Tell Me a Story

A Guest Post by Tracy Crump

“Grandma, will you tell me a story about my daddy when he was a little boy?” my granddaughter often asks. She already understands what most of us know—there’s nothing like a good story.

True stories speak to us on an intimate level, passing on one person’s experiences to another. Many believe storytelling possesses a power superior to any other form of communication. One book series, in particular, has tapped into that power: Chicken Soup for the Soul®.

This summer, Chicken Soup celebrates its 25th anniversary. Their first book (probably intended to be their only book) came out in June 1993. Within a few months, sales skyrocketed. They’ve since produced more than 250 titles and sold an astounding 500 million books worldwide. According to a Harris poll, 88 percent of the public recognizes the Chicken Soup for the Soul trademark. No wonder they’ve been called a publishing phenomenon!

Chicken Soup receives thousands of submissions but publishes only 101 stories and poems in each book. While competition for a spot is fierce, writers can increase their chances by following a few simple guidelines and keeping Chicken Soup’s main tenet in mind: it’s all about story.

Join me at the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference on March 17, 2018, to learn what this longstanding series is looking for and how you can stir up a winning Chicken Soup for the Soul story.

Meet Tracy

Tracy Crump has published two dozen stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul and other anthologies as well as numerous articles and devotionals. As co-director of Write Life Workshops, she has led workshops and webinars on writing for Chicken Soup since 2008. She also edits The Write Life, a free e-newsletter with callouts. She lives with her husband in north Mississippi, has two sons and two perfect grandchildren, and believes Grandma is the most beautiful word in the English language.

Tracy’s Workshop

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.

Quick Tips for Writers to Get Started with Their Brand

 

A Guest Vlog Post by Bethany Jett

Click on the image to hear Bethany’s tips.

Meet Bethany

Bethany Jett is a military wife and homeschool boy-mom who is addicted to suspense novels and all things girly. She is an award-winning author, speaker, ghostwriter, Vice President of Platinum Literary Services, Inc., and co-owner of Serious Writer, Inc. In her spare time, Bethany is working on her Masters degree in Marketing: New Media and Communication. Bethany writes on living brilliant at BethanyJett.com. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Bethany’s Workshop

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.

Five Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Writing

A Guest Post by Patricia Bradley

I’m a list maker. I make grocery lists, to-do lists, gift lists…the lists go on, and the other day I was listing a few of the things I’ve learned in my writing journey. When I finished I thought, gee, I wish I’d known some of these things when I first started putting words on paper.

So…I thought if I felt that way, maybe you would too. Here goes in no particular order:

  1. It takes eight to ten years of schooling for a person to become a doctor. Likewise, it takes years for a writer to learn how to craft stories that are publishable. Maybe not ten years, but certainly longer than the year it took me to write my first book— which will never see the light of day.
  1. Writing is subjective and not everyone will like what you write. If you don’t believe me, enter your story in a contest. You’ll probably get a couple of high scores and one very low score.
  1. When you first start out, do not submit  three chapters and an outline if you haven’t completed the whole manuscript. If an editor likes those first three chapters and asks for the completed manuscript and you haven’t written it, you will make a bad impression on that editor.
  1. On that same note, when you go to a writer’s conference and an editor or agent asks you to send your completed manuscript, do it. I’ve had editors and agents tell me they only receive about 25% of the manuscripts they request at conferences.
  1. Most people like to HAVE written because writing is hard work from the first sentence to the middle to the end. Understand that there will be days that the words will not flow like water from your brain to your fingers.

These are just a few of the things Johnnie Alexander and I be talking about at the Mid South Christian Writers Conference on March 17, 2018. We will also be answering questions on how traditional publishing works.

Meet Patricia

Patricia Bradley lives in North Mississippi and loves to write romance and suspense with a twist of romance. Her books include the Logan Point series and two sweet romances for Harlequin Heartwarming, all available at Amazon. Her workshops on writing include two online courses with American Christian Fiction Writers and presentations at the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference in Collierville, TN. When she has time, she likes to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens. Visit Patricia’s website at http://ptbradley.com.

Patricia and Johnnie’s Workshop

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.

 

Why Write for the Magazine Market?

A Guest Post by Carolyn Tomlin

A writer has many opportunities to share the Good News of Christ.  Writing for the magazine and newspaper market, I speak to millions of people each year. For example, Mature Living Magazine, published by LifeWay has a printed circulation of approximately 350,000. Editors tell me that at least three people read each issue. With this one magazine, that is over 1 million readers. If a magazine writer publishes three or four articles weekly, they touch millions of lives each year. And there is no way to measure those who read magazines online!

In teaching the Boot Camp for Christian Writers, I encourage new writers to begin with the magazine/newspaper market instead of books. Everyone can be successful. Everyone can publish. Everyone can see their name in print. That is…if you are willing to study this trade.

My suggestions: know the publication and know the reader (your audience). Read from other writers, read at least 3 current back issues of the magazine you want to write, come up with fresh ideas that meet the tone and style of those already published, meet the deadline, and be a writer who can take constructive criticism from an editor. And networking with editors and becoming a friend they can count on is of utmost importance.

If you want to have success as a writer, start with the magazine and newspaper market. They need writers! They need you!

Meet Carolyn

Carolyn Tomlin had taught 33 years in public school and at Union University when she heard God calling her to write for the Christian market and to help others learn this skill. Today, she co-teaches the Boot Camp for Christian Writers and has taught over 3,000 people to write-to-publish. Her published magazine and newspaper articles number over 4,500 in both the Christian and secular markets. She’s published 17 books which are mostly focused on teaching writing skills. Carolyn is married to Dr. Matt Tomlin, a Baptist minister. They have two adult children and six grandchildren. Shelter dog Ernest Miller Hemingway shares his life with their family and visits nursing homes with Tomlin. https://carolyntomlin.com.

Carolyn’s Workshop

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.

Ex Nihilo: Thoughts from a Blank Page

A Guest Post by Jon Woodhams, Guideposts Books

Genesis 1:2 tells us that, at the beginning of time, “the earth was formless and empty” (NIV) or, as the King James Version puts it so poetically, “without form, and void.” Much like the blank Word document that greeted me as I sat down to write this post.

God took the blank page of an unformed world, the formless void and, using words, made something from it in the act of Creation. As beings made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), humans have inherited this amazing trait (albeit on a much smaller scale) from our heavenly Father: the ability to create, to make something where nothing existed before.

But Scripture also tells believers to “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 5:1, ESV), and for the Christian writer, the very act of sitting down to write, to create something from nothing, gives us an opportunity to follow in God’s footsteps in a unique way that goes even beyond human creativity.

This is not to say that the task isn’t daunting. Not to say it isn’t work. Scripture tells us that God “rested” on the seventh day after doing the work of Creation for the first six. We are referred to as God’s “workmanship” (KJV) or “handiwork” (NIV). So while we can derive great joy from seeing the results of our efforts, much as we know God did when He “saw all that he had made, and it was very good,” we also know that it takes work, dedication, and discipline to put words on the page.

And it also takes skill. Exodus tells us about the craftsman Bezalel, who, in addition to being “filled with the Spirit of God” (the same Spirit that indwells us as Christians today), had “understanding, . . . knowledge and . . . all kinds of skills” (NIV).

Which brings us to the MSCWC. You already have the intrinsic creativity that God bestowed on us, and the opportunity to imitate God in His creativity. But this conference affords you a unique opportunity to hone your understanding, your knowledge, and the skills needed to pursue the craft of writing.

I hope you’ll take full advantage, and I look forward to seeing you there. Enjoy!

Meet Jon

Jon Woodhams has been involved in Christian publishing for more years than he cares to admit. He has worked for David C. Cook, in curriculum development and fiction editorial, and for WaterBrook Multnomah. He has been an editor with Guideposts fiction since 2011, and his series, Miracles of Marble Cove, Secrets of the Blue Hill Library, Mysteries of Silver Peak, and Tearoom Mysterious have more than a million copies in print. A native of Michigan, he now lives in the Memphis area.

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.

No Agent Required

A Guest Post by Alice Faye Duncan

Do you write picture books for young readers?

I have good news.  An agent is not required to sell your work.  However, finding a respected editor to buy your manuscript(s) will require a great investment of research and time. It can be done.  Here is how I did it.

  1. Write and re-write your manuscript before sharing it with an editor.

My first picture book was Willie Jerome (Simon and Schuster). I shared the first draft with my college professor.  She called it “too quiet.”  I rewrote the manuscript and shared the second draft with my critique group.  They highlighted areas in the plot which needed to be refined.  I followed much of their advice and re-wrote the story again.

You will learn that only revising a text will make the words—SING!

  1. Purchase the CHILDREN’S WRITERS’ AND ILLUSTRATORS’ MARKET (CWAIM).

When you have polished your draft, you will need to purchase the CWAIM reference book to identify a list of editors who accept unsolicited picture book manuscripts. I identified thirty publishing houses seeking unsolicited manuscripts. In 1995, I wrote down each editor’s name and NYC mailing address.  In this age of high technology and email, you will write down each editor’s email address.

  1. Write a brief submission letter and edit it until it sparkles with your personality.

Once you identify several editors seeking unsolicited manuscripts, you should draft a submission letter that introduces you and your manuscript. The CWAIM gives tips on writing submission letters and queries. I suggest that you edit your submission letter until it sparkles with your personality. This letter is your personal introduction to the editor.  You want to “look your best.”

  1. Email your submission letter and manuscript to editors on your list.

When you have drafted your submission letter, you will then email each of the editors identified from your CWAIM list.  Include your manuscript and be sure to document (somewhere for safe-keeping), the editors who have received your submission. Then wait for a response. It will take four to six weeks before you hear from editors.

A few may reply with an evaluation of your manuscript.  Some will provide a perfunctory rejection notice. Some editors might reject your manuscript, but at the same time, encourage you to send them more work. If your manuscript is ripe for the picking, one or two editors will offer you a publishing contract.

This process works.  Try it and see.

Write ON!

Meet Alice Faye

Alice Faye Duncan is a librarian in Memphis, Tennessee.  She writes fiction and non-fiction for children and has been writing picture books for Simon and Schuster since 1995. Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 will be released in September 2018.  Her book 12 Days of Christmas in Tennessee will be released in September 2019.  Visit Alice Faye’s website at http://www.alicefayeduncan.com

Alice Faye’s Workshop

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.

Happy New Year’s!

Here’s an easy resolution to make this year:

Attend the

2018 Mid-South Christian Writers Conference

 

You’ll have the opportunity to network with other writers, meet with writing professionals, and attend three (out of nine) workshops.

Plus you’ll be encouraged, uplifted, and entertained by this year’s keynote speaker, the Master of Seatbelt Suspense®, Brandilyn Collins.

We hope to see you there!

Until then . . . Happy New Year!