4 Reasons to Get Up and Go to a Writers Conference

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending my very first writers conference. The St. David’s Christian Writers Conference in Grove City is an intimate affair where all sorts of bookish people gather. The theme this year was Created to Create, and though I only attended half-time as a commuter, I left feeling just that.

A conference is something I’d put off over the past year. Fear, anxiety, and perhaps a bit of intimidation at this whole new world I was entering kept me at bay. Seriously…first day of school-type stuff. Once I gained the courage, I decided to bite the bullet and go. Here are 4 solid reasons you should get up and go to a conference yourself. You won’t regret it!

1.  Learn.

As writers/bloggers/editors, we are never done learning. There are always new techniques and perspectives that can further enhance our work. A conference is a great place to take classes and workshops that hone our craft.

The amount of information I gathered in 3 short days was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I took a class, taught by author/acquisitions editor, Eva Marie Everson. She is also the director of the Florida Christian Writers Conference and President of Word Weavers International (talk about a qualified instructor!). Foundations of Fiction through Film not only forever changed how I view movies and television, but also gave way to an entire new set of writing skills.

 

2. Resources.

Conferences offer a seemingly never-ending amount of resources you can access to better your projects. From agents to editors to critique groups, opportunities to have your work looked over aren’t hard to find. Using those chances to receive constructive criticism can only help you.

I had the opportunity to meet with Jim Hart from Hartline Literary Agency at St. David’s. His expertise enabled me to understand the process of acquiring an agent and the challenges many agents and writers face when shopping a book for publication.

Though our work is what matters most to us, learning how the industry functions is equally important. What good will dumping all your energy into your project do if you never learn how to navigate the proper routes to publication?

 

3. Friendship

Even if you show up alone, without knowing a single soul there, you are guaranteed to leave a conference with at least one new friend who shares the same interests as you.

I received such a warm welcome at St. David’s, I felt completely silly for ever being nervous in the first place.

If you’re a writer, you’ll meet other writers. Blogger-other bloggers. Editor-other editors. These are your people! Go. Meet them. Develop friendships. Because friendship in the competitive world of books isn’t just the cherry on top of a meticulously built sundae, it’s a necessity.

Writing is hard. Having support makes it easier.

 

4. Fun.

Conferences aren’t all work and no play.

From pink-sequined hats to weather reports through interpretive dance, St. David’s offered up a level of merriment I hadn’t experienced in months.

Writing a book is serious business. Taking the time to let loose and have a little fun, all while learning new ways to sharpen your skills, lightens the load.

 

So, what are you waiting for? Go! Get yourself to a conference!

Been to a conference recently? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Bash Writer’s Block in a Flash

WritersBlock

Writer’s block. Ugh. The dreaded phrase. I’m pretty sure we all know what that is, so no need to define the term here. What’s important to know is how to get rid of it, am I right? Well, the first step would always be to admit it even exists in your reality. None of this denial business.

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The next step is to write Flash Fiction.

Yep, totally serious.

Flash fiction has numerous definitions floating around the internet. Basically, it’s an extra-short, short story. Most sites classify flash fiction as anything less than 1000 words, some less than 700, and a few even define the genre as less than 300 all the way down to a nano story of 100 words.

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Seems easy enough, right?

Haha…Ha. Ha. Not so much.

Though trying to cram a compelling story that makes sense into a piece shorter than most blog articles can be daunting, the process can also be incredibly rewarding…and in ways that surprised me. I had been stuck on a chapter in my current WIP, tentatively titled-A Temporary Home, for some time when I decided to take a break and work on a piece of flash fiction.

Deep in the throes writer’s block, I hadn’t been serious about the story at the time and was really just looking for a good distraction. What I found was so much more. Here are just a few of the ways flash fiction helped me out of a writing rut.

1. Practice

I was working. Most of us have heard the famous Picasso quote, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

A week had gone by without any progress on A Temporary Home. For me, that’s a long time. I mulled over the scenes that bothered me…and then mulled them over again. I thought, I daydreamed, I read, and still, nothing. As a writer, I like to think of imagination as a part of the job, but when that’s all you’ve done for a week, it doesn’t feel like you’ve done much of anything. I needed work to do and flash fiction provided that work.

2. Creativity

This sort of goes along with the work, but working on a new project allowed me to free my mind from present troubles and focus on something fresh. I also didn’t have any writerly guilt about it because I knew the story wouldn’t interfere with the work on my book. Flash fiction is a small enough project to be easily managed with any writing schedule.

3.  Audition

Audition? In the world of writing? Sure!

I took the opportunity to try on a new genre for size. All of my work so far has been contemporary fiction, but I’ve always held a fascination with historical novels. Why not use this chance to test those waters? Writing a short historical story allowed me to see if I liked writing in the genre, enjoyed the research, and really, if I was any good at it.

Guess what? I loved it! Doing the research sparked a new interest in a time period I knew little about (other than biblical aspects I’d learned throughout the years). I safely assumed the story was fairly well done since Splickety was awesome enough to publish it on their Lightening Blog. So, big score! I found out I liked the process, enjoyed the research, and might want to explore that genre for a book in the future.

4.  Accomplishment

Yeah, yeah. We’re writers- we write for the process.

But really, don’t you just love typing ‘The End’? I know I do. Feeling stuck was really getting me down, but once I finished my flash fiction piece, A Golden Promise, I was ready to jump back into work on A Temporary Home with fresh inspiration because I felt capable again. I had set a writing goal, accomplished it, and reminded myself once again- I can do this.

All in all, writing flash fiction has been an overwhelmingly positive experience and I really can’t wait to do it again.

Have you written flash fiction before? What was your experience like? Did the process help you with writer’s block? Tell me in the comments and leave a link to your story!

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Resolutions

For 34 years, I’ve had New Year’s resolutions. Well, perhaps only about 25…I don’t suppose many people have a New Year’s resolution as a toddler. But, as soon as I was old enough to see the people around me setting goals for the year ahead, I followed along. Every year it was something different but each resolution always seemed to follow the same theme.

“I will…..be better”

I will increase in value in some way. I will do this or that to further myself along in life. Whether it was to be more attentive at school, to be less selfish, to be healthier, to achieve a dream or goal, I would adamantly swear to myself on New Year’s Eve that for the next year, I would commit to this new idea and accomplish…something.

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Well, you can imagine how that always turned out. A week would pass and I would be making progress. A month would pass and things would slow down…3 months would pass and the entire thing became a memory, a forgotten dream that came and went as quickly as I had sworn to do it.

This year I had originally decided to try and be more organized. It is still something I will attempt to do, but it will not be my resolution. I don’t think there is anything wrong with attempting to accomplish a goal or create new habits, but when we completely depend on ourselves to succeed, we are already bound for failure.

The reason why is this…I can’t actually be better. I can’t create something in myself that was not already created by the Creator. Whatever potential I have, it has existed in me since the day I was born. To reach this potential, I need only enlist His help.

I have been on a journey of discovering myself as a writer for about 4 years now. In the beginning, I was so excited that I had written something people liked to read. I took great pride in my work and sought to continue with creating books that would touch others until one day, I hit a road block. I was so overcome with frustration, that I walked away from it all. That was 2 years ago. I always knew I wouldn’t walk away forever, but I needed time to find in myself the reason I began in the first place.

You see, the entire first 2 years that I spent writing and desperately trying to promote my book, and myself, was completely focused on what I wanted to say.

What message did I want to spread?

How could my work, no matter how small or insignificant it might be, help change the world for the better?

When I realized I couldn’t, or rather, it couldn’t, I became discouraged and borderline bitter. I had worked so hard for what seemed like forever (2 years might not be that long but when you’re completely obsessed with what you’re doing, it seem like a lifetime.). What did I have to show for it? A few dozen positive reviews on Amazon. Maybe I could have garnered more had I enlisted the help of family and friends, but I couldn’t do that. I wanted everyone’s opinion of my work to be authentic and unbiased. The game seemed rigged and frustration caused me to take a long break.

It took another 2 years of thinking, examining, praying, and praying…and praying… to see what I had been lacking all along.

It wasn’t the need to set more goals and it wasn’t that I needed to make a commitment to some sort of new resolution. What I had been missing the entire time wasn’t what I wanted to say, it was the fact that it wasn’t actually my message that I wanted to spread. What I felt in my heart to share with the world was my experience and understanding of God’s message, not my own.

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So, this year…I have no resolution. This year, and every year afterward, I don’t want to do what I think is best, I want God to do with me what He thinks is best.

Of course I will try to be better organized and meet deadlines on time, but in the grand scheme of things, I don’t need a new commitment to myself, I need to renew my commitment to God. Over and over and over again.

Happy New Year and have a blessed 2017.

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Christian YA Fiction- Writing the Good with the Bad

While working on a novel I am writing, I have come across a few challenges. Now, this is nothing surprising as every writer is confronted with struggles in their work, but I find that the problems I have run into might possibly pose a threat to my acceptance in the publishing world that I hope to enter.

See, I am a Christian writer who is composing a Christian novel that addresses teen rebellion, verbal abuse, bullying, and the realistic party scene that many teens live in now a days.

The main character, who is yet to be named, struggles greatly with manipulation, pressure from her friends and boyfriend, and a volatile relationship with her parents. She has yet to discover her self-worth and the treatment she endures as a result is horrible, and that’s putting it lightly. I feel the need to describe the experiences she endures both accurately and realistically. I cannot in good conscience water this story down to appease the market. On the other hand, I also wish to reach a broad spectrum of readers, so gaining acceptance in the Christian fiction market is pretty important to me.

Here in lies the problem. The Christian market seems to be flooded with feel good novels that many enjoy, myself included.  However, the YA market in Christian fiction seems to be lacking an element of realism. Many young adult readers have a hard time identifying with the stories that are out there as they do not always accurately represent the many challenges that they are dealing with on a day to day basis. That is not to say that the YA Christian Fiction that is out there is not good, it’s fantastic! There are hundreds of good novels available that stretch from contemporary to historical fiction and each has their own merit. I guess I just feel, as a writer, reader, parent, and former teen who was, unfortunately, a part of that realistic scene, that there are many readers who might be reached by a novel such as this one. It’s not that this type of story should replace what is currently available, but I do believe it would be a valuable addition.

The world can be an ugly place and I find it necessary to show that hope may still be found even in the midst of that ugliness in my work.

My teenage years were turbulent to say the least. Having lost my father at a young age, depression, anger, and a very low sense of self-worth took over my life. The decisions I made were hard on me and my family, especially my mother. It wasn’t until I was about 18 that I realized what I was doing to myself. I know, I know, 18 seems quite young still, but at that point I had already been living recklessly for 4 years. So, for me, it was time to grow up. I never would have been able to do that on my own. It was being introduced to Jesus Christ that saved me, as it saves all of us. He showed me the way. He led me out of the darkness. He showed me what real love was and how much I was really worth.

Psalm 16:11 really sums it up nicely…

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God will show us the path of life. He can show us how to survive after having lived in the darkness for far too long.

This novel might show that darkness. No, it will show that darkness. It might be uncomfortable for some to read, but it will also show how bright His light can shine. How God’s love can truly infiltrate every aspect of one’s being and change hearts and minds.

After having a few conversations about this with fellow writers, the list of advice I have received is exhaustive. I have been advised to bleep out any bad words, to completely avoid the topics of alcohol, drugs, and premarital sex. Or, to make up my own swear words rather than use the ones that exist in our culture.

After some long thought I realized, none of those options will work. This is a real story and it must be told in a real way. I do not condone the use of foul language nor do I seek it out. I feel as though I can tell this story with out using inappropriate language. As far as the mention of drugs and alcohol go, that’s going to happen. It is present in 75% of the American teenagers lives every single day. That is a fact that cannot be ignored. In fact, ignoring it would ruin the entire point of the book.

So, my challenge is this. Write this book. Do it well. Keep it as clean as possible and let the good outweigh the bad at every chance. Because that is more realistic than anything, that God’s good outweighs any amount of bad in this world.

As far as my concerns about whether it will fit in the market well…I can’t concern myself with that right now. I have to believe that there are other people out there who think this is a story that needs to be told, who will see the value in it. If I want the point to be heard, I have to let go of the worry and focus on the work at hand.

And I’d really appreciate all of your prayers for God to help me with that.

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Write What You Know

When it comes to writing, I try to follow some of the most common advice you might find around the web- make it interesting, show, don’t tell, do your research, and read, read, read. I have found one particular piece of advice to be much more useful than the above. It is simple. So simple in fact, I would bet that every writer does it.

Write what you know.

That’s it.

Now, I know about many things, as I’m sure you do as well. But I like to write about what I know well. Sure I could write anything given enough research material, but the best part about this advice for me is that what I know is why I write.

See, I know tragedy. I know loss and pain. I know darkness. I know what it is to be lost. I know what it is to regret mistakes and bad choices. I know what it is to doubt my own worth.

What I also know is light. I know grace. I know forgiveness and I know hope.

I know the world can lie to us but God never will.

I know it is a wasted effort to try and save ourselves.

Most importantly, I know that there is no greater peace than surrendering my hurt, my anger, my feelings of betrayal, and my grief to God and that makes me know freedom.

So, I will continue to write what I know because it is my hope that this knowledge will be what changes a person. It changed me. I feel driven to write because I hope that it might help others enduring the same type of grief that I did. Maybe they don’t have the support they need? Maybe they don’t yet know Jesus? Maybe they just need to know that they are not alone? No matter where they are in the process, I can only hope that my books might help them find their way.

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I suppose I could try to write a self-help book but I feel I would do so unsuccessfully. I feel like the best media I have is fiction and I didn’t really help myself.  It was works of Christian fiction that first sparked my interest in God years ago and it was He that helped me. Perhaps someday my writing can do the same for someone else. One can hope.

So, those are my thoughts on writing today!

If you want to follow me on this journey, please Like my Facebook Page or Follow me on Twitter at @AC_Writes

Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

Begin Again

There’s a saying that goes “Inspiration will come, but it must find you working.”

Well, that happened today!

I was going about my normal day at work and it struck me how much I truly miss writing. It has been 2 years since I attempted to work on the last book I was writing. I really don’t have an explanation as to why. Something in me just stopped back then and didn’t want to go on with it. Maybe it was the constant push, the business of life, or the fact that I was trying to write something that just didn’t fit me?

Being an author, and an authentic one at that, sure isn’t easy these days. There is such a demand for a certain kind of story and if yours isn’t juicy enough (or dirty enough), it may well just flop.

Now I’ve never gone beyond a PG-13 rating in any of my writing. It’s just not me. Aside from the personal, moral concerns I have with it…I feel completely ridiculous even attempting to write explicit romantic scenes! It’s just so not me!

So, for whatever reasons, I quit. I got frustrated. I was tired of trying and I stopped.

But today….oh today! I am so grateful for today! I have been thinking and praying about this for so long and today I feel like God answered me in the form of inspiration!

I have a new idea for a novel and have already completed character profiles and the plot outline. So, friends, if you like, please follow me on this journey as I begin again. I am hoping to use this blog to post about writing updates, publishing questions, and of course….frustrations!

Thank you for following and I hope you have a blessed day!