Personal Loss Led Melissa K. Norris to Being Published

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal

A decade ago, Melissa K. Norris suffered a medical emergency and deep personal loss. During recovery, she read Francine Rivers’ novel, The Scarlet Thread. That book changed Melissa’s life.

“I realized how far I’d drifted from God,” she says now. “I had been trying to break into the secular market with my writing. But then and there, I vowed that any books flowing from my hand would be dedicated to Jesus. I wanted to write something that would help turn someone back to God when they lost their way.”

MelissaKNorrisPinableThe manuscript she subsequently wrote landed her an agent. Her debut book, The Made-from-Scratch Life: Simple Ways to Create a Natural Home, will be released February 2016 by Harvest House Publishers.

“Every hardship has taught me something I wouldn’t have learned if life had kept flowing along without any bumps,” she says. “God has used many more incidences to draw me closer to him. The one thing I know for certain is that no matter what horrible thing happens in life, he has the power to transform it into something good. And he does.”

At the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Melissa will lead a WriteCoach Lab and also co-teach a workshop:

BYOD- Deciphering Pinterest1) BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): Deciphering Pinterest (WriteCoach Lab, Friday, May 15) – Would you like to learn how to use Pinterest to promote your writing? Could you benefit from some guidance in converting to a Pinterest business account, creating a branded bio, verifying your website, or taking advantage of Pinterest Goodies? Bring all your questions, along with your own device—laptop, netbook, tablet, smartphone, etc.—for on-the-spot answers from Pinterest guru Melissa K. Norris.

Driving Traffic to Your Website2) Driving Traffic to Your Website (Workshop, Saturday, May 16, with Janalyn Voigt) – Many writers have great blogs, awesome books, and beautiful websites—but no visitors. Melissa and Janalyn will share how they get thousands of visitors to their websites every month and will demonstrate logical steps, not just to build traffic, but also to engage visitors so they return. Learn why you should have an e-mail list and which service is recommended. They’ll discuss blogging as content marketing, how to boost a site in search engines, the role of social media in attracting website visitors, and their best tips on how most effectively to build website traffic. They’ll discuss what worked and what didn’t in their own attempts. Attendees will also be able to obtain discounted access to their Mailchimp tutorial.

Melissa is an author, newspaper columnist, radio-show host, blogger, homesteader, and contributor to the New Pioneer magazine, Self-Reliance Illustrated, and Traditional Cooking School by GNOWFGLINS (God’s Natural, Organic, Whole Foods, Grown Locally, In Season).

Growing up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, Melissa now enjoys her own little house in the big woods where she lives with her husband and two children in the Cascade Mountains. Her books and articles are inspired by her family’s small herd of beef cattle, her amateur barrel-racing days, and her forays into quilting and canning—“without always reading the directions first,” she cheerfully admits.

To learn from Melissa’s wisdom about the Internet, pioneering, and watching God turn tragedy into triumph, sign up today for the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal.


DianaSavageDiana Savage, 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 is also director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. Her latest book is 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times.


Why We Created a Shareable Image for Each WriteTech Conference Workshop

A  shareable image was created for each workshop to be presented at our  WriteTech Conference to give our social media campaign serious wallop and an extended reach.

A one-page flier is a great place to start your conference promotion, but it’s only a starting point. There are many reasons to put the extra effort into making individual images.

WriteTech image blog

  • To draw in attendees interested in a specific topic.
  • Give each presenter some well-deserved limelight.
  • Make it easy for presenters to promote through their own social media channels.
    (hey, they’re busy creating awesome content for your conference!)
  • Images draw more shares, likes, retweets, and traffic than text-only posts.
  • Daily posting was always fresh with a new image.
  • Images double as door signs during the conference for continuity.

NCWA no longer buys newspaper ads or mailing lists, so social media is our primary publicity vehicle. Besides, social media is where all the cool people hang out all day, anyway.

Let’s face it.

Instead of #amwriting we’re actually #amFacebooking!

NCWA is blessed to have a talented Publicity Coordinator, Kim Vandel, who used Canva to create the eye-candy for our January 24, 2015 WriteTech Conference.

Canva has a lot of free “elements”  to use in creating, but if you do buy an image or element, they’re only $1 each. Canva is great because they’ve already figured out the size for you. If you want an image for a Twitter post, you pick that template, without worrying about how wide or high it’s supposed to be.

If people aren’t creative, there are pre-made images to customize, and Canva also has plenty of tutorial videos available on their site. Canva makes it pretty easy to look professional.

These are the twelve workshops we’re offering at the WriteTech conference. You can read the full workshop descriptions  on the NCWA website. You can see that the images had great reach by being shared first by NCWA on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and blogs. The reach is increased when you combine the following of each person who posts the images in their individual circles.

Cool Tools

To see these images used on Twitter, find NCWA at @NWCWriters. Dennis cloud technologyDennis Scrivener From Frantic to Fierce- To see this image displayed on Kim’s blog sidebar, go to impression (1) Maria tweet like a proThese images were also pinned to the board called Writing Conferences on Pinterest.

Feel free to follow all the boards from NCWA where we hang out as The Christian Writer’s Coach.
Maria twitter 101 MSWord Uncensored-Marlene McCurley used this image on a blog post and on her Facebook fan page. Since she has an editing business and is the Editors Connection Coordinator for NCWA, she will have some wisdom and experience to share.
sandwich Blog About BookTo see this image hanging around the sidebar of a blog, visit You Want to Indie Publish-!-!

Lynnette Bonner posted this on her Facebook Author Page to show her followers her latest event. As a successful indie publisher, often in Amazon’s top lists, and founder of Indie Cover Design, she already has a following of readers and fellow indie publishers.

#WriteTech2015 workshop "Get Good at Goodreads and Gain a Hoard of Raving ReadersThese visuals were created and given to each presenter to use in their own social media circles. In a smaller version, they could be used on a blog sidebar or in an email signature.

These shareable images were combined with the TweetSheet Kim designed, a Twitter cheat sheet with click-to-tweets, to create a social media package that was easy and enticing to use.

Creating a shareable image for each conference workshop gives your social media campaign greater reach, makes it more attractive, and draws in people by highlighting specific topics or presenters.

And now that you’ve seen all these images, don’t you want to attend WriteTech?

Thought so.  You can register here.


Mindy Headshot smaller

 Mindy Peltier has a passion to conquer the digital world, despite growing up in the years before computers. Born in 1964, she is officially one of the last Baby Boomers. She’s been blogging at “In the Write Moment” since 2007 and has spent years trying to finish a historical Christian fiction novel.

She’s the president of Northwest Christian Writers Association, Director of the WriteTech conference, and is a member of Oregon Christian Writers and American Christian Fiction Writers. She and her husband Scott are blessed with six kids and four grandkids.  @MindyJPeltier


Wowful (not Woeful) Websites

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


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 illustrates both very well.)

Laura 4

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 ( 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.


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

Caleb Breakey’s Golden Rule of Technology

Written by Ginger Kauffman, NCWA member and Conference volunteer


My first meeting of NCWA last September was a little overwhelming. The location had changed since the one meeting I’d attended before so I got lost — really lost. I missed some of the preliminaries at the meeting and was unsure of protocol. But when I left I was sure of two things: I would keep coming back, and I would attend the technology conference that was announced.

On January 25, 2014,  I joined 60 other people for the first ever Christian Writer’s Coach Technology Conference. People came from all over the state of Washington to glean from those who are using technology creatively and effectively and to network with others on the journey.

Golden Rule 3

The keynote speaker, Caleb Breakey, author of Called to Stay and Dating Like Airplanes, had a lot to say about gold in his keynote presentation, “The Golden Rule of Technology.”

“Technology isn’t your gold,” he said. “It’s what takes down the walls around your gold. Content is your gold. What has God put on your heart, and who needs it most?”

Caleb encouraged us to invest in our writing. Read good writers, keep writing, go to classes and conferences.Build up your gold account by becoming a better writer

TweetBuild up your gold account by becoming a better writer.

Give away your gold, he told us. “People notice free gold!” When Caleb wanted to reach out to teen writers he created an online community where he could mentor them. Through his website he strove to refine teen writers into “rock stars who were humble enough to listen and fearless enough to speak.” It was one way he was able to give away his gold.

As for those walls around your gold, those problems that stand in the way of getting published, use technology to bring them down. He encouraged writers to have a presence on social media. Not every avenue of social media will be a good fit for a writer. Find what works for you. Look into blogging, Twitter, Pinterest, other venues. Study them, and try them out. Decide for yourself if it’s something you want to incorporate into your writing life. “Stay at it long enough to fail, long enough to understand how it works. You have to fail to succeed.”

You know those rejection letters that can rip at your heart? Caleb’s suggestion is to consider them gold. They give you experience and insight into what you can do differently next time. How’s that for a positive outlook?

TweetConsider rejection letters gold.  They give you experience and insight into what you can do differently.

Three Things words

As a dedicated writer who can spend up to 16 hours a day at his craft, it was clear that Caleb practices what he preaches. He takes online classes every week — free classes he comes across as well as paid classes that will help hone his writing and his online presence. He currently has over 50,000 likes on his Facebook page, and he’s figured out the algorithms on Google so that his writing doesn’t get lost on the last pages of a search.

But it’s not just the things we do that make us writers. It’s that plus the God Things that happen — Him putting us in the right place at the right time, for example. Caleb shared a couple of personal stories how he “happened” to be in just the right place to meet people who took an interest in him and his writing and have played a significant role in his career. As Christian writers, we, too, can expect God Things.

Caleb Breakey words

Thanks to Caleb Breakey for his upbeat keynote address and for each one who led a workshop session. The day offered us great ideas to incorporate into our writing life. Let’s do this again next year!

TweetYour content, what God put on your heart, is gold @CalebBreakey

TweetAs Christian writers we can expect God Things @CalebBreakey


Ginger Kauffman from herGinger Kauffman has spent most of her life talking to people in her head. Now she’s letting her voice be heard on her blog, Three Minutes to Nine. She has written over 1,000 blog posts  about everyday life — telling family stories, encouraging through devotionals and hymns of the church, sharing good books and recipes, and introducing people who amaze her. She and her family live in Stanwood. 

Promote a Writers Conference with a Blog Button

As a kid, I counted the days until Christmas.  As an adult, I count the days until our writers conference, the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal.

52 more days!

In the very early years of advertising the conference,  the traditional plan was to buy mailing lists, buy newspaper ad(s), and hang up fliers on bulletin boards.  This worked  until people started seeking information through social media.  Most of the writers in our group grew up before computers, but we adjusted to the times.

Conference Brochure 2014

The front page of our brochure highlights keynoter T. Davis Bunn, a Writer In Residence at Regent’s Park College, Oxford University, and a prolific writer.  We want to spread the word so other writers can take advantage of this great opportunity.

blog button 2

Board member Kim Vandel created a blog button using the graphics from our brochure.  Blog buttons started out as just that – a small graphic, or button, with the logo of a blog used to brand and advertise a blog.  Usage has expanded beyond blogs, but the name remains.

When you add a text box and a headline to your blog button, it becomes a pinnable graphic for Pinterest.

Branding is a word tossed around a lot in a writer’s world and can be confusing to everybody except non-reading children.  They identify their favorite products and restaurants by logos.

Familiarity. Recognition. You see a smaller portion and identify it with the larger portion.

blog button copy xsmall

The buttons were made  available to Northwest Christian Writers Association members and conference registrants to share in their social media circles.

  • blog sidebar
  • website
  • email signature
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest(Hyperlinked words lead you to social media sites of NCWA.)blog button copyThe buttons are hyperlinked to the website so anybody that’s interested clicks the graphic to find the Renewal website. After they register, prepare their pitch and proposal, match their writing to the needs of the correct editor or agent,  they’ll attend, pitch, get published, become famous, and buy a yacht.

    Just kidding.  You knew that, right?

    Even though it’s a great dream, it won’t happen that fast.  But, the first step is definitely clicking the blog button.

blog button copyblog button copy xsmall

These blog buttons have a URL so they can be uploaded to a blog sidebar.  In WordPress go to WIDGETS > IMAGE.

Click on the blog button above you want to get the URL you need for the next step.

blog button tutorial

Drop it in the field that says IMAGE URL.


Here’s the cool part.

When you put the URL for the Renewal website in the bottom line, the button on your blog sidebar drives traffic to the website.  Ya’ know, so they can register for the conference, get discovered, get rich, and buy that yacht?

Now you have many ways to use these blog buttons to spread the word about the amazing Davis Bunn coming to our Northwest Christian Writers Renewal.

And you still have 52 days to do this…

What? I Need a Professional Author Headshot?

NCWA’s Mindy Peltier introduces photographer Taylor Rubart.


Mindy PeltierI’d rather gut a fish or clean a bathroom than have my picture taken.

There’s something about having everything I don’t like about myself frozen in time that gives me the heebie-jeebies. I’m usually on the “trigger” side of the camera, not the “cheese” side.

If you’re like me, when advised to get a professional headshot  to prove you’re serious about becoming a professional writer, you want to run and hide.

Besides, it takes money and time – two things most writers don’t have.  Most have a day job and a family, and write in the car, in doctor’s offices, and late at night while falling asleep on their keyboards.  And, they don’t get paid well for their writing.

Why is a professional headshot an important part of the writing equation?

  • It helps brand our image in social media. It’s suggested to use this on a business card, Facebook author pages, website, blogs, and one-sheets.
  • “A great headshot is key to presenting exactly the right image to the world, whatever you want that image to be,” says Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency. In other words, that picture of you at last summer’s picnic with your hubby cropped out isn’t going to kick it. It’s a great candid picture, but it’s not a professional shot.
  • Editors, agents, and publishers receive so many business cards, they can easily forgot you unless your professional headshot is on your card.

Like a kid, I dragged my feet on setting an appointment with a photographer. Then I heard some great news. Northwest Christian Writers Renewal is hosting Taylor Rubart Photography at their conference May 17-18 in Redmond to take author headshots.  I’ll already be at the conference,  I’ll  be dressed up,  have my hair combed, and  be in my “I’m a Real Writer” mood.  No more excuses.

Taylor RubartTaylor Rubart started seeing the world through a viewfinder when he received a two megapixel digital camera in the fifth grade.  Photography has remained a passion, although he’s upgraded to a Canon 60D.  He’s pursuing a major in Communications and a minor in Spanish at Western Washington University in Bellingham while building up his photography business.

Taylor’s vision for author headshots gives the extra push needed to make the appointment.  He’ll meet the writer, learn their genre, and where they’ll be using their photos.  The appropriate mood will be set with lighting and backdrops. If you write murder mystery, for example, you don’t want a bright smile.  Romance writers need to smile and have lightness in clothing and background.

He advises not to wear all black, all white or busy patterns.  He encourages to “wear something that makes you stand out, but makes people look at your face, not at what you’re wearing.”  For further tips on preparing for a quality photo shoot, check out Taylor’s website.

Taylor will take approximately 20-30 shots to ensure quality.  Each author will receive four fully edited headshots for $60. This is about a 50% savings from a studio shooting, where one author headshot could cost around $100. When I learned Taylor will edit the rosacea and the 6 ½ inch scar on my neck, that sealed the deal.  I don’t need to look like a model, just a little more like the real me.

Until Taylor lives his dream of being a destination wedding photographer, he’s excited about helping writers fulfill their dreams by shooting professional author headshots. (Click on link to see his examples.)  Taylor says, “I don’t just take pictures, I capture memories.”

No more excuses. He fits my budget, I don’t have to drive anywhere, and he promises to help me freeze myself in time with a professional photo I like.

How about you?  Are you ready to prove you’re serious about being a professional writer? No more excuses.

Walk-ins are welcome, but to assure a time slot, appointments can be made by contacting Taylor at

You can see more examples of his photography  at Taylor Rubart Photography on  Facebook.


Mindy Peltier has blogged over a thousand posts about her life as a Christian homeschooling mom, grandma, thyroid-cancer patient, and writer at In the Write Moment. She serves on the board of directors for the Northwest Christian Writers Association and is a member of the Oregon Christian Writers. As you can see, she is still using a candid photo for her social media presence. Mindy has been a member of NCWA since 2008. You will find her online at: