A Quarter Century of Stories

A Guest Post by Tracy Crump

Who would have thought the Chicken Soup for the Soul® series would be around for more than a quarter century? I doubt even Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen realized what they were starting when they published that first book in 1993.

Now, three hundred titles and hundreds of millions of books later, the company is taking on more projects and bringing out more new products than ever before under the leadership of Amy Newmark. What does this mean for you, our Mid-South Christian Writers Conference attendees?

Last year, I led a workshop on writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul, sharing as much of what I’ve learned in writing for them as I could fit into one hour. This year, Andi Lehman will join me on Friday afternoon of the conference to present our four-hour workshop on writing for this wonderful series.

Between us, Andi and I have published two dozen stories in Chicken Soup books. Not only will we teach guidelines and techniques to help enhance your writing, we’ll conduct hands-on sessions to get you started on stories you can submit to Chicken Soup. Andi’s “Weaving Your Web” will show you how to generate story ideas and narrow them down to a publishable piece (attendees love Andi’s energetic teaching style). And I’ll help you “Dissect a Chicken.”

DISCLAIMER: No animals are harmed in the presentation of this workshop.

So join us Friday, March 15, from 1-5 p.m. for “Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul.” Then stay for Meet and Greet. Then come back on Saturday for the best conference around!

Meet Tracy

Tracy Crump has published two dozen stories in anthologies, including nineteen in Chicken Soup for the Soul. As co-director of Write Life Workshops, she conducts workshops and webinars on writing for the series, and her “How to Write for Chicken Soup for the Soul” course is one of Serious Writer Academy’s top sellers. Her articles and devotionals have appeared in national publications, and she edits The Write Life, a popular writers newsletter that includes story callouts. She is a freelance editor and proofreader for Farmer’s Almanac.Visit Tracy at TracyCrump.com or WriteLifeWorkshops.com.

Tracy and Andi’s Friday Session Workshop

Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul

Chicken Soup for the Soul receives thousands of submissions but selects only 101 for each book. How can you increase the chances they’ll choose your story? Come learn what Chicken Soup wants, what they don’t want, and how you can stir up a winning Chicken Soup story.

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Announcing 2019 MSCWC Special Friday Sessions & Saturday Workshops

The MSCWC Faculty Committee has worked hard to bring another great line-up of classes presented by publishing professionals and accomplished authors.

On Friday, March 15th, TWO special workshops are  available at an extra cost. For more details, visit Friday Workshops on the MSCWC website.

On Saturday, March 16th, we’re offering NINE fantastic workshops on  various aspects of writing. Be sure and check the MSCWC schedule so you can choose the three you most want to attend.

Great news! Selected workshops will be offered twice!

2019 Friday Only Sessions

Tracy Crump and Andi Lehman — Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul

Chicken Soup for the Soul receives thousands of submissions but selects only 101 for each book. How can you increase the chances they’ll choose your story? Come learn what Chicken Soup wants, what they don’t want, and how you can stir up a winning Chicken Soup story.

Johnnie Alexander — Opening Scene Critique Workshop

The opening pages of your manuscript need to shine bright to get the attention of a publisher or agent. You’re invited to submit the first five or six pages (the opening scene) of your novel for critique. As a group, we’ll discuss craft elements such as: opening hook; characters; point of view; showing/telling; and voice. This workshop is limited to six participants.

2019 Saturday Workshops

Johnnie Alexander and Patricia Bradley — Creating Characters with Personality and Pizzazz!

To write an unforgettable story, create memorable characters and then deepen their emotional connection to your readers. We’ll share ideas for developing well-rounded characters using techniques such as Myers-Briggs Personality Types and “channeling” your character’s inner life.

Rhonda Dragomir — Microsoft Word for Writing Wranglers

Microsoft Word (MS Word) is like a bronc, and sometimes writing wranglers get bucked off into a pile of manure! This workshop teaches skills in MS Word that will break the bronc into a working partner, saving you hours of time and making your writing stand out to agents and editors.

Victoria Duerstock — Building Platform 101

Victoria will share her top tips to begin building your platform to demonstrate understanding and success to an agent or editor. We will cover social media, email lists, and the marketing section of your proposal.

Linda Fulkerson — 15 Must-Haves for Author/Writer Websites

This presentation will cover 15 must-haves for author/writer websites. Attendees will learn how to ensure his or her website is secure, compliant with government guidelines, competitive with search engines and engaging for readers and that it builds one’s author platform, increasing the ability to sell books, products, and services.

Vanessa Davis Griggs — The SmART of Writing

Whether fiction or nonfiction, there is an art in writing. Learn the art as you follow your dream of not only being published but of owning the process from start to finish.

Jean Matthew Hall — Introduction to Writing for Young Children: Board Books, Picture Books, Early & Easy Readers

This workshop presents a bird’s eye view of writing for young children (birth through 7 years old). We will also take a look at some DOs and DON’Ts of writing for young children, and some must-have resources. A question and answer time is included.

Bob Hostetler — Writing for Teens

Our keynote speaker, a former editor of magazines for children and youth, presents the “Ten Commandments” of writing for teens.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter — 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.

Brenda Yoder — Non-Fiction 101: Everything You Might Need to Know and More

How do you write compelling non-fiction that connects with your audience? In this workshop, author Brenda L. Yoder equips participants with the tools needed to write great non-fiction that keeps readers coming back for more.

 

Friday Workshop: Seven Steps to Successful Self-Publishing

We’re offering something new this year at the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference.

On Friday, March 16th, best-selling indie author Hallee Bridgeman will teach Seven Steps to Successful Self-Publishing, including tips and tricks for the current market.

This four-hour version of the workshop Hallee presented last year will allow her time to discuss topics on a more complex level.

With more than a half million book sales, Hallee is a best-selling Christian author who writes action-packed romantic suspense focusing on realistic characters who face real world problems. Her work has been described as everything from refreshing to heart-stopping, exciting and edgy.

Hallee is a member of the Published Author Network (PAN) of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) where she serves as a long time board member in the Faith, Hope, & Love chapter. She is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), the American Christian Writers (ACW), and Novelists, Inc. (NINC).

Learn more about Hallee at her website

The workshop costs an additional $35 with conference registration or $55 for the Friday workshop alone. To register, click here.

ANNOUNCING 2018 MSCWC WORKSHOPS

With such great workshops, you might have a hard time choosing your top three! But that’s a great conundrum, isn’t it?!

Once again, we’re offering NINE fantastic workshops on various aspects of writing at the 2018 Mid-South Christian Writers Conference. Be sure and check the schedule so you can choose the three you most want to attend.

So bring your laptop or paper and pen. You’ll want to take plenty of notes.

We’ll provide the beverages.

2018 WORKSHOPS

Johnnie Alexander & Patricia Bradley – Popular Clichés to Avoid in Your Fiction

We don’t always know what we don’t know and that can lead to rejection. Two experienced authors share what they’ve learned from their agents and editors about the scenes, plots, and clichés to avoid plus their experiences with the traditional publishing process.

Hallee Bridgeman – Creative Marketing Plan

In a competitive publishing industry, authors must learn to market. But how? And where to start? Join best-selling author Hallee Bridgeman as she shows how to begin marketing your book before it’s even published, where to advertise/market, and how to create a support team that will help spread the news of each release.

Brandilyn Collins – The Four Ds: Desire, Distancing, Denial, and Devastation

Desire, Distancing, Denial, and Devastation form the story structure for your novel. We’ll talk about each one, focusing particularly on Desire. What does your character want? (Many novelists think they know—until their story starts to sag.) You need to understand the concept of Desire fully, because what your character wants—what deep down drives his actions and perceptions—will catapult him through your story and lead to the other three Ds.

Tracy Crump – Stirring the Pot: Writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul

Since Chicken Soup for the Soul receives thousands of submissions and only publishes 101 in each book, how can you increase the chances they’ll choose your story? Come learn what Chicken Soup wants, what they don’t want, and how you can stir up a winning Chicken Soup story.

Alice Faye Duncan – The Future Has a Past: Writing Non-Fiction and Historical Fiction for Today’s Generation

Children, teenagers, and adults need captivating history books and historical novels that inform and inspire. This session will offer writing tips and primary resource tools for non-fiction writers and novelists interested in writing about historical events.

Gary Fearon – Songwriting Shortcuts for the Writer

Finding the perfect music for your lyrics is easy with a few secret tricks geared especially to wordsmiths. Whether you’re a newcomer or an experienced songwriter, you’ll discover new and intuitive approaches to crafting memorable melodies in this entertaining, enlightening session.

Bethany Jett – Zero to Book Deal in Three Months

“Zero to Book Deal” teaches how to turn a few resources into publishing opportunities with magazines, radio, guest posts, and speaking engagements. We will navigate the components of creating fantastic nonfiction proposals, building a speaking list, and leveraging every opportunity already in your arsenal.

Carolyn Tomlin – The Four Articles Editors Love and How to Write Them!

This workshop shows an easy format for writing the four basic articles for magazines and newspapers. You will learn how to select and know the magazine, identify the reader, and write a query letter that catches the attention of the editor and results in a contract.

Jon Woodhams – 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.

Workshop Tales: How Secondary Characters Can Make or Break Your Novel

hlayer_richards-u3552A Guest Post by Ramona Richards

When I open my workshop on secondary characters, I often tell about editing one of the first novels of a best-selling Christian author—and how I delivered the news to her that she needed to cut one of her secondary characters.

She wasn’t happy. I could understand her concern. This young man had a significant role in her book from Chapter 2 right up to Chapter 40. He was the heroine’s friend and sidekick. But, despite all her intentions, he had turned into much more than a sidekick; he was a distraction. He drove much of the action by making decisions that should have belonged to the heroine, and for 300-plus pages, the reader became more interested in him than the hero.

He was a prime example of how secondary characters can easily kill a book, especially in romance novels, in two ways:

1) They’re too weak or too strong. Neither is good when it comes to secondary characters. If they’re too weak, they can fail to perform their duties, which is to engage the reader (and editor!) in all aspects of the H/H’s lives. If they’re too strong, they become as dynamic or more so than the lead(s). They take over roles and duties that should be carried out by the leads, thus weakening the lead’s character development.

For instance, one of the most infamous “secondary who took over” characters in movie history has to be Captain Jack Sparrow. According to the writers, the protagonist of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie is Elizabeth. The film opens with her, and is primarily her story. But it’s not her entrance that people recall when they think of the film.

2) They proliferate like little bunnies. There are so many of them, no one can keep them straight. In addition to having a secondary character who tries to take over, the easiest way to lose an editor’s attention is for your story to be confusing or annoying. By the time you introduce, describe, and give a life history to the 20th secondary character, an editor is going to be both.

For instance, everyone knows that it takes hundreds of crew members to make a cruise ship run smoothly. But if you set a romantic suspense book on a boat that size, don’t involve your reader with everyone on the ship’s manifest.

Take a moment to think about some of your favorite secondary characters, either your own or from well-known books or movies. Any of them take over? Which ones would you like to see have their own story told?

As we go through the workshop, I’ll give tips and guidelines on developing fully your secondary characters—making them special—while still keeping them in line. We’ll also talk about levels of characters, character archetypes, and what role the antagonist plays in all this.

I hope to see you there!

mmq-cover-revised-by-ramona-richardsMeet Ramona

Ramona Richards is a speaker, writer, and editor whose latest book, My Mother’s Quilts, is from Worthy Publishing. Ramona has been an editor for Abingdon Press, Thomas Nelson, Rutledge Hill Press, and Ideals magazine, and has freelanced for more than a dozen others. The author of seven novels, three books of devotions, and numerous magazine articles, she is a frequent speaker for women’s and writers’ groups, and has presented at numerous conferences across the country.

Ramona can be found online at:  Facebook   Twitter    LinkedIn

Ramona’s Workshop

Shoot the Deputy: How Secondary Characters Can Make or Break a Novel

Secondary characters are often too prolific or too underdeveloped. This workshop provides tips on controlling your supporting cast: how different levels of characters should be revealed and built into the plot, explanations of how flat secondary characters can kill a sell, and tips on how to layer your characters in order to build interest and curiosity without taking over a book.

Growth Through Writers Conferences

hlayer_grace-u3532A Guest Post by Nancy Kay Grace

Attending writer’s conferences is necessary for improving skills, learning publishing trends, and networking. Seasoned authors encourage the new writers. The enthusiasm of the new writers inspires the experienced ones. Each time I’ve attended a conference I’ve been at a different place on my writing journey and hoped to hear from God.

Conferences have given direction for my next step. I had planned on self-publishing a book created from the content of my speaking presentations. When the deal fell through, I lost hope for a book. Discouraged, I attended a writer’s conference hoping to hear from God what my next step should be. I hadn’t planned on talking to any publishers, but when an appointment opened up, I took the opportunity to pitch an idea for a book of devotionals from my newsletter. To my surprise, the publisher was interested. God showed me another path, if I would do the work of writing a proposal. Eventually the small Christian publisher offered me a contract. I’m grateful to have attended that conference.

It is possible to get your writing on the web to encourage others in faith, although blending writing and technology can be intimidating. At the Mid-South Christian Writer’s Conference I’m looking forward to presenting the workshop “Toes in the Water: Getting Your Feet Wet in Blogging” to minimize the fear factor so you can publish on the Internet. If you’re new to blogging, I hope to de-mystify the WordPress platform by sharing tips about the elements of a blog post, simple SEO, and online writing.

I hope to see you there!

grace-impact-cover-by-nancy-kay-graceMeet Nancy Kay

Nancy Kay Grace is a speaker and the award-winning author of The Grace Impact. She has published numerous magazine articles, stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and several devotional compilations (Abba’s Promise, The One Year Life Verse Devotional). Nancy is the host of Living Life Unedited, an Internet radio show on the Christian Women Affiliate network.

Nancy and her husband Rick live in Springdale, Arkansas where Rick is the senior pastor of Spring Creek Fellowship. They have two married children and five grandchildren.

Connect with Nancy:  Website & GraceNotes newsletter   Facebook   Twitter   Living Life Unedited   Pinterest 

 Nancy’s Workshop

Toes in the Water: Getting Your Feet Wet in Blogging

This session is for writers who want to learn more about blogging. Nancy will help minimize the fear factor for tech-challenged writers. Topics covered are online writing techniques, simple guidelines for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), elements of a blog post, and tools used in blogging. Nancy uses WordPress and will refer to this platform although some of the basics would apply to other platforms as well.

Announcing 2017 MSCWC Workshops

coffee-1869820_640We’re offering NINE workshops on various aspects of writing at the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference. Be sure and check the schedule so you can choose the three you most want to attend.

So bring your laptop or go old school with pen and paper. You’ll want to take plenty of notes. We’ll provide the beverages.

How to Combine Riveting Suspense with Heartwarming Romance – Sandra Robbins

Participants will understand the elements of romance and suspense that combine to appeal to the reader’s heart. They will learn how to balance a story about a once-in-a-lifetime love that is threatened by the worry and concern of an impending crisis that will keep the hero and heroine apart.

Mystery Writing 101 – Deborah Malone

So you want to write a mystery! Mystery Writing 101 covers the ABC’s of writing a mystery. Topics covered are What is a Mystery, Characters, Setting, Clues, Point of View, Dialogue, Plotting, Editing and Tying up the Package.

Organizing Research Notes: Keep It Simple – John Burgette

Learn a simple strategy for organizing and sorting research notes/citations by themes or topics. An optional technique for using the notes to develop a final outline, which can be very useful for non-fiction, research-specific, or historical fiction writing, will also be discussed.

Seven Steps to Successful Self-Publishing – Hallee Bridgeman

Best-selling indie author Hallee Bridgeman will go over the seven steps to successful self-publishing and then show you tips and tricks for the current market.

Shoot the Deputy: How Secondary Characters Can Make or Break a Novel – Ramona Richards

Secondary characters are often too prolific or too underdeveloped. This workshop provides tips on controlling your supporting cast: how different levels of characters should be revealed and built into the plot, explanations of how flat secondary characters can kill a sell, and tips on how to layer your characters in order to build interest and curiosity without taking over a book.

Telling the Story: I Wrote It My Way – Johnnie Alexander & Patricia Bradley

You may be a plotter, outlining every scene before you begin, or you may be an organic writer, writing by the seat of your pants, or you may be somewhere in between. Two experienced novelists share tips and ideas for writing fiction the right way—that is, the way that works best for you and for your story.

Toes in the Water: Getting Your Feet Wet in Blogging – Nancy Kay Grace

This session is for writers who want to learn more about blogging. Nancy will help minimize the fear factor for tech-challenged writers. Topics covered are online writing techniques, simple guidelines for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), elements of a blog post, and tools used in blogging. Nancy uses WordPress and will refer to this platform, although some of the basics would apply to other platforms as well.

Writing Devotionals for The Upper Room Magazine – Andrew Breeden

Participants will learn how to write devotions for The Upper Room Magazine. Through group discussion and instruction from an Upper Room editor, the session will explore what makes a strong devotion, how to connect personal experience with scripture, setting pen to paper, and the unique global ministry of the The Upper Room. Our writer’s guidelines can be found at http://devotional.upperroom.org/how-to-write.slip-up-709045_640

Writing with Banana Peels – Jim Watkins

Based on Jim’s college text book, this seminar provides practical strategies for communicating more effectively with humor. If nothing else, you’ll laugh a lot!