Congratulations to Danielle Hammelef who won the autographed copy of ANY GOOD THING from last week’s blog.
Here’s a wonderful opportunity for you to write and be published. Please let us know if you successfully place an article or short story with Faith on Every Corner. We’d be happy to share your success story!
This is a link to their January issue. Remember: one of the best ways to learn if you’re work is right for a particular magazine is to study its contents.
I first read about the Pelican Book Group on Kathy Temean’s excellent blog, Writing and Illustrating. I looked them up online and found this description: “Our primary ministry is to publish quality fiction that reflects the salvation and love offered by Jesus Christ. Our titles adhere to mainline Christianity, but are enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians.” I knew I had to find out more for our Write2Ignite readers!
CAROL: What distinguishes your publishing house from general publishing companies?[spacer height=”20px”]
NICOLA: Pelican Book Group is a ministry before it’s anything else, which is why we publish fiction from a Christian worldview. As editor-in-chief, it is my goal to seek out new life and new civilization…oh wait, that’s something else…it’s my goal to seek out stories that shine a light on the new and everlasting life we can have in Christ, and to publish stories that show readers what civilization is supposed to be, even though we’re flawed and can’t accomplish it without the One who saves us all. Pelican does have a clean/wholesome line that is considered secular in that it doesn’t necessarily have to feature Christian characters or have any of the traditionally Christian elements, but even our clean/wholesome line won’t oppose Christian values or promote a position that would oppose Christ’s teachings.
CAROL: As a Christian writing my first young adult novel, I have often struggled with how to write a book that is God-honoring and still appeals to contemporary young adult readers who prefer edgy novels and vampires. How do you write a non-preachy book that glorifies the Lord and appeals to today’s teens?[spacer height=”20px”]
NICOLA: The Christian YA market is tough for the very reason you’ve mentioned. I think the best thing always is to write the story that’s itching to come out of you. If you do that, you won’t have to worry about being preachy, because the Christian element will be an integral part of your plot or your characterization. Don’t write a story with “preaching” in mind. Don’t put unnatural dialogue into your characters’ mouths because you’re trying to make a point (no author intrusion!) Don’t bend Christianity or flake out on it simply to try to make your story appealing to a secular audience. One problem with many Christian stories today is that the Christianity is compromised under the guise of “being real.” One can be both real and Christian. After all, Christ was! He is the standard, not trends in publishing. If you write interesting characters who overcome obstacles, who are scared to death but rise to the occasion, who are tempted but either don’t fall or if they do, pay the consequence and then find redemption, then your story will be appealing.
Speaking to the problem I mentioned, what I see is that authors are writing to the lowest common denominator in order to grasp popularity, and they aren’t showing our young adults that life should be lived to the highest standard, not the lowest thrill. If your book illustrates that choosing well, doing good, being faithful is actually the best way to have an awesome, hopeful and fun life, then God will do the rest to put that book into the hands of teens who need it.
FIVE TIPS TO KEEP YOU ON TRACK
CAROL: Many of the writers who come to the Write2Ignite conference are either new writers or are breaking into the children’s and young adult market for the first time. What are your suggestions for “newbies?”
NICOLA: Here are my top five:
1) Hone your craft and don’t rush the process. The ease with which one can self-publish seems to be making people impatient, and because of that, a lot of books are being published before they are ready–or even good. You want to tell a great story, and that means you have to learn how to write. Learn the rules (from grammar rules to the rules/formula of your genre.) If you don’t know terminology, that’s an indication that you still have something to learn. For example: If you hear the term show don’t tell and you have no clue what that means or how to accomplish it, then take the time to learn.
2) Follow the rules/formula for your genre. They are there because that’s what readers expect. Follow those rules. Get so good at them that including them becomes automatic. Once you know your genre and can write it well, then you can bend the rules with your own unique twist. . . and don’t think because you aren’t writing romance that there isn’t a formula. Every genre has its own. Can you imagine an action-adventure without a chase scene, or a [mystery] without a sleuth?
3) Listen to feedback. If editors, crit partners, agents, etc. keep telling you the same or similar things about character development, plot flaws, believability, etc., listen to them. Then, figure out how to fix the issues.
4) Get crit partners who will tell you the truth. If your manuscript is terrible, you need to know it. A terrible manuscript isn’t the end of the world; it’s a starting point, but if your CP’s will only stroke your ego, then you will never improve.
5) Don’t just polish the first three or four chapters of your manuscript. I see this very often where a book is great until chapter four. That’s because the first three chapters get revised each time they are submitted to an agent, publisher or contest, while the rest of the book just sits waiting for the magic request-for-full. You will be highly disappointed if you keep getting requests for your complete manuscript followed by subsequent rejections because the quality of your book fell apart sixty pages in. It’s disappointing for editors, too.
CAROL: It appears that most of your publications are e-pubs of one sort or another. Was that because you see readers moving in that direction? How do you decide if you will publish the book in print?
NICOLA: All titles are released in some electronic format. Many readers like the convenience of being able to read a book on multiple devices without having to haul around paper–or having the luxury of owning a paperback to read when at home, but the e-version on their phone/tablet/laptop when away from home. Some novellas and all full-length novels are considered for paperback and/or hardback editions. Most full-length novels go to print, although not necessarily at the same time as they are released in e-format. The decision is based on prayer and whether we feel the market exists for print.
CAROL: A publisher who prays about these decisions–that’s amazing!!
NICOLA: Thanks for reaching out!
You will find links to several Pelican Imprints below. Please read the guidelines for each imprint before submitting.
“All stories must be Christian fiction between 25,000 and 65,000 words. All stories must be written for a target audience of ages 14 to 19, but with an appeal that will transcend the teenager.”
Prism CW “Clean & Wholesome secular fiction that reflects hope to a troubled world. Prism CW is our clean and wholesome fiction imprint. For this imprint we acquire all fiction sub-genres from romance to sci-fi/fantasy and everything in between. PCW titles feature strong heroes and heroines who have a strong moral compass. While these titles do not have a Christian element, PCW titles feature characters who understand right from wrong and ultimately understand the right choice even if they come to that conclusion by living through not-so-great decisions.”
Prism Lux “Christian fiction that reflects the the Light of Christ. “Prism Lux is our Christian fiction imprint. For this imprint, we acquire all Christian fiction sub-genres from romance to sci-fi/fantasy and everything in between. Lux titles feature strong heroes and heroines who are Christian throughout the story or who come to a knowledge of Christ before “the end.” These stories contain a strong Christian message that adheres to mainline Christianity (e.g. The Trinity as one God, three Persons; Through the grace of Christ’s Pascal sacrifce, all can receive salvation . . .)”
Nicola Martinez is editor-in-chief at Pelican Book Group, where she is privileged to work with many talented authors and staff.
Today’s guest blogger, Celeste Hawkins, shares her first experience attending a Write2Ignite Conference.
As I opened the doors to check into my first writers’ conference, I held a print-out of my book draft in one arm and the parking-line-yellow purse that makes me feel more optimistic in the other. I pulled it closer to my side as I searched the crowd of faces.
I spotted her and let out the breath I’d been holding in, then sifted my way off to the quiet side of the chattering writers, editors, and publishers. Everyone seemed to be pulling out their schedules and looking over the first session options:
Tessa Emily Hall – “Common Mistakes Newbie Writers Make in Their Manuscripts”
Kim Peterson – “Is My Manuscript Ready for an Agent?”
Jean Matthew Hall – “Children’s Book Categories”
Lori Hatcher – “The Day I Wanted to Quit: Tackling the Mind Games That Discourage and Defeat Writers”
When I reached my friend, Leah and I hugged and caught up on life since we’d last seen each other at a birthday party over the summer. That’s when we’d discovered we were both working on our first books.
We looked at our schedules. It felt like trying to order ice cream: you know you can pick any one and be happy, but you kind of wish you could have all of them.
Later, Leah and I sat together again at our first keynote with Jenny Cote, award-winning author of the popular children’s fantasy series The Amazing Tales of Max and Liz and Epic Order of the Seven.
As she took the stage, I noticed her springy blonde hair that matched her personality inch for inch. She presented like the Energizer Bunny, clicking through slide after slide of quirky quotes and reviewing the pros and cons of each option in the publishing world in detail — in a talk she’d titled “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Deadlines.”
It’s the question every writer must grapple with: do you want to call the shots, or let someone else? I’d been grappling with that myself.
Instinctively, I began to reflect on the answer I’d reached. Originally, I’d considered co-publishing my book. Next, I’d staunchly decided on self-publishing. As Jenny went on, the realization sank in like a rock to the bottom of a lake: I’d defaulted to those options because, deep down, I didn’t believe a “real publisher” would ever publish my book.
The familiar fear remained as I drove off at the end of that first day, curving around the dark rural back roads to home.
But the next day, I couldn’t help feeling renewed hope as I walked into a session with my former classmate Daniel Blackaby, who had published eight books since I saw him last in Shakespearean Tragedies.
If he did it, why can’t I?
The chairs were filled, and we had to bring in more from next door to seat the group consisting of teenagers up to 60-somethings. Daniel encouraged us to write even when we didn’t feel inspired. He gave us silly prompts and the results were side-hurting laughs at soon-to-be stories by creative writers.
You’re the coach of a basketball team that’s about to lose. Write the worst pep talk ever.
You just woke up, looked in the mirror, and screamed. Write what you saw.
Write a back-of-the-book description for this picture. (It was an old-timey ship, a long tentacle rising up out of the surrounding tempestuous waves.)
After the session, Daniel and I talked for a minute about our current projects. To my surprise, he even offered to read my book and provide feedback.
I’ll never forget the next session with Jenny.
She took us step by step through her writing process — from jotting down initial concepts on an idea page, outlining, and planning out chapters to finding a critique team, knowing when to stop editing, and even soliciting endorsements for your book cover.
She reminded us that we do everything first for God and the results are ultimately up to Him.
“My book will get rejected by publishers. But if I give God 100 percent of the steps, then when my book gets rejected, they’ve rejected God’s plan,” I scribbled down in big letters.
The words entered my soul as if they’d been meant only for me.
I rehearsed those words as I waited at the large conference table, pulling out my binder and re-reading the title on the front.
Then he came in, the quiet man with the blue eyes and a tie. I stood, and we introduced ourselves.
“Hey, I’m Celeste,” I said, sure to give what one of our family friends used to call “the famous Hawkins handshake” — the one I’d practiced as a girl when people greeted us at church doors. “Good to meet you, Dr. Lowry.”
“You can call me Sam,” he said in his brilliant Irish accent.
I asked him why he first became interested in books, figuring that’s the only reason anyone becomes a publisher. He recounted how his father had built him a wooden shelf by hand. After that, he felt a sense of responsibility to fill it up with books. He couldn’t stop reading.
The conversation turned to me. I told him about my background as a writer, gave him the elevator pitch for my book, and slid over the three-ring binder containing my manuscript. My heart quickened as I felt powerless to keep it safe and un-rejected any longer.
“It’s short,” he said about the word count, listed on the cover page.
“Yeah,” I said, then gulped.
I studied his every reaction, as he began to thumb through the pages, flipping forward then backward.
“Oh, I’m glad you have questions. You need that,” he added, pointing to the end of a chapter.
“Hmm,” he continued.
Was that the good kind of “hmm” or the bad kind of “hmm”? I stretched my shoulders back, willing every muscle to stay calm.
We sat in a silence that felt like eternity.
Finally, he spoke.
“Well, it’s definitely a good book.” He looked up with a smile.
My heart exploded like fireworks and surprise birthday parties. It was one of the best strings of words I’ve ever heard, lined up together like that.
“Send me the manuscript,” he continued.
Did he really just say that? What is happening? My mind raced. Should I say something now?
“Okay. Of course,” I managed to answer, gathering my things and probably saying “thank you” a dozen times as his next appointment walked in and I left, bounding up the stairs to find someone to tell.
Even now, I hardly believe it. I shared my book with a publisher. Then, he actually read it. Then, he wrote back saying that they’d be pleased to publish it. Now I’ve signed a book contract with Ambassador International. And maybe, just maybe, one day I’ll be on the other side of the Write2Ignite Conference table at North Greenville University autographing my first book.
[This article first appeared in the Spring 2019 issue of 1892, the alumni magazine of North Greenville University.]
Celeste Hawkins lived in the same red-shuttered house in North Carolina until she was 22. After studying English education, Celeste started her career in writing and editing. Her work has appeared online at USA Today 10Best.com, as well as in print in edible UPCOUNTRY and 1892 Magazine, among others. She also created the popular travel website Travelers Rest Here. Set to release within this decade (hopefully), Always Been Loved is her first book, a deeply personal discovery of God’s out-of-this-world love for us. Celeste also enjoys sharing amazing stories of what happens when we pray, listen for God’s voice, and then obey at StillGodSpeaks.com.
According to author and founder Cheri Cowell, EA Books Publishing will offer a writing contest and publication opportunity open only to those who register for and attend the September 21–22, 2018, Write2Ignite Conference. Participants who attend the conference both Friday and Saturday may submit one entry on the theme of “Faith and Freedom”—fiction, nonfiction, or poetry—for a writing contest to be judged by editors of EA Books Publishing.
Contest award: Twenty to twenty-five authors will be chosen to have their work published by EA Books Publishing in a print anthology entitled Faith and Freedom. Authors will be able to purchase books at a reduced rate and keep the profit from their sales.
In keeping with Write2Ignite Conference’s primary mission of producing Christian worldview materials for children and young adults, the anthology will include stories by, about, and/or for children and youth of various ages as well as content for more general or adult readers.
Open only to unpublished authors (“Unpublished” is defined as follows: the writer can have articles, blogs, or online content published, either paid or unpaid, but cannot have a traditionally published book or inclusion in another published anthology.)
Each contestant must be registered for the full 2018 Write2Ignite Conference. The contest is not open to single-day attendees. Both adult and Teen Track participants are eligible to enter.
Only those who follow the full submission guidelines will be considered.
Only one submission per person registered for the conference
Genres accepted: short story, article, devotional, or poem
300–1000 word limit
Include a 50-word bio at the end of your submission. At the top of the first page of the submission, place a title and your name with contact information (email, address, and phone number). (This page heading is not included in submission word count total.)
Standard manuscript format (Times New Roman, 12-pt font, double spaced, 1-inch margins, Microsoft Word doc or docx)
Criteria: Those that best reflect the theme (Faith and Freedom), who meet submission guidelines, and represent the best writing of a new author, will be chosen for inclusion in the book. Winners will be announced during the conference.
What will you enter?
Set your plans now for registration.
Write your entry on the Faith and Freedom theme.
Submit by the deadline on September 10, 2018!
Attendance will be verified before winners are announced.
Maria Bostian: author of What Should Daisy Do? and Firefighters’ Busy Day
As Write2Ignite Conference 2018 approaches, we want to highlight what we’re calling “Success Stories”: stories of past participants whose attendance at W2I led to specific contacts, published work, and even jobs! We often emphasize the benefits of attending a writing conference—benefits that include networking, learning, honing skills, and gaining inspiration and encouragement—and it’s time to celebrate some W2I benefits that our attendees have shared!
Maria Bostian, Fire & Life Safety Educator at Kannapolis Fire Department, first attended in 2014 and credits both professional and personal gains to W2I:
“[The] most important thing that happened as far as my writing is concerned: I met [Brenda Covert, Editor at Ambassador International] during one of the ten- minute critiques. It was fate! I missed my first session [ . . . ] I didn’t know to interrupt when someone was taking up my time. (It was my first conference and I just didn’t know these things.) I was upset and didn’t know what to do so they let me sign up again and I signed up with [Brenda, who] suggested that I make a few changes to my manuscript and submit it to Sam [Lowry]. I did and went on to publish it and another fire safety book with Ambassador International.
“[The] most important thing personally: I met Laura. She and I were both a few minutes late and we registered at the same time. We had to practically run in the rain to the next building to get to the pre-conference workshop. We forged a friendship that is still going strong. We are each other’s sounding boards, pillars, shoulders to cry on, cheerleaders, and most importantly . . . each other’s Friday accountability partner! That’s something unique and special that I believe has something to do with the true magic that takes place at Write2Ignite.”