How a Writers Conference Changed My Writing Journey

A Guest Post by Shannon Vannatter

In 1999, I realized that story in my head since I was a teenager, could be a book. It poured out of my fingers and in a matter of three months, I wrote it, had my mother proof it, and polished it the best I knew how. Several people I told about the book suggested writers groups and conferences, but I figured why waste time learning how to write when I can just write.

In the next six months, I wrote a second book and received fifty-two rejection letters on the first manuscript. My third book was published by a Print on Demand publisher. At that time, it was a new industry and people didn’t shop online for books. Sales were dismal. I realize now, the novel was terribly written, unedited, over-priced, and still haunting me on my Amazon page.

This was about the time, I learned that the first book I wrote had been published by a different POD press without my knowledge or permission. We found a copyright lawyer who sent the publisher a cease and desist letter. The publisher e-mailed me to say that my book got lost in his system and was accidentally published. He called me everything but a nice lady, claimed he needed a heart transplant, and threatened to sue me for harassing a handicapped person. In the end, he stopped publishing the book, but never paid me royalties for the three books he sold. I got him taken out of the Christian Writers Market and sent a warning about him to Writer Beware. He promptly sent me more nasty e-mails.

I decided I needed to go a different route and learned there was another writer in the large fragrance company where I worked in the corporate offices. We became friends and she invited me to a local writers conference. I worked forty hours a week and my Saturdays were my only day to relax. I didn’t want to go. The only reason I did was because it fell on Labor Day weekend, so I could relax on Monday.

That conference changed my life. I learned a whole new language called craft and writing journey. I soaked everything up like a sponge and joined the group. A few months later, I joined a second group and learned even more. Neither group was Christian and none of the other members wrote the same genre as me. Eventually, I found a national Christian group online and joined it. I wanted to go to the conference so badly, but we couldn’t afford it.

In 2005, I learned that my grandmother had left me a savings bond. It was just enough for the Christian conference. I went and realized I still knew nothing about writing. I joined a critique group and started entering contests that offered feedback from published authors or editors. For the next three years, God made a way for me to go to the national conference along with two to three local ones.

Finally, in September 2008 at the Christian conference, I took a self-editing class and it was like the scales fell from my eyes. I knew what needed to go in a book and what didn’t. That afternoon, I had an appointment to pitch to an editor. Her eyes lit up and she asked for the full. I told her I’d taken a great class and wanted to apply what I’d learned to the manuscript. She said that was fine and to send it to her once I finished. The following January, I got my first contract for a three-book series.

All that to say, first of all, you’ve made the right decision to attend the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference. The class I’ll be teaching is “Cut the Fluff.” It’s a similar technique to the one that fixed my book all those years ago. I hope this conference changes your life, that you find encouragement, validation, and the class that drops the scales from your eyes and takes you to that next level in your journey.

So tell me about yourself. How many years have you been writing? What genre to you write? Is this your first conference?

Meet Shannon

Award-winning Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance novels and has over a dozen published titles. It took her nine-and-a-half years to achieve traditional publication. She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo-announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. Shannon is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and taught a novel-writing continuing education course at Arkansas State University along with countless sessions at conferences canvassing AR, MO, TN, TX, and GA. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing crafts.

Shannon’s Workshop

Cut the Fluff

This class will cover seven integral elements for a great read, the purpose behind each element, and how to weave them together into meaningful scenes that create a riveting story. Writers will learn what is superfluous to the story and when to kill their darlings by implementing a great self-editing technique.


3 thoughts on “How a Writers Conference Changed My Writing Journey

  1. tracycrump says:

    What a writer’s journey! Thanks for sharing that with us, Shannon. I’ve been published since 2005, thanks to a writer’s conference and God’s grace. Most of my work has been NF in magazines, devotionals, and anthologies, but I look forward to learning more about fiction from you.

    Liked by 1 person

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