6 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid at a Writers Conference

by guest blogger Katelyn S. Bolds, web writer and social media strategist

1.  Bring snacks

Don’t make the mistake of not planning for meals. Have a little snack stashed in your attaché for a slow moment. Don’t let your stomach growl when pitching your book! Bring a granola bar or trail mix as a speedy way to subdue your hunger. Choosing protein and low-sugar options will help keep your energy levels up and prevent you from crashing in the mid-afternoon slump.6-rookie-mistakes

2.  Make goals

Attending a conference with no goals in mind is a complete waste of money. Even if your goal is “find out what my goal should be,” you should still have some in mind.

Make a list of the editors and agents you want to meet with or touch base with. Do your homework and research them online. Try to find out interests, and see if your story would fit well for them. If an agent only works with fiction, don’t try to get them to make an exception for your manuscript.

3.  Avoid burnout

Know what is the right amount of conference for you. When you start to feel overwhelmed, leave the conference. Go outside, take a nap, call your family. Skipping meals or sleep will not impress anyone, but rather give the impression that you are inexperienced and unprofessional. Everyone needs a break after a long conference, but rest assured you can recover.

Read more here about avoiding conference burnout.

4.  Network and connect

Don’t underestimate the power of connections and friendships made at conferences! Use your time between sessions to speak with those around you. Swap struggles and tips with other writers and make sure to get names and e-mails if you feel the connection has potential. Writer friends are important for support, idea generation, and later networking opportunities. Be kind and see where it might lead!

5.  Pitch perfectly

Know your story backwards and forwards. It’s hard to sell a story short and sweet, but shoot for the style of a back cover. Focus on the main plot and emotional draw. In three to five sentences, explain the mass appeal of your work and why the publisher should be interested. Be polite, but don’t waste time chatting about the weather or the conference. The agent or editor is there to hear your pitch.

6.  Follow up and follow through!

Follow up with everyone you spoke with for more than a few minutes. Send them a thank you e-mail referencing interesting conversation points you discussed and tell them it was nice to meet them. This little touch will remind them who you are and set you apart from the crowd.

Follow through with anyone who asked you to send them something. If an editor asks you to tweak your story before sending them your manuscript, don’t let pride or lack of time stand in your way. Send it to them with haste! You may find that they are willing to work with you in the future, knowing how dedicated you are to impressing them.

Now that you know the rookie mistakes to avoid at writers conferences, be sure to sign up for the 2017 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal!


katelynsbolds_headshotKatelyn S. Bolds balances work as web editor, author services extraordinaire, and freelance writer. She is married to coffee; also her husband. At times this DIY life might get a little crazy, but she takes it one day at a time. A little yoga, a lot of organization, and a holistic approach make for a Bold Life. Follow her on Twitter, (@KatelynSBolds), Facebook, and Pinterest.



Peggy King Anderson Makes Mulch for Marketable Stories

 By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal

What do wet newspapers, cardboard, manure, and peat moss have to do with writing?

Children’s author Peggy King Anderson knows. And she enjoys spilling the secret.

“Just as layering yucky-sounding ingredients can produce a nutritious soil for growing wonderful gardens,” Peggy explains, “so also authors can layer their life experiences in order to write exciting and hopeful stories for kids.”

PeggyKingAndersonPinablePeggy has had plenty of experience in turning personal mulch into marketable writing for children’s magazines. Her story, “The Long March,” about the 1838 Potawatomi Trail of Death (forced Indian removal to the West) appeared in Highlights for Children. “Scaredy Cat,” a story dealing with children’s fears in the aftermath of 9/11, appears on the website of Pockets magazine, a publication for which she writes regularly.

At the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Peggy will teach a workshop on writing for children:

The Lasagna Garden: How to Grow Hopeful Stories for Kids

The Lasagna Garden- How to Grow Hopeful Stories for KidsPeat moss and cardboard, wet newspapers and manure. Sounds yucky, but layer it all and you have a lasagna garden that can grow something yummy. In this workshop, you’ll learn three fun ways to turn the layers of your life into exciting and hopeful stories for kids.

Peggy has just agreed to write a new monthly series, which will run from 2016 to 2018, for Pockets magazine. “It’s exciting to brainstorm this new series and start on the stories,” she says. “It’s also a great opportunity for me to use all those lasagna garden layers!”

Books she has authored include First Day Blues, Safe at Home, Coming Home, and A Horse’s Tale. Books she contributed to include Princess Natoree and the Tree Climber, and The Blood Jewel. The Fall of the Red Star (with Helen Szablya) was published in Hungarian as A Vörös Csillag Lehull and was featured on Children’s Book TV.

For more than twenty years, Peggy has taught creative writing in community colleges and at writers conferences. As a contract instructor, she also teaches creative writing to students in kindergarten through high school.

Writers attending Peggy’s workshops find her natural enthusiasm so infectious that they sometimes call her a cheerleader. “That’s not all bad!” she responds with her trademark grin.

You can catch that same infectious enthusiasm by signing up today for the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, May 15–16.


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.

Mass at Notre-Dame (or, How to Write a Found Poem) by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Kimberlee Conway IretonKristin LeMay’s I Told My Soul to Sing is a beautiful book. As I read, I kept thinking, “Now that is just like a line of poetry.”

And I wasn’t talking about the Emily Dickinson poems that are scattered throughout the book like so much beach glass winking in the sun. I was talking about LeMay’s prose itself, which is lyrical and lovely—hardly surprising from a writer steeped in the language of Emily Dickinson and Anglican liturgy.

So when I sat down to write this post about “How to Write a Found Poem,” I knew I was going to use LeMay’s book as my found-poem source. It’s chock-full of poems waiting to be discovered, so I started skimming, reading a paragraph here, a sentence there, and then—this:

I never entered the cathedral without thinking of Claudel, wondering which was the pillar, as if by standing beside it I could know the same overthrow. Pushed aside that day, I watched as the procession came in pairs, first choirboys, priests in cassocks and nuns in veils, then candle bearers, thurifer and crucifer, the Word luminous in silver casing, and a whole cast of celebrants in embroidered chasubles and copes, glimmering in the half-light, and then last of all and all on his own, the bishop of Paris. I knew him by his miter and the wooden shepherd’s crook he carried. As they passed, the always-new-yet-familiar feeling began to stir in me, like starlings’ wings before they rise. Then—out of nowhere and for no reason, yet undeniably as light or honey—the bishop of Paris looked me in the eye; his own eyes simmered with the hint of a laugh. I thought, inexplicably, “I know him.” Then he inclined his head to me—to me—a tiny bow—I was standing among thousands—and whispered to me, “Bonjour.” I knew at once that it was not him but God who was greeting me.

As I read, I could see the pairs of choirboys and priests and celebrants parading in the half-light down the page of a poem and then the bishop—himself—alone. I liked the pairing of overthrow and pushed aside; the image of starlings’ wings, of light and honey. Yes—this would make a fine poem.

My first task was to axe the last line. It works fine in the context of LeMay’s prose, tying this paragraph to the ones before and after, but it’s too pedantic for a poem. I don’t like poetry that tells me what it’s about, that tells me “this is what this means.” I prefer a little ambiguity. I prefer the words and images to invite me to make meaning with them. So—out with the last line.

Next, I started to fiddle with line breaks. This is where a found poem starts to become my own. I knew I wanted to echo in form that long processional down the nave of the church, everybody in pairs except the bishop, who gets his own line, his own stanza even, to show that he walks alone.

Poems require immediacy, so I got rid of most of the words that create distance—words like as and then and the. Having eliminated these explanatory phrases, I fiddled with the order of the words: I wanted the form and the wording of the poem itself to make the relationships between phrases clear, to make the connections.

And since LeMay references Claudel at the beginning of her paragraph, I added a line from Claudel (which LeMay includes two paragraphs before this one) as the poem’s epigraph, leaving it in French to create a chiasm with the poem’s last line, which is also in French. I figured most word-lovers could at least approximate an English rendering of Claudel’s words.

Finally, since LeMay’s words are a response to Dickinson’s poetry, I also knew I wanted to include the characteristic Dickinson dash. At first I’d thought I’d have two or three, a gentle nod in the direction of Dickinson, but the more I played, the more dashes I included until I just decided to use them in place of any and all punctuation, including the final period. That last dash implies there is more to the story, invites careful readers to ponder what that more might be.

Now, I do wonder sometimes about all this reworking I do: does it count as a found poem if you’re doing all this fiddling? If you’re adding and subtracting and rearranging words? Perhaps not.

But for me, the fun of writing found poetry is in that very process of making someone else’s words my own (or at least partly my own), of bringing my own understanding of a passage to the page and trying to recreate my vision—visually through line breaks, of course, but also through the words themselves, chosen or omitted or reordered to create a new piece of writing.

Mass at Notre-Damefound-poem-e1356032210701

“En un instant mon coeur fut touché et je crus.” –Paul Claudel

I never entered the cathedral
without thinking of Claudel—
which was the pillar?—
as if by standing beside it I
could know the same

pushed aside that day, I watched—
the procession came in pairs—

priests in cassocks—
nuns in veils—
candle bearers—
thurifer and crucifer—
the Word luminous in silver—
celebrants—embroidered chasubles and copes glimmering in the half-light—

the bishop of Paris—

I knew him
by his miter and
his wooden shepherd’s crook—

like starlings’ wings before
they rise—the always-new-yet-familiar
began to stir in me—then—
out of nowhere—
for no reason—
yet undeniably as light
or honey—
the bishop of Paris
looked me in the eye—

I thought
I know him

his eyes simmered—
a hint of laughter—
he inclined his head
to me—a tiny bow—

to me—who stood—among

he whispered
to me—to me—



This post first appeared December 21, 2012 on Tweetspeak. Re-posted by kind permission.

 Photo by Pure9, Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Kimberlee Conway Ireton is the author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year. She blogs twice weekly about reading, writing, and raising her four kids. Kimberlee has been a member of NCWA since 2005.

Playing with words: Crafting a “Found Poem” and “tak a right guid-willie waught”

Robert Burns“Found poems take existing texts and refashion them, reorder them, and present them as poems. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poetry is often made from newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, or even other poems.” (From Poets.org)

Words passed down word of mouth, through generations until a poet pens the lyric may be considered a “found poem.”

Poet Robert Burns fashioned the following famous song from traditional words. In a letter to a friend, he wrote: “…is not the Scotch phrase Auld Lang syne exceedingly expressive? There is an old song and tune which has often thrilled through my soul…” **

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne.


For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne.

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne!


And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp,

And surely I’ll be mine,

And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne!


We twa hae run about  the braes,

And pou’d the gowans fine,

But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit

Sin’ auld lang syne!


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn

Frae morning sun till dine,

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin’ auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere,

And gie’s a hand o’ thine,

And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught

For auld lang syne!


For auld lang syne, my dear,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet

For auld lang syne!


Come back on January 10th to see what  Kimberlee Conway Ireton’s muse has fashioned. Until then,

mind “your pint-stowp”

as you “run about  the braes”

and “tak a right guid-willie waught”


** Song and note from: Burns, Robert. Robert Burns’s Poems. New York.: Thomas Y. Crowell, Company, 1900.

Photo credit here.

Build Me a Platform, Jesus by Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC

NCWA’s Cherrie Herrin-Michehl ponders the platform dilemma.

The Big P. I’ve heard truckloads of information about how to build a platform. Why can’t my husband just build me one? He manages projects for a remodeling company. My platform would be pink with purple rhinestones. But its greatest feature would be a secret compartment for chocolate.

Like you, I’ve read about platforms and heard several speakers discuss them. But, like many of you, I’ve got a Thanksgiving dinner on my plate. Running a business, managing health issues, tending to family and ministry responsibilities, and speaking wears me ragged if I’m not careful. I also need time to write.

I’ve thought of two ideas. One, I could run myself through a copy machine so the “other” me can carry half the responsibilities. But my tooshie would probably cause a paper jam. The second idea is to get myself a wife. But I am the wife, so I can forget that idea.

About a month ago, while putting something in my closet, I discovered the platform shoe bank pictured here. My sister gave it to me four years ago. She knew I was a shoe hound and bought it for me at a thrift store.

Now I’ve placed the bank on my bathroom counter to remind me to pray for a platform. I pray that if it is God’s will, He will build a platform for me so I can tell people about Him through my writing and speaking. I’m also praying for humility, because sometimes platforms lead to big-head disease!

But there’s one catch. I need to do my part, not just sit around and gorge myself on chocolate and watch chick flicks, expecting my husband or the Lord to build my platform. God wants me to apply the strategies I’ve learned through NCWA and work on my platform. I only wish it were as easy as purchasing a pair of platform shoes.


*Platform shoe photo by Mindy Peltier

Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC, is a licensed therapist practicing in Woodinville, WA. A passionate writer and speaker, she is available for speaking engagements at conferences, church retreats, and seminars. Recently Cherrie spoke on three radio stations in the Seattle area, including KOMO 1000. She is represented by Joyce Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. She has been an NCWA member since 2008. Visit her blogs,Tooshie: Defeating the Body Image Bandit at www.tooshieblog.com and Rhapsody en Route: the passion, the grace, the mercy, and the vision as we press toward the cross at www.cherriesotherblog.wordpress.com.

Quoting the Scribes

A metaphor is like a simile. Author Unknown

I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter. Blaise Pascal

I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them. Anne Rice

I’m writing a book. I’ve got the page numbers done. Steven Wright

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. Gustave Flaubert

The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes. Agatha Christie

The only reason for being a professional writer is that you can’t help it. Leo Rosten

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.

W. Somerset Maugham

There is creative reading as well as creative writing. Ralph Waldo Emerson

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. Phyllis Theroux

Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own. Carol Burnett

Writing is a struggle against silence. Carlos Fuentes

Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money. Jules Renard


Thank you to WordPress.com for the quotes

Photo source: Google images

Contest: Polish up Your Elevator Pitch

NCWA conference is over, but you need to practice those “25 words or less” elevator pitches for your projects.

To help, NCWA blog is challenging you to create an elevator pitch for a book you’ve read in any genre. To add a bit of sport, your entry must be 20 words or less (shorter elevator ride).

Write your entry and the book name  in the comment section and submit it by midnight, June 15th.

NCWA board members may submit, but are ineligible to win as they will be the judges 🙂

Grand Prize winner will receive a $25 emailed gift card for Amazon.com

2nd Prize winner will receive a $10 Starbucks e-gift card.

(photo source)