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WRITE: Reflections on the Florida Christian Writers Conference

It is finished. The conference we worked for, waited for, and prayed for is now history—at least until next year. So in the wake of the conference and as I prepare to leave on another trip, I thought I’d share some highlights. Every good writers conference offers appointments with editors and agents as well as all sorts of workshops and continuing classes. I won’t take time to go over those except to say the FCWC shone with a glittering array of publishing stars. I heard so many comments about caring teachers, excellent handouts, and wonderful choices. Kudos to Directors Eva Marie Everson and Mark Hancock for putting it all together with the assistance of amazing manager Sarah Bulls. So what made the FCWC unique and extra-special?  Directors’ Banter (with an undertone of caring) between Eva Marie Everson and Mark Hancock. I knew both these people prior to their conference leadership, but never realized their potential in stand-up comedy. These two made even announcements fun.  Large-group worship under the leadership of Robert Gorini, lead singer of Nonparell. His sensitivity and passion set the tone for our times together.  Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center. I must give a shout-out to the location near my own central Florida home. The beauty of the grounds is matched by the excellence of the food (with gluten-free and other options available) and the warmth of the staff and volunteers. LYBCC offers plenty of room and technology in classrooms and in the worship center, with free wi-fi throughout. Some of the rooms have been updated while others await their makeovers, but overall, it’s a pleasant stay.  Shuttle Service: Instead of asking you to arrange your own transportation to and from the airport (1.5 hours away), the FCWC provides shuttle service for a reasonable fee. This removes the guesswork from conference travel planning and allowed for worry-free trips for faculty and conferees.  Weather: It’s Florida. And even when rain hits—as it did on the first day of the conference—it’s Florida. I caught several conferees sitting in the sun by a convenient fountain or otherwise enjoying His beautiful creation. After a winter like the one most parts of the country have endured, the FCWC makes a fantastic place to thaw out and improve your writing at the same time. I’ll add to my list later this week. And in the meantime, did you attend the FCWC? Do you have some additional comments? Or, if you couldn’t come, do you have something you’d like us to know? I’ll be sure to share your responses with Eva Marie and Mark, so let me know your...

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WRITE: One Item You Must Bring to Any Writer’s Conference

“My bags are packed, I’m ready to go. . .” This lyric from a popular song of my childhood expresses my feelings today as I make final preparation to leave for the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. But I have a small problem: I’m not ready to go. Several hours of homeschool, thirty minutes or so of copying handouts, and at least one trip to the grocery store precede my departure. My bags are packed, but I’m not ready to go.  Not yet. This year, as thousands of conferees prepare to attend this or other writers conferences throughout the country, they’ll pack their bags. They’ll prepare book proposals. They’ll read up on how to impress an agent or editor. They’ll edit and re-edit, agonize and agitate. They’ll scrutinize the list of faculty in an effort to decide which classes to take and appointments to make. And they’ll pray (at least I hope they will). All this measured preparation, however, won’t do them any good if they fail to pack one essential item. As last year’s Florida conference began, I made a trip to Starbucks for one faculty member who couldn’t go more than a few hours without his chai tea latte. I picked up a toothbrush for an agent who forget hers.   But what’s the must-have item, the one thing every conferee should pack? Everyone can find it. All writers need it. But just as some travelers will leave behind their blow dryer or favorite pillow, many writers will neglect to pack one thing. Instead of this necessity, some writers carry with them a bundle of pride. Unwrapped, it prevents true listening and learning because it has its possessors convinced: the world awaits their words. No one says it better—or certainly not as well. Agents and editors will line up in gratitude for the privilege of representing and publishing them. And if this scenario doesn’t happen? Accusing fingers point at the publishing professionals, not the writers. Others leave pride behind and pack insecurity instead. “I’ll never get this,” they moan. “All the information overwhelms me.” Instead of taking notes or ordering CDs from conference workshops, they allow their own fear of failure to distract them. They avoid rejection, so they don’t dare make faculty appointments. And they return home without much of the knowledge and experience the conference offers. As I close my suitcase today, I’ll make sure not to leave out teachability. I have much to learn from my interactions with other writers, from speakers and workshop leaders, and from all who love to work with words. I’ll watch not only for what people are saying but for what God is showing me through the conference. Here in Florida, I’ll...

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WRITE: Florida Christian Writers Conference

  Where can I find help to polish my novel?   I’ve heard of book proposals, but the thought of writing one overwhelms me. Where can I get help?  I’d love to submit articles to a magazine, but I don’t know a thing about the process. How can I learn?             I think I’m ready for an agent. Where do I find one?            The idea of marketing my book scares me to death. Can I get lessons?             I’ve always wanted to write, but life got in the way. How can I get started? As a writer, editor, and mentor of writers, I’ve heard various forms of all these questions—all with the same answer. I find myself giving it in different ways to almost every writer or writer wannabe I know: Go to a writer’s conference. The best place to get started is a writer’s conference. You’ll get expert advice and instruction at a writer’s conference. Today, I want to highlight an event I’ve grown to love, the wonderful FloridaChristian Writers Conference. March 1-4, 2012 marks its 25th anniversary. I’m giving you plenty of notice on this one because you’ll want to pray about attending.  As you do, you may want to read my first blog about the conferencewhen I attended back in 2010. Or you may want to note the following facts provided by conference director Billie Wilson: The Florida Christian Writers Conference offers: ·                     Appointments with Agents and Editors ·                     Manuscript Submission to Agents & Editors  ·                     7 Continuing Classes (6 hours of instruction in a genre) ·                     Mentoring Tracks limited to 10 participants in each track – take place during Continuing Class time §  Fiction Project  – Eva Marie Everson, Ken Kuhlken   §  Nonfiction Project – Janis Whipple §  Writing for Children – Christine Tangvald, Carol Wedeven ·                     72 Elective Workshops ·                     12 “After Hours” Workshops Scholarships: To apply for all scholarships please email a brief bio, financial situation and a snippet of your current writing project. We are grateful that Cecil Murphey has made scholarships available from the Cecil Murphey Scholarship Fund. Cash Awards: Manuscripts submitted are considered for an award in the following categories:  Poetry, Drama/Screenwriting, Children’s Book or Short Story, Curriculum , Short Story for Teens or Adults , Article, Devotional, Novel, Non-Fiction Book, Best Work for a First Time Conferee plus Writer of the Year Award of $200 from WinePress Publishing Group. The conference provides some additional benefits in the form of its beautiful central Florida setting at the Lake Yale Conference Center; delicious meals (including a full salad bar at lunch and dinner); and the opportunity to build relationships with writers, authors, agents, editors, and...

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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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