6 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid at a Writers Conference

by guest blogger Katelyn S. Bolds, web writer and social media strategist

1.  Bring snacks

Don’t make the mistake of not planning for meals. Have a little snack stashed in your attaché for a slow moment. Don’t let your stomach growl when pitching your book! Bring a granola bar or trail mix as a speedy way to subdue your hunger. Choosing protein and low-sugar options will help keep your energy levels up and prevent you from crashing in the mid-afternoon slump.6-rookie-mistakes

2.  Make goals

Attending a conference with no goals in mind is a complete waste of money. Even if your goal is “find out what my goal should be,” you should still have some in mind.

Make a list of the editors and agents you want to meet with or touch base with. Do your homework and research them online. Try to find out interests, and see if your story would fit well for them. If an agent only works with fiction, don’t try to get them to make an exception for your manuscript.

3.  Avoid burnout

Know what is the right amount of conference for you. When you start to feel overwhelmed, leave the conference. Go outside, take a nap, call your family. Skipping meals or sleep will not impress anyone, but rather give the impression that you are inexperienced and unprofessional. Everyone needs a break after a long conference, but rest assured you can recover.

Read more here about avoiding conference burnout.

4.  Network and connect

Don’t underestimate the power of connections and friendships made at conferences! Use your time between sessions to speak with those around you. Swap struggles and tips with other writers and make sure to get names and e-mails if you feel the connection has potential. Writer friends are important for support, idea generation, and later networking opportunities. Be kind and see where it might lead!

5.  Pitch perfectly

Know your story backwards and forwards. It’s hard to sell a story short and sweet, but shoot for the style of a back cover. Focus on the main plot and emotional draw. In three to five sentences, explain the mass appeal of your work and why the publisher should be interested. Be polite, but don’t waste time chatting about the weather or the conference. The agent or editor is there to hear your pitch.

6.  Follow up and follow through!

Follow up with everyone you spoke with for more than a few minutes. Send them a thank you e-mail referencing interesting conversation points you discussed and tell them it was nice to meet them. This little touch will remind them who you are and set you apart from the crowd.

Follow through with anyone who asked you to send them something. If an editor asks you to tweak your story before sending them your manuscript, don’t let pride or lack of time stand in your way. Send it to them with haste! You may find that they are willing to work with you in the future, knowing how dedicated you are to impressing them.

Now that you know the rookie mistakes to avoid at writers conferences, be sure to sign up for the 2017 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal!

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katelynsbolds_headshotKatelyn S. Bolds balances work as web editor, author services extraordinaire, and freelance writer. She is married to coffee; also her husband. At times this DIY life might get a little crazy, but she takes it one day at a time. A little yoga, a lot of organization, and a holistic approach make for a Bold Life. Follow her on Twitter, (@KatelynSBolds), Facebook, and Pinterest.

 

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Stocking Gift Now Can Mean Career Boost Next May

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

What’s the one thing that some writers say is the most responsible for advancing their literary careers?

A writers conference.

christmas-stockinggraphicYes, at conferences you can meet industry professionals face to face and learn writing techniques directly from published authors. Critique sessions allow you to discuss your works in progress (WIPs) and hash out specific paragraphs or plot puzzles. Spending time with likeminded folks greatly increases your chance of forming strong relationships within the writing community.

Over the past few decades I’ve attended more than three dozen writing seminars and conferences. Here are just a few of the ways I’ve benefited:

  • Thirty years ago at a Portland conference, I met a novelist who invited me to join her critique group. I accepted—and I’m still a member to this day.
  • I first connected with my agent at a February conference on a Washington beach.
  • I met one of my coauthors at a two-day conference held at a Seattle-area church.
  • Other connections have resulted in book contracts, magazine assignments, and clients for my editing business.

While the perks of attending writers conferences are well-established, some people find registration costs to be a significant hurdle.

In case you’re one of those people, here’s an idea. Consider letting friends and family members know you would welcome a monetary gift in your Christmas stocking that you could use on registration fees. If gift-givers aren’t able to help financially, perhaps they’d be interested in offering childcare or another type of service that would enable you to get away for a couple of days.

You can choose from a number of excellent conferences available nationwide. But as director of the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, of course I think your best option is our own event coming up May 5–6, 2017.

The keynote speaker will be writer, director, and film producer Bill Myers of McGee and Me fame. This winner of seventy national and international awards has written more than 125 published books for children and adults. His book and DVD titles have sold more than eight million copies worldwide. When I met Bill last January while we were both teaching at the same university, I realized the wealth of knowledge he can offer writers at any level of expertise.

At the 2017 Renewal you’ll also learn from literary agents, acquisitions editors, multi-published authors, and other industry professionals. We’ll be using the lovely venue we enjoyed last year: Westminster Chapel in Bellevue, Washington.

Some information is already up on our website, and more will be added soon. Registration will be ready to open in a few weeks. Check the site often for new details.

If upcoming holidays don’t bring you enough financial gifts to cover the entire cost of the conference, here are a couple of other ways to stretch your dollars.

NCWA’s board has authorized two full scholarships to be awarded to applicants. (Details on the website soon.) Also, some full and partial scholarships are available for those who take on certain conference responsibilities.

Whatever financial path you travel to attend the Renewal, prepare to be inspired and equipped—even if Santa ends up having little to do with your getting there.

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Doc Hensley Explains the Art of Pitching

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

Dr. Dennis E. Hensley has probably lost count of the number of conferences he’s spoken at over the years. He’s taught workshops, served on panels, presented manuscript makeovers, met personally with conferees, and often served as the keynote speaker. Through it all—and while pitching some of his own 60 published books—he’s learned from his publishing colleagues what impresses editors and agents the most during their appointments with conferees.

DocExplainsPitchingAs director of the Professional Writing department at Taylor University (Upland, IN), Dr. Hensley shares this knowledge with his students, along with readers of his column in Christian Communicator magazine. Now he’s letting Renewal conferees in on the secrets to effective proposal pitches.

The following article is an excerpt from the book Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects (by Dennis E. Hensley with Diana Savage), which will be released this August by Bold Vision Books.

MASTERING THE 15-MINUTE BOOK PITCH

Pop artist Andy Warhol once said that every person, sooner or later, enjoys 15 minutes of fame. In the arena of pitching book proposals, it comes down to 15 minutes of fame or 15 minutes of shame. When you attend a writers conference and schedule an appointment with a literary agent or book editor, you have 15 minutes—sometimes less—to convince that person your book is worth considering for publication and that you are someone this individual will want to do business with.

That’s not much time, so let’s talk about how to make those minutes count.

  1. Look professional. Although writers conferences are usually casual in attire, trying to convince someone to invest more than $35,000 to launch your book is big business. You need to look like someone who would appear impressive on talk shows, when giving speeches, and when meeting folks at autograph parties. First impressions are lasting ones.
  2. Have an actual book idea. Some would-be writers come up with a great title and even some clever research, but trained editors can see what would make a good article and what would actually sustain a full book. A published book usually is somewhere around two-hundred pages, with about four hundred words per page, which is 80,000 words. Thus, if you don’t have an idea that can be content heavy for 320 double-spaced manuscript pages, don’t waste the editor’s time.
  3. Know the competition. Anticipate that the agent or editor will ask you what else is on the market similar to your topic. It’s good that other books exist on your topic, because they show that other publishers have seen market value for it. Your job will be to explain how your book is different. Perhaps you have newer research, better photos or other graphics, a broader range of topics, exclusive interviews, distinctive sidebars or reading lists or quizzes. Emphasize how your book is unique and better than the competition. One special insider tip is this: Prove that your book will still be interesting a year from now when it finally gets into print and how it will contain enduring elements that will make it stay in print several years thereafter.
  4. Speak as though this person is a committee. Although you are addressing just one person, he or she will have to champion your book before a publication board. It will be made up of people from sales, publicity, layout and design, marketing, accounting, legal, and editorial departments. As such, explain how you will help to market the book via speaking engagements, blogging, social networking, library appearances, webinars, professional organizations, public readings, writers workshops, reviews, and autograph parties. Don’t give anyone on the board a reason to reject you.
  5. Sell yourself with wild abandon. No one likes a braggart, but when it comes to selling a book, you need to prove that you know what you’re talking about. You can do this by providing a résumé that stresses your education, your list of previous publications, any honors or awards you’ve received, and your professional credentials. Stress the research you conducted in preparing this book manuscript. Additionally, if you can produce a list of endorsements from people with name recognition, this will certainly work in your favor.
  6. Hand over a solid book proposal. Despite the fact that you will have a well-organized, extremely focused conversation with this agent or editor, you still will need to have a high-quality book proposal to leave with this person if he or she decides your book idea warrants publication consideration. Your cover letter will explain why you feel this publisher is right for your book; highlights of your career after age twenty; a terse description of your book (“The Help is about African-American maids who find ways to shame their oppressive suburban white employers during the 1960s”); mention of your best endorsements; and a word about your target readership. You’ll need to have from one to three fully completed chapters, a one-page biography (write about yourself in the third person), a table of contents that you may wish to expand into an outline, a one- or two-page synopsis of the entire book (yes, do tell the ending), and information about your personal platform.
  7. Anticipate blunt objections or questions. Editors may ask if the manuscript is “clean,” meaning void of mechanical writing errors. Say (truthfully) that you’ve had other eyes go over the entire book (professional editors or maybe members of your writers critique group). Editors may ask “Who cares?” about your topic. Have statistics ready, audience surveys, sales records of similar books. The editor may ask, “But who are you?” so have credentials and experience to show you are the perfect person to write and promote this book.

Contrary to common belief, editors come to writers conferences because they want to discover talented writers, and they want to find publishable books. How else can they stay in business? However, their greatest joy is to discover someone who is polished, professional, and savvy about writing and marketing books. This could mean a long-term working relationship. So, when the clock starts ticking, use every second to show that you came prepared to do business.

© 2016 by Dennis E. Hensley, all rights reserved

Learn more valuable tips from Doc Hensley at the 2016 Northwest Christian Writers Renewal. Sign up today!

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Diana SavageDianaSavage, a graduate of Northwest University and Bakke Graduate University, sold her first article when she was still in college, and she’s been writing ever since. Now the principal at Savage Creative Services, LLC, she also directs the Northwest Christian Writers Renewal conference. She is the author of 52 Heart Lifters for Difficult Times and the coauthor—with Dr. Dennis E. Hensley—of the inspirational suspense novel Pseudonym.

Don’t Worry Before a Writers Conference, PLAN!

Does the thought of attending a writers conference make you nervous?

Winston Churchill said, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”

Instead of worrying in advance, plan in advance by reading past blog posts with valuable advice on preparing for a writers conference.

TweetNervous about attending a writers conference?  Prepare, don’t worry.

Top Ten Reasons pmEdie Melson from The Write Conversation guest blogged “Top Ten Reasons to Attend a Writers Conference.”

 

Prayer Power Tool“Plug in Your Power Tool — Prayer” was written by Lydia E. Harris to provide instruction in gathering a prayer support team for your writing.

 

Terry Whalin 2Pack your proposal, not your manuscript, in your tote bag, because Terry Whalin advises that “Editors Read Book Proposals, Not Manuscripts.”

 

CWC Buy NowThe Northwest Christian Writers Association wrote a book just to relieve conference jitters and help conference attendees know exactly what to do before, during, and after a conference. Purchase on Amazon here.

TweetThe Christian Writer’s Coach book details what to do before, during, and after a writers conference.

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And while you’re planning and preparing, don’t forget to register!

 

 

Pitch and Tell – Avoiding Story Stumbling

By Kathleen Freeman, Critique Coordinator for NCWA and Renewal Volunteer

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They ask about our story—editor, agent, fellow writer, the guy slicing the beef. We freeze. We panic, and what could have been a fun and meaningful conversation, and possibly begun a friendship, turns to disaster.

If someone asks what we love about our spouse, kids, or pet, we don’t panic, don’t get tongue-tied or fearful. Confidence oozes as we tell strangers and friends alike about little Lucy’s first steps carrying Tolkien’s The Hobbit. We confess that our face might be purple because we spent the last two hours helping our son write an essay.

Avoiding Story Stumbling

People don’t ask about our work to measure or judge us. Okay, some do, but they are the exception. Most ask because of burning curiosity. They want to know what fills us with the passion to neglect other things in our lives and write when we know the pitiful publication odds… let alone the chances of writing a NY Times best seller. What is our story about, and why is it so important? If we can articulate the answer in five words, thirty-two words, or 100 words of eye-sparking passion, it’s a powerful jump-start to the most flagging confidence. If we can’t, we’re not ready for a pitch—plain and simple.

TweetWe neglect other things in our lives and passionately write despite pitiful publication odds.

Unfortunately, passion, even articulated well, only goes so far. If asked about Bible verses pertaining to the deity of Christ and we’re not prepared, Bible fumbling and umming will ensue. We have to have pages marked, words highlighted. In the same way, when someone asks about our kids, pictures go a long way toward reminding us why we love them despite struggles.

Whether telling our story to the book table lady, or pitching to an editor or agent, a picture of our “baby” can help break the ice. A One Sheet, writing sample, and story proposal make a great snapshot. A One Sheet is an introduction to us and our story using artistry and character representative of our book. It’s a business card and photo rolled into one page. A transparent, gem-colored, $2.99 Rite Aid plastic folder makes a great showcase and will also hold writing samples and our proposal. Some have a place for a business card, as well.

In addition to making a great conversation starter, a folder looks professional—a step in the right direction beyond one-line zingers, elevator pitches or thirty-two word summaries. If we stumble, trip on our words, or develop rubber lips, we still look like a player.

Organization isn’t always a writer’s greatest gift. Receipts and napkins often carry our inspirations home. But failure in this can undo both preparation and passion. If our artistic, stream-lined folder is shoved in a bag among schedules, a pile of magazines, a semi-melted Hershey’s Kiss, a hairbrush, and receipts from the bookstore, our mind may feel like the chocolate is melting through it. A horror story of great proportion may ensue as we reach in and pull out our Arm and Hammer Essentials deodorant. While such a blunder might lead to a new friendship founded on mutual anti-aluminum beliefs, it’s more likely to make an editor flag down the time-keeper, eyes pleading for Calgon. No. We’re better off leaving anything extraneous in the car if we have an appointment.

Though due respect and admiration, editors and agents seek what anyone does—something excellent to read, and maybe a new friendship or two. To help him or her feel welcome and appreciated, we might do some internet research before the appointment. If we know her company switched from Prairie Romance to Steampunk Murder Mysteries, we can leave And the Bluebells Ring in our bag and dust off It Goes Whir, Thud. If horror terrifies him, we shouldn’t pitch ours. If she just lost her dog, we might be sensitive to that and not tell our story about Fido gifting the new neighbors with our bloomers.

We pitch, tell our story with proud passion, and then we’re done. Whether she wants us to send her something or not, we need to maintain an air of thankfulness. A “thank you for your time” is always appreciated. Beyond that, a no is not by any means the end of the story… unless we spin in angry circles and vanish in a puff of blue smoke.

TweetWhen we pitch, we tell our story with proud passion.

As chairs are stacked and conference attendees stare into space, smiles stiff, brains overflowing with information, we might ask the editor sitting alone if it was a good conference for him. We could ask the agent if she has a place to worship on Sunday, or offer coffee or a cup of water. Grace. Love. A bit of kindness. It may even help her move past our blunders and ask, once again, to hear our story.

It could happen.

 

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(Your next opportunity to pitch!)

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Kathleen Freeman 2Kathleen Freeman serves on the Board of Directors for the Northwest Christian Writers Association as the Critique Coordinator. She’s also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and she’s been writing and critiquing for enough years to be told she’s been around the block a few times. Her work appears in Raising Small Souls, the NCWA Newsletter, Vista Journal for Holy Living, and Clubhouse Magazine. She was the 2012 winner of the Genesis contest in the YA category, 2013 semi-finalist in the Mystery category, and the 2013 3rd place  winner of the Category 5 contest, Contemporary category. You can find her at www.findinghopeinhardtimes.com.

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

Author Kathleen Freeman shares her wisdom and encouragement.

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My husband often accuses me of being a matchmaker, a Yenta out of place and time.

It’s true. Despite a bedroom that argues against it, I love to organize. In the right mood, I can sort a silverware drawer with the best of them—toss take-out restaurant chopsticks from two years ago and make all the spoon bowls stack in the most eye-pleasing manner.

My passion, however, is people. Despite the Valentine’s Day sound of that, it isn’t couples I most like to match. I’m an idea connector, and that ardor extends to finding talents. I LOVE to put people in situations where they can grow and learn, do their best, use the gifts God has given them to make the world a better place. I find it irresistible to help loose chains and free people to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, strength and love their neighbor as themselves.

This is why I write.

In a matchmaking mood, which, to be honest, arrives just about every day, I enjoy seeking out writers and bringing them into the fold, whether it be an organization or critique group. From there, I might have the opportunity to help boost them to the next level of connection, confident that they and an editor or agent will form a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship—a matchless match.

Perfect Match

 

The Northwest Christian Writers Renewal, the annual writers conference, is April 11-12, 2014.  If you’re a writer, you should go. If you’re thinking about becoming a writer, you should go. Connection opportunities are vast at any conference and will be super strong at the upcoming one. Right? Of course right.

1. Writer or not, this conference is matchless, one of the best in the country for renewal, for connecting with God, for inspiration. Writers have a way with words.

2. Hundreds of other writers will be there, from beginning beginners to best-selling authors. Writers are a quirky bunch, especially those of us who write fiction. You are not alone in your desire to create, in the way you discuss made up people as if they are real, or even argue with them… out loud. Writers love to help other writers—maybe it’s the comfort we feel in numbers, which is odd, since most of us are introverts. Ask anything about writing. Someone will know the answer.

3.  Davis BunnDavis Bunn is speaking and teaching. Mr. Bunn is a celebrated and prolific writer of adventure, Oxford teacher and world traveler. Think Indiana Jones without the whip. He is also one of the best teachers I’m encountered in my long writing journey. His class would have shaved years off the learning process. If only.

4. Many editors and agents will attend. They are looking for work with that special ring, whether it be in fiction, children’s books, science articles, or a non-fiction article that moves the most hardened of criminals to tears.

“Bring me a ring for I’m longing to be the envy of all I see.”

Cue potential matches:

 Sally ApokedakSally Apokedak, with the Les Stobbe Agency, is one of the kindest agents I’ve met. She loves a good book, especially quirky-fun children’s books and YA. I hear she has a passion for science, which makes her even cooler in my… book. The agency head, Les Stobbe is agent to some fantastic people. He is committed to helping first time authors and is seeking adult fiction and non-fiction.

Katherine DeVries Katherine DeVries, with David C. Cook, is a publisher in search of encouraging articles, inspiring poems, African American Real Life writers and editors, and curriculum writers. Time to dust off your Sunday School lesson ideas.

 William JensenWilliam Jensen, William K. Jensen Literary Agency, is looking for fiction and non-fiction.

 Rachel KentRachel Kent, of the highly esteemed Books and Such Agency, is looking for adult fiction and non-fiction, young adult (YA) fiction and non-fiction, and twenty to thirty-something fiction and non-fiction. Books and Such loves good ideas and great writing. Non-fiction is especially interesting to them at this time.

 Kathleen KerrKathleen Kerr, Harvest House (a top ten Christian publisher), is looking for nonfiction dealing with Christian living, self-help, and apologetics.

JamieWestM. Jamie West, Pelican Book GroupWhite Rose, Harbourlight—is looking for fiction. The White Rose imprint is romance, and the Harbourlight imprint takes a variety of genres. They love to keep it real.

For more information, see the complete list of needs for the agents and editors that will be at the Renewal here.

There are great fits out there, and less than optimal fits, even if your name is Frank Peretti, Karen Kingsbury, or T. Davis Bunn. Playing with matches, a writer can get burned, so do your research. Talk to people. Catch no catch, unless it’s a matchless match. Please remember to have long conversations with the greatest of connectors, the first and best matchmaker.

Thy will be done, our Father.

TweetFind the Perfect Match for your writing at a writers conference.

 

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.Kathleen Freeman 2

Kathleen Freeman serves on the Board of Directors for the Northwest Christian Writers Association as the Critique Coordinator. She’s also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and she’s been writing and critiquing for enough years to be told she’s been around the block a few times. Her work appears in Raising Small Souls, the NCWA Newsletter, Vista Journal for Holy Living, and Clubhouse Magazine. She was the 2012 winner of the Genesis contest in the YA category, 2013 semi-finalist in the Mystery category, and the 2013 3rd place  winner of the Category 5 contest, Contemporary category. You can find her at www.findinghopeinhardtimes.com.

“The Christian Writer’s Coach: How to Get the Most out of a Writers Conference” Book Review

Lesley Ann McDaniel, published author and member of NCWA, reviewed the book written by NCWA members.

 

CWC Buy Now

The title of the book says it all. It really does offer a full spectrum of encouragement and practical advice needed for a writer, whether newbie or seasoned, to get the most from a conference. This collection of articles by various members of the Northwest Christian Writers Association is an invaluable guide.

As a prelude, we’re treated to five mini-bios of people who are successful in Christian publishing, peppered with bits of practical conference-relevant tips. I had the privilege of interviewing my agent, Les Stobbe, for this book, and of writing his bio. Since he attends up to ten writers’ conferences a year, it was fun to get the perspective from the other side of the pitching process. I appreciate his reminder that “Preparing to be a writer is a marathon, not a sprint.”

The rest of the book is divided into three sections for easy reference: before, during, and after a conference. It’s a quick, enjoyable read, and easy to navigate.

My favorite take-aways are the reminders from bestselling author James L. Rubart and editor Marcus Yoars to put other people first; numerous cues from Melissa K. Norris, Robin Jones Gunn, Lydia E. Harris and others to let God lead you through prayer; and Marty Nystrom’s sage advice to trust God for the timing of each writing project.

I also learned some great tips from Janalyn Voigt on preparing a conference binder, something I had never thought to do before. Lynnette Bonner and Erica Vetsch offer practical instruction for creating a book proposal and a one-sheet, both essential tools for the writer who hopes to pitch a project to an editor or agent.

And speaking of pitching, Melissa K. Norris, Amy Letinsky, and Michelle Hollomon each offer helpful how-tos on that topic.

This book is rich with so much more. I recommend it for everyone who is planning to attend a writers’ conference, whether Christian or secular, but also for writers who can’t attend a conference but intend to submit their work to agents and publishers.

Enjoy your writers’ conference, and in the words of Lydia E. Harris, don’t forget to “Go have fun!”

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to write a positive review, and have expressed my honest opinions.

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LESLEY ANN MCDANIEL is a lifelong lover of words, and theatre. While earning a degree in acting, she fell in love with theatrical costuming, and pursued that as a career while nurturing her passion for writing on the side. Through God’s guidance, she has shifted her focus to honing her skills as a writer of Women’s and Young Adult fiction. She is a member of the Northwest Christian Writers Association and of a wonderful critique group. A native Montanan and a Big Sky girl at heart, Lesley now resides in the Seattle area.

 

Her books “Lights, Cowboy, Action”, “Big Sky Bachelor”, “Rocky Mountain Romance”, and “Saving Grace” are available at her website www.lesleyannmcdaniel.com or on Amazon http://amzn.to/1a2Rlnf.