Janalyn Voigt Tells Herself Stories

Janalyn Voigt has always been a storyteller.

She blames her father. At bedtime, his deep voice would rumble against her ear as he read chapters from classics and unfolded stories of exotic places such as Oz and Neverland. After he closed the book each night, her imagination would continue the tales. When he eventually stopped reading bedtime stories to her, she began spinning her own.

Within a few years she became the neighborhood storyteller, surrounded by children gathered on her lawn to hear the tales she invented. No one appeared to think her skill out of the ordinary. It wasn’t until her sixth-grade teacher pointed out her creative ability that she took note. At age twelve, she decided to become a novelist.JanalynVoigtPinable2

Many years later and after several wrong turns, she thought her goal would become a reality when she signed a contract with a small press for DawnSinger, the first novel in her Tales of Faeraven trilogy.

“Only it wasn’t that simple,” Janalyn says now. “The contract fell through. Of course I was devastated, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.” Within three months, she signed with a larger publisher for the first two novels in the trilogy, and she also landed an agent.

Janalyn calls herself a study in contrasts—a highly analytical daydreamer who schedules her day to optimize productivity. One result from this interesting combination of personality traits is Janalyn’s expertise with websites, search-engine optimization (SEO), and social media management.

At the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, Janalyn will lead a WriteCoach Lab and also co-teach a workshop:

BYOD- WordPress Solutions1) BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): WordPress Solutions (WriteCoach Lab, Friday, May 15) – If you have a self-hosted* WordPress website—or you’re thinking about building one—come with your questions and challenges for WordPress expert Janalyn Voigt to help you troubleshoot. She’ll also suggest what to put on your author website and give you specific tips for search-engine optimization (SEO). Bring your own device with you—laptop, netbook, tablet, smartphone, etc.—for real-time assistance.

* Self-hosted means you take the initiative to pay a third-party webhost to put your WordPress.org blog on the Web instead of relying on WordPress.com to host the blog for you.

Driving Traffic to Your Website2) Driving Traffic to Your Website (Workshop, Saturday, May 16, with Melissa K. Norris) – Many writers have great blogs, awesome books, and beautiful websites—but no visitors. Janalyn and Melissa 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.

Janalyn’s Internet expertise allows her to maintain separate websites for her Creative Worlds author brand and for mentoring other writers at Live Write Breathe.

Still, Janalyn prefers to think of herself as a storyteller. Writing is so intuitive for her that she rarely encounters writer’s block. But when her inspiration does need to be renewed, prayer helps her the most. “That, and figuring out where following the allegory might take the story,” she says.

To benefit from Janalyn’s teaching and coaching, sign up today for the 2015 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal.

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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.

Undercover Director Checks Out Conference Hotel

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

When I agreed to become conference director, I never dreamed the assignment would turn me into an undercover hotel guest. But that’s exactly what happened in January.

While taking part in the NCWA* WriteTech Conference in Kirkland, WA, I checked into the Redmond Residence Inn. This renovated facility is only about five minutes from where our May writers conference will be held at Overlake Christian Church. Our out-of-town speakers will stay there, and we’ve also secured a special rate for conferees.

But was the Residence Inn a hotel we could be proud of? The list of features was impressive:

  • Enhanced studio rooms, each with a queen bed and fold-out sofa (for sleeping up to 4 people)
  • Kitchenettes in every room, with appliances and well-stocked cabinets
  • Complimentary on-site parking for registered guests
  • High-speed Internet
  • Flat-screen television
  • Ergonomic desk and office chair
  • Fitness center
  • Outdoor swimming pool
  • Dinette table and chairs
  • Complimentary hot buffet breakfast in main-floor dining room
  • Morning copy of USA Today
  • Grocery shopping service
  • Redmond Town Center shopping mall nearby

ResidencePorticoDirections: Even without GPS and while encountering a detour, I found the Redmond Residence Inn easily using directions I’d printed off the Internet.

Parking: It helped to know that the hotel’s portico and entrance were in back of the building. I left my vehicle under the portico for a few minutes while I checked in. Once I had my room key-card, I swiped it through a box in front of the parking lot. The gate opened, and I parked for free.

ResidenceBedRoom amenities: The clerk directed me to the elevator, and I took my luggage up to my third-floor room. The studio had a queen bed, large flat-screen TV, foldout sofa bed that could accommodate two more guests, an easy chair, a desk with a lamp, and a small dinette table with two chairs.

During my stay I used the stairs almost exclusively. The stairwell was close to my room and provided great exercise. If I’d had more time, I would have checked out the hotel’s fitness center too.

ResidenceKitchenKitchen: The kitchen was equipped with a sink, stainless-steel dishwasher, refrigerator with freezer, 2-burner glass-top electric range, coffeemaker, and microwave. The cabinets were stocked with dishes, glasses, stemware, stainless-steel pots and pans, a colander, measuring cup, toaster, nested mixing bowls with lids, and a couple of microwave-safe cooking dishes.

SnackBasketIn-room food: Knowing ahead of time about a microwave being in each room, I brought my own supper to heat up. That saved me time and money—plus, I didn’t have to dine out alone. For an evening snack, I took advantage of the package of microwave popcorn left in a basket for guests. To accompany the popcorn, I wanted a cup of decaffeinated tea, but the only tea bags in the basket were caffeinated. LobbyBeverageCartHowever, in the main-floor lobby, I found a well-equipped beverage station with hot water, regular and decaf coffee, ice water, and a dozen varieties of tea bags.

Shopping: Sundown comes early in January, so, after I unpacked a few things and while it was still light, I stopped at the hotel’s desk and asked if the Redmond Town Center shopping mall was close enough to walk to. “Oh, my yes!” they said, handing me a brochure and explaining how to get to my destination. At the mall’s security office, I inquired about getting 150 of the brochures to include in our conference registration packets. It just so happened that they had received their order of brand new brochures that very day. The woman at the desk handed me a stack on the spot.

The most difficult part of dishing up my bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal was deciding which toppings I wanted.

The most difficult part of dishing up my bowl of old-fashioned oatmeal was deciding which toppings I wanted.

Hot-buffet breakfast: The next morning, the tremendous variety of selections at the complimentary breakfast buffet blew me away. The service begins at 6:00 a.m. on weekdays and at 7:00 a.m. on weekends.

Although the conference will feature a continental breakfast on Friday and Saturday, hotel guests who need heartier fare will find everything they need—and then some—at this buffet.

I appreciated the fresh fruits and veggies.

I appreciated the fresh fruits and veggies.

Choices seemed endless: hot and cold cereals, bagels, muffins, donuts, breads for toast, and waffles—all with numerous topping selections. In warming containers were red-skinned potato wedges, sausage patties, french toast, and scrambled eggs.

High-protein, low-carb, low-fat, or whatever your preference, you can probably find exactly what fits your dietary needs.

High-protein, low-carb, low-fat, or whatever your preference, you can probably find exactly what fits your dietary needs.

Ice kept fresh fruits and vegetables chilled, yogurts were at another station, and hot and cold drinks were readily available as well.

Networking areas: The main floor lobby features a lounge area with upholstered seating arranged in groupings conducive to conversation. Not far away is the breakfast area with tables and chairs that are perfect for setting up laptops at other times of the day and schmoozing with fellow writers.

OutdoorPatioNot to be missed is the outdoor patio area with even more seating options, some of which encircle a cozy fire pit.

Challenges: At first I had a problem finding an Internet connection. The dialog window said I was connected, but when I tried to check e-mail using Mozilla’s Firefox browser, I got an “Untrusted Connection” error message I couldn’t bypass. The same thing happened when I tried to log in at social-media sites. I finally opened Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to connect to e-mail. That brought up the Residence Inn’s welcome page requiring me to choose either the regular (free) connection or opt for a premium ($4.95/day) connection. After that I accessed the sites I wanted and switched back to Firefox with no further problem.ComputerOnDesk

The novelist in me wonders if being in Microsoft’s home town had anything to do with the glitch.

Reserving your spot:

The Residence Inn will hold a block of studio rooms for us until April 16, 2015, at the special price of only $99** per night. Want to save even more money? Why not bring a few writing friends and share a studio room (sleeps up to 4) or a 2-bedroom suite (sleeps up to 6)?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll mention that the general manager gave me the complementary overnight stay so I could check out the hotel. My experience was such a pleasant one that I’m confident the Residence Inn will serve our conferees well.

If you haven’t registered yet for the Renewal, there’s still time to get in on the early-bird conference rate good until April 6. Sign up today!

* NCWA: Northwest Christian Writers Association

** Hotel room rates are subject to applicable state and local taxes (currently 12.5%) in effect at the time of check-out.

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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.

Do You Have Perfect Pitch?

NCWA welcomes Karen Ball from The Steve Laube Agency!

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While I was at a writer’s retreat awhile back, I was struck, as I always am when in the company of writers, by the power of the right word used in the right way. On the first day of the conference, I had group meetings with the writers.

This is where a group of writers come in, sit at a table together, and each takes a turn pitching his/her book to me to see if I would be interested in representing the author. I had six groups, each lasting a half hour, made up of anywhere from 5-7 people each. So folks had a total of 3-5 minutes to engage me in their project.

It’s the writer’s conference version of speed dating!

The cool thing is, a good number of those who came had such a strong understanding of their project and of the market that they were able to hook me in the first few words. Now that’s doing your homework! For example, one woman told me right off the bat her book was romantic suspense, what the main story line was (in a sentence), and what the conflict and spiritual takeaway were.

That took about 45 seconds of her four minutes, so from there I asked questions about the story and focus and she was able to relax and just talk. I ended up asking her to send me the proposal. Don’t know if we’ll pursue it–the writing is what tips the scales, of course.

But I was impressed with her well chosen descriptions. And if I’m considering two manuscripts and all things are basically equal, I’ll always go with an author who is, first and foremost, teachable, and then able to communicate the heart and soul of her story quickly and effectively.

Summer and fall boast a lot of wonderful writers’ conferences to attend. So you writers need to know how to capture an editor’s or author’s attention in a matter of seconds. Yes, SECONDS, not minutes. So spend some time thinking about the following:

Do You Have Perfect Pitch?

*What’s the main theme (or themes) addressed in my story?

*For fiction, what’s the nonfiction hook I could use to stir interest in media outlets (e.g. radio, where they generally don’t have a clue what to do with novelists)?

*What genre/category is my book? Are there any best-sellers or movies that I can compare my book to that will position it quickly for the agent/editor? For example, “My book is Die Hard meets Left Behind.”

*What’s the spiritual takeaway?

Finally, can I describe my book in:

* one sentence

*25 words

*50 words

*200 words

(At different stages in the process of seeking publication, you’ll need to be able to do all of the above!)

That’s enough to get you started. So hey, go for it! Put together a masterful pitch, one or two sentences, that will position your book in any editor’s or agent’s mind. And if you want to try your pitch out here, feel free. I’ll let you know what I think.

TweetGroup pitching to an editor is the writer’s conference version of speed dating!@KarenBall

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This post first appeared June 13, 2012 on The Steve Laube Agency blog. Used by kind permission.

Karen Ball has been blessed to use her love of words and story during nearly 30 years in publishing. Currently the owner/operator of Karen Ball Publishing Services, LLC, and a literary agent with the Steve Laube Agency, Karen built and led fiction lines for Tyndale, Multnomah, Zondervan, and B&H Publishing Group.

She’s discovered and worked with some of the top novelists in publishing, including Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Brandilyn Collins, Angela Hunt, Ginny Yttrup, & Robin Jones Gunn. In addition, Karen is a best-selling, award-winning novelist and a popular speaker and teacher. She lives in Oregon with her husband, father, and three four-legged, furry kids. Visit Karen on her website or at The Steve Laube Agency.