2010 ACFW Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana

I’m so bummed that I won’t be able to attend this year’s American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference. Last year I had a wonderful time meeting new people and making new friends, and I’ll miss seeing everyone again. While I’m disappointed that I won’t be attending, I’m thrilled for the people who will have the opportunity to go and enjoy the conference experience.

This year the keynote speaker is Tim Downs, an award-winning author of nonfiction and fiction writing. In addition to a fabulous keynote speaker, the conference will also offer an early bird session that will be taught by James Scott Bell. I’ve had the privilege of hearing James speak on a few occasions and I can tell you this…not only is he a wealth of information, the man is hilariously funny as well.

The conference is September 17 – 20 and there is still time to register if you’re interested in going.

Are any of you planning to attend the conference this year? Are you pitching a book idea or completed manuscript?



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ACFW Conference Update


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ACFW Conference Update

What a fabulous event! Oh my goodness, I think I’m still in the clouds from all of the fun and fellowship. Since there are so many snippets to comment on, I’ll give you a brief day-by-day overview.


I spent all day Thursday in a class with 270+ people, trying desperately to keep up with Donald Maass, who taught writing techniques from his book, Writing the Breakout Novel. To say I experienced information overload would be an epic understatement, but I did manage to retain a nugget or two that I’ve already started to apply in my writing.


Friday morning I volunteered for a few hours and helped assemble books generously offered to conference participants as free takeaways. Each attendee received Breathing Grace by Harry Kraus, and A Slow Burn by Mary Demuth.

In the afternoon, I had my first scheduled 15-minute appointment with literary agent Steve Laube, who happens to be the 2009 ACFW Agent of the Year. Because I was a finalist in the Genesis contest, Steve had already read the first 15 pages of my novel. After we chatted about my story, Steve invited me to send him my entire manuscript along with my proposal. Unfortunately, based on my story premise he doesn’t see a place where my novel fits in the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) market, but he offered to read the full manuscript and make a judgment based on my writing. Right now, I’m preparing my package to send to him, and we’ll see how things progress in the coming weeks and months.


My second scheduled appointment was with Barbara Scott from Abingdon Press, and I really enjoyed talking with her. Maybe it was my excitement, but I felt Barbara and I connected, and liking someone is such a key part of having a successful relationship. After reading my one-sheet, Barbara indicated she liked my story and found it interesting. Based on her interest, she invited me to send my proposal. Yay!!! So once again, we’ll see what happens.

New Friends I Met or Reconnected With

Michelle Sutton, Candace Calvert, Lynnette Horner, Sharon Lavy, Carol McClain, Sarah Kohnle, Kent King, Lena Nelson Dooley, Leanna Ellis, Michael Webb, Sandi Rog, Jennifer Griffith, Tracy Reed, Marion McNair, Diane Meyer, Kit Wilkinson, Dan Case, Lynn Dean, Zoe McCarthy, Katie Green, Joyce Holland-Brown, Cathy Bryant, Katy McKenna and her wonderful hubby, Christina Berry, Tamara Cooper, Margie Lawson, and Megan DiMaria.

Whew! I’m sure I’m leaving lots of people out, but the ol’ memory isn’t what it used to be.

Pictures of Old and New Friends

Michelle Sutton 2009

Michelle Sutton, signing books and giving away yummy chocolate.

Candace Calvert and me 2009

Candace Calvert and me at the Donald Maass session.

Megan DiMaria and me 2009

Megan DiMaria, who is scheduled to be my guest next week, and yours truly.

Candace Calvert and Leanna Ellis 2009

Candace Calvert and Leanna Ellis.

Brandilyn Collins and me 2009

Brandilyn Collins and me at the awards banquet Saturday night.


If you’re a writer and you haven’t attended an ACFW Conference, I really encourage you to consider next year’s event in Indianapolis. The workshops and continuing education sessions are excellent, the event itself is well-organized, the fellowship is uplifting, and the opportunity to talk about books and writing with people who “get you” is invaluable. If you attended the Denver conference, what were some of the high moments for you?




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How to Prepare For a Writers Conference

Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune of attending conferences of all shapes and sizes and I’ve grown from greenhorn to full-fledged pro. As I launch into the final stages of preparation for the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference (ACFW) in Denver, I realize there may be writers out there struggling to figure out exactly how to prepare. Since a little knowledge goes a long way, I’ll share a few tidbits I’ve picked up that may help those of you in preparation mode to bring your A game.


Decide what you want to gain from attending the conference.
This may seem basic, but believe me, knowing your motivation going in can be a big timesaver. For instance, if you’ve never attended a conference and you have not completed a manuscript that is “publisher ready,” then your main objective maybe to network with other writers and meet agents and editors to begin building relationships. This being the case, you won’t need a polished proposal because you’re not at the “pitching stage.”

Conversely, if you’ve written a manuscript, had it critiqued, and have polished your words to a finished product you’ll want a top-notch proposal and a strong pitch. We’ll talk about pitch in a moment. The key is in knowing why you’re attending the conference and what you hope to gain.

Do a little research in advance.

Whether you’re attending your first writer’s conference or your fifth, it pays to read up on the faculty, agents, and editors who are scheduled to attend the event. The more you know about the people you’ll be interacting with, the better you’ll be able to formulate questions that lead to clear answers. Not only that, if you’re pitching you’ll be able to determine the guidelines for the agents and publishing houses you’re interested in.

**Word of Caution – If an agent or publishing house indicates they’re not accepting material from the genre you’ve written your manuscript in, do not present it. Tempting as it may be, stay the course and save your pitch for the person who is open to what you have to offer.

Get a second, third, and fourth opinion.

You’ve heard me mention the term pitching a few times in this article. A pitch is simply a brief—20 to 30 words—synopsis of your story. There are scads of resources available on the internet that explain the mechanics of a good pitch, but if you’re stumped, search the archives of the following blogs and read the advice from these professionals: Randy Ingermanson, Rachelle Gardner, and Camy Tang.

Once you’ve written your pitch and perfected it to the best of your ability, try out your spiel on as many writers as you can. Based on their feedback, refine your message to be as short and intriguing as possible. Once you’ve whittled your pitch to a fine point—practice, practice, practice. Say your pitch out loud over and over again, to anyone who will listen, until the words roll off your tongue effortlessly.

Bring professional business cards.

With online printing from suppliers like Vista Print, business cards can be obtained for a fraction of the cost of traditional printers. Much like a calling card, your business card represents you. As with all things that represent you, lean toward quality every time. You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression, so why not put your best foot forward?

Prepare a one-sheet.

Even if you’re not pitching, I’d still suggest creating a snappy one-sheet to bring with you. If nothing else, the practice will be invaluable. In case you’re unfamiliar with a one-sheet, here is a guideline of what it should include. On one sheet of paper, indicate the title, word count, genre, and status of completion of your novel along with your contact information. In addition to these basic details, a one-sheet should include a one or two paragraph synopsis along with a brief writer bio and picture. Once again, there are numerous ways to lay out this information. Feel free to search the previous blogs I listed above for suggestions and possible examples.




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Confessions of a Writers Conference Attendee

As many of you may know, I’ll be attending the ACFW Writers Conference in Denver next month. Over the years, I’ve been blessed with attending lots of conferences to the point that I now consider myself a bit of a veteran expert. At attending that is—not pitching my manuscript. While I’m comfortable talking with literary agents, editors, and publishers, I’m a big fraidy-cat when it comes to explaining what my story is about and then waiting for their responses.

In a one-on-one conversation with an agent, the moment I open my mouth tumbleweeds roll out and my tongue sticks to my gums. I usually sit there like a petrified doofus while the poor agent waits patiently for me to speak—move—or otherwise show signs of life. Inside my head, birds chirp and flitter about from one synapse to another and I wish, for that moment, that a body double could take my place and seal the deal.

Now, here’s the killer part. I’m usually a very confident person. I’ve met with big city mayors, high-ranking state officials, powerful CEOs and I’m fine. I manage to eat food without spitting on folks, and drink water without dribbling, and…you get the picture. But for the life of me, I can’t figure out what makes me so nervous about pitching my blasted novel. Honest to Pete!

At last, a teeny, tiny, little kernel of a reason has seeped into my consciousness. This novel, which is my first, is my baby. Who wants someone to call their baby grotesque? Who wants to watch people sprint from the church, at breakneck speed, when their baby is christened? I surely don’t! Do you?

But when you stop and think about it, pitching a novel concept or presenting a proposal for a manuscript that you’ve come to love is a lot like waiting for your baby to be accepted by the world or shunned into hiding. Dadgum it…that’s just the way it is.

The song, The Way It Is, by Bruce Hornsby and the Range says it perfectly. Somewhere in this fandangled WordPress program I’m supposed to be able to play music, but darn if I can figure out how it works. Thankfully, though, I found a video of Bruce and his band performing their classic song on “Good Morning America.”


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Nangie Writing Workshop 101

One of the best things I did when I first started writing was to attend the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference and participate in the Nangie Writing Workshop taught by Angela Hunt and Nancy Rue. Because the workshop offered hands-on coaching to each writer participant, the classes were designed to be small and intimate. In my class for example, there were 13 writers, and that was considered maximum capacity. If you’re a writer and you have the opportunity to take the Nangie Workshop, I would really encourage you to do it.  

 The only regret that I have is that I didn’t take the workshop sooner. By the time I participated in the class, I had almost finished writing the first draft of my novel. To say that I had an eye-opening experience in the workshop would be a behemoth of an understatement. 

 Before I dive in, let me set the stage. Prior to participating in the workshop, each writer was required to read the chapters submitted by their fellow classmates. By being prepared, each of us could participate in the critique discussion with Angie and Nancy (A&N), and learn from each other’s mistakes. 

In my naiveté as an inexperienced writer, I was thoroughly convinced that my novel was so spectacular that editors would be lining up to buy my book. I was also certain that A&N would read my chapters and herald them the best work in fiction today. Stop laughing! I told you I was deluded. So…let me tell you what really happened. 

I knew I was in trouble when A&N did the first round of critiques, and I studied the writing styles of the other participants, and their effectiveness in using craft techniques. Several stories were so well written that I wondered why the writers were in the class. Their stories were engaging from the first sentence and their prose danced on the pages. 

On the second day I received my critique from A&N. I flipped open the blue folder Angie gave me and read the notes as I listened to her feedback. Let me give you some of the highlights:


  1. The submitted manuscripts were supposed to be double-spaced – mine was single-spaced.
  2. Each new chapter should have started half way down the page – mine started at the top.
  3. Each scene should have been from one character’s point of view (POV) – mine was…heck, I didn’t even know what point of view was.
  4. In each scene the POV character should have had a goal – mine was…uh….goal you say?
  5. A header with the title of the book and the writer’s name should have been at the top of each page – mine was…oh wow, there was supposed to be a header?
  6. Each new paragraph should have been indented – mine was…you guessed it. I hadn’t even heard of the indentation rule. 

A&N deserve a medal for the way they delivered my critique. They pointed out enough weaknesses to make me want to try harder without breaking my spirit. 

When you think about the coaches, instructors, teachers, or professors who helped you developmentally, who comes to mind?


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Virtual Fiction Writers Conference

Virtual Fiction Writers Conference

The second annual Virtual Writers Conference by Faith Based Fiction Writers of Atlanta, formerly Visions in Print Writers Group, is raising money to award a college scholarship to a deserving high school student in the class of 2009. You’re invited you to attend the not to be missed Virtual Writers Conference. Seven workshops and teleconference sessions are available with top selling authors and industry experts to help you improve your writing and/or market your current work.

Thursday, April 16, 2009 – Saturday, April 18, 2009
$50 Registration Fee Includes All Sessions!

Virtual Workshops


Linda Leigh Hargrove
Making it Real and Keeping It Relevant
Pamela Samuels-Young
How to Keep Readers Turning the Pages: A Lesson in Pacing
Tiffany L. Warren a.k.a. Nikki Carter
Writing the Young Adult Novel


ReShonda Tate Billingsley
What It Takes To Make a Bestseller
Dee Stewart
The Business of Book Events
Vanessa Miller
Independent Publishing: Who, Why and How to Get It Done Yourself.
Tia McCollors
Sentence C.P.R. – “Resuscitate your sentences….bring life into your writing”

Conference Host – Dana Pittman of Nia Promotions
How a Virtual Conference Works: A virtual conference is a conference hosted on the Internet and by telephone. Participants can attend without leaving the comfort of their home.

Who it is for: This conference is for anyone who is writing fiction, particularly those who have an understanding of basic writing and want to take their craft and marketing/promotion to the next level.

How You Will Participate: You register for the conference at http://fbfwritersofatlanta.eventbrite.com/
A few days before the conference you’ll receive instructions on how to enter the main site for the conference. On the day of the conference, the workshops are presented in the forms of articles that are posted on the conference site by the workshop presenter. Participants will review the material and post questions or comments in a threaded discussion format. The presenter will come into the forum and answer all questions. Additionally, each workshop presenter will hold a live tele-conference. (Questions for the live tele-conference may be pre-submited until the close of registration. )

Door prizes: All registered participants who are interested will be entered in a raffle to win a 5-page critique from Legacy Editing Service. Three critiques will be given away. Plus books and more.

Don’t miss out on the learning or the fun! Contact Faith Based Fiction Writers of Atlanta at fbfwriters@yahoo.com with questions.

*** All teleconferences will be held in the evening beginning at 7 p.m. and 8:15/8:30 p.m. eastern standard time. Saturday sessions will be held at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. eastern standard time.

Normal telephone charges will apply.

All sessions will be available for purchase after the conference barring no technical issues.

Click here to Register http://fbfwritersofatlanta.eventbrite.com/