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.

Advertisements

Editor Carolyn McCready’s Love for Books Inspired Her Career

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal

Carolyn McCready lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she cheers on the Ducks and loves film, music, cooking, and travel. She’s also an avid reader.CarolynMcCreadyPinable

With her schooling in education and English, she originally intended to be a teacher, but a summer bookstore job changed her plans. She remained at the bookstore for ten years, working as store manager and the book and Bible buyer. Her expertise led to her become the Vice President of Editorial at Harvest House Publishers.

Carolyn is now an executive editor with Trade Books for Zondervan Publishers, a division of Harper Collins Christian Publishing. She has worked with such authors as Lysa TerKeurst, Stormie Omartian, Kyle Idleman, Rachel Macy Stafford, and Shauna Niequist.

Market Like the Pros PanelOn Friday, May 15, at the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Carolyn will meet with writers in group appointments. If you want to show her your work, please follow the guidelines concerning what she would like to see and what she’s not looking at right now.

She will also serve on a marketing panel with Grace Fox, Jim Rubart, and Dennis Brooke.

The following day, May 16, Carolyn will co-teach the workshop, “What Editors Are Really Looking For,” with fellow editor Terry Glaspey. What Editors Are REALLY Looking For JPG

Kirk Kraft’s Interview with Carolyn McCready

Three years ago NCWA member Kirk Kraft interviewed Carolyn on his blog right before the 2012 Renewal conference. Kirk has graciously allowed us to reprint that informative interview here.

Kirk: Could you tell us a little about the progression of your publishing career and your current role?

Carolyn: My degree is in education and English, and I expected to be a teacher. Along the way, though, life took one of those turns that can change everything. I took a summer job at a Christian bookstore, working for a wonderful store owner. I planned to be there for the summer and find a full-time teaching job the next year, but I learned that my love of books and the joy of connecting people with the perfect books for them made this a great job for me. I worked there for ten years and became the store manager and book and Bible buyer. During that time I developed relationships with most of the major publishers and worked for Zondervan as a dealer advisor.

I was offered the job of editorial director at Harvest House Publishers, as they were looking for someone who understood the retail marketplace and was familiar with the full breadth of books available. I was also, of course, an avid reader and loved the prospect of working with writers and seeing their ideas become wonderful books. I eventually became the VP of Editorial and was with Harvest House for fifteen years. It is a wonderful, focused, family-owned Christian publisher, and I learned so much during that time concerning what publishing is all about and what it takes to make a book. It does take a village

After that I took the job of Executive Editor with Zondervan and am thoroughly enjoying my role of acquiring nonfiction trade books. I still live in Eugene, Oregon, but I travel regularly to Grand Rapids to work with my colleagues at Zondervan and around the country to meet with authors.

Kirk: How do you know a story is a winner when you read it?

Carolyn: I love reading fiction although I don’t acquire much in that arena. But with fiction, it is usually a combo of a great voice, engaging characters, and a story that makes me want to turn the page. I’m looking for something fresh, as so much of the fiction we see—and even publish—feels the same. It’s like watching the pilot of a new television show or the beginning of new movie—sometimes it just hits, and you feel it. It grabs your attention, and you want to spend time in that world. It can even be in a very typical genre but still stand out. You know it when you read it.

Kirk: What is the biggest mistake you see writers make in their submissions today?

Carolyn: I think the biggest mistake might be not understanding what editors need to help their publishing team decide to publish a new book. We need to see that you have a great idea, a significant—or at least growing—platform, and strong writing skills. The platform issue is very important, but it doesn’t have to mean that you are the pastor of a large church or a speaker for major women’s conferences. You do have to show that you are working hard to gain a following and that you have made progress in that arena. Speaking, blogging, writing for magazines and newspapers, leading workshops on your topic—all can be really important to a publisher. Then give us a marketable topic (and the reasons that it is—do your research!), and finally, and very importantly, hone your writing so it’s as strong as it can be.

Kirk: What would you say are the biggest myths in publishing?

Carolyn: That you must have a large platform to get published. It certainly helps—and you will hear that from every publisher—but there are certainly exceptions. Sometimes it’s all about a great story and good storytelling. Look at Heaven Is for Real!

_____________________________

Thanks again to Kirk for letting us share his interview with Carolyn.

To request an appointment to meet with Carolyn McCready, 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.

Editor Terry Glaspey Speaks His Mind about Artists

By Diana Savage, director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal

Terry Glaspey can talk for hours about the arts.

“Christian art shouldn’t be propaganda for the Christian cause,” he says. He believes that artistic people, while blessed with the privilege of rearranging God’s creation in fresh and beautiful ways, must remain mindful about truth-telling, even uncomfortable truths.TerryGlaspeyPinableTerry is the director of acquisitions at Harvest House Publishers. Not only does he love good books, but he is also the author of more than a dozen titles himself, including Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis (a Gold Medallion finalist), Bible Basics for Everyone, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, and 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know. His latest book, The Prayers of Jane Austen, is being released now.

On Friday, May 15, at the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Terry will meet with writers in group appointments. If you want to show him your work, please follow the guidelines concerning what he would like to see and what he’s not looking at right now.

The following day, May 16, Terry will teach one workshop himself and co-teach another with fellow editor Carolyn McCready:

Great Writers1)   What the Great Writers Can Teach Us about Writing: Here’s how to become a better communicator by learning the lessons of authors such as C.S. Lewis, Jane Austen, G.K. Chesterton, and others.

What Editors Are REALLY Looking For JPG2)   What Editors Are Really Looking For (with Carolyn McCready [insert URL] of Zondervan): You will get to contrast the different approaches of two different publishers! Between them, Carolyn and Terry have reviewed it all.

Kirk Kraft’s Interview with Terry Glaspey

Three years ago NCWA member Kirk Kraft interviewed Terry on his blog right before the 2012 Renewal conference. Kirk has graciously allowed us to reprint a portion of that informative interview here.

Kirk: As an acquisitions editor, what do you look for in manuscripts?

Terry: I am looking for two key things: quality and marketability. Both are important. In terms of quality, I am always looking for good writing, fresh new perspectives, theological orthodoxy, creativity, energy, and style. Personally, I can enjoy reading about any topic if it has these qualities.

But—and this is the second thing I have to look for—the book needs to be marketable. We can’t ignore that publishing is a business and that publishers need to sell books. So, any book that is going to receive serious consideration needs a topic with a wide level of interest among readers, and it usually needs to have an author with a strong platform who can steer people toward it. The day has long vanished when an author can count on publishers to do extensive promotion on their books, unless he or she is already a bestselling name. Sad, but true.

In these economic times the marketing budgets have shrunk. It is critical for authors to use every means at their disposal to get the word out. And the topic needs to be one that is of general interest—not overly specialized.

Kirk: What’s been the most rewarding experience in your editing career?

Terry: I love interacting with authors who work hard to improve their books. The best writers are those willing to go through numerous drafts in order to deliver something that is polished and powerful. I have had the honor of working with some exceptional writers—people whose talent far outstrips my own—but have been able to help them make a good book even better. Few things are more satisfying than that!

Kirk: How do you think faith and the arts interact?

Terry: Do you have a couple of hours to talk about this? J This is one of my favorite topics. We are created in the image of God, and one of the obvious characteristics of God is that He is a creator. We have the privilege and enjoyment of also being what Tolkien referred to as “sub-creators,” those who rearrange God’s creation in fresh and beautiful ways. And I believe that God speaks to us very powerfully in beauty. I am often moved more deeply by a song or a painting or a film than I am by most sermons. To be an artist—with words or paints or film or clay or a quilt or whatever—is a high and important calling. But Christian art should not be propaganda for the Christian cause. It should be about truth. Art is all about truth-telling, including uncomfortable truths, and we all need to be challenged and inspired in ways that the arts best accomplish.

Kirk: You’re an avid C.S. Lewis fan and have written books and spoken often about him. When did you fall in love with his writing?

Terry: I discovered Lewis while in college. At first, his biggest impact upon me was through his intellectual arguments for the reasonableness of faith. And while I still enjoy that aspect of Lewis, there is also an aspect of his writing that is more mythic and intuitive that moves me at an even deeper level. He was unquestionably one of the greatest creative communicators in the history of the church. I never tire of his work. When I reread his books, I’m always discovering new insights that I missed before.

Kirk: What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned from Lewis that you can encourage writers with today?

Terry: I think that one of his talents was in finding fresh metaphors for traditional ideas. It is far too easy for Christians to use phrases and words and ideas that have become clichés. This makes for lazy writing, and these clichés have little power to actually move anyone. We might nod in agreement, but they usually fail to move us. We need to find fresh ways to speak, fresh metaphors and word pictures that surprise and sneak past the defenses of our readers. It is often in surprising our reader with a “new way of saying it” that we create an openness in the heart and mind which allows the truth to slip past all the defenses and make the reader vulnerable to hearing the Word afresh. Lewis, in both fiction and nonfiction, was so good at doing just that. That should be the goal of every Christian writer—take the timeless, and make it new.
_____________________________

Thanks again to Kirk for letting us share his interview with Terry.

To request an appointment to meet with Terry Glaspey, 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.

You Can’t Just Say “I’m a Writer”

 

Written by Dennis Brooke, NCWA President

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
During a workshop at the recent Northwest Christian Writer’s Association Renewal Conference, Kathleen Kerr, an editor at Harvest House had a very funny observation about being a writer. She told about an exercise at another conference where the speaker asked everyone to stand up and announce, “I am a writer!” They were then told to turn to the person next to them and encourage them by saying, You are a writer.”
 

During this motivational exercise she thought, “This is the only industry where you can just say you’re a writer and be one. Imagine if you stood up and said, ‘I’m a pediatric neurosurgeon’.”
 

TweetThis is the only industry where you can just say you’re a writer and be one.

 

Kathleen Kerr 3Kathleen’s point is right on—saying you’re a writer needs to be followed up with developing the craft. You wouldn’t want to roll your kid into brain surgery and find out that their neurosurgeon had just announced they were a neurosurgeon, but had no training to back it up. And frankly, you don’t want to read something written by a writer who hasn’t spent any time developing their craft.

 
TweetSaying you’re a writer needs to be followed up with developing the craft.

So how do you develop the craft? Over 150 of us were at that conference to sit in on workshops taught by Kathleen and other industry professionals. In between events like this many of us participate in critique groups and spend hours in practice.
 
Personally, I also like to read or listen to the audio version of books on the craft to get some focused guidance. And I like to ask professionals for their recommendations on books. When I asked our keynote speaker, Davis Bunn, for his recommendations I thought he might give us a couple of good ideas. But he provided three pages of fantastic resources, including an on-line master class.
 
Davis is a great writer and teacher so I was very interested to get his perspective and am glad to share them with you. Following is his annotated reading list of books on the craft. Are any of these favorites of yours? What would you add to the list? Use the comments function to answer those questions. Everyone who posts an answer by next Friday, April 25 will be entered into a drawing for a Davis Bunn novel and a half pound of Starbucks Coffee.

Dennis Brooke


Dennis Brooke
is a pre-published novelist who currently serves as the President of the Northwest Christian Writer’s Association. He has written for Focus on the Family, Toastmasters, and Combat Crew Magazines. He tells stories at http://www.dennisbrooke.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

T. Davis Bunn’s Annotated Reading List

Davis Bunn 5

 Writing The Breakout Novel, by Donald Maas. Writer’s Digest Books

A breakout novel is one that rises out if its category – such as literary fiction, mystery, romance, or thriller – and hits the bestseller charts. Maas explains the elements that all breakout novels share and shows readers how to use these elements to write a novel that has a good chance of succeeding in a crowded marketplace. They’ll learn to: – Create a powerful and sweeping sense of time and place – Develop larger-than-life characters – Sustain a high degree of narrative tension from start to finish – Weave sub-plots into the main action – Explore universal themes that will interest a large audience

Writing the Blockbuster Novel, by Al Zuckerman. Little, Brown        

Practical, very helpful, and certainly readable. He takes a number of bestselling novels and de-constructs them to illustrate the points he’s making about plot construction, pace, characterization etc. All essential elements of novels that will sell. And he’s in a position to know these things because he is the founder and managing director of the highly successful New York literary agency, Writers House…

 Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. Michael Wiese Production

In 1993, The Writer’s Journey became one of the most popular books on writing of the last 50 years, shaking up Hollywood, and becoming a best seller among writers everywhere. This new edition will reawaken established writers and inspire a new generation with fresh insights on creating great stories. An indispensable guide to the inner workings of stories, to the ancient and deep-seated patterns of emotion that speak to us through the symbolic language of myth. It applies the classic principles of Joseph Campbell’s, “The Hero’s Journey” to modern storytelling. Christopher Vogler, one of Hollywood’s most renowned story consultants and teachers, expands his vision to show how storytelling evolved from sacred rituals and how its inexhaustible powers can be adapted to the needs of modern storytellers. “The Writer’s Journey” is now the most widely used book in the movie, TV, publishing, and computer gaming industries. 

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions for Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Anchor Books

Best Anne Lamott gives witty and wise advice on the process of writing, while offering an entertaining and inspiring take on the difficult parts of the writing life. She encourages writers to take a more non-judgmental attitude towards their own writing, particularly during the first-draft stage. Covering everything from plot to professional jealousy, Lamott’s down-to-earth approach is both comforting and encouraging.

Stein on Writing, & How To Grow A Novel by Sol Stein. Saint Martin’s Press

“The best reading experiences”, says Sol Stein, “defy interruption”. With Stein’s assistance, you can grab your reader on page one and not let go until “The End”. Stein–author of nine novels (including the best-selling The Magician) and editor to James Baldwin, W H Auden, and Lionel Trilling–offers “usable solutions” for any writing problem you might encounter. He is authoritative, commanding, and neither cheerleader nor naysayer. Instead, he rails against mediocrity and demands that you expunge it from your work. Perhaps the concept of scrutinising every modifier, every metaphor, every character trait sounds like drudgery. But with Stein’s lively guidance, it is a pleasure. Stein recommends that you brew conflict in your prose by giving your characters different “scripts”. He challenges you, in an exercise concerning voice, to write the sentence you want the world to remember you by. He uses an excerpt from E L Doctorow to demonstrate poorly written monologue and a series of Taster’s Choice commercials as an example of dialogue that works. Stein’s bottom line is that good writing must be suspenseful. Your job, says Stein, “is to give readers stress, strain, and pressure. The fact is that readers who hate those things in life love them in fiction”. 

Bestseller: Secrets of Successful Writing by Celia Brayfield. Fourth Estate

Elizabeth Buchan, The Times: “In this ambitious and fascinating book, Brayfield tackles the Zen of fiction bestsellerdom. Her premise is that stories define a puzzling world and help to defuse our more primitive fears, the most significant continuing to haunt and nourish our imaginations. This is based on a study of how myth works through cultures. From there she constructs her methods of story shaping, research, narrative techniques and, of course, style…….From the GCSE student upwards, writers and readers will enjoy this bold an illuminating tilt at unravelling the mysteries of the popular novel. Even, perhaps, the literary novelist.”
The Independent on Sunday: “Admirably thought-provoking and even profound. Books cited include Gone With the Wind, Damage, The Joy Luck Club, Scott Turow, J G Ballard, The Great Gatsby and James Bond. Best of all, she demystified writing but highlights the sheer craft.”

Story: Substance, Structure, Style by Robert McKee. Metheuen Press (trade paperback)

McKee’s work is genuinely inspiring, particularly in the audio version, which he reads himself. It’s to the point. And – although intended primarily for screen writers – it’s invaluable for anyone who thinks they have a story in them.

Perhaps we should let Bob McKee speak for himself: “When talented writers write badly it’s generally for one of two reasons: either they’re blinded by an idea that they feel compelled to prove, or they’re driven by an emotion they need to express. When talented people write well, it’s generally for this reason: they’re moved by a desire to touch an audience.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. Scribner

Short and snappy as it is, Stephen King’s On Writing really contains two books: a fondly sardonic autobiography and a tough-love lesson for aspiring novelists. The memoir is terrific stuff, a vivid description of how a writer grew out of a misbehaving kid. It’s a ripping yarn that casts a sharp light on his fiction. King gives us lots of revelations about his life and work. The kidnapper character in Misery, the mind-possessing monsters in The Tommyknockers, and the haunting of the blocked writer in The Shining symbolized his cocaine and booze addiction (overcome thanks to his wife’s intervention, which he describes). “There’s one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing.”   King also evokes his college days and his recovery from the van crash that nearly killed him, but the focus is always on what it all means to the craft. He gives you a whole writer’s “tool kit”: a reading list, writing assignments, a corrected story, and nuts-and-bolts advice on dollars and cents, plot and character, the basic building block of the paragraph, and literary models. He shows what you can learn from H.P. Lovecraft’s arcane vocabulary, Hemingway’s leanness, Grisham’s authenticity, Richard Dooling’s artful obscenity, Jonathan Kellerman’s sentence fragments.

(Dennis Brooke’s note: The Audio Version of the book is read by Stephen King himself.)

Ken Follet’s on-line Masterclass: The Art Of Suspense

Found at: http://www.ken-follett.com/masterclass/index.html

QuestionsAre any of these books on the craft favorites of yours? What would you add to the list? Use the comments function to answer those questions. Everyone who posts an answer by next Friday, April 25 will be entered into a drawing for a Davis Bunn novel and a half pound of Starbucks Coffee.

 

Davis Bunn The Turning

You can find Davis Bunn’s books in the NCWA on-line bookstore. Many of the books on the craft he mentioned are also in the bookstore. A portion of sales from the NCWA bookstore helps to fund our organizations activities.

TweetLeave a blog comment to enter a drawing for a Davis Bunn novel and Starbucks coffee.


Editor Kathleen Kerr Has a Passion for Finding New Voices

Each year, NCWA member Kirk Kraft posts interviews with the agents and editors that will be speaking at the Northwest Christian Writer’s Renewal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kathleen Kerr is an Associate Senior Editor at Harvest House Publishers and has a passion for finding new voices. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and daughter, where she can often be found hiking, writing, and creating chaos in the kitchen. www.quillsandquiche.blogspot.com

Books on writing she recommends: Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman. (Kathleen offers a note “they’re both a bit irreverent.” )

What’s been the most rewarding experience in your publishing career?

As an editor I think of myself like a stage manager in a play: If I do my job right, no one knows I’m there. I love helping authors refine their words while staying true to their voice. I love teaching as I edit. My most rewarding experience? When the second manuscript comes in even better than the first.

TweetHarvest House Editor loves helping authors refine words while staying true to their voice.

What keeps you engaged with a story? What does “story” mean to you in the context of a published work?

I regularly hear comments like, “This novel will teach readers to trust God in hard times” or “This book will give kids the courage to stand up to bullies.” Authors (and publishers) often embrace the mistaken idea that readers need to be improved. Nonsense. They need to be enthralled.

TweetEditor Kathleen Kerr says readers need to be enthralled, not improved, by a novel.

As a reader, I’m engaged by the same things that keep anyone engaged: a page-turning plot, characters to whom I can relate, humor, suspense, maybe a little unrequited love. What makes me throw down a book in despair? Moralizing and preaching. A Christian novel should be different, of course. It should point a reader to the greater Story. But in pointing your reader there, don’t try to teach a lesson along the way. Just tell a good tale.

TweetChristian novels shouldn’t moralize and preach, but point readers to greater Story.

What is the most frequent mistake you see new writers make in their submissions?

A couple mistakes to cover here, simply based on their frequency:

  • Don’t inflate your platform. If you don’t have one, be honest and say that. Tell me how you’ll work to build your platform instead of telling me about the women in your Bible study who really liked your book idea. I’ll be more impressed by honesty than by self-inflation.
  • Give me realistic comp titles. I want to know which current books in the marketplace are similar to yours for the purpose of estimating sales. Don’t simply list bestselling books on the same subject. While we hope that the book will be a runaway bestseller, we can’t budget for that. (For example, almost every children’s book proposal I get lists the Chronicles of Narnia as a comp title. Let me break the hard news to you right now: It is unlikely that you have written the next classic children’s book that will be beloved by countless generations and sell millions of copies. Possible. But unlikely.)
  • Please, please, please never tell me that God wrote the book or gave you the title. People who say this always write bad books.

Could you describe the “It” factor you look for in a manuscript?

Of course I can’t describe it. It’s just like falling in love—you know it when it happens. But I can describe a few factors I watch for.

  • A unique voice. I can often tell what books a new writer is reading by whose voice she’s imitating.
  • Humor. Is someone going around to conferences and telling Christian writers they can’t be funny? Every time I tell an author I like a joke in her book she responds, “Oh, I was so worried you were going to take that out!” No way. Make me laugh on the first page and I am putty in your hands.
  • Strong writing. A good platform and a cool hook will get your book on the shelf, but strong writing will keep it there.
  • Properly formatted citations. I know, I know. Citations are boring. I get that. But not putting in the work is just lazy.

Ebooks, POD and e-readers continue to alter the publishing manuscript. What challenges do you face by these changes and what’s your outlook for the future?

Challenges? Come on—let’s call them opportunities! We’ve got new ways to reach new readers, and that means we get to think way outside our normal parameters. Ebook novellas to hook readers into a series? You got it. Enhanced ebooks to help kids explore a book’s fantasy world? Rock on. Interactive books where you can connect with a beloved author or play some kind of role in the story? Apps related to a nonfiction series? All good things. I think this is an incredibly exciting time to work in publishing—a time when everything’s changing and we get to do some exploring.

What’s your favorite book of all time? Why?

I’ve been trying to narrow this down for about six minutes and I just can’t. So here, briefly, are my top four:

  • Catherine, Called Birdy, by Karen Cushman. I have loved this book since I was ten years old, and true love lasts a lifetime.
  • Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card. This is a magnificent work of literature—and at the same time it’s a novel that grabs your brain with both hands and won’t let go.
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. This book is like science for English majors. If you tell anecdotes you learned from it you will become popular at parties. (Seriously. This is how I make friends.)
  • The Far Pavilions, by M.M. Kaye. You know how at the beginning of The Princess Bride the grandfather says the book has “fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…”? The Far Pavilions has all those things, too. It’s the kind of epic you can get absolutely lost in. Have I been known to miss important appointments because I lost track of time while rereading this? Yes. Yes, I have.

Kathleen Kerr

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kirk KraftKirk Kraft has been gripped by the “Writing Monster” for many years. A husband and father of four, he’s instilled a love of reading in all his children while chasing his dream of publishing. His favorite genre for both writing and reading is epic fantasy. He has been a member of NCWA since 2008.

Sell Your Fiction in a Tough Economy

This video interview with Nick Harrison, an Editor at Harvest House Publishing, was filmed at the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal Conference in May of 2010. I attended a workshop taught by Nick and he had several interesting points that I thought were worthy of further discussion.

Watch the interview here to hear Nick’s thoughts on “the forty percent” of effort that an author needs to dedicate beyond the writing and the concept of a five year plan to help you set realistic expections.

Nick Harrison is an editor with a Harvest House publishing and continues to write books in his spare time. Visit his website at www.nickharrisonbooks.com

 

 

Dennis Brooke writes about Almost True Stories of Life at www.dennisbrooke.wordpress.com. He’s been a member of NCWA for three years and currently serves as Vice-President and Webmaster.