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.

 

Courtney Lasater: Opening Hearts through Devotions for Kids

By Nancy Aguilar

Devotions every day? The struggle is real, according to editor Courtney Lasater.

Perhaps that’s one reason why Courtney is so passionate about sharing the gospel through Keys for Kids, an online daily devotional ministry for children ages 6 to 12.

“Kids today are getting so many messages and being pulled in so many directions,” Courtney says. “I think a lot of them have a deep underlying fear that no matter what they do, they’ll never be enough.”

As editor at Keys for Kids for the past four years, Courtney loves pointing children to the truth of the Bible—that Jesus loves them, he died for them, and he can be trusted because he is more than enough!

The roots of Keys for Kids Ministries date back to 1947, when a radio program called the Children’s Bible Hour began. This popular program featured radio dramas that spread the message of God’s love to kids around the world. In 2014, the ministry’s name was changed to Keys for Kids, which more accurately reflected their mission: to ignite a passion for Christ in kids and their families.

This year, NCWA welcomes Courtney Lasater to our esteemed lineup of editors at the 2017 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. Courtney looks forward to meeting up with conferees in one-on-one appointments to hear their devotion ideas. (For a sample Keys for Kids devotion, check out the current post.)

To those who meet with her, Courtney gives this advice: “Don’t feel like you need to have a finished devotional story ready to hand over. A lot of people I meet with never thought about writing devotions for kids until they arrived and heard what we’re looking for.”

And exactly what is Courtney looking for? Devotions for 6- to 12-year-olds with a strong biblical message; children’s or family activity ideas; nonfiction books or web content for children, teens, and/or parents; and Bible studies for children or teens. Devotions must follow a specific format, as explained in the Keys for Kids guidelines.

What is Courtney not looking for? Picture books, children’s/teen/adult novels, or adult nonfiction books (other than parenting).

The 2017 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal will be Courtney’s first conference with NCWA, as well as her first visit to Washington State. “I think it’s important to get away from our desks for a while and meet with others who can sharpen our minds and share their insights and ideas,” she says. “I always learn something new and am inspired.”

If you have a burning idea for a children’s devotion, be sure to request an appointment with Courtney and share your story! And if you’re curious about writing a children’s devotion and want to learn more—even if you’ve never written one before—Courtney invites you to attend her informative workshop and to “use your gift in a way that can encourage kids in their spiritual journey.”

Writing Devotions for Children – Did you know that about 70 percent of all Christian adults accept Jesus as Savior when they’re 14 years old or younger? Reaching kids for Christ is crucial! Learn more about what editors are looking for when they review devotion submissions. Hear pointers on what not to send editors and how to get noticed as a devotion writer for kids ages 6–12. Handouts in class, or download your copy here. (This workshop is for emerging-writer and intermediate levels.)

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

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Nancy Aguilar has worked as an editor for YWAM Publishing, George Fox University Seminary, the Word for Today, U-Turn for Christ, the Enduring Word, and others. Her writing credits include Clubhouse Magazine, Upper Room, and Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware. She teaches in the women’s Bible study at her church and has also taught for Calvary Chapel Bible College. Nancy leads a lively critique group and is currently coauthoring a getaway guide for writers.