Misplaced Hopes and Realized Dreams: What the Renewal Conference has Meant to Me

by Sonja Anderson

NCWA Anderson SonjaThe first writing conference I ever went to was a Renewal Conference for the NCWA, back in the day when it was held at Seattle Pacific University. I had applied for, and received, a scholarship, which was the only way I felt comfortable about attending—I felt like too much a pretender to tell my husband I was going to spend money on a writing conference, of all things.

I had a draft of a novel, a bundle of nerves, and a lot of misplaced hope. Misplaced, because I thought the novel was ready, and because I thought that this was my one chance to get it published. Both were decidedly untrue.

Most people do come to a conference hoping for a connection that leads to a contract. My experience, after many conferences, both at NCWA and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and most recently at Connecting Writers with Hollywood, is that sometimes—sometimes—that dream is realized, and a lot of other good stuff can happen even when the dream of a contract isn’t realized.

My first children’s novel, Sophie’s Quest, was published without the benefit of meeting someone at a conference, but maybe going to conferences helped anyway. I was reminded, at the Renewal conference, of the Christian Writers Market Guide. I purchased a copy from the book table, contacted all of the relevant publishers, and ultimately got a “yes” from a publisher in England!

When Keys for Kids editor, Courtney Lasseter, led a workshop on writing devotionals for children at a conference a few years ago, I stopped by her room where she was giving appointments. When someone didn’t show up for their appointment, I was able to talk to her for a few minutes. I didn’t have a story, but I liked her, and we had a fun chat about what she was looking for. After a rejected attempt, this relationship has led to six published—and paid—stories for the magazine, and now she writes to me when she needs a new story.

Best of all, God used the 2019 Renewal conference to introduce me to a new publisher for Sophie’s Quest and the entire Adventures of Sophie Topfeather series, the same month my British publisher quit the business and gave me my rights back. What a blessing!

Looking back, my hopes at that first conference weren’t exactly misplaced. The conference was the right place to be. I had to bring my work up to industry standard and to stay in the game long enough for God to bring the right information, the right people, and the right opportunities to me, each at the right time. The Renewal Conference has been a faithful companion on the journey, helping me all along the way.

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Keys for Kids Elephant Cover (1)Anderson, SonjaSonja Anderson writes children’s literature from Burien, WA and lives with her husband and two daughters. She works full time in a local elementary school library where she feels like a spy, learning about all the newly-published books and seeing what books kids love.

Find out more at www.sonjaandersonbooks.com.

 

Genesis Parker, Conference Worship Leader

by Elizabeth Griffin

Worship at the 2018 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal will be led by Genesis Parker, the worship director at Living Hope Christian Fellowship.

One look at a photo of Genesis and you can tell she is filled with the joy of the Lord. We are going to have an awesome time of worship with her leading the way!

Genesis uses these words, among others, to describe who God created and called her to be: creative, writer, spirit-filled, musician-ray, heartist.

A worshiper and songwriter, Genesis has a passion to see people experience the presence of God through music in a way that is sincere, honest, and full of joy. She carries a powerful prophetic voice, and her worship is a unique combination of passion, faith, freedom, and confidence. Her desire is to see people’s lives transformed through the power of God’s presence, both inside and outside the walls of the church.

Genesis is a Northwest girl, born and raised. She grew up in a ministry family with a home full of music and has been involved with worship ministry in various capacities for over fifteen years. In addition to serving as worship leader at her church in Renton, she leads worship at various services, conferences, events, retreats, and camps.

Genesis is currently working on an album to be released in 2019 and hopes to travel and minister internationally in the coming years. She currently lives in Seattle with her husband, Jesse, who is also a pastor and writer.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.

Adria Goetz: Bringing a Millennial Perspective

by Elizabeth Griffin

Anyone who can develop and sell a book titled The Compendium of Magical Beasts: An Anatomical Study of Cryptozoology’s Most Elusive Beings has got to be incredibly imaginative, intelligent, and a bit quirky. Meet Adria Goetz from Martin Literary Management.

“The project idea—a coffee table book about the anatomy of magical creatures—was my brainchild, and I hand-picked the author and illustrator,” Adria says of the highlight thus far in her burgeoning career as a literary agent. “The author, Melissa Brinks, is a college friend of mine, and I knew her cheeky, quirky writing style would be perfect for it. And the illustrator, Lily Jones, is an incredibly talented Seattle-based artist. The whole experience has been delightful.”

This millennial brings a breath of fresh air to our Renewal with her long wish list that is as eclectic as her style seems to be. From picture books to YA to adult nonfiction, she’s willing to take a look at anything as long as it’s original and engaging.

“I love connecting with writers and editors at conferences, but I also love attending conferences because I always walk away feeling inspired and savvier because I always, always learn something new,” Adria says. “I like it when writers approach me with a question, rather than a pitch. You can pitch pretty much any agent online, but you can’t always get advice from an agent or pick their brain, which is the beauty of a conference!”

Adria lives in an old Victorian home in Tacoma with her high-school-sweetheart-who-became-her-husband in a wedding in the middle of the woods. They own two silver-furred kittens named Maple and Mulberry, and are about to begin the process of becoming licensed foster parents. She loves to paddle about in her bright yellow kayak that looks like a giant floating banana, enjoys eating and smelling anything lavender-flavored, and her favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes. She admits to stress baking, and if there was any biblical moment she could have witnessed, it would be when Jesus cooked breakfast for his friends on the beach.

Adria will teach the following workshops at this year’s Renewal:

Building Your Social-Media Platform – This presentation outlines the basics of how to build an engaged social media following that will catch the eye of agents and editors. It also offers time-and-sanity saving tips that will help you maintain a sustainable and successful social media presence. Workshop attendees will come away with a tangible to-do list.

Current Picture-Book Trends – A workshop that highlights and examines current trends in the general trade picture book market, and where those trends might be heading. Hear straight from an agent’s perspective what is selling, what isn’t, some dos and don’ts, which trends are over-saturated, and how to tap into trends in your own unique way. This presentation includes many quotes from editors and other industry professionals, and shows real deals that have taken place in the last six months.

Millennials Becoming Parents: The Future of Christian Picture Books – As Christian Millennials begin their families and become parents, their priorities will shape the fiction they want to buy for their children, which will in turn shape the landscape of Christian picture books. Workshop attendees will time travel to the near future and discuss the trends of Christian picture books. This workshop is a cheat sheet to help writers write the books that agents want to represent, editors want to acquire, and most importantly: the books children want to read. This presentation includes many quotes from editors and other industry professionals, and shows real deals that have taken place in the last six months.

To learn more about Adria and see her extensive wish list, check out her website. To attend her workshops or request an appointment with her, register for the 2018 Renewal.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.

Steve Barclift – Kregel Publications

by Elizabeth Griffin

Another veteran in the book business joins us this year at the Renewal. Steve Barclift has worked with books and authors for more than 30 years as a children’s book author and editor. He has been the managing editor at Kregel Publications since 1997.

Last year, Kregel was awarded Publisher of the Year by Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), and Steve was awarded Nonfiction Editor of the Year. He has been distinguished with several other awards during his long career, both as an author and editor.

Steve traveled from his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to this year’s Renewal in hopes of finding works that address a popular audience by relating the Bible to everyday life. Prominent on his wish list are works for moms and women; Bible studies or other books that relate truth to life; fiction, particularly historical; and books for young readers. Kregel is also looking for books that will help 20- and 30-something Christians and “seekers” relate to the culture around them.

It may be helpful to take a look at a few books that Steve lists as those that do well for Kregel. Two of these in the self-help category include Hope After Betrayal by Meg Wilson, which deals with a husband’s sexual addiction; and Autism’s Hidden Blessings: Discovering God’s Promises for Autistic Children and Their Families by Kelly Langston.

Fiction should be fresh, have a believable story line, and feature characters who engage life realistically and biblically. Steve lists Susie Finkbeiner’s A Trail of Crumbs: A Novel of the Great Depression and her recent bestseller, A Song of Home: A Novel of the Swing Era, as examples of fiction that sells well, in addition to Mercy’s Rain: An Appalachian Novel and Liar’s Winter: An Appalachian Novel, both by Cindy Sproles.

Kregel is also open to historical fiction that features a romantic element. Carolyn Miller’s Regency Series is selling very well. And the publisher will also consider romantic suspense.

For the Kregel Ministry line, Steve is looking for works that facilitate the study and teaching of the Bible. These books should reflect the needs and interests of a broad evangelical audience.

Though not looking for other genres, there is always a possibility that something masterfully written in a compelling and unique style will catch Steve’s eye, so feel free to pitch it.

To sign up for an appointment with Steve, be sure to register soon for the Renewal.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.

An Interview with Diana Flegal of Hartline Literary Agency

by Elizabeth Griffin

EG: In your career of working with books and authors, what has been the highlight—e.g., working with specific authors or on specific projects?

DF: Truthfully, I enjoy all aspects of working with writers; the fledgling and the accomplished. I particularly enjoy brainstorming fiction plot developments and nonfiction chapter outlines and book titles. Hanging out with such creative minds always infuses me with high energy. It is a total rush to hold a book in your hands you have played a role in getting to market that contributes to honest and worthy conversations.

EG: Why do you come to conferences like our Northwest Christian Writers Renewal— what do you like about them? What is the best way to approach you at an event?

DF: I enjoy meeting and speaking with the conferees. The various ways a writers mind entertains a thought amazes me. Even on similar topics, they come at them with such unique perspectives.

The best way to approach me is first as a fellow word lover, then, as one who might have a helping word. I tend to shy away from the one who believes they heard from God I am to represent their writing. If God has told you that, keep it to yourself, and let God tell me. Then we will both be delighted at the prospect of working together.

EG: How do you interact with authors whom you represent? Can you explain briefly the process you go through of preparing and selling their book to a publisher?

DF: My clients and I go back and forth polishing their proposals in an attempt to answer ahead of time any questions a publisher might have in regarding the merits of their title. In the midst of that process, I will prepare a list of publishers looking for a book of its genre, and prepare a query letter which I will tweak to each publisher’s unique list. When it is ready to go, I will place it on five to six desks simultaneously, and we will wait three months max to hear back from them. At the 1½-month period, I will make a phone call or frame a nudge e-mail. Though it is rare, a submission can end up going astray or into a spam folder. If we have received any helpful rejection letters, or an offer to make a change and come back to them, my client will rewrite, and we will then begin a second round of submissions, hopefully resulting in a sale. The one exception is for “requested by a publisher titles.” I will follow up on those in two weeks with a phone call.  In the waiting, we will work on various ways to further develop my clients platform and career. I will send them opportunities I learn of for them to contribute to anthologies, or write and submit an article on an area of their expertise.

EG: Anything about your personal life you care to share that helps us get to know you and feel more comfortable?

DF: I am an encourager and caregiver on personality assessments. I stick with my clients through many ups and downs, longer than many other agents might. I no longer question if this is a negative in this line of work. I believe I am where God has placed me. Though this business is challenging in this present economy and political environment, I am grateful to work in the CBA and ABA publishing markets.

Diana Flegal has been an agent with Hartline Literary Agency for eleven years. She represents mainstream and inspirational titles, fiction and nonfiction, but nothing that conflicts with the Christian worldview. She is currently looking for nonfiction authors who have a substantial platform, as well as outstanding contemporary women’s fiction, issue fiction, and formula romance. When she is not reading submissions or stealing away with a recreational read, she is hiking in the mountains or kayaking the many lakes of her home state, North Carolina.

Please bring the following to your appointment:

  • A one-sheet that includes a tagline, back of the book blurb, and short bio
  • A synopsis if fiction, or a chapter outline if nonfiction
  • A list of the social media you are currently using and the number of followers for each one
  • Your marketing strategy (what you plan to do to help promote and market your book)
  • The first chapter of your manuscript
  • A notebook and pen/pencil

Diana will teach two workshops at the Renewal this year:

First Lines and Great Beginnings – This is a fun and interactive class where first line and opening page examples will be shared in a safe and friendly environment. Fellow conferees will be asked to honestly express if they would read on. Suggestions will be offered to improve the chances a reader would read on.

The Agent Author Relationship – Do I need an agent? If so, when do I need one? What does an agent do? And…what should I do that an agent won’t? Understanding the relationship between the author and agent is paramount to a successful career. In this class, you will learn what to expect and what is expected of you as an author. A Q&A time will end the workshop and a writer’s resource list will be offered.

To request an appointment with Diana and also attend her workshops, be sure to register soon for the Renewal.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.

Steve Laube: Eclectic Experience in the Marketplace of Books

by Elizabeth Griffin

Steve Laube is well-known by regular attendees at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. A literary agent and president of the Steve Laube Agency, he’s been in the book industry for over 37 years, first as a bookstore manager, then with Bethany House Publishers, and now as an agent. He and his agency have represented more than 1,500 new books. In addition, he is the publisher at Enclave Publishing and serves as president and owner of The Christian Writers Institute and author of The Christian Writers Market Guide and Book Proposal Tips and Tricks.

Of all the roles he plays, Steve loves being an agent most because it involves all the fun of publishing with none of the meetings. Like a parent, he loves working with all of the authors he represents equally and says they are each wonderful in and of themselves. Each project moves along at its own pace, with some taking months to develop a strong proposal and others only days.

Steve will be looking for the following at this year’s Renewal:

  • Fiction – women’s fiction, romance, thriller, suspense, romantic suspense, literary, military, historical (all eras), contemporary, science-fiction, fantasy, supernatural, YA … in other words, every genre published in the industry.
  • Nonfiction – Christian Living, biography, apologetics, theology, Bible study, reference, health, finance, self-help, psychology, grief, suffering, marriage, family, women’s, men’s, philosophy, church life, devotional, inspirational, social issues, politics, parenting, music, and art.

According to Steve, “The subjects are vast and the opportunities endless.”

On a more personal level, Steve has been married for 36 years. He and his wife have three married daughters and one grandson. He lives in Arizona, but enjoys visiting Seattle because his 93-year-old mother lives here. He reads about 100 novels a year for relaxation after work and teaches the Bible in an expositional style each Sunday.

Steve will teach these workshops at the Renewal:

Landmines in Your Book Contract – A look at some of the more egregious things that can be found in your book contract. Contracts are a legally binding agreement. What is signed must be followed. Unfortunately, there are certain clauses that can bite authors if they are unaware of their implications. Using real examples from real contracts, this class will take a close look at clauses being placed in front of authors today. This is a rather advanced topic. Be prepared to wear your lawyer hat!

The Complete Book Process: From Idea to Print – What is the route a book takes while in-house?  How the writer can help or hinder? Discover what happens along the entire process inside a publishing company. From book proposal evaluation to pub board decision making to editorial responsibilities to cover design issues and more, this information is applicable whether one is working with a traditional publisher or is publishing independently.

Writing the Nonfiction Book – There are common elements in nonfiction books that contribute to their success. This class will explore them and help apply the elements to your work. Issues of craft, presentation of ideas, and connecting with the reader will be discussed.

Check out all the workshops being offered this year.To request an appointment with Steve, register soon for the Renewal.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.

Nick Harrison: A Friendly Face Returns to the Renewal

by Elizabeth Griffin

Nick Harrison is a familiar face at the annual Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, and we are thrilled to have him return again this year. His friendly demeanor makes him approachable and invites questions that he is highly capable of answering after many years in the book business.

Nick started out as a bookseller and then moved on to a successful 15-year stint as an editor at Harvest House. When he retired from there, he chose to begin working as an agent for WordServe Literary. Nick says, “I love this industry and hope to stay in it as long as I can.”

WordServe Literary was formed by Greg Johnson. Nick has found Greg to be a helpful mentor in his transition from editor to agent.

“The great thing about being an agent is that if I love a certain proposal and it finds rejection at one publisher, I can keep championing it to other publishers. As an editor, if I loved a proposal and it turned out not to be a good fit and had to be rejected, that was the end of my relationship with that proposal,” Nick says.

As an agent, Nick expected to represent several fiction authors, but so far he only represents one and has another under serious consideration. He also represents an author of children’s books. He has found himself taking on projects he never thought would exist, and he likes the surprises he’s encountered so far on this journey.

In addition to representing authors, Nick has authored 10 books of his own. Several of these are devotionals and prayer books that can be seen on his website and Amazon.com.

Nick’s next release is called One-Minute Prayers for Those with Cancer. It’s the book he wishes didn’t have a market.

Nick loves what he does and especially enjoys meeting new writers and helping guide them in their writing career. Be sure to say hello to him at the Renewal. He is looking for adult fiction in all genres except speculative fiction. For nonfiction, he will look at self-help, spiritual growth, social issues, women’s books, men’s books, and personal experience books if the lessons from the experience are applicable to a large segment of the population. He is not looking for children’s books, prophecy, poetry, or gift books.

Nick will teach these workshops at the Renewal:

Common Mistakes Writers Make and How to Correct Them by Nick Harrison – In addition to having been an editor at Harvest House Publishers, Nick is also a writer. He understands the frustrations every writer faces. To the beginner, he can offer to show his pile of rejection slips.  To the advanced, he can offer to show his pile of rejection slips. Becoming a published writer takes time, talent, and persistence. The mistakes Nick will talk about are indeed common—and he says he has made them all.

What to Do When You Don’t Have a Platform by Nick Harrison – Writers hate the word platform, but increasingly it can make the difference between a book sale to a publisher…or rejection. While slowly building your platform, there are some things you can do to compensate for not having a platform. We’ll look at some of those ideas. (For fiction and nonfiction authors.)

Check out the rest of the workshops being offered at this year’s Renewal. To request an appointment with Nick, register soon.

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In addition to writing and editing a monthly lifestyle newspaper for 10 years, Elizabeth Griffin elizabeth_griffin2has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, along with the books Fragile X, Fragile Hope: Finding Joy in Parenting a Child with Special Needs and Margot’s Story. Elizabeth’s favorite subject matter is true stories of redemption. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 16 years. Her recent adventures include directing communications for an international missions group and public relations for Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, and blogging at Follow the Dots.