Wrapping up the 2016 MSCWC

April Carpenter 01The 2016 Mid-South Christian Writers Conference has come and gone.

With 95 in attendance for the actual conference and 63 at the Meet and Greet event, we feel it was a great success.

Thank you again for choosing the MSCWC. “God’s love is new every morning.”

The theme this year was “Connecting Through Words.”

For the conference committee this phrase led us to Habakkuk 2:2. “And the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell the others.’”

This is the third conference that God has blessed us with, and each year God enlarges our billboard.

We would love to hear from you about how this year’s conference helped your writing. We’re praying that God is allowing you to rush and tell the others, and we want to hear about it.

Please share with us at, midsouthchristianwriters@gmail.com

Until next year!

Praying God’s Blessings upon you.

Peace,

April Carpenter, Conference Director

Before, During, & After the Writers Conference

Johnnie Alexander (2)A Guest Post by Johnnie Alexander

A writers conference is an invaluable investment in your dreams and aspirations. But attending one can also be nerve-wracking, overwhelming, and just plain terrifying.

Though a separate post could be written on each of these aspects–before, during, and after–please allow me to give you just a thought or two about each one.

Before the conference

Read the conference website for information on the speakers, the workshops, and any special events. Find out the dress code and, if you’ll have the chance to make individual appointments, be sure to identify the best match for you. Definitely bring business cards (with your photo and email address). Most of all, leave the nervous willies at home.

During the conference

Smile at someone who looks lost or lonely. Engage in conversation. Be more interested in others’ stories than you are in your own. Take good notes during the workshops, and if you need a little alone time–take it! (Most writers are energized by a moment or two away from the crowd, so we understand.)

After the conference

Reflect on all that you’ve learned. Connect via social media with those you connected with in person at the conference. Write thank you notes to the workshop presenters and conference committee. Take some time to rest and reconnect with your family, especially for a multi-day conference, and then review your notes. Create an action plan.

Most important of all–write!

Remember one other essential: Seek God’s guidance for your writing journey before, during, and after the conference. He knows the desires of your heart, and His timing is perfect.

Meet Johnnie

All covers 2015Johnnie Alexander writes inspiring stories that linger in the heart. Where Treasure Hides, her debut novel, won the ACFW Genesis Contest (2011) and Golden Leaf Award (2014). Her first contemporary romance, Where She Belongs (Misty Willow Series; Revell), and her first novella, The Healing Promise (Courageous Bride Collection; Barbour), release in 2016.

She also has won Best Novel and Best Writer awards (Florida Christian Writers Conferences), and Bronze Medalist (My Book Therapy Frasier Contest). She volunteers as a category coordinator for the ACFW Genesis Contest, judges various contests, and serves as marketing director for the MidSouth Christian Writers Conference.

Johnnie’s Workshop

Fine-tuning Your Fiction: From First Draft to Final Manuscript

Polished prose that sings “Buy me! Buy me!” to an editor doesn’t magically appear on the page. Specific writing techniques are needed to craft your story idea into a compelling novel that will grab a publisher’s attention. In this workshop, we’ll discuss: asking and answering story questions; showing a scene; telling the story between the quotes; and choosing our words. As time permits, we’ll review specific editing issues.

10 Tips to Streamline Your Writing Time

A Guest Post by Edie Melson

Edie Melson
Edie Melson

So often we make things harder than they have to be. Sometimes we do it because we’re used to doing things a certain way, or because it’s the only way we know how. But things change quickly these days, and it’s always a good thing to take a look at your routine with a fresh eye. Today I’m going to share some tips to streamline your writing life. Some you may already do, some you may not have ever considered. Just take a look at the list with an open mind and see if there’s anything on it that can make your life easier.

Tips to Streamline Your Writing Life

  1. Take a look at your goals. It’s important to have goals—and it’s important to have written goals. It’s easy to just float along, taking things as they come. But when we do that, it’s hard to make progress—and it’s even harder to evaluate progress. Beyond that, there’s something almost magical about writing down your goals. Having them recorded somewhere gives them weight and makes it easier to make them a priority.
  2. Evaluate how much time you’re spending on social media. If it’s more than thirty minutes a day, it’s time to re-evaluate. After thirty minutes, your return on investment takes a severe nosedive in the downward direction.
  3. Let go of your expectations. No this isn’t  a contradiction of #1 above. There is a huge difference between goals and expectations. I bet if you’re honest with yourself you have quite a few expectations—from what you expect from yourself, to what you expect from others. For me, when I took a hard look, a lot of those expectations were totally unreasonable. So spend some time and take a hard look at your expectations. The ones that are reasonable, make into goals and priorities. The rest of them . . . well . . . just throw them away.
  4. Determine when, in a 24-hour period, you are most creative. Some of us are night people, some are morning people, and some of us work best in the afternoon. But we each have a specific time when the words and ideas tend to flow easier. Look at your internal clock and figure out when that time is. Then, guard it like you’re guarding gold. Really that’s what you’re doing. Our income and dreams are locked up tight with our ability to create. When we figure out the time that work best for creative work, it’s like someone has handed us pure gold.
  5. Come up with a way to schedule your time. I know not everyone can have a detailed schedule. But truthfully, if you’re trying to carve out time to write (and who isn’t?), you need to schedule that time. There are lots of methods to help with time management from an old fashioned spread sheet to the Pomodoro Technique. Do some research and find something that works for you.
  6. Commit to quit talking negative to and about yourself. When someone bashes our ability and/or our manuscript, it takes time to recover. The same holds true when we do it to ourselves. So take a page from my author friend, Alton Gansky, and QUIT IT!
  7. Take care of yourself physically. This means getting enough sleep, eating well, and especially exercising. The sedentary lifestyle of a writer can quickly take its toll on us physically and mentally. Sure these things take time—often time we don’t feel we can spare. But even though this may seem counterintuitive, it will streamline your writing life. You can accomplish so much more when you are physically healthy and mentally alert.
  8. Build in regular breaks. Especially when I’m on a deadline, I’ve found that taking regular breaks greatly improves my productivity. A good friend and spiritual mentor of mine Kent Pate has a saying, “Divert daily, withdraw weekly, abandon annually.”
  9. Surround yourself with encouraging writers. You don’t just need encouraging friends, but also encouraging writers. We writers are an odd lot, and we need others around us who understand our thought process, our struggles and our quirky joys. These writers should be active and growing—not those who just talk about writing, but those who spend time writing.
  10. Engage a prayer team. This may seem odd, especially if you’re fairly new to even calling yourself a writer, much less having something published. But the truth is, this life is hard. When we answer God’s call to step out and share His message, we’re going to encounter spiritual warfare. For that, you need people to pray for you. If you’re also building a ministry, trying to grow an income and/or beginning to speak, that’s even more of a reason to surround yourself with prayer. These folks don’t have to be writers, but they should have a connection to you.

These are just some of the things that do to help my writing life stay manageable. I’m sure there are lots of other things that would help as well. Be sure to chime in with your suggestions in the comments section below.

ConnectionsMeet Edie

Edie Melson—author, blogger, speaker—has written numerous books, including While My Soldier Serves, Prayers for Those with Loved Ones in the Military. She’s also the military family blogger at Guideposts.org. Her popular blog for writers, The Write Conversation, reaches thousands each month, and she’s the Director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Connections: Social Media & Networking Techniques for Writers is a print expansion of her bestselling ebook on social media. She’s the Social Media Mentor at My Book Therapy, the Social Media Director for Southern Writers Magazine, and the Senior Editor for NovelRocket.com. Connect on Twitter and Facebook.

Edie’s Workshop

In addition to being our keynote speaker, Edie is presenting one of our workshops: Plug-In to the Digital Revolution–Without Stressing Out!

Did you know that the college class of 2014 considers email obsolete? According to the Beloit College Mindset List, they’ve also never written in cursive, and with cell phones to tell them the time, they see no need for a wristwatch. If this makes you feel old and out of touch, don’t panic, I can help you develop a web presence that puts you back on the cutting edge. Learn the basics of setting up a blog, working with Facebook, and tweeting on Twitter. Beyond that, I’ll give you the tools and resources to help you keep current with all things digital.

Sharing Abundance

alice portrait (2)

A Guest Post by Alice Fay Duncan

An excerpt from my book

Hello Sunshine–5 Habits to “Uncloud” Your Day

Recently, I watched a newscast that featured a basketball star and his young son. They entered F.A.O. Schwarz to buy toys for poor children in New York City. I noticed that the little boy buzzed happily around the store, selecting expensive items that he knew quite well were not for his personal pleasure.

The news anchor asked, “What do you want your son to gain from this day?” The star athlete made some thoughtful reply about gratitude and good fortune. However, the greatest lesson for me was in the little boy’s eyes.  He was thrilled to shop for gifts that would serve children he did not know.

Sharing your abundance is the one gesture that will brighten your day in an instant.  This is what the little boy revealed as he shopped in F.A.O. Schwarz.  Giving to others was the very action that put a smile on his dimpled face.

Meet Alice Faye

Hello SunshineAlice Faye Duncan has been writing children’s picture books since 1995 for publishers such as Simon and Schuster, Atheneum, Zonderkidz, Trolls, and MacMillan. Her book Honey Baby Sugar Child, a mother’s live song to her young child, is now in its seventh printing with Simon and Schuster. Her most recent publication, Hello, Sunshine: 5 Habits to UNCLOUD Your Day, is an adult nonfiction book. When Alice is not serving as a school librarian or writing, she can be found visiting local art museums. Her favorite artists are Carroll Cloar, Kadir Nielson, and Frank D. Robinson, Jr.

Alice’s Workshop

Writing for Young Readers—A How-To Guide

This workshop will discuss the steps needed to write and publish books for young readers. Present trends in children’s publishing will be addressed while encouraging participants to write books, articles, and poems that are meaningful and important to them. Participants will receive a collection of handouts including a list of reference tools, picture book template, list of publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts for young readers, and list of reputable literary agents seeking new clients who write for children.

Faculty: Gregg Bridgeman

gregg bridgeman (2)Meet Gregg

Gregg Bridgeman is the Editor-in-Chief at Olivia Kimbrell Press. He is husband to best-selling Christian author Hallee Bridgeman and parent to three. He continues to proudly serve in the US Armed Forces and has done so in either an active or reserve capacity for more than twenty years as an airborne and air assault qualified paratrooper, earning a Bronze Star for his service. Most importantly, he was ordained in October of 2001 after surrendering his life to Christ decades earlier.

Gregg’s Workshop

FREE (or nearly free) Tools Every Writer Should Know About!

This workshop includes instruction in completely FREE (or nearly free) tools that assist authors with Word Processing, Editing, Formatting, Graphics, AudioBooks, eBooks, and basic Productivity. This entertaining and interactive class employs real world examples and live demonstrations of available applications. Stuck in a WORD rut? Need a more powerful or flexible word processor? Like to translate your books into Braille? Interested in a free ebook compiler? Have to create Press Quality PDFs? Take this class!

 

Introducing Guideposts Books

JonWoodhamsHeadShot (2)A Guest Post by Jon Woodhams

While this will be my first year at the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference, I have represented Guideposts at five ACFW conferences and one Mount Hermon conference. At each one, lots of folks come up to me to say hello and inevitably say something like, “Oh! Guideposts! Yes, my grandmother got that magazine.” Some might remember that Guideposts was founded by Norman Vincent Peale (author of The Power of Positive Thinking) and his wife, Ruth Stafford Peale. The first issue of the magazine rolled off the press in 1945, shortly after the end of World War II, so Guideposts (and Guideposts, the magazine) just celebrated its 70th anniversary last year. Today, the little digest-sized publication enjoys a circulation in the millions.

After my conferee friends’ initial enthusiastic profession of familiarity with Guideposts magazine, however, I’m often met with furrowed brows and puzzlement when I tell them I don’t work for the magazine but for Guideposts Books. “I had no idea Guideposts did books!” they’ll say. And when I tell them I am a fiction editor for Guideposts, they are often in for a second dose of surprise.

So despite the title of my blog post, Guideposts is not new to books. A number of now-classic Christian books originated with or at least were published by Guideposts over the years, including such titles as The Hiding Place and God’s Smuggler, written by John and Elisabeth Sherrill with Corrie ten Boom and Brother Andrew, respectively. On the current nonfiction side, some of you might be familiar with our popular 365-day devotionals Daily Guideposts or Mornings with Jesus. And Guideposts is no stranger to fiction, either. Guideposts offered Catherine Marshall’s classic novel Julie to its audience in 1984.

In recent years, Guideposts has built a robust and successful fiction program that often flies under the radar of many avid Christian fiction readers because it is sold exclusively through our direct-to-consumer (mostly direct mail) channels. I have been with Guideposts since 2011, and during my tenure there I’ve edited four long-running fiction series (with as many as 25 books each) that could be described as Nancy Drew for Christian adults. My series have included Miracles of Marble Cove, Secrets of the Blue Hill Library, Mysteries of Silver Peak, and a new one slotted for release this summer. In addition, I’ve edited several one-shot fiction offerings, including four volumes of short Christmas fiction called A Cup of Christmas Cheer, the three-book set Nantucket Dreams, two volumes of Chesapeake Antiques Mysteries, and more. And those don’t represent the limits of our current fiction catalog, which also includes Sugarcreek Amish Mysteries, Patchwork Mysteries, Mary’s Bookshop, Tales from Grace Chapel Inn, and more. But because we sell them primarily through mass mailings, most of our fiction is not available at your local Christian bookshop or even through amazon.com or christianbook.com.

I’ll be candid: many people who take appointments with me at writers conferences have walked away disappointed. They are looking for a publisher to publish a book they have written, and, with virtually no exceptions, I am not able to help them with it. But I can, and do, inform them about the opportunities for writers that Guideposts can provide. We really don’t acquire or publish in the traditional sense. Instead, we create series, characters, settings, and even stories, and we contract skilled and experienced writers to bring them to life for us.

While our publishing and sales model is not typical, it also is not unique. A handful of other publishers work in the same vein—selling directly to consumers, hiring writers to create to-spec work-for-hire manuscripts, and quietly forging highly successful publishing programs that will never see the best-seller lists—though their sales numbers can easily exceed those of CBA best-sellers.

So, other than learning a bit about Guideposts Books, what is the takeaway for you as a writer? In a roundabout way, I have just shared with you a secret that many writers don’t know: there is a whole world that exists outside the traditionally published trade fiction and nonfiction that routinely populate the ECPA charts. It is not easy to break in (we work virtually exclusively through literary agents, for example; only a handful of writers are chosen to contribute to our series, through a rigorous audition process; and we really look for authors who already have a proven track record of publishing), but if you have the requisite skills and are willing to look beyond the boundaries of what we often think of as Christian publishing, it can open up new possibilities for you as a writer. And doing so can make the difference between being an author who receives rare advances and sporadic royalty payments and being an author who makes a steady, reliable, and decent living from your writing.

Meet Jon

Jon Woodhams has been involved with Christian publishing since the late 1980s when he began working at David C. Cook Publishing, where he worked (with some brief hiatuses) until 2005, when he joined WaterBrook Multnomah. He has been a fiction editor with Guideposts since 2011.

Jon’s Workshop

Writing for Continuity Fiction Series

Using Guideposts’ successful fiction series as a model, the workshop will explore the often-untapped potential of writing for continuity fiction series. In addition to learning about Guideposts’ unique place in Christian fiction, topics will include how the Guideposts model works, the ideal writer for a continuity series, how writers collaborate to create a series, the unique skill set needed to succeed as a continuity writer, and more.

 

Storytelling as Folk Art

patricia_neely_dorsey_A Guest Post by Patricia Neely-Dorsey

Storytelling is a special  folk art. To me, folk art is  simply art made/performed by ordinary “folk” for ordinary “folk.” Folk artists attempt to freeze their memories into their art and help to preserve the culture and customs of everyday life. Through the poems in Reflections and Magnolia Memories, I hope to offer a time capsule, of sorts, for future generations, giving a glimpse into the everyday lives of everyday people in our region.  I would best describe my poetry as “folk poetry” and “poetic storytelling.”

I must admit an affinity for the familiar, the common, the everyday, the ordinary and the simple  things of life. My poems are essentially a collection  of “snapshots”‘ from my life in written form of people, places, events and lessons learned.

I believe that we can bridge many gaps of misunderstanding across regional, racial, cultural, generational and economic lines by simply telling/sharing our stories.

Miguel Algarin said, “When I see what you see, the distance between us disappears.”

One reviewer called Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia a poetic autobiography. I think that is such an accurate description. .It is definitely my life in poems My poems celebrate a wonderful life experience growing up in Mississippi .

Overall, all of my poems are “a celebration of the South and things southern.”

My slogan is:

Always, Always Celebrating the South and Promoting a Positive Mississippi

Meet Patricia

Patricia Neely Dorsey with booksPatricia Neely-Dorsey is an author, poet, and motivational speaker. In her poetry books, Reflections of a Mississippi Magnolia and My Magnolia Memories and Musings, Patricia celebrates the South and all things Southern. Using childhood memories, she gives readers a positive glimpse into the Southern way of life. Patricia lives with her husband, James, son, Henry, and miniature schnauzer, Happy, in the beautiful red clay hills of Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis Presley’s birthplace. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University. In February 2015, Patricia was declared an Official Goodwill Ambassador for Mississippi by Governor Phil Bryant.

Patricia’s Workshop

Creative Memoir Writing

Would you like to preserve your family history and life story for future generations?  That does not necessarily mean compiling a strict chronological biography or autobiography. I happened to put my life in poems. There are endless, creative ways to tell our stories. Let’s explore some of them.