Stocking Gift Now Can Mean Career Boost Next May

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

What’s the one thing that some writers say is the most responsible for advancing their literary careers?

A writers conference.

christmas-stockinggraphicYes, at conferences you can meet industry professionals face to face and learn writing techniques directly from published authors. Critique sessions allow you to discuss your works in progress (WIPs) and hash out specific paragraphs or plot puzzles. Spending time with likeminded folks greatly increases your chance of forming strong relationships within the writing community.

Over the past few decades I’ve attended more than three dozen writing seminars and conferences. Here are just a few of the ways I’ve benefited:

  • Thirty years ago at a Portland conference, I met a novelist who invited me to join her critique group. I accepted—and I’m still a member to this day.
  • I first connected with my agent at a February conference on a Washington beach.
  • I met one of my coauthors at a two-day conference held at a Seattle-area church.
  • Other connections have resulted in book contracts, magazine assignments, and clients for my editing business.

While the perks of attending writers conferences are well-established, some people find registration costs to be a significant hurdle.

In case you’re one of those people, here’s an idea. Consider letting friends and family members know you would welcome a monetary gift in your Christmas stocking that you could use on registration fees. If gift-givers aren’t able to help financially, perhaps they’d be interested in offering childcare or another type of service that would enable you to get away for a couple of days.

You can choose from a number of excellent conferences available nationwide. But as director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, of course I think your best option is our own event coming up May 5–6, 2017.

The keynote speaker will be writer, director, and film producer Bill Myers of McGee and Me fame. This winner of seventy national and international awards has written more than 125 published books for children and adults. His book and DVD titles have sold more than eight million copies worldwide. When I met Bill last January while we were both teaching at the same university, I realized the wealth of knowledge he can offer writers at any level of expertise.

At the 2017 Renewal you’ll also learn from literary agents, acquisitions editors, multi-published authors, and other industry professionals. We’ll be using the lovely venue we enjoyed last year: Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Washington.

Some information is already up on our website, and more will be added soon. Registration will be ready to open in a few weeks. Check the site often for new details.

If upcoming holidays don’t bring you enough financial gifts to cover the entire cost of the conference, here are a couple of other ways to stretch your dollars.

NCWA’s board has authorized two full scholarships to be awarded to applicants. (Details on the website soon.) Also, some full and partial scholarships are available for those who take on certain conference responsibilities.

Whatever financial path you travel to attend the Renewal, prepare to be inspired and equipped—even if Santa ends up having little to do with your getting there.

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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.

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.

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.

Sarah Joy Freese and Her Ninja Editing Skills

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

SarahJoyFreeseBefore becoming an agent with WordServe Literary, Sarah Joy Freese served as senior editor with Anaiah Press. One author was so happy with Sarah Joy’s assistance, in the book’s acknowledgements, she praised her editor’s “ninja editing skills.”

Another author called it a privilege to work with Sarah Joy and said that when she followed her editor’s advice, “I was able to mold a story into a work that I fell in love with all over again.” During the process, however, the author felt overwhelmed by the task of revision.

Sarah Joy encouraged her. “Don’t try to fix everything at once,” she said. “Go through each issue and focus on that issue.”

It worked. “Just to see each one of those edits get done stoked the kindling of the I-can-do-this feeling,” the woman reported.

In her capacity now as literary agent, Sarah Joy continues to offer the same kind of topnotch guidance and representation. She loves reading through queries, attending writing conferences to meet new excellent writers, and working with her authors on various proposals to make their manuscripts even stronger.

At the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Sarah Joy will offer insights concerning the editor/author relationship in her workshop:

How Agents Select AuthorsHow Agents Select Authors – Have you ever wondered exactly what an agent looks for when she considers your writing? Despite the changing tides of publishing, securing an agent is still an important part in the traditional publishing process. This session will discuss exactly what an agent is looking for in both fiction and nonfiction and will offer you tips for how best to capture the eye of an agent. Even if your book is not ready to see the light of day, much less an agent’s “desk” (read: email inbox), the more connections you have with an agent, the more he or she will remember you when the time comes for your work to be sent out.

Sarah Joy advises authors to be willing to be flexible during every part of the publishing experience. “Be patient when you are waiting,” she says, “work hard when you receive your edits, and work hard on social networking. Become an author an editor wants to work with.”

She received her bachelor’s degree in English and communications from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She also has an MA (emphasis in creative writing) and an MLIS degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Sarah Joy is married and enjoys life with her husband, sons, and two birds, Brewster and Beamer. When she’s not working, she enjoys crocheting, watching NCIS and Grey’s Anatomy, and playing Euchre.

To hear Sarah Joy’s expertise and/or to request an appointment with her or with one of our six other 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.

Miralee Ferrell Returns to Sign More Authors with Mountain Brook Ink

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal

MiraleeFerrellMiralee Ferrell, representing Mountain Brook Ink, came to the 2015 Northwest Writers Renewal looking for new authors to sign. “We were asking the Lord to bring the authors and manuscripts that we could believe in and bless,” she says.

That prayer was answered when she met with NCWA member Janalyn Voigt.

“I could tell that Miralee understood the heart of my western historical romance stories,” says Janalyn. “They’re not cookie-cutter fare, which means they don’t fall into neat categories. I do my best to cut through the mythos and recreate the West as it might really have been. I don’t sugarcoat violence, but neither is it glorified. My books are about people with very real problems not unlike those we face today. I want them to be as realistic as possible.”

After Miralee and Janalyn discussed how some novels glamorize the West, Miralee declared, “I want real!”

Janalyn was won over, and she signed a three-book contract in October 2015. “I’m so glad to be working with someone I trust as a friend and admire as a writer to bring these stories to life.” The books in Janalyn’s Montana Gold series are slated to be released in 2017 and 2018.

Miralee will return to the Renewal in 2016. This year she is teaching two workshops:

Take Fiction to the Next Level1) Take Fiction to the Next Level by Deepening Your Characters – What elements help bring a story to life? What books have been most memorable to you? The ones with a strong plotline, or strong, memorable characters? Both can work, but if you have a strong plot and weak characters, you’ll lose your reader quickly. This class will give you ways to make your main characters more memorable and keep your reader glued to the page. Find out what you can do to help bring your characters to life.

What to Do When the Screen Goes Blank2) What to Do When the Screen Goes Blank: Help for Writer’s Block – The phenomenon of writer’s block has had many a writer burning the midnight oil trying desperately to come up with words that will work. In a world of fast-paced deadlines and unpredictable audiences, it is a writer’s worst nightmare. While the reasons for writer’s block can’t always be pointed to one particular problem, its solutions are usually simple. This class will give you practical, everyday ideas on how to break through when you’re stuck. Don’t let writer’s block stop you from writing that next best seller!

At editorial appointments with conferees, Miralee will look for traditionally published authors who want to present something new or release their out-of-print books in e-book and paperback formats, while realizing a higher royalty rate than they originally received. She’s also interested in authors who want to write in genres that don’t work for their publishers, or debut authors with fresh ideas. A three-book series will get preference over a standalone novel at this point, although Miralee is willing to consider a standalone. The categories she needs the most right now are historical and YA, as well as new titles for her “Finding Love In” line of romances.

She accepts fiction in two general areas. The first is inspirational fiction in almost any genre (except children’s or middle-grade fiction). The second is general-market fiction. Although by definition it doesn’t have a faith thread, it must nevertheless be clean and contain no sexual content or offensive language.

To attend Miralee’s workshops or to request an appointment with her or one of the other six editorial representatives at this year’s conference, register 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.