5 Things I Learned at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference

10253868_722067807814954_1123009107988543688_nThis past weekend, I attended the KY Christian Writers Conference, held in Elizabethtown, KY. Actually, attended might not be the right word. I am the faculty chair for KCWC, so maybe “worked” would be the more appropriate term, especially since I only attended 1 session that I wasn’t either teaching or hosting. Still, there was a lot that I learned at this year’s conference.

1. If you’re looking to lose weight, try working on the planning committee for a decent-sized conference. You’ll either be too busy or too stressed to eat much, and you’ll be hurrying from one side of the building to the other most of the day. I think I may have lost 10 lbs. OK, maybe not quite that much . . .

2. When you get involved, conferences are a great place to network with people. Well, this isn’t something I learned this year, but it’s definitely something I’m reminded of at every conference I attend. I love volunteering. At ACFW, I often work the registration desk or the bookstore; for KCWC, I am the faculty chair; and for Realm Makers, I’m the Social Media Director and the Director’s minion (ha!). Through these opportunities, I’ve met some amazing people–like my agent, many of my critique partners, and a whole multitude of people who have been sources of encouragement, insight, and wisdom.

3. I’m funny! Seriously, that is something I learned at KCWC this year. I have been so afraid and self-conscious about getting up in front of people to speak, that I’ve never applied to do workshops and, in fact, avoided anything that required me to do so. However, I felt the pull to do a workshop this year. Plus, as faculty chair, I was in charge of leading the Editor’s Panel and doing all the giveaways and entertaining when we gathered as big group. So, I was up on stage, in front of the whole conference, several times throughout the 2 days. And, apparently, I’m pretty funny. Unless they were just laughing at how pitiful I was, which I would entirely understand. 🙂

4. Jesse Florea (from Focus on the Family) was a great keynote speaker. I didn’t get to sit in on most of his first 2 keynote sessions, but what I did hear was pretty entertaining and helpful. However, his last keynote session was downright inspiring. He made us laugh, made us cry, and made me want to go home and write!

11217513_10206984246869755_5010395468265576946_n5. My agent, Julie Gwinn, rocks! Not only did she do a fabulous job answering questions on the Editor’s Panel and the Fiction Panel, but she is great at brainstorming and helping to decide on career direction. In face, her and I have some exciting stuff cooking . . . which could actually involve some major changes in my writing over the next few months. Can we say “published writer”? More information to come soon!

I’m so thankful for the conference this past weekend. While I didn’t exactly learn a lot of writing-related tips and tricks, I did get to listen to a few knowledgeable experts, meet some amazing writers, spend time with friends, and leave with a lot of motivation and inspiration.

The planning committee is taking a hiatus for the rest of the summer, but we’ll be diving back into planning for 2016 in September. We already know that Sandra Aldrich will be the keynote for next year . . . the rest of the speakers are still a mystery. Only God knows–and that means the conference is in good hands!

If you live in the area, or even within a few hours drive, I highly suggest coming to hang out with us next summer! Dates are June 17-18.

The Story of an Author (by Robin Patchen)

 

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This is the story of a successful author.

Once upon a time, a woman decided to write a novel. Day and night, she dedicated herself to the task, skipping parties and meals, rising early and retiring late in order to get another thousand words on the page. She thought about her story all the time, dreamed about her hero and heroine, called her children by her characters’ names, ate, drank, and breathed her story. Finally, a few months, maybe a year or more, down the road, she had a finished product. She sent it to her mom, who loved it. Then, with a spark of hope and a dream of publication, she submitted it for a critique. And her critique partner … was honest.

The book wasn’t good.

“I’m a talentless hack!” declared the woman. She slammed her laptop closed, grabbed the box of Oreos, and plopped herself on the couch for a Mad Men marathon.

Days, perhaps weeks later, she opened the critiqued document from her so-called partner and re-read the comments and suggestions. Grudgingly, she admitted that the woman might have been right about one thing, maybe two. She spent some time editing her novel, making it better, thanks to the input from her partner. Slowly, gently, she made changes and learned from them.

When she was finished, she sent it to her critique partner again. This time when her baby came back dripping in red, our author didn’t slam her laptop, and she only ate a single Oreo. Okay, a single sleeve of Oreos. And she made the changes. And the book was better.

She edited that first book more times than she can remember, and then she put it aside and started the next one. She poured herself into it, let her mom read it and enjoyed the gushing praise, and then sent it to her critique partner.

When she received the first critique, she opened it, already cringing. The document was still dripping in red … but there were fewer red marks. And the marks were on different kinds of mistakes. She made the changes, improved the book, and sent it again.

It was getting better.

So was she.

The second book wasn’t destined to be a bestseller, but it was an improvement. And the third was even better than that. In the process, our writer learned that great writers aren’t born. They’re conceived after hours and hours of hard labor—and lots of Oreos.

The more our friend writes, the harder she realizes writing is, and the more she learns. Yes, time passes. She gets older, wiser, and better, and after awhile, she gets a contract (or self-publishes a great book) And then she’s the critique partner encouraging others on this walk.

This is the story of a lot of writers. As an author, an editor, and a critique partner, I’ve seen this story played out so many times in so many different ways. What separates the great writer from the hack is not the quality of the first manuscript, it’s the time spent improving it. It’s the teachable spirit that gets us off the couch—Oreos or not—and back to the computer to make the changes and learn and be better.

Talent is just the first ingredient. It’s the decision to keep at it, to rewrite and learn and grow, that separates the hack from the true author.

DSC_8915-25edAbout the Author:

Robin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website, robinpatchen.com.

 

 

Finding Amanda links

Finding Amanda coverMy website: http://robinpatchen.com/

Robin’s Red Pen: https://robinsredpen.wordpress.com/

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Amanda-inspirational-Robin-Patchen-ebook/dp/B00VN0STLI/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1428171089&sr=8-3&keywords=robin+patchen

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/finding-amanda/id982982402?mt=11

Kobo:  https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/finding-amanda

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/finding-amanda-robin-patchen/1121693795?ean=2940151640039

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25311792-finding-amanda

 

Finding Amanda Back Cover Copy

 

Chef and popular blogger Amanda Johnson hopes publishing her memoir will provide healing and justice. Her estranged husband, contractor and veteran soldier Mark Johnson, tries to talk her out of it, fearing the psychiatrist who seduced her when she was a teen might return to silence her.

 

But Amanda doesn’t need advice, certainly not from her judgmental soon-to-be ex-husband. Her overconfidence makes her vulnerable when she travels out of town and runs into the abuser from her past. A kind stranger comes to her rescue and offers her protection.

 

Now Mark must safeguard his wife both from the fiend who threatens her life and from the stranger who threatens their marriage.

 

What’s Your Story?

file0002003501002All writers have 1 thing in common. It doesn’t matter if they are writing fiction or nonfiction, books or articles, brochures or blog posts–they all have 1 thing in common.

Every writer is trying to tell a story. 

From long before mankind knew how to write, they were telling stories. Stories to teach, stories to entertain, stories to make the world feel a little bit smaller–or a whole lot bigger. Stories are the way humans relate to one another.

Story-telling has changed over the years. Families and friends used to pass down stories by word-of-mouth, from generation to generation. Then cultures began to develop ways of writing these stories down from cave paintings to hieroglyphics and eventually on to the modern written language.

Storytellers began to share those stories with people beyond those closest to them. The art began to change. Stories were written on scrolls and then large bound books. Scribes painstakingly copied page after page of stories.

With the invention of the printing press (between 1440-1450), stories garnered an even bigger audience as books were made more readily available. And still, technology continued to change, making it easier for stories to be shared with those around the world.

In recent years, we’ve gone from enjoying the feel of a hardback book in our hands, turning pages as we greedily consume each story to the age of digital books. An entire library that fits in the palms of our hands.

Storytelling has changed over the years, but our spirit has not. Mankind still has the desire (whether they would admit it or not) to hear stories, to learn from stories, to be touched by the life of another. And, as writers, it is our job to meet that need.

booksCN_0270Writers craft stories that reach to the heart. While they hold the power to manipulate and cause change with the power of words, they take that responsibility seriously, instead challenging humanity to be the best that it can be, even in the face of the atrocities it is also capable of committing. Writers show the good, the bad, and the ugly–but they also provide hope and promise.

A writer who doesn’t understand the point of storytelling or who doesn’t understand their own reasons for telling a story will not reach the hearts of readers. They’re work may rise with the marketing avenues available to them, but it will also fall away quickly, forgotten.

Be the writer that changes hearts. Be the writer that challenges humanity. Be the writer that elevates storytelling to an art form.

What’s your story? 

3 Truths About the Writing Life (by Patty Smith-Hall)

file9421279373453I’ve always been one to know the facts. Be it in my old job as a research nurse or in my writing life, I’ve always wanted to know what to expect. Television had told me that romance writers lounged around on their chaise, a feather boa wrapped seductively around their neck, clad only in an uber expensive nightgown from Bloomingdales, holding their Yorkie with one hand while the story poured from the pen in her other one. If it’s a tough guy who writes suspense, he’s led a hardened life that gives an edge to his characters.

What a load of crud!

So what is the truth? What can you expect when you become a published author?

1) Writing is hard work!

I don’t like the show, Mike and Molly, because, last session, the female lead decided to quit her paying job as a teacher and become a writer. No writing classes or studying craft books—no,  she just whips out a couple of chapters and sells her book for a boatload of money to an editor she meets at her first eight-week writing retreat (for which she won a scholarship!)

No wonder they call it comedy!

The truth is it doesn’t happen like that for most of us. First, you write, then you write some more, until you’ve finally poured everything into finishing your book. All the while, you’ve studied craft books and gone to conferences, soaking in as much as you could to learn your craft. Then you pull out your novel and realize it’s pretty much 320 pages of crap, so you settle in to do the rewrites. And you edit and write and rewrite until that bright and glorious day when you finish it AGAIN.

Then it’s time to let others see your baby, for them to red line it and mark it up so that you can have an even better and stronger story. Then you’re ready to submit it . . . maybe.

But writing is also the most thrilling ride that I’ve ever been on (outside of marriage, but then marriage is work too!). Those giddy moments when you’ve written something so beautiful that you know it could only have come from God. Or those exquisite moments right after your agent tells you you’ve sold your first book; the first time you see your cover; seeing your book on the store bookshelves for the very first time—heck, even a one-starred review because it means someone took the time to read something you’ve created.

Yes, writing is hard, but it’s so totally worth it.

2) Not everyone will love your work.

I’m ashamed to say that when I first started, I thought every thing I wrote was magical. The characters, the descriptions felt so real to me, as if I’d actually stepped into the manuscript and had made my home there. Then I entered it in a writing contest, and waited, certain some smart publisher would snatch it up.

I was in for a long wait. My manuscript didn’t even final. In fact, the scores were so dismal, I thought someone had made a mistake. And the comments—passive writing, two-dimensional characters, episodic scenes. One judge even said I was the queen of -ly words.

I wanted to smack her. Obviously, the judges didn’t ‘get’ my writing. I even had the gall to go to the contest coordinator and ask if there’s been a screw-up (over fifteen years later, and I still cringe at the thought. Poor woman!) No mistake—the writing was just bad.

That is why it is necessary to grow a thick skin. Learn from the comments of your critique partners or judges. Weed out the good advice. Realize judges/critique partners/ editors/agents have dedicated their time and effort to make you a strong writer. So kick a couple of cabinets, eat some ice cream, then get back to work.

3) Writing is a calling.

A few years before I was published, I was at the end of my rope as far as my writing was concerned. Between my family and work schedule, there never seemed to be time to work on my stories, and when I did have time, the lack of words would frustrate the dickens out of me. All of my writing friends were published, some multi-published, and here I was, still plugging away at the same old book and not doing a very good job of it. I wanted to give up until I read these words from a Bible study a friend had given me.

“You are a literature missionary!”

Those words from Marlene Bagnull’s Write His Heart punched me in the heart like a two-by-four. Here I was, so frustrated and discouraged, and God had been calling me to the mission field the whole time! Yes, it meant giving up my loft ideas of what I wanted from my writing and give them over to Him. To write without any expectations, to trust Him with the very thing that was so precious to me, to allow Him control over my writing life.

There are people only you can reach, who ‘get’ what you’re saying, who feels as if the story could have been written just for them. You could point them to Christ through your words!

IMG_1250Author Bio:

Patty Smith-Hall is a multi-published, award-winning author with Love Inspired Historical/Heartsong and currently serves as president of the ACFW-Atlanta chapter. Patty admits she has been making up stories since she was knee-high to a grasshopper. Now she’s happy to share her wild imagination and love of history with others, including her husband of 30 years, Danny; two gorgeous daughters, and her future son-in-love. Her next book, New Hope Sweethearts, will be available on Amazon July 1st, 2015.

Website: http://www.pattysmithhall.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/patty.s.hall
Twitter: https://twitter.com/pattywrites

 

Great news! Patty has agreed to give away a copy of her soon-to-be-released novel, New Hope Sweethearts!

Just leave a blog comment below, answering the question, “What has been the hardest part of your chosen career path?” 

Contest closes on Sunday night, winner announced in Monday’s post!

June Goals

PIC1068506062We’re already a few days into the month of June, but what a month it looks to be! I’m finally caught up after being sick off and on for 6 weeks. I’ve sat down and scheduled things out so hopefully I can stay on task!

So, what are my goals for June?

1. Write 20K on Bellanock–that’s 20 days of 1,000 words! Bellanock was originally going to be a stand alone novel, but now my agent and I are discussing either doing 3-4 novellas or some other sort of series of shorts. I’m really excited. But mostly, I’m just thrilled to be writing something NEW!

2. Prepare my social media for writers workshop for the KY Christian Writers Conference (last Saturday of June). I have most of it outlined in my head. I just need to sit down and jot it all out and develop the handout.

3. Finish the free content for my website. I’m excited to offer my newsletter subscribers some awesome handouts and other fun stuff over the next few months.

4. Exercise at least 3 times a week. I’m slowly figuring out ways/times to work exercise into my schedule. I know it’s important, and it really should be a priority. I’m just so busy! (That’s what everyone says, I know.) But even if I just get up earlier in the morning, I could work in a short walk, right?

So, there’s my main focuses this month. I have a lot going on schedule-wise, but I’m excited about all the opportunities God is placing in my path. God is good–all the time.

What about you? What are your goals for June? Let’s keep each other accountable!

Failure Only Exists If You Let It (by Karin Beery)

reject2I have tried to write this blog post three times. I have yet to make it past the first paragraph though, as I finish my introduction and wonder, “how is this going to encourage anyone?” So I’ve taken several breaks to play Farmville and think. I’ve also read a few chapters (or books) by Karen Witemeyer, and I’ve putzed around on my social media. That’s where I found my current inspiration.

I don’t recall the exact quote, but the gist of it is this: there are no failures in life, only learning opportunities.

I wrote my first novel manuscript eight years ago. It took me seven years to get an agent. There were many opportunities to quit–and on more than one occasion I had to walk away to get a new perspective–but I didn’t give up. As hard as it was to receive the criticism, I choked it down and learned from it.

The same thing is happening now as I’m launching my copywriting business. I’ve struggled for five years, trying to figure out which freelance writing niche I belong in and how to succeed in it. I’ve attended more than a dozen writing conferences and submitted articles to magazines, newspapers, and blogs. While I’ve had some minor success (making $15-50 per article), things have never taken off in the journalistic realm.

In a desperate moment of needing some income, I started telling people I’d write their professional biographies and help them with their websites. I wasn’t excited about it, but I needed the work. Turns out I’m pretty good at writing copy–and I like it! After half a decade of running on the hamster wheel of writing, I’ve finally figured out where I want to go, and people are responding.

This doesn’t mean I’ve arrived though. I’ve already had my first unhappy client. I could take this as a sign of failure and never write copy again, but I kind of like copywriting. Instead, I’m going to look at everything I did and figure out how I can do it better the next time. Even though my methods have worked for 99% of my clients, it didn’t work for this one, and I want to know why. I want to make sure everyone’s happy.

On the fiction side of things, I’m preparing for my eighth manuscript edit. I could call it quits and toss this manuscript aside–I mean, seriously, eight edits?? I could snuff my nose at my agent and self-publish. Or … I could read over the agent and editor comments and look for ways to improve my story (and so far each round of edits has, in fact, improved my story).

So there you have it. Failure is always an option because failure only exists in your point of view. If no one is encouraged by this post, then I can look for new forms of motivation and inspiration and try again. If someone is encouraged by this post, then I can pat myself on the back and figure out how to keep encouraging others.

It’s only failure if I let it be. I think I’ll choose to learn.

 

2 b&w - 800x1000About the Author:

Owner of Write Now Editing and Copywriting Services, a wife, novelist, and homemaker, Karin Beery has had more than 450 articles published in various periodicals, in addition to writing her novels. She is an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the American Christian Writers Association, and Christian Proofreaders and Editors Network. She is represented by literary agent Steve Hutson at WordWise Media. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or at her website, www.karinbeery.com.