Category Archives: Writers Conference

We Mustn’t be Lazy – Part II

Friday night I prepared for my last editor appointment on Saturday afternoon with Sherri Langton of Bible Advocate.

I skimmed through a sample magazine left on her table, and discovered none of the articles I brought with me would fit as-is.

I decided to change my tactics to simply ask questions about her magazine.

I questioned her about Bible Advocate’s target readers, and what they expected as far as content (deep Bible studies, or more basic, etc).

As we talked, a few statements made by our speakers whispered in my ear, and the image of a waterbug surfaced.

“I know now I need to look closer into my spiritual journey,” I said to Sherri. “Lately I’ve been walking on the surface of my faith, and God’s been telling me all during the conference I need to dig deeper.”

I realized then God’s task for me right now. It isn’t to write to be published, or read the Bible in search for that one perfect verse for my article or story, but to feed my soul.

God is jealous of the time I spend away from him, and wants me all to himself. In the process perhaps I’ll gain deeper insights readers are searching for.

Other non-spiritual insights I’ve gained from attending the conference:

1.    Research!

Study the current guidelines online. Don’t depend solely on Writer’s Market Guide or Sally Stewart’s (the Christian version). Guidelines change all the time, and are kept more current on the magazine’s websites.

Read up to six months of issues. This can be both time-consuming and economically difficult. Who among us has the money to subscribe to every single magazine we want to write for? I have a few ideas:

Check archives online. Most magazines keep archives sometimes up to twenty years.

Talk to friends or even people at your church to see if they subscribe and ask for their old copies.

Flip through current issues either at your local bookstore (some carry many Christian magazines), and Christian bookstores.

Check out the local library. Some may carry the magazines you want to write for.

2.    Take the business card of every editor you speak with. No matter what the results of the appointment, email them a short note thanking them for their time. As one attendee noted, editor’s have long memories. They’ll appreciate your kindness, and remember you positively when you do have something saleable.

3.    Do the same for other attendees. Networking is key to gaining readership, but also the friendships developed can be invaluable. You can encourage one another and provide feedback for your writing.

4.    Be realistic! All writers attend conferences to sell their writing. However, to attend for that reason alone will only discourage you. Less than 10% of attendees sell something at a conference. If you go with equal purpose of making friends, and learning from the classes, speakers, workshops and the editors, your experience will be far more rewarding.

Tomorrow: A More Spiritual Journey.

 

“You had to choose science fiction.”

After starting my trip in the smallest airport ever built — the size of a medium-sized restaurant — I arrived at the conference half-way through the Thursday night kick-off session. Gary Chapman spoke, and he talked about the five ways a person should apologize.

I didn’t take any notes, because I don’t apologize (kidding).

When he finished, all the attendees stampeded to the tables in the back for appointment sign-up. We could choose up to three. Zondervan was first on my list, and I made second in line for that. The other two I managed to get were near the bottom of my list, but no matter. I could still take a seat at the reserved tables for lunch and dinner, and talk to them then.

The conference scheduled was structured with a continuing education class in the morning, a workshop in the afternoon, publishing panels (Q&A with all the editors) and an evening speaker after supper. The 15 minute appointments took place during the classes and workshops.

Friday morning I attended the Publishing 101 class with magazine editor Lin Johnson. She discussed what most editors looked for, and how to format all submissions. I noticed even at the start I made a few boo-boos with my articles I wanted to show off.

For instance, never begin or end an article with scripture. Oops. Did both.

My first appointment with Andy Meisenheimer of Zondervan started at 9:45, and I was only a little nervous — a few stomach butterflies only.

I sat and pitched my novel.

“What is the sub-genre,” he asked, “Cyberpunk, Space opera, or what?”

Andy received a blank stare as a response. That’s one thing I didn’t include in my research and wish I had. I said at one point, “You’re asking great questions. I wish I thought of them beforehand, so I could answer better.”

After bumbling through my pitch a little more, I gave him my pitch sheet.

He looked up with a sigh and said, “You had to choose science fiction.”

Although his bio said he was willing to look at science fiction “or anything weird,” the larger Christian publishers are still not willing to take most speculative fiction. Most science fiction is mass market, and CBA doesn’t know how to mass market their books.

“Plus,” he said, “science fiction doesn’t sell in the CBA market.”

I think he anticipated my next comment, because he said, “Granted they can’t sell what they don’t publish.”

I nodded and said, “It’s a catch-22.”

“Exactly.”

He then recommended I try the smaller presses such as Marcher Lord Press, or even vanity-press.

“I plan on writing my own science fiction novel, and will likely try the small presses first or self-publish. I don’t see that route as a stigma, because it’s the only option for Christian speculative fiction writers at this point.”

In the end Andy further verified what I already knew, so although he didn’t ask to see more, I didn’t waste my time.

The worst part of an appointment isn’t the nervousness before or during, but the mental chastising afterward. I walked away and berated myself for saying one thing, not saying another, did I sit too close or too far, did I breathe my dragon-breath on him . . .

By the time I returned to the class I was grinning. I reminded myself no one thinks about me nearly as much as I do. I bet the moment I left the table, Andy was talking with his next appointment and likely even forgot my name.

I attended the “Thick-skinned Manuscript Clinic” on Friday afternoon. I submitted months ago the first two pages of my novel for critique by Jerry Jenkins (co-author of the "Left Behind" series and owner of the Christian Writers Guild).

Jerry critiqued three fiction submissions, and Andy Sheer (managing editor of the guild and former editor of Moody magazine) critiqued three non-fiction submissions.

Mine was the last of the afternoon. The moment he placed the transparency of my submission on the overhead, my ears started to burn. I was grateful to have long hair, because I could cover up my delicious apple red ears, and no one would know the submission was mine.

A second later I saw it. In the second paragraph I wrote “he” instead of “The.” I thought, “Oh, crap, is he going to pounce on that!” I can’t believe I missed something so glaring even after combing through it at least four times.

Jerry didn’t start there . . .

Sorry, I have to end this entry now, because the critique is quite lengthy. Tomorrow I will go through it point by point. I think you’ll enjoy it, though.

Home at Last

First off, my apologies for not writing an entry every day while at the conference like I promised.

It was a full schedule, for one, and by the time I arrived at my room between 9:30 and 10:00, all I wanted to do was sleep.

Plus the hotel didn’t provide wireless internet in all the rooms. My only options were to drag my laptop down to the lobby, or spend $10/day on ethernet access.

No thanks to both.

But I did keep excellent notes, so in the next week I’ll write what happened and what I learned each day.

I hope you all had a terrific weekend, and will enjoy an even better week. I look forward to catching up with you as well.

A Subject Times Two

I keep a separate blog on another site, and sometimes my entries are the same there as they are here, including the last two I wrote. Two people who normally read my other blog added comments that I wanted to highlight and delve into:

Kara commented in my previous entry:

I think you can write to fit a certain market and still maintain your own voice. Unless of course that market is just too far removed to fit you. Takes the Drabblers, for example. We can’t [exactly] take a piece we have laying around and submit it. Not if we expect them to bother reading it anyway. They have very specific requirements, and a theme. Yet when I write for a Drabble contest, I don’t feel I’m faking it, or selling out, or giving up on my true voice, and I’d bet you don’t either.

An excellent point, and one I wished I had addressed, darn it. Her comment shows that our voice is more difficult to subdue or kill than we too often fear.

Dan commented in my previous previous entry:

So, what’s with these conferences? How do you find where they are held and how do you gain admission? Is it like a job fair?

I want to answer here, because the answer is a bit long, and will include links you might find useful.

A job fair is an apt description. At most conferences, publishers, agents and magazine editors attend. Throughout the conference, writers make fifteen minute appointments and pitch their writing. Competition is high, because there are only so many slots, and many conferences limit the number of appointments a person can make. For the conference I’m attending, the limit is three. I have to make sure I choose wisely.

The conference also provides continuing education classes and elective workshops of a multitude of subjects whether it be fiction, nonfiction, poetry or children/juvenile writing. There’s usually something for everyone.

These are usually the larger/annual conferences. You can also find single-day conferences that focus on a single subject. These are usually more local, and a lot more reasonable price-wise. Many conferences are also geared to a specific genre. You’ll find many Christian writers conferences, conferences for science fiction/fantasy writers, and romance to name a few.

Be aware with some conferences, you may need to be a member of the organization who sponsors it. If not, they many times charge more for non-members than members.

One way to find a conference near you is through Writer’s Market. For the online version ( http://www.writersmarket.com ) you need a paid membership. It’s $39.99/year or $3.99/month. If you don’t have the cash, most libraries keep a current hard copy.

You can also do an internet search, and narrow by state. Most conferences, even the small ones, have an internet page with all the information you need.

http://www.writersconf.org/ is another site where you can narrow by state, type, genre and dates.

If you want to attend a writers conference (whether you’ve been to one before or not), I highly recommend you purchase the ebook "The Writers Conference Survival Guide" by Meredith Efken. It’s $15, but well worth every penny. You can find out more about it here: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/info/mefken/