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What Write2Ignite Conferences Taught Me

My first attendance at a W2I Conference was in March of 2017.  I landed a scholarship which helped me enjoy the whole weekend. 

I brought a notebook of questions that God answered in every workshop I attended.  I still have that notebook with notes.  Reflecting on that wonderful weekend, I wonder, should I have been so surprised by how God showed up? I mean, as believers, we know God’s Word is truth and we can recount those scriptures that read, “Seek God’s Kingdom first and all these things will be added unto you.”  God does help us have the desires in our hearts as we live for Him.  The first thing I gleaned from this conference was a personal renewing of a desire to write about godly things for children and their families. 

CONNECTIONS

The second thing I learned about writing, and freelance writing in particular, is that people you meet at conferences can help change your life. Asking a question about poetry led me to meet with Brenda Covert during our one-on-one time.  Brenda introduced me to Union Gospel Press and she urged me to apply with them as they were open to new authors.  Months after submitting my application, I was offered an assignment.  They asked me to write devotions for singles.  So, I did.  Yes, this was a “paid and published” opportunity for me, a small step into a much larger world of writing and publishing.

RESOURCES

A third benefit is learning about various links, resources, and publications where I can continue to pursue writing projects. Currently, I have no assignments with a publisher, but I have been busy this summer entering writing contests and submitting poetry and short stories to magazines. I have been able to re-ignite my personal blog, and I have had some critiques done on a YA fantasy novel I ‘ve been writing for most of my life.  So my writing journey continues even to today.  Who knows what God may have for me around this corner of my life?

Diane Buie's pubs
Some of the magazines Diane Buie has been published in.

Diane Buie celebrated when she saw her articles in print. These included devotionals for children and pre schoolers; beginning with ages PreK up to  4th and 5th grades.  A few of the submissions to Union Gospel Press were Bible related games or activities to enhance faith development.


What about you: How have writing conferences impacted your writing or creativity?  How did attending this year’s W2I Conference in September change your life?  

 

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The Blessings of Fall

Jean Matthew Hall founded Write2Ignite in 2008. For ten years she and I have encouraged one another in our writing and publishing pursuits. I was delighted when she received a contract for four picture books with Little Lamb Books; one for each season. The first  one, God’s Blessings of Fall in the Bountiful Blessings Series just came out in September; here’s a sneak peak into it with some of Jean’s words and some of Olya Badulina’s illustrations.

Sounds!

One of the first things I noticed about God’s Blessings of Fall are the sounds which Jean included. “A squirrel steps lightly, slightly on crisp leaves. Crackle. Crunch. He snatches fallen acorns nuts, and stuffs them into his chubby cheeks. His little nose twitches. His bushy tail swishes. His tiny feet leap and scamper to the top of the tallest tree.” Besides the onomatopoeia of the sounds of the leaves, do you hear the alliteration of chubby cheeks and tallest tree? How about the internal rhyme of lightly and slightly; twitches and swishes? Every spread includes one or more types of poetic language that will tickle the reader’s tongue and will keep a young reader’s attention.

Smells!

Not only are the sounds of fall represented, but also the smells, tastes, and textures. “Piles of leaves red, gold, and orange huddle around the roots of trees, then take to the sky! The rusty, dusty smell of musty leaves floats over fences and fields. Ah-choo!”  

Sights!

This sensory book includes some of the visual details one would expect in a book about fall such as geese flying in a V and owls hooting in a tree. But, there is also the unexpected prowling raccoon and spider hanging from dry cornstalks.

Tastes!

“Baskets sit piled high with apples ready for baking breaks and pies. Yellow apples, green ones with a sour thing, blushed ones that crunch with every bite. Some are shiny, red, and sweet. All so good to eat!”

Textures!

“Pumpkins rest at a cozy farmstand. Some fat and smooth as your skin. Some bumpy and warty, some tall and thin.”

This beautiful picture book will be a addition to your child’s or grandchild’s library; or as a classroom resource in a church library or Sunday School. For as the book concludes:

 

 

Look for two more books (probably winter and spring) next year. You’ll be sure to hear about both of them right here!

 

 

 

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What About Rejections? Part I

Now that we’re ready to dig into our various writing projects and (gulp!) even think about submitting a few…we face a common enemy: Fear of Rejection. To encourage your hearts, our faculty shared some of their rejection stories. Now you can say to yourself, “If they were rejected and look how far they’ve come… I can submit my work too.”

Terri Kelly

“My first rejection letter said my picture book didn’t meet the editorial needs of Peachtree Publishing.Poof…my great idea didn’t turn into a children’s book that kids adored, parents raved over, and teachers chose for story time. Instead of giving in, I geared up. Within a year, I attended my first writing conference where I learned all writers experience rejection. Eleven years later I don’t send out a manuscript until I’m confident the writing is my personal best. Yes, I’m cautious, but I’d rather take my time than send a weak manuscript. Before submitting, I share my manuscript with a writer’s group for critique, hire writing coaches to work with me one-on-one, and read, read, read. Don’t concede when rejections come. Gear up to learn how to write for the market, the publisher, and the reader.”

Lori Hatcher

“As I look back on the book proposals I’ve had rejected, they were rejected because something wasn’t quite right. Maybe the focus wasn’t strong enough, the concept wasn’t fresh, or the writing was mediocre.  But every rejection has made me refine my concept, polish my writing, or scrap the whole thing altogether and start over. Then, when the acceptances come, it’s a glorious thing—a book I can be proud of and one that would represent the Lord in the best way possible. I’ve learned to receive acceptances and rejections as divine redirection that pushes me further into God’s will.”

Edie Melson

Rejection can be brutal. At my very first writing conference I took a Bible study I’d written to pitch. It was the late 90s and no one but Kaye Arthur and Beth Moore were publishing Bible studies. Even though this was a huge Christian Conference, no publishers were taking pitches for them. But the conference staff suggested I talk to a nonfiction editor and take his continuing class. I met with him in a 15-minute appointment and it was tough. He suggested I take my in-depth Bible study and rework it into a cross-stitch or quilting gift book.
I wasn’t rude and thanked him for his time, but I was so upset I left my proposal on the table. When I got to his class the next day, he proceeded to use my proposal (with my name blacked out) as an example of how not to write and not to follow God in publishing.
 I was devastated and when I got back home, I locked away my writing. I was certain I’d heard from God and that dream was dead. Then the next year a got an anonymous scholarship to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Since it was anonymous, I had to go or risk wasting someone else’s money. Once there, God showed up in a big way and I sold my very first article to Focus on the Family.
God resurrected the dream I thought was dead. But God did more than that. He also birthed a passion to shepherd other writers as they try on the dream God has given them. As much as the enemy meant this for evil, God has used this for good in my life and in the lives of others. I praise Him for all He’s done and continues to do.

Steve Hutson

I wrote my first book back in the 1980s, and pitched it far and wide to dozens of publishers. Much to my dismay, fewer than half of them responded (and all rejections). No one gave a reason why.

When I started working as an agent almost nine years ago, I decided that I would be the nice guy. I would always give a reason for my rejections. Within a week, I discovered that most writers don’t REALLY want to know. They just want to argue with me.

Writers, if you should ever receive actionable feedback from an editor or agent, thank them for it and consider it gold. Even if you disagree. These are the people who could make all the difference in your career.

In the Bible, even for the prophets, God sent them human teachers. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you.
.

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On Thursday we’ll share more rejection stories from our faculty to encourage you to keep on, keeping on! Do you have a rejection story (or two) that you would like to share to encourage other writers? We want to hear them! Please leave your contact information in the comments, or send Carol Federlin Baldwin a private message on Facebook.
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Faculty Focus

Jean Hall is very excited about her debut picture book. We’re excited for her since she’s a Write2Ignite success story! We’ll feature a blog post about The Blessings of Fall in the fall along with a GIVEAWAY!

 

 

She’s also thrilled to be teaching about picture books at the 2019 conference. Watch her video here. If you haven’t already signed up to hear Jean and the rest of the faculty share what they are passionate about, here is the link.

If you have dreamed of writing a picture book and don’t know where to start, or have a beginning but don’t know how to finish it, join Jean Hall at Write2Ignite 2019.

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An Inside Look Into A Freelance Editor’s Work

Check out these bookshelves!  These are just some of the books which Write2Ignite team member, Brenda Covert, has edited. (She edited all of the books on the second shelf and about half on the top shelf.)

Brenda took time out of her busy writing, editing, and grandparenting schedule to answer some questions about what she does and the common mistakes writers make.

CAROL: Do you specialize in editing certain types of manuscripts?

BRENDA: I specialize in editing Christian or family-friendly works for any age. I’ve edited everything from picture books to adult novels, both fiction and nonfiction, and that includes a cookbook or two! I avoid horror and erotica. I don’t read them, so they wouldn’t be a good fit for my editing skills.

CAROL: What are the five most common mistakes you find in manuscripts?

BRENDA: 1) A common mistake new authors make is trying to tell the entire backstory before diving into the story the readers were promised. Don’t waste time doing that. Bring on the drama! Bring on the conflict!

2) This doesn’t happen often, but if an author doesn’t create a timeline of events for themselves, there may be a character who does something unexpected, such as going back to work a few days after dying. Quite entertaining, to be honest, but I’m going to ask the author to fix it.

3) Comma mis-usage. They may be sprinkled indiscriminately throughout the manuscript like pepper, or used too sparingly, but not being sure of comma rules is normal. After all, there are 47 comma rules, and they represent job security for editors!

4) Plagiarism is a problem I’ve seen with poetry, borrowed anecdotes, and occasionally news articles. Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s in the public domain and free to copy. Do your research and know copyright law!

5) Including lyrics (because they are meaningful). Even when you give proper credit, you stand a chance of being sued by the owner of the copyright, so always request permission to use, even if you only want to use a line or two! (You will likely have to pay a fee for use.) Otherwise, I tell my authors to use only the song title and share why the song is meaningful without quoting from it.

CAROL: What is the most common advice you end up giving writers?

BRENDA: Make sure to include as many of the 5 senses in your scenes as you can. Make your readers feel like they are there, wherever there happens to be!

CAROL: If you had a HUGE platform to shout out what you want writers to know, what would you say?

BRENDA: First impressions matter! Whether you intend to self-publish or hope to land a contract with a traditional publishing house, you’ll want to take your time to polish your manuscript. Definitely don’t rush to self-publish. If you want readers to clamor for your second, third, or fourth book, your first book has to shine, leaving them wanting more.

CAROL: How did you become an editor?

BRENDA: I started young, grading classmates’ spelling tests! English was always my favorite subject. Every employer I worked for after graduating from university ended up asking me to proofread documents. Once I began writing educational teaching materials for children in 2002, I received on-the-job training to be an editor as well. I moved on to work for a publishing house in 2011. Of all the resources that line an editor’s office, The Chicago Manual of Style is the single most vital tool!

CAROL: What is your favorite part of being an editor? Any success stories you’d like to share?

BRENDA: I love helping authors polish their manuscripts so they can present their best to their readership. I delight in those “a-ha” moments when I’ve offered a suggestion for solving a problem, and the author gets excited about the re-write! As an editor for Ambassador International, I saw a huge number of manuscripts become books, and many of them line my shelves today.

 

Freelance author and editor Brenda Covert was first published for pay in 1999 with an article in the May/June issue of Today’s Christian Woman and a Thanksgiving poem in Clubhouse Jr. Since 2002, Brenda has written more than four hundred short children’s stories for Union Gospel Press’s Sunday school curriculum. Her stories, most of which are written for the nine-to-eleven age group, entertain as well as offer a lesson on living for our Savior. She also published numerous scripts for use in schools, the two most popular being K.C.’s Dream and The Constitutional Convention. Additionally, she has written poetry for the Adult Bible Study published by Union Gospel Press.

Brenda has been editing since 2002, first in the educational field and then in the Christian/family-friendly market. Her editing experience goes from picture books to chapter books—including Johanna’s Journey: Call to Freedom (a finalist for the 2015 Selah Award)—to YA novels and adult fiction and nonfiction, including inspirational books and Bible studies.

Brenda has two grown children, a new grandchild, two blogs that she promises to devote more attention to, and more cats than an allergic woman should have! (Want one?)

You can find Brenda online at BrendaCovert.blogspot.com. If you’re especially fond of Christmas, you’ll enjoy her blog at ChristmaswithBrenda.blogspot.com. Follow her on Twitter, where she’s  @TheBrendaCovert.

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My Wonderful, Terrifying Journey @ Write2Ignite 2018

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.

Finally, we agreed Kim Peterson’s was perfect for us. And for the next 45 minutes, Kim shared the top reasons manuscripts got trashed when she worked at the Leslie Stobbe Literary Agency.

I took three pages of notes.

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.

I nodded.

“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.

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COMBAT!

Do you have an idea for a nonfiction book but you’re not sure what goes into finding the right publisher and writing the proposal? In this post, Dennis Peterson, a W2I 2018 attendee, shares the backstory for his forthcoming book, COMBAT! Lessons on Spiritual Warfare from Military History

 

CAROL: Please tell us about COMBAT! that recently went under contract with TouchPoint Press. What is the backstory behind writing it? What was your inspiration?

DENNIS: I’m a history buff with a special interest in military history and a student of the Bible. Those two interests merged as I saw parallels between the Christian’s daily struggles and military history. I thought that held possibilities for a book.

But I wanted my book to go beyond the typical treatment of Ephesians 6:10–18; there’s so much more to spiritual warfare. My book discusses parallels of chain of command and control, communications, logistics, weaponry, strategy, and tactics. It surveys the major military engagements of Israel’s history and modern warfare.

CAROL: That sounds fascinating! What qualifications prepared you to write this book?

DENNIS: I’m a Christian, study God’s Word, taught history for nineteen years, and have been published widely.

CAROL: What did you include in your proposal to TouchPoint?

DENNIS: The proposal included a synopsis, a statement showing my book’s uniqueness, my credentials, a market analysis, an annotated table of contents, a statement concerning documentation, a blurb about my artist, and three sample chapters. I sent out five initial queries simultaneously, but I sent a complete proposal package only to the publishers who requested one.

I researched various publishers to identify those that were most likely to publish material like mine. After several rejections from other publishers, TouchPoint requested a full proposal and later the complete manuscript.

CAROL: What attracted you to TouchPoint?

DENNIS: I liked the fact that they refused to consider manuscripts that contained what both of us consider “objectionable elements.” Only a short time earlier they had entered the Christian marketplace, and I figured that they might be “hungry” for new writers with a Christian message. They said that they published history and military as well as Christian living, and my book combines all of those topics. They are small, and I figure that they will have more time and motivation to promote my book than a large or mid-sized publisher would. I had studied their web site and the books they’ve already published, and I liked what I saw.

CAROL: Was the manuscript complete when you queried?

DENNIS: I had essentially finished writing the manuscript before I submitted it. I knew that if publishers were interested they would request sample chapters. Not knowing which chapters they might request, I decided to write the whole thing before submitting.

CAROL: What is next in the publishing process? Do you expect it will be edited?

DENNIS: I’m proofing the manuscript, writing captions for the illustrations and photos, and waiting for the artist to finalize his illustrations. Then I’ll scan and send them plus the completed manuscript to the publisher. I don’t know the level of edit the book will receive. I always aspire to write so well that the editor has an easy time of it.

CAROL: Can you tell us about some of the illustrations? Is the illustrator also doing the cover art?

DENNIS: The illustrator I hired is creating nine watercolor illustrations of such things as military vehicles, armor, weapons, and other equipment, both ancient and modern. I also plan to include several photographs of historical military subjects.

The illustrator will not be doing the cover art; the publisher will do that. They asked for my input–what I did and did not want the cover to show–and requested any photo possibilities. I did a mockup cover to show what I envisioned. Not sure if they’ll use it, adapt it, or come up with something entirely different.

CAROL: Can you give us an example of one of your lessons?

DENNIS: Although I can’t provide the actual text, one of the lessons in my book deals with logistics, or the supplying of troops with food and equipment. In the Christian life, the individual “soldier” must eat properly and regularly on spiritual food. That includes the encouragement of communion, fellowship, and prayer with others.

CAROL: Do you have a pub date?

DENNIS: I’m not yet sure of the publication date. The publisher says “within 18 months of acceptance.” My experience with my first book indicates it might be sooner than that. The publisher’s editor is scheduled to begin work on my manuscript the first week of August and has scheduled two weeks. I suspect she has a built-in buffer and am hoping that she will get through it faster than that. I’m hoping that the entire production process will be completed by November or earlier. But who knows?

CAROL: How did your conference experience at Write2Ignite in 2018 help you move forward in your writing career?

DENNIS: The most important thing the Write2Ignite conference did for me was to motivate me to take a chance and submit my work. I struggle with the fear of failure. No one likes to be rejected! The conference sessions inspired me to submit despite those fears and to leave the results with God.

CAROL: We all struggle with that! Thanks for this interview, Dennis, and best wishes on your forthcoming book. I think it will be one that will inform and inspire adults and teens.

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If you have questions about how to write a nonfiction proposal, leave them here and Dennis will do his best to answer them. Look for a review of COMBAT! next year.

 

Dennis L. Peterson is an independent author and historian and a former editor and educator. His first book was Confederate Cabinet Departments and Secretaries (McFarland, 2016), and he has had articles on historical, educational, and religious topics published in many journals and magazines, including The Writer, Blue Ridge Country, True West, Smoky Mountain Living, and Nature Friend. Find out more about Dennis’s books and the writing process on his blog.