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WRITE: Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference–My Favorite Things

My blog followers may recall that I had the recent honor of teaching at my first writers’ conference. Twila Belk founded the Quad-Cities Writers’ Conference in Eldridge, Iowa a few years ago with the encouragement of author and writers’ benefactor Cecil Murphey. The QCCWC was a weekend to remember in many ways. We kicked off the conference with a stunning faculty rendition of “My Favorite Things,” parodied for publishing by Twila’s sweet assistant, wonderwoman Gail Smith. Here, I offer a less poetic version: #10. FANTASTIC FOOD: I heard this comment repeated often by students and faculty alike. Delicious homemade soup and desserts, a full salad bar, snacks—both healthy and not-so-healthy options abounded. #9. GREAT GIVEAWAYS: Conference sponsors allowed Twila to share multiple copies of both fiction and nonfiction books (not to mention the ubiquitous Christian Romance T-shirts and mugs) at every general session.#8. APPROPRIATE ATTENDANCE: As with many conferences, registrations were down this year. The venue, although reasonably sized, held a few hundred–not thousands. Smaller numbers helped produce a warm, intimate experience. #7. REMARKABLE RESOURCES: Twila asked faculty members to submit recommended resource lists and offered many of their choices in the conference bookstore. Faculty members and conferees also sold and signed their books. My ghostwriter status doesn’t allow me to market much of my work, but in this atmosphere, I could and did. #6. MARVELOUS MP3s: The conference registration fee included an MP3 of every speaker and seminar. This avoided dilemmas (“How can I choose between so many wonderful sessions?”) and allowed the blessings of professional instruction to extend beyond the weekend. #5. CONCENTRATION on CRAFT: Per Cecil Murphey’s recommendation, no agents or editors attended in an official (manuscript-reviewing) capacity. This freed conference participants to focus on improving their writing without the pressure of competition or self-promotion. They also had the opportunity to submit manuscripts ahead of time and, for a reasonable fee, receive a full critique and half-hour appointment with the critiquing faculty member.#4. SUPERB SPEAKERS: Each of the three keynoters (Cynthia Ruchti, Jim Pence, and Jim Rubart) shared messages that inspired and encouraged writers from beginning to professional levels. I’m in awe of their hearts, their talents, and their desire to help others grow and improve. #3. TERRIFIC TEACHERS: QCCWC may not be the biggest conference around, but the faculty was top-notch. In what other small conference could you learn story techniques from veteran mentor Frank Ball or marketing strategies from longtime pro (and breakout novelist) Jim Rubart? Conference participants also had opportunities to interact with faculty members at mealtimes, in personal appointments, and beyond. I was blessed to count myself the least of these among this group of top professionals. #2. SWEET SPIRIT: I’ve sometimes...

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WRITE: The Accidental Ghostwriter, Part II

As promised (after a short break while I traveled and taught at the Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference—more on that another time), I’ll answer some common questions about ghostwriting. I taught a ghostwriting seminar at the conference, in fact, so I should have more than enough questions and answers to share. How did you get started ghostwriting? For this answer, I’ll refer you to Part I of my “Accidental Ghostwriter” blogs. I call myself an “accidental” ghostwriter in the sense that I did not pursue this particular niche of my professional life. I also believe that God was intentional in this process and that there are no accidents as our lives are surrendered to him. Why would someone want to use a ghostwriter? I could answer this question in several ways, so I will. People use ghostwriters for a variety of reasons. Some don’t have time to write their books themselves. They have a busy speaking, ministry, and/or business schedule. They’ve learned that their time is best spent doing what they do well. So they pay me (or another ghostwriter like me) to do what I do well—write. Others have the desire or time to write but not the ability. Perhaps they can’t write or organize their thoughts at all. Perhaps they can write, but not at the level traditional publishing requires. In today’s competitive market, publication requires both a large platform (potential market/audience ready to buy your book) and excellent writing. The authors I serve usually have the first. And with my assistance, they can have the second as well. Isn’t ghostwriting dishonest? That’s probably the stickiest question of all. My answer would be that I see nothing dishonest about my side of it. The author contributes his or her work/story/message, and I provide the writing. Our contract states what (if anything) I can say about my contributions. If someone else wrote a book for me, I’d want to put his or her name on the cover (generally as a “with” or collaborative writer status). But the authors I serve don’t always have that choice. Many entities are involved in a book moving from Point A to Point B, and neither the author nor the ghostwriter is the ultimate decision-maker. I rest in God’s sovereignty and authority over all. My friend and mentor Cec Murphey’s reputation and experience now allow his name to appear on the cover of every book he ghostwrites. But that wasn’t always the case. For now, I’m content to know that the books I’ve written would not exist without the authors I serve and their message or ministry. I don’t want to take anything away from them. Ghostwriting has helped me grow spiritually as I’ve...

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WRITE: The Accidental Ghostwriter, Part I

(REMINDER: Read and leave a comment with your email address on my previous post, “READ: Words of Comfort for Times of Loss” for two opportunities to win!)“What kind of ghosts do you write about?” Someone once asked me that question after she heard that I was a ghostwriter. Some of you know that although my business cards say, “Book Doctor/Writer/Editor,” quite a bit of my work is ghostwriting. What does that mean? I write for others. I take their messages or stories (via interviews, printed or audio materials, or a rough manuscript) and turn them into books. Their names go on the covers, mine (generally) doesn’t. I prefer the term “collaborative writer” since I wouldn’t have a book to write without the author’s message, and he/she wouldn’t have a book to sell without my writing. But true collaborators generally share cover credit. So far, I’ve been more hidden than not–hence the “ghost” part of the term. A friend wrote the other day to ask another, more common question. “Why do you ghostwrite? Why don’t you just write on your own?” Because so many people have asked me this, I decided to turn my answer into a blog post. I ghostwrite, first of all, because God has led me to do so. I call myself an accidental ghostwriter because I never set out to become one. I’ve loved to write since my early childhood (I blogged about that in February). After I came to know Christ in college, he told me he’d use my writing someday. That’s why I went to seminary for a theology degree and took as many writing classes as the school offered (one). As a pastor’s wife and homeschool mom of five, I then took a long hiatus from publishing. I kept writing and writing because writers write, but I didn’t pursue publication. From 2000-2005 my writing dream took a more visible form. I wrote and published a number of homeschool articles and sermon illustrations. A dear friend and professional editor mentored me as I took on some editing work. But I knew God wanted more, and I prayed about my next steps. In August, 2005 I became involved in a prayer project for a young man who was critically ill. The day he died, I volunteered to help his parents get his passionate message of surrender to Christ out in any way I could. I had no idea what that would entail, but that offer became I Would Die for You (Revell, 2008). This project is the one that has brought me all the rest. It became a Young Adult bestseller, earned back its modest advance, and is now in its fourth printing. I’m so...

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