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.

Love of Jesus and Her Job Motivate Agent Rachel Kent

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


Rachel Kent

Rachel Kent is an agent with Books & Such Literary Management. She has more than seven years of agency experience. Rachel represents fiction and nonfiction. Her goal is to develop strong relationships with her clients and to help them to develop lasting relationships with their publishers.

1. What is the most important attribute you look for in a prospective new client?

I’m not sure I can pick just one! I guess being a great writer comes first, but I won’t represent a great writer who isn’t a kind, friendly person with perseverance and the ability to work well with others.

2.  Is there a particular story or genre you’ve been looking for recently & haven’t found?

I have clients writing in all the categories I like to represent, but I would like to find more romantic suspense and also nonfiction books for those in their teens, twenties, and thirties.

The nonfiction I’m looking for would be books that help those in these age groups get through life at the stages they are in for example: Surviving high school or college; dating; early years of marriage; raising children when the parents are like ships passing in the night to make ends meet; etc. The books do need to bring something fresh to these topics though and platform has to be strong.

I’m open to short romantic suspense (Love Inspired-length) and longer romantic suspense projects.

This doesn’t mean that I’m not looking at other types of projects too, though.

3. Do you have any publishing heroes or role models? Who are they?

The amazing agents at Books & Such are instructive and inspiring to me on a daily basis. Janet Kobobel Grant has really dedicated herself to helping each of us at Books & Such and she is a hero in my book!

My clients also inspire me. They all work so hard and do what they do with joy and dedication. I can see Jesus in them.

Tweet “My clients inspire me…I can see Jesus in them.”

4.  What advice can you give aspiring writers who believe they’re ready to submit work?

Please have some critique partners read your work first! It makes a difference. And ask them to look at your query letter, too. The query letter can be the gateway to your publishing career and you want it to be the best it can be so editors and agents request your project.

TweetThe query letter can be the gateway to your publishing career.

5.  What brings you the most joy in your life as an agent?

I love helping all of my clients get contracted, but there’s a special joy that comes with placing a debut author for the first time. Placing that new writer with a publishing house makes me so excited and happy.

I also love reading a brand new idea from a client. There’s so much potential in new ideas.

6.  If you could go back in time, would you choose a different career? Why or why not?

I don’t think so. I really love being a literary agent. I find joy in my job and I don’t think I would if I did something else–or it would be harder to. I also feel like I’m able to reach people with the love of Jesus through what I do. And I have some flexibility with my job so I can spend a lot of time with my daughter.

7.  What are you currently reading?

I am currently rereading the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It’s amazing how different life is today. Laura had only a few toys growing up and Ma only had one special glass figurine to put on her homemade shelf. And there wasn’t any technology! They were happy and thankful and unselfish. I think every adult should read these books again. It’s been eye-opening and they are so good!


Rachel Kent CollageRachel Kent’s Workshop Description:
Chasing down the facts for a manuscript isn’t easy. We will go into detail about the research process–including tips from some of Rachel’s multi-published clients and a list of resources to help with researching for multiple kinds of projects. This class is for every writer. Research and fact checking are important for all genres.

Read More of Rachel’s wisdom from her Friday posts on  the Books & Such blog:


Kirk-Kraft_thumb.jpgKirk 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.

Insider Advice for Writers from Agent Sally Apokedak

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


Sally ApokedakSally Apokedak, Associate Agent for Leslie H. Stobbe Agency, has been studying, reviewing, and marketing children’s books, as well as giving writing instruction, for a dozen years. She is presently the YA contributor to Novel Rocket and she teaches at general market and Christian writers conferences across the country. She is interested in children’s books from picture books to young adult (Christian or general market), nonfiction for all ages (Christian or general market), and women’s novels (Christian market).

Could you describe a typical day in the life of an agent?

I don’t know about other agents, but my days are ruled by my Google Calendar and my email. I get to work (my home office) by about 8:00, usually. Sometimes 9:00. (One of the great perks of being self-employed: I can roll into work when I feel like it. I detest alarm clocks.) I check emails fast—answer a few and delete a lot. Then I open my Google calendar and do the first thing. Then I move on to the next thing. Then the next. Usually I am reading or editing a couple of days a week and I’m researching publishers, working on proposals, or writing cover letters a couple of days a week. I also answer a lot of email and look at contracts rarely. (I wish I looked at contracts a lot and at email rarely, but that’s just not happening.)

I take a long lunch—from 1:00 to 4:00—so I can get up and move, instead of being stuck in my chair all day.

And then I usually work from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on clients’ work. After 7:00 I answer more email, work on handouts or presentations (or interview questions) for conferences. All my life I’ve been a night owl, but I’m trying to be more disciplined and healthy now, so I’m trying to shut the computer down by 9:00 and go to bed at a decent hour. If I have freelance editing work or consulting work, I do that on Saturdays.

Sundays I don’t work.

How vital is maintaining an online presence to writers today (website, blog, Twitter, etc)?

It’s very important. If you have no page at all—no online presence—you’re losing an opportunity to show yourself to an editor or agent who wants to see who you are and what you’re doing.

But it’s also important to make sure your webpage accurately reflects you and your work. When you go for a job interview, you dress nicely and put makeup on. You brush your teeth and comb your hair and wear deodorant. If you are going to apply for a job on a construction site, you wear jeans and work boots. If you are going to apply at a bank, you wear a business suit.

TweetMake sure your webpage accurately reflects you and your work.

When I send out your proposal to an editor and that editor Google’s your name, you really want her to open a page that looks like you. You want your page to be clean and to look intelligent and happy and friendly. If you’re a children’s writer you want some bright colors or fun pictures, maybe. If you’re a women’s writer you may want flowers or photos of your children or pets. You want something that reflects your personality and shows what you write.

Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter . . . ? Pick a couple that you like and work them. You don’t have to do everything. But try to do as many as you are able to do, while still doing them well. (I’m preaching to myself. I’m probably the worst tweeter and status updater around.) Be engaged with others and try to look confident and popular. Editors do look at this stuff. And agents do, too.

Who do you consider your publishing hero or role model?

Oh, this is a great question. I thank God regularly for Les Stobbe, who inspires me because of his integrity and work ethic. He sometimes emails me at six in the morning and then he’ll send me more emails at eleven at night. He works hard, sells plenty of books, teaches at eight to twelve conferences a year, and he’s committed to helping new authors break in. He’s been in the business since the 1950s, he’s taught Christian writers all over the world, and he doesn’t look like he’ll ever retire. Les is a wonderful Christian man and I am so thankful that he agreed to take me on.

When considering a new client, what do you consider the most important attribute?

A finished manuscript with a fresh premise.

I want to say that the most important attribute is the ability to make me care about the characters. That will happen if you have characters that are working toward a goal and if you tell me their story with a comfortable voice. I want to say that’s all it takes, because if I care about the characters I’m going to turn the page. But the more I talk to editors, the more I think you have to have the fresh premise to sell. It doesn’t seem to matter if your work holds our interest and we shut the book with a satisfied sigh.

My most common rejections read: I enjoyed the story but I don’t see it breaking out. Or the variation on that: I can see why you liked this. It’s a good story. But it feels like it’s been done before.

TweetA future client should make an agent care about the characters.

Name one key piece of advice you’d give a previously unpublished writer.

Study the current award-winning books in the genre you want to write.

I cannot tell you how many proposals I get from people who were playing with their children, or grandchildren, and got a good idea for a picture book. They write the books and send them to me and it is clear that their understanding of what picture books actually look like is nonexistent. Go to the library, check out a hundred picture books, take them home, and start typing them into your computer. Or check out ten award-winning middle grade novels and start typing them into your computer. If you will do that, it won’t take you very long before you will get a feel for POV, voice, tense, character . . . all kinds of things. You will see how plot works. And you will get to know, from studying the good books, what makes your books bad and what you need to do to fix them.

And then write books that have all the great elements that those books have—great characters, exciting plot, good pacing, wonderful voice . . .

. . . but make your books fresh (see question #4). Give us books that have never been done before. Simple!

Please describe your “dream” client.

My dream client writes a couple of books a year that bring in 250,000-dollar advances and debut on the NY Times Best Seller list. 🙂 You did say dream, right?

But my favorite clients write books I love. Books I enjoy reading three and four times as we edit and tweak. And if these clients make me laugh, that’s a huge plus.

And patience is a virtue! I am new and I don’t have an assistant. So it takes me a while to get things done.

What are you currently reading?

These interview questions. 🙂 I’m not currently reading anything, because I don’t read that way. I never stop in the middle of a book to answer interview questions. But what have I read most recently? Client manuscripts, mostly.

The last published books I’ve read in various categories are:

  • Picture book – “The House on Dirty-Third Street,” by Jo Kittinger
  • MG novel – “Okay For Now,” by Gary Schmidt
  • YA novel – I can’t remember. UGH. It’s been too long for me. I don’t have time read nice, fat YA novels. But I’ll put in a plug here for Marie Lu’s “Legend.”
  • Adult novel – some romance novel I got free at RWA. I can’t remember the title or plot. I abandoned it halfway through, actually.
  • Nonfiction Theological – “Knowing God,” by JI Packer (For the fourth of fifth time. Because I’m doing a study with my sister.)
  • Writing books – I always have one at hand. This month it’s Rebecca LuElla Miller’s “Power Element’s of Story Structure.”

Salley Apokedak pm

What Sally is looking for:

  • Picture Books – I’m looking for quirky, fun, characters and delightful language, with lines that roll and rhymes that rock. Conflict and growth for characters always helps.
  • Middle Grade Books – I’d love some funny boy books. Boy scientists and boy geniuses are great. I love fantasies, but really want anything with a strong voice.
  • YA Books – Fantasy is my favorite, and if there’s romance, I love it even more. I still like dystopian, and fairy tales. I love mysteries.
  • Nonfiction For All Ages – I’m interested in devotional books, Christian living, science for young children, and biography. But you may try me on anything.
  • Adult Inspirational – I’m looking for adult books for the Christian market, particularly fantasy and romantic suspense.


Kirk-Kraft_thumb.jpgKirk 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.

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.

Editor Jamie West Helps Christian Fiction Writers Achieve Their Dreams

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


Jamie West, editor with Pelican Book Group,  lives in the Midwest with her husband of 35 years, three dogs, and three cats.  She enjoys reading, traveling, archaeology, and quilting. A worship leader at church, she does children’s sermons every month, and sings with the Praise Team.Six years ago, she was led of God to answer an ad for a job at a secular publishing company. When they sold their inspirational Christian division, she went with the new company, which became Pelican Ventures Book Group. 

What’s been the most satisfying part of your editing career?

Helping Christian fiction writers achieve their dreams and mine. I get a kick out of editing. I actually enjoy the process. I like going through a manuscript line-by-line, reading an author’s work and “hearing” their characters speak, getting to know them for myself.  The fact that the manuscripts glorify the word of God, sometimes just a little, sometimes a lot, is just icing on the cake.  These writers are my people, we understand God exists, that we are called for a purpose, and that in our world, what happens in the manuscripts is not only possible, but that God permeates it all. 

I love it when writers push an edge – we have some fantastic writers and they cover suspense, mystery, science-fiction, fantasy, thrillers, day-to-day life, broken homes, being alone, young adult – the whole human experience. Our authors transport me, as a reader, to other worlds, and I love it.  Authors give me so much, a job I love, and characters who resonate long after the last word is read.

What are the primary reasons manuscripts fail to grab & hold your interest?

Flat characters. Solid characterization can carry an otherwise ordinary plot and make it something special and unique.  You can have the most imaginative plot in the universe, but if your reader cannot connect with the protagonist, or another character, the book will be one of those “over-the-couch” books – you know, tossed over the couch halfway through reading and lost to the dust bunnies until it’s time to vacuum.

What one piece of advice would you offer an aspiring writer?

Write.  And when you’re done, write more.  And when you are done, write some more.  Keep writing, because as you write, you will learn.  And submit your work, too.  We had a writer…she would write, and I would reject.  But she kept writing, and each time she wrote a new manuscript, she’d improve, because of course, she kept practicing writing.  And finally, she submitted a manuscript (I think it was her fifth one), and it was great.  I edited it, and she learned from those edits.  She went back to the rejected manuscripts, cleaned them up with what she’d learned, and re-submitted.  We published them, too.  She’s one of our bestsellers now. 

What do you consider the biggest publishing myth?

That once a relatively unknown person writes their first book, they’ll make millions of dollars.  That rarely happens. 

Could you describe a typical today in your editing life?

Oh…yes. It’s rather ordinary, really.  I usually start with breakfast, let the dogs out, let the cats out, talk to my husband of 35 years, grab some iced tea (in summer) or hot tea (in winter). My Dad made this beautiful wooden tea tray for me so I use it daily.  I then go to my computer to check email, blogs, and social media. Some is work related, some is family/friend related, but I check it all, and then respond as needed, including phone calls. Then I let the dogs in and perhaps a cat or two, also.  I usually start with 2nd edits on books in the queue to be published. Once I finish those, I start reading the new manuscripts in my inbox. 

At 11 AM, I break to talk to my boss, CEO, Nicola Martinez, and for our daily prayer session.  Yes, we pray over our authors and the company every day, unless we have other obligations such as doctor’s appointments or errands that must be done. We also discuss manuscripts, Christian theology, what’s in our Production queue, developing book covers/trailers, and other issues.

After lunch with my husband, I check the emails, blogs, and social media again, and then I start reading again. Afternoons, in between reading, I usually do whatever chores need doing around the house, or help my husband do stuff outside if we have planned tasks (we built a house a few years ago, and are still doing landscaping and adding little touches here and there, cabinets, new garden beds, and such).  And with all this, I’m constantly letting one of the three dogs or one of the three cats in and out.

I make dinner most nights, unless I con my husband into it, and then he settles down to watch TV or work on his computer, and I head back to my computer.  But first, the two younger cats need their cuddle time, so I generally just read a new manuscript while they wind around my neck, stretch across my lap, or swat me for not petting them long enough. Eventually, they get bored with my inattention, and leave.  Then I go back to the manuscript.

About an hour before bedtime, I hit all the email, blogs and social media again, to make sure I’ve not missed anything. That’s a perfect editing day.  Naturally, other things happen, and quite often, at least 1-2 days a week, nothing goes as planned, and I have to deal with other things.  I’d say I spend a solid 6-8 hours a day working, about 3-4 days a week.  The other days are taken up with other things, including church on Sundays.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished an adorable Young Adult novel for our new Watershed line.  I’m also midway through a historical romance right now.  We’ve contracted the first one, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be contracting the second, too.

Jamie West Pelican Book Group

In West’s Renewal workshop, she’ll explore how to develop the romantic relationship, write good dialogue, build strong characters, and infuse the spiritual essence of God into an Inspirational romance.  Workshop attendees need to bring a hard copy/paper print-out of the first five pages of their manuscript and a set of four highlighters in blue, pink, yellow, and green.

When you register for the conference, you may sign up for a group  editorial appointment with West on Friday.

White Rose                     HarbourlightWatershed

Pelican publishes under three imprints. Click on each icon to browse by Imprint to research books they’ve published. White Rose Publishing is Romance, Harbourlight Books is all fiction genres, Watershed is Young Adult.  To find Pelican’s specific manuscript needs, read here.

To prepare your pitch for West read “Do You Have Perfect Pitch?” and ‘The Wild Pitch.”

TweetEditor Jamie West loves it when writers push an edge @NWCWriters

TweetWriting Christian romance? Editor Jamie West of Pelican seeking manuscripts @NWCWriters


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.

Advice from Editor Beth Adams


1. What’s been the most rewarding experience in your editing career?
Oh goodness. Every book is a special experience in some way. It’s so satisfying to see a project go from a raw manuscript to a finished book. But beyond that, I can’t pick. This one is too hard!
2. What keeps you engaged with a story? What does “story” mean to you in the big picture?
I stay engaged in a story when there’s a compelling question that drives the story—when there’s something I need to know. I’ll keep reading to find out what happens. You can do this with any genre, even ones where there’s a pretty standard plot formula.
3. What are two of your all-time favorite books, fiction or non-fiction? Why?
This one is too hard too! I can never pick!
4. What are the primary reasons manuscripts fail to grab an editor’s interest?
Most of the books that cross my desk seem… good enough. Good enough is fine, but I’m looking for a book that stands out. I’m always looking for something that takes the book up a notch, makes it really stand out, that gives us an angle to sell it. Basically, I’m looking for a hook. A book that catches my attention will have that.
5. E-books, POD and e-readers have altered the publishing landscape. How do you envision the publishing realm continuing to change over the next 5-10 years?
I think e-books will continue to become a larger part of the market every year. This creates enormous opportunities for writers and publishers, and I think we will continue to find ways to capitalize on this more and more. I don’t think paper books will be going away anytime soon, but ultimately, readers are going to pick whatever format works best for them, and that’s progress. As long as they’re reading, I’m happy.
6. What one piece of advice would you offer an unpublished writer?

My best advice is to read a lot, and write a lot. I guess that’s technically two pieces of advice, but they’re closely related. Read so you know what else is out there, what you like, what you love, what works, what doesn’t. Read because it broadens your horizons and teaches you things you didn’t know. And it might just change the way you think about writing. And write. Do it a lot. Do it every day. Write things that you want to publish and things that you never think you can get published. The more your write, the better your craft will become, but it only happens through practice.


Kirk Kraft picKirk Kraft has been gripped by the “Writing Monster”, a husband and father of four attempts raise his children the best way possible while chasing his dream of publishing. Click here to visit his blog. He has been a member of NCWA since 2008.


Beth Adams-photoBeth is a senior editor at Howard Books, focusing mostly on fiction. Previous she worked at Guideposts and Random House, and has degrees from Princeton and New York University. She works out of the main Simon and Schuster office in New York.

A Splendid Beginning to a New Year of NCWA!

Kirk Kraft recaps NCWA’s September meeting.

It was great to be together again last week for our opening meeting of the year. Gigi opened our time by playing a worship song by Kari Jobe which set the mood for the evening and our hearts.

Laura Christianson of Blogging Bistro gave the devotional. The big takeaway was not being afraid to live into the gift God has given us, whether that means writing on the front lines or behind the scenes. Remember, “You are the letter of Christ.”

Clint Kelly’s Write Start session –“Not So Small Talk”– brought belly laughs to the evening as he introduced us to Sister Mary Joseph Harmony and Bad Boy Bob. Our assignment was to write a conversation between these two characters. Through this, we learned the importance of dialogue to allow characters to tell their own story while supplying valuable information for the reader.

There were many celebrations this month and our networking time included engaging each other in our goals for this year.

Our main speaker, Dr. Gregg Jantz, was a new college graduate when he was assigned to a woman’s prison. He began to study eating disorders when he met many inmates suffering from this affliction. GOD gave him a passion and a message of hope for women in all walks of life who struggle with eating.

He submitted a book to 23 different publishers before acceptance by Shaw Publishing. Hope, Help and Healing for Eating Disorders is now in its 3rd edition. Dr. Jantz stressed perseverance through the rejections – “if it’s passionate and burning within you” you need to publish it.

Dr. Jantz freely admitted his weaknesses in English and his need for a personal assistant along with a team to carry out his dream at A Place of Hope.

While he provided much food for thought and shared a great deal about his publishing career, the biggest takeaway I gathered from Dr. Jantz regarded the importance of building relationships in the industry.

NCWA’s first meeting was a splendid beginning to the new year!


From Kirk: “Gripped by the writing monster,” a husband and father of four attempts to balance raising his children the best way possible while chasing his dream of publishing. I’ve completed the first draft of two YA fantasy novels, several picture books and am currently outlining a nonfiction book about my family’s journey through liver disease and transplant.

Kirk has been a member of NCWA since 2008.  He writes a personal blog, Head Full of Mush, focused on family life and his youngest daughter, Sarah, who received the gift of life on April 23, 2009. He’s also trying to resurrect his neglected writing blog: Swings and Keyboards.

The Call of a Writer

Writers feel the call of the written word.

They can’t deny it and it’s futile to fight it. We MUST write. There is no alternative. Oh, we can attempt to ignore it, comparing it to a fad that will soon fade away. But it doesn’t. It can’t.

If it were that easy to give up, why do so many commit to writing day after day? Certainly, there are easier occupations to pursue. Why do we torture ourselves so, in the hope of seeing our words in print, picked up by someone in a bookstore or library and read with delight? We don’t do it for fame, for surely, most writers would scoff at that notion. So few hit “stardom” and even those that do work hard to achieve it.

No, writing for those of us committed to it, whether pre-published,  a debut author or a multi-published writer, agented or not, battle ourselves, our time, our deadlines to find the perfect word.

I set daily word count goals. Some people set time goals. Some just write and don’t set any goals. The point is, we are all writing. To do otherwise would be to turn our backs on our gifting, for this is what it is.

Writing is our life, and the words we write our food, our sustenance, moving us from this day to the next with the hope our words will touch just one person. After all, if we wrote simply to entertain ourselves the fire wouldn’t burn so long. The desire would eventually fade away. But to touch another life, to make someone consider different circumstances, or to simply help them escape harsh realities, that is why we write.

The heart of my writing is to share life. A journey taken alone can become discouraging, but a road walked with many companions, that’s where joy can be found.

{this post is dedicated to all my writer friends}


This post originally appeared January 24, 2011 on Kirk’s writing blog: “Swings and Keyboards.”Used by kind permission.



From Kirk: “Gripped by the writing “monster” a husband and father of four attempts
to balance raising his children the best way possible while chasing his
dream of publishing. I’ve completed the first draft of a YA fantasy novel
and have nearly completed another. There’s no rest for a guy who also holds
a full-time day job. As I like to say, ‘sleep is overrated.'”

Kirk has been a member of NCWA since 2008.  He also writes a personal blog focused on his young daughter, Sarah who lives with biliary atresia.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing for Kids

Kids crave fun, energetic, playful storytelling, yet many manuscripts are dry, predictable, and preachy. By following these do’s and don’ts, you’ll learn how to entertain a child and catch an editor’s eye.

I had the good fortune to attend Jesse’s workshop at NCWA’s conference. I’ve always enjoyed children’s literature and currently find myself writing for a variety of age groups. This seemed like a very relevant workshop and I wasn’t disappointed. Jesse’s talk was very lively and informational. He touched on 15 key points:

1. DO challenge kids with your writing. Explain in kid terms but don’t write down to them.

2. DO get into a child’s mind. What do they want to read? What do their parents want them to read?

3. DO work on a gripping opening. You only have 10 seconds to catch a child’s attention.

4. DO use vibrant, active verbs. Kids need action and the story to MOVE. Do not use ‘is’, ‘were’, and don’t let the story drag. ‘It’ or ‘there’ automatically drops you into passive voice. This is the first thing Jesse looks at when reading a submission.

5. DON’T go adjective crazy. One well-chosen adjective is better than five poor ones. They slow down writing.

6. DO use interesting and realistic dialogue (the second thing he looks at). Don’t use slang or “cute” language that kids use because it can become quickly outdated.

7. DO use humor. People retain 80% more of something that makes them laugh. These can range from personal experiences; extremes (like Lemony Snicket); repetition; switches (‘Freaky Friday’-like, where something becomes something it is not); exaggerations – take things to ridiculous conclusions; and word play.

8. DON’T wrap your story in a nice little bow. No “they lived happily ever after”. Kids are aware of world events and bad news. They want satisfaction tinged with dissatisfaction when they finish reading.

9. DO play by the rules. Rewrite, work through drafts, outline, do whatever is necessary. Get everything on paper first, then self-edit.

10. DO stay out of cliché-land.

11. DO leave your readers with a nugget of truth/takeaway value. We are responsible for their character development. Kids’ sense of right or wrong is generally locked in by age ten. We’re doing a service if we can help kids get their roots firmly planted in faith.

12. DO be creative – not derivative or “the Christian version of Harry Potter” – write what the Creator gave you the creativity to write.

13. DO know industry trends. Take a good idea and tweak it.

14. DO write compelling characters.

15. DO be yourself.

~ ~ ~

Personal notes from Kirk Kraft:

I made the conscious effort to not pitch to any editors or agents this time around. While I have projects in various stages of completion, I felt I would be better served holding off until next year.

Still, I met with Luke Hinrichs of Bethany House and Greg Johnson of WordServe Literary. Both men were very kind and generous with their responses and input. I always come away from these sessions realizing how people in the publishing industry are the same as me. We are all just people, genuinely human.

At last year’s conference, my daughter had returned home from a liver transplant just as the conference was set to begin. My wife was so gracious to let me attend and it was a great event. This year was that much better. I made some wonderful new friends and learned a great deal. God’s grace has followed me as I stepped out in faith to pursue a writing career.

The NCWA conference only cements the positive signs He has used to urge me forward.


The Northwest Christian Writers Renewal Conference was on May 7th and 8th. Jesse Florea led a workshop on writing for children.

Jesse Florea has been the editor of Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine for 12 years. Additionally, he’s co-written several books (including GROWING UP SUPER AVERAGE, THE ONE-YEAR DEVOS FOR SPORTS FANS, and THE ONE-YEAR EVERYDAY DEVOTIONS, all with Tyndale). He lives with his wife and two children in Colorado Springs.


Kirk Kraft lives with his wife, Patty, and four children in Marysville. He works in sales support for a local medical device manufacturer by day, and writes by night – or whenever else he can find the time. It’s a challenge with four children eight and under. He is working on a YA fantasy novel, several picture books, and essays his daughter Sarah’s liver transplant. You can read more about his family’s new “normal” at his blog, http://livingwithbiliaryatresia.blogspot.com.