Sonja Anderson: Book-Loving Librarian, Educator, and Children’s Author

by Eric Gollings

The first time I went to a book launch, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My family arrived at the Burien Public Library a little late and found a crowd packed into the expansive meeting room.

I stood at the door listening and craning to see the author over the throng. Behind me, the sun shone through tall windows on rows of shelves with countless books. I thought, “What a perfect place for a book launch.”

That book launch debuted Sonja Anderson’s novel, Sophie’s Quest.

The first thing you notice about the book is the beautiful cover art depicting an owl wearing a purse and hat, soaring over a sunny harbor. As you read, you find that it deals with deep questions of faith, culture, and the differences that often divide us. It does this all in a way that is accessible and engaging for young readers. For an aspiring novelist, the story of how this book and its sequel came into being is as uplifting as the adventure itself.

Sonja Anderson loves books. She is a multi-published author, an educator, and a librarian—the perfect vocations for a book lover.

Her love of reading and teaching has taken her many places. In Chicago, she studied history at North Park College. At Harvard University in Boston she earned a Master of Education degree. In Tokyo she taught kindergarten and second grade at an international school.

Since coming to Washington State she has taught every grade as a substitute teacher in Seattle Public Schools, and for twelve years she served as the Christian Formation Coordinator for the North Pacific Conference of the Evangelical Covenant Church. She is currently the library tech at her local elementary school where she helps children find books that will ignite their own passion for lifelong reading. Sonja Anderson is also an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators and of the Northwest Christian Writers Association.

At this year’s Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Sonja will share her insights in two break-out sessions for emerging writers.

Authors and Children’s Book Illustration: How the Publisher, Illustrator, and Author Work Together (or Not) to Create a Great Book – Learn common misunderstandings many writers have about the way children’s books are illustrated. This includes both picture books and the cover art for novels. Gain an understanding about the quality of the art that should be submitted with your story—or if it should even be submitted—and learn what to expect when working with a publisher. (Emerging-writer level)

Sleuthing for Success: How Nancy Drew Would Get Her Children’s Story Published – Learn the pros and cons of indie publishing vs. royalty publishing for children’s works. Discover how thinking creatively, flexibly, and realistically about the best ways to reach kids can help you find the right agent/editor/publisher for your children’s story. Learn how prayer and a generous attitude toward other writers can help make connections, build relationships, and provide encouragement during not-so-successful days of writing and marketing. Included: tips on using print resources and conducting successful Internet searches for potential markets. (Emerging-writer level)

Don’t miss hearing Sonja Anderson at the 2017 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. Sign up now!

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Eric Gollings, a humanitarian professional with an MBA, is fluent in Spanish, Chinese, and English and has spent years living and serving in Latin America and Asia. For the last eight years, he has worked for World Vision. His writing and speaking interests include history, theology, humanitarian affairs, and speculative fiction. Eric enjoys creating clear and compelling communication, whether through blog posts, stories, professional e-mails, or speaking engagements.

Ben Wolf: A Renegade in the Flash-Fiction Marketplace

By Elizabeth Griffin

Ben Wolf could be classified as primary evidence in the argument against giving children Ritalin.

Are you offended by that statement? Read the section titled “Who is Ben Wolf?” on his website, and I think you will agree. Tested for ADD as a child but never diagnosed with it, Ben was one of those kids who teachers try to—but never quite can—contain.

Thank goodness for that. And kudos to Ben’s parents for not squelching his enormous imagination and creativity. As a result, by seventh grade Ben was writing complete works of fiction. Since then he has added editorial expertise and publishing prowess to his skill set.

Ben’s novels run the gamut from vampire tales to the Wild West to sci-fi to children’s books. All involve action and adventure.

In addition, this award-winning author heads up Splickety Publishing Group (SPG), through which he caters to readers with short attention spans and/or very busy lives. Splickety publishes three flash fiction imprints: Havok Magazine (speculative), Spark (romance, formerly known as Splickety Love), and Splickety Magazine (young adult).

When not writing, Ben runs a professional editing and proofreading business. In his spare time, he is a jiujitsu and kickboxing practitioner, and he also loves to sword fight, play video games, and volleyball. And he has a family. The man has lots of energy!

A wonderful addition to last year’s Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Ben returns this year in search of flash-fiction-story writers who have concise, poignant fiction between 300 and 1,000 words that fits one of SPG’s scheduled upcoming themes.

“We want stories that hit fast and strike hard––stories that, no matter the genre, can cut through the day’s troubles and grip readers with short attention spans,” Ben says.

Ben is not looking for previously published flash fiction; scenes or excerpts or synopses from novels; excessive violence, profanity, or erotica in any form; and thinly veiled stories that preach from a soapbox of any sort—political, religious, or other. Additional submission guidelines are available on Splickety’s website.

Ben will also teach the following workshops:

10 Steps to Better Time- and Stress-Management for Authors

How do you juggle a marriage, kids, a day job, volunteering at church, working with your critique group, and still have time to pursue a writing career? How do you manage the stress of so many things demanding your time and attention? Did you know it’s possible to use that stress to your advantage, rather than having it weigh you down? Take this class and learn practical steps to time and stress management that will enhance your writing productivity. (Emerging-writer level)

Acting Out: Fighting Basics for Authors

Back by popular demand this year! Are you a fiction author, a screenwriter, or involved in a creative capacity in visual media? As an ongoing student of martial arts and a former stage combat instructor, Ben will teach you specific fighting techniques that you can immediately apply to writing more accurate, believable fight scenes. As a bonus for folks tired of sitting all day, this interactive class will get you out of your seat and into some fun-but-safe action. (Intermediate level)

Self-Editing Your Manuscript for Success

Sagging middle? Wordy prose? Tighten your editing belts and trim the fat from your manuscript with proven self-editing techniques. In this class you’ll learn how to identify excess, sloppy writing in your manuscript and how to cut it out on both micro- and macro-editing levels. (Advanced level)

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To attend Ben’s workshops or to schedule an appointment with him or one of our five other editorial reps at this year’s Renewal, register today!

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Elizabeth Griffin has worked as a writer and editor for a monthly lifestyle newspaper elizabeth_griffin2for the past decade. She has published more than 500 articles in newspapers, anthologies, and magazines, in addition to 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 about inspirational people. She loves to speak truth into the lives of others and has been a Bible teacher for 15 years. Her current passions are writing for an international network of church planters and her blog Follow the Dots.

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.

Darlene Panzera Encourages Writers to Follow Their Dreams

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

Ever since she was fourteen and living in New Jersey, Darlene Panzera dreamed of being a published author. Her dream was realized when she won the Debbie Macomber/Avon Books “Make Your Dreams Come True” contest. Since then, she has published several books in the Sweet Contemporary Romance genre.

DarlenePanzeraPinableDarlene encourages other aspiring authors to pursue their dreams too. On Friday, May 15, at the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Darlene will lead two sessions:

Fiction First Aid1) Fiction First Aid (WriteCoach Lab) – Stuck in the middle of your novel? Need help with character development or a plot line? Bring questions, challenges, and even your WIP (Work in Progress), and multi-published author Darlene Panzera will help you brainstorm solutions.

Solid Story Structure2) Solid Story Structure (workshop) – The key to writing any great story begins with character. But after you create a three-dimensional cast, complete with specific views, motivation, goals, and personality traits . . . then what? Learning to develop solid story structure will help you keep your characters on track as they change and grow and make decisions that will affect the ultimate success of their story journey. Class includes story-structure templates and discussions on character arc.

Jeri Stockdale’s Interview with Darlene Panzera

Writing buddies Darlene and Jeri first met at last year's Renewal conference.

Writing buddies Darlene and Jeri first met at last year’s Renewal conference.

Jeri Stockdale met Darlene Panzera at the 2014 Renewal conference, and both Jeri and Darlene were excited to meet other attendees who were also from the Kitsap Peninsula. That led to the formation of the Christian writer’s group Penning on the Peninsula. Because of her deep appreciation for Darlene as an author, teacher, and friend, Jeri volunteered to interview Darlene for the NCWA blog.

Jeri:  You are an author, speaker, and workshop presenter, as well as a wife and mother of three. What does a typical day look like for you?

Darlene: I have to smile at this, because I do not think any day of mine is typical. To help me manage my to-do list and my time, I created a printable 5-by-8-inch Daily Checklist that I fill out each day and take with me wherever I go. Already printed on the card are my daily chores and activities, with room to add specific details. I also jot down the amount of writing time available that day and what I plan to work on. Highlighting my top three priorities helps keep me focused.

Jeri:  In what genres have your books been published? How do you want to expand or move forward with your writing in the future?

Darlene: So far my books, novellas, and short stories have all been Sweet Contemporary Romance. But now I am working on a few projects that move into the Inspirational Romance market. Since the two genres are very similar, and I already thread Christian characters, values, and themes into my stories, I’m hoping my fans will cross the bridge along with me. I am also working on a children’s book cartoon series with my daughter, which features our two horses.

Jeri:  Have any authors been role models for you or has someone been an important mentor in your writing career?

Darlene: Many have helped shaped my career, but I owe the most gratitude to Debbie Macomber, who picked my story to publish with hers in her 2012 release, Family Affair. Since then she has taken me to lunch and offered advice, but it is her own Christian spiritual journey on the road to publication that has inspired me most.

Jeri:  What brings you the most joy as an author? What message do you see coming through your stories?

Darlene: I enjoy helping new authors learn to write. I pass along the message I’ve received and that I build into each of my stories—don’t give up. Persevere and fight the good fight. Because you matter. And God willing, your efforts can make a difference.

Jeri:  What secrets will you reveal in your workshop Solid Story Structure?

Darlene: When I first started writing, the concept of plot baffled me. I had no idea how to rescue my characters at the end of their tumultuous journey and make everything work out okay. After years of study, I now know a novel doesn’t come together haphazardly. There is a system one can follow to lay the framework for a fully satisfying story that makes sense from start to finish. Come to the workshop, and I’ll share the secret.

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To learn from Darlene Panzera’s workshop and WriteCoach Lab, sign up today for the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal.

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JeriStockdaleJeri Stockdale is a wife and mother of three. With a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Western Washington University, she worked for a number of years as a management analyst, where she loved doing research and writing reports and recommendations for management. She is passionate about discipleship, adoption, and homeschooling. A pre-published author, Jeri writes inspirational women’s fiction, historical fiction, and nonfiction articles and animal adventures.