you’re there, sign up to win a $25 Starbucks gift card.

In addition to learning about their services, another reason to visit all of our vendors at the conference is the chance to win a prize in our fun Vendor Scavenger Hunt drawing. If you haven’t registered yet for the Renewal, sign up today!

Help with Quoting Scripture in Your Writing—and More

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

Christian writers often quote the Bible in their manuscripts, but many are unaware of the proper way to handle such quotations.

“As you research or write, keep track of which versions of Scripture you quote,” recommends Redemption Press senior editor Inger Logelin. “That way, you—or the editor—won’t have to do a ‘treasure hunt’ at the end of the project to identify each one.”RedemptionPress

Redemption Press, one of this year’s sponsors at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, is offering free Quick Looks appointments on both days of the event. The offer is for authors who are considering using the publisher’s services.

During each 15-minute appointment, Inger Logelin will examine the author’s manuscript and offer brief overview comments and editing suggestions, such as these three additional guidelines for handling Scripture in written materials:

  • Note each Scripture version used on the copyright page.
  • If you use one version throughout your article or book, it is not necessary to add the version in the text. But if you use more than one version, note the version abbreviation in the reference. For example: “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness” (Psalm 86:11 NIV).
  • Set lengthier sections of Scripture in block quotations, which do not normally begin or end with quotation marks.

By signing up for an appointment at the Redemption Press booth, you can have your questions answered before turning in your manuscript. Discover potential editing issues, learn what constitutes “fair use” of quoted material, find out what formatting mistakes not to make, and avoid reoccurring grammar or spelling errors. Conferees can also enter a drawing for two free mentoring sessions that will be given away at the conference.

The Quick Looks opportunity made available by Redemption Press is just one of the exciting features you’ll discover at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal on May 13 and 14. If you haven’t already registered to attend, don’t wait. Sign up now!

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Doc Hensley Explains the Art of Pitching

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley has probably lost count of the number of conferences he’s spoken at over the years. He’s taught workshops, served on panels, presented manuscript makeovers, met personally with conferees, and often served as the keynote speaker. Through it all—and while pitching some of his own 60 published books—he’s learned from his publishing colleagues what impresses editors and agents the most during their appointments with conferees.

DocExplainsPitchingAs director of the Professional Writing department at Taylor University (Upland, IN), Dr. Hensley shares this knowledge with his students, along with readers of his column in Christian Communicator magazine. Now he’s letting Renewal conferees in on the secrets to effective proposal pitches.

The following article is an excerpt from the book Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects (by Dennis E. Hensley with Diana Savage), which will be released this August by Bold Vision Books.

MASTERING THE 15-MINUTE BOOK PITCH

Pop artist Andy Warhol once said that every person, sooner or later, enjoys 15 minutes of fame. In the arena of pitching book proposals, it comes down to 15 minutes of fame or 15 minutes of shame. When you attend a writers conference and schedule an appointment with a literary agent or book editor, you have 15 minutes—sometimes less—to convince that person your book is worth considering for publication and that you are someone this individual will want to do business with.

That’s not much time, so let’s talk about how to make those minutes count.

  1. Look professional. Although writers conferences are usually casual in attire, trying to convince someone to invest more than $35,000 to launch your book is big business. You need to look like someone who would appear impressive on talk shows, when giving speeches, and when meeting folks at autograph parties. First impressions are lasting ones.
  2. Have an actual book idea. Some would-be writers come up with a great title and even some clever research, but trained editors can see what would make a good article and what would actually sustain a full book. A published book usually is somewhere around two-hundred pages, with about four hundred words per page, which is 80,000 words. Thus, if you don’t have an idea that can be content heavy for 320 double-spaced manuscript pages, don’t waste the editor’s time.
  3. Know the competition. Anticipate that the agent or editor will ask you what else is on the market similar to your topic. It’s good that other books exist on your topic, because they show that other publishers have seen market value for it. Your job will be to explain how your book is different. Perhaps you have newer research, better photos or other graphics, a broader range of topics, exclusive interviews, distinctive sidebars or reading lists or quizzes. Emphasize how your book is unique and better than the competition. One special insider tip is this: Prove that your book will still be interesting a year from now when it finally gets into print and how it will contain enduring elements that will make it stay in print several years thereafter.
  4. Speak as though this person is a committee. Although you are addressing just one person, he or she will have to champion your book before a publication board. It will be made up of people from sales, publicity, layout and design, marketing, accounting, legal, and editorial departments. As such, explain how you will help to market the book via speaking engagements, blogging, social networking, library appearances, webinars, professional organizations, public readings, writers workshops, reviews, and autograph parties. Don’t give anyone on the board a reason to reject you.
  5. Sell yourself with wild abandon. No one likes a braggart, but when it comes to selling a book, you need to prove that you know what you’re talking about. You can do this by providing a résumé that stresses your education, your list of previous publications, any honors or awards you’ve received, and your professional credentials. Stress the research you conducted in preparing this book manuscript. Additionally, if you can produce a list of endorsements from people with name recognition, this will certainly work in your favor.
  6. Hand over a solid book proposal. Despite the fact that you will have a well-organized, extremely focused conversation with this agent or editor, you still will need to have a high-quality book proposal to leave with this person if he or she decides your book idea warrants publication consideration. Your cover letter will explain why you feel this publisher is right for your book; highlights of your career after age twenty; a terse description of your book (“The Help is about African-American maids who find ways to shame their oppressive suburban white employers during the 1960s”); mention of your best endorsements; and a word about your target readership. You’ll need to have from one to three fully completed chapters, a one-page biography (write about yourself in the third person), a table of contents that you may wish to expand into an outline, a one- or two-page synopsis of the entire book (yes, do tell the ending), and information about your personal platform.
  7. Anticipate blunt objections or questions. Editors may ask if the manuscript is “clean,” meaning void of mechanical writing errors. Say (truthfully) that you’ve had other eyes go over the entire book (professional editors or maybe members of your writers critique group). Editors may ask “Who cares?” about your topic. Have statistics ready, audience surveys, sales records of similar books. The editor may ask, “But who are you?” so have credentials and experience to show you are the perfect person to write and promote this book.

Contrary to common belief, editors come to writers conferences because they want to discover talented writers, and they want to find publishable books. How else can they stay in business? However, their greatest joy is to discover someone who is polished, professional, and savvy about writing and marketing books. This could mean a long-term working relationship. So, when the clock starts ticking, use every second to show that you came prepared to do business.

© 2016 by Dennis E. Hensley, all rights reserved

Learn more valuable tips from Doc Hensley at the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. Sign up today!

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Children’s Author/Illustrator Shares Secrets to Publishing Success

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

ChristaPierceLast year I received an enthusiastic e-mail from our conference’s retiring program coordinator, Clint Kelly, telling me he’d found another great workshop leader to keep in mind for the 2016 Renewal. As the new director of the conference, I was all ears.

He told me that the candidate was Christa Pierce, a recent Seattle Pacific University grad. Clint said she’d found a top agent and received a contract from Harper-Collins for a two-book deal. He added that she’d accomplished it while still a senior at SPU!

The first book she wrote and illustrated for kids four to eight years old is Do You Know That I Love You? “It’s a charmer,” Clint told me. “I sat in on a session she did at the SPU library, and she is as delightful as her book. A great sense of humor and very open about her experiences, including her work now on book #2 for Harper and why, after she completes that obligation, she will seek out a smaller publishing house.”

Christa, who is from Portland, Oregon, calls herself “a lover of tea and acrylic paint—but not together.” Her BA from SPU is in Illustration, with a Creative Writing minor. Her book has been featured on the Today Show, praised by Brooke Shields, and reviewed by The New York Times.

At the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Christa will teach two workshops:

Getting Started in Children's Publishing1) Getting Started in Children’s Publishing – Through her personal story of navigating the publishing world, Christa shares her accumulated knowledge of the industry. Included: helpful writing resources, plus how to find an agent, pitch your ideas, work with an editor, survive the editing process, promote your book, and successfully negotiate a contract. Time for Q&A included.

Secrets to Effective Illustrations for Children’s Books2) Secrets to Effective Illustrations for Children’s Books – Christa shares the “crash course” that trained her in illustrating children’s books when, at the beginning of her career, she interviewed with New York publishers. She will cover world-building, telling a second story through illustrations, deadline expectations, working with an author/designer/editor, layout for publication, and the visual elements that Caldecott-award judges look for. In class, view actual sketchbooks, in-process work, and correspondence between an editor and illustrator. Time for Q&A included.

When she’s not drawing, Christa loves to go to storytelling events, speak to students about the relevancy of the arts, meet other artists, and play with her puppy, Sir Lancelot.

To attend Christa’s workshops or to request an appointment with one of this year’s seven editorial reps, sign up for the Renewal today.

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Learn Dynamic Dialogue and Business Strategies from Author Darlene Panzera

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference

DarlenePanzeraIf you’re passionate about writing and serious about investing the necessary time, money, and effort it takes to improve your skills and get your projects in front of industry professionals, congratulations! You’re the CEO of your own business; it’s up to you to grow that business and keep good records.

In other words, you need a business plan.

Multi-published author Darlene Panzera knows all about business plans for writers, and she will share her knowledge and expertise at the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal in the following workshop:

Secure Success with the Right Business PlanSecure Success with the Right Business Plan – As the CEO of your writing career, you need a concise map of what you want to achieve and the steps you’ll need to get there. Learn how to put together a professional business binder that will include an action plan for your writing, a mission statement, business strategy, marketing plans, and detailed pages for tax deductions. Templates are provided so you can walk out the door with your plan in hand.

As the successful author of sweet, fun-loving romances, Darlene will also teach the following workshop:

Bring Your Writing to Life with Dynamic DialogueBring Your Writing to Life with Dynamic Dialogue – No matter what you write—fiction, nonfiction, magazine articles, or even poetry—most likely you will include dialogue in your work. In this class you will learn how to properly construct lines of attention-grabbing, “dynamic” dialogue and how to make those dazzling words work on multiple levels to advance the story, add subtext, reflect point-of-view, flavor the prose with personality, and effectively hook your reader.

“I love writing stories that inspire people to laugh, value relationships, and pursue their dreams,” Darlene says.

To meet her and learn from her workshops, sign up for the Renewal today.

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.