SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference 2017

SoCal Christian Writers Conference 2017

If you have been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I attended my 5th conference last week:  the first annual SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference. Here’s a little taste of what it was like:

Biola Campus SoCalCWC17

I arrived early on Wednesday to check in and get settled in my room.

Dorm Room Pillow SoCalCWC17

Headed to Registration SoCalCWC17

After registration, I ate dinner in the cafeteria and then hung out with these two wonderful ladies:

New Friends SoCalCWC17

The next morning we ate breakfast in the cafeteria before heading to the chapel for worship and morning announcements.

Morning Announcements SoCalCWC17

They also introduced about one-third of the faculty at this time. They continued these introductions each morning of the conference. I really liked this unique feature because it was helpful for matching names and faces to those whose appearance didn’t exactly match their bio photos, and it gave us a chance to get a peek into each faculty member’s personality.

Next up was a quick break followed by my first continuing session. I chose the Intermediate/Advanced Fiction session with Tosca Lee.

Tosca Lee SoCalCWC17

I admit to some hesitation in my choice since I had taken similarly titled classes at other conferences and walked away feeling like I’d gotten little more than a review. Tosca’s class was nothing like that. It was original, intense, and interactive. It felt as though I were in college again. She even gave us homework at the end of each class.

Next up was lunch at the cafeteria where I got to spend time chatting with my fellow conferees as well as faculty. Meal times quickly became one of my favorite parts of the conference because of the great conversations and connections I was able to make.

 

Breakfast SoCalCWC17
My new friend Kara Swanson just debuted her first novella, The Girl Who Could See! Check it out!

 

After lunch there were two workshop sessions with a break in between. I wound up entirely missing the first workshop I had wanted to attend because it happened that my first two appointments were both during that class.

I met with Erin Taylor Young and then Miralee Ferrell. Both conversations were very enlightening and the resulting conversations were just what I was hoping for from the appointments.

I did make it to my second workshop, given by Sandra Barela on Keys to A Successful Book Proposal where I realized I’d misunderstood what the agent was looking for in one section of the proposal the last (and first) time I had put one together.

Successful Book Proposal SoCalCWC17

After the afternoon workshops we had another break followed by a Publishing Panel where they passed microphones around the audience and we had a chance to ask questions of the publishing experts on stage.

Publishing Panel SoCalCWC17

After that was another break and dinner. Then we sang more worship and a Keynote was given by Karen Ball. I have to tell you, I felt as though this Keynote was the reason God had me at that conference. Not to discount the many other wonderful conversations and classes, but I truly felt as though God were speaking right through Karen to me. That doesn’t happen all that often for me, but for some reason lately, He seems to be getting my attention in exactly this way.

Karen Ball Keynote SoCalCWC17

After Karen’s keynote, there was a break followed by a live blog radio broadcast by Parker J. Cole with interviews of faculty and conferees and a Story Tell-Off, where two authors went at it by trying to tell the best story.

I took advantage of the break to run back to my dorm room to retrieve something, and on my way back to the broadcast, I spotted Sandra Barela setting up her laptop in the lobby of the dorm. Since I had wanted an appointment with her, but she booked up before I could sign up, I took advantage of the opportunity to speak with her. (She had mentioned in her class earlier that afternoon that she would be available to talk that night in the lobby.) What I thought would be a quick 15-minute conversation turned into 70 minutes which only ended because another conferee showed up wanting to speak with her and I quickly excused myself. After all, I’d already taken over an hour of her time! But she was so easy to talk to and her genuine heart for writers and for God practically glowed from her. Although I was disappointed to miss the broadcast event, my talk with Sandra was definitely one of the highlights of the conference for me. Part of the result of that conversation is that I am now a member of the Celebrate Lit blogger team!

After my talk with Sandra, I headed to my room where I reviewed my notes on what was happening the next day and completed my homework for Tosca’s class before grabbing my Kindle and heading to bed.

The next two days went very much the same:  breakfast, morning announcements & worship, continuing session, lunch, afternoon workshops, and dinner.

Afternoon Workshop SoCalCWC17

Friday afternoon I missed most of the second workshop due to appointments with Karen Ball and Stephanie Alton. Both appointments were encouraging and enlightening. I was very grateful for the opportunity to speak with both of these women.

Kim Bangs Keynote SoCalCWC17

On Friday evening there was an agent panel followed by a Keynote by Kim Bangs and a concert given by Sally Klein O’Connor.

On Saturday evening there was an Awards and Autograph Party followed by a Keynote by Allen Arnold and the ceremony for the Excellence in Editing Award winners.

 

Biola Scripture Art SoCalCWC17
Ready to start the last day of #SoCalCWC17 and enjoying the various #scripture displayed around this beautiful campus. #writerslife

 

By the end of the conference, although incredibly grateful for the many blessings it had brought, I was ready to go home.

 

Dorm Bathroom SoCalCWC17
The glamorous life of a writer…trekking down the dorm hall to the shared bathroom in your bathrobe and flip flops. #youknowyourejealous #writerslife

 

I wistfully looked forward to sleeping in my own bed with a bathroom that was not down a very long, shared hallway and my brain was absolute mush. In fact, Saturday afternoon I had caught myself speaking to myself – a quirk I develop when I am very tired. So if you ever hear me saying things like, “Wait, where was I supposed to go next? Oh  right. … No wait, it’s this way. Where did I put that? … Oh here it is.” Well, you’ll know my brain has reached capacity and has no more room for thoughts so the overflow is just spilling out my mouth. I’m not crazy. Just overflowing with knowledge. Yeah. That’s it.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the speakers and workshops at the conference. Please feel free to share them and don’t forget to tag me @KathleenDenly!

TWEETABLES:

“My identity isn’t being a writer. My identity is in Christ.” – Tosca Lee

“Make your marketing plan before you start writing. Update as necessary.” – Sandra Barela

“Stepping forward because the God of the universe whispered in your ear, ‘Write for Me.'” – Karen Ball

“Try to obey in a less worried way.” – Karen Ball

“Don’t get so focused on the destiny that you resent the journey.” – Karen Ball

“God has never called for shoddy work.” – Karen Ball

“Agents are like Yentas.” – Karen Ball

“The shortest path isn’t always the best route.” – Kim Bangs

“Take pride in how far you’ve come. Have faith in how far you can go. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey.” – Kim Bangs

“We’re not all broken the same way, but we are all broken. Broken crayons still color.” – Kim Bangs

“We have to know God more than we know our circumstances.” – Kim Bangs

“God’s never failed anyone and He’s not going to start with you!” – Kim Bangs

“In perseverance, you find your story.” – Kim Bangs

“Is protecting yourself keeping you from obeying God?” – Kim Bangs

“Are you more fearful or more faithful?” – Kim Bangs

“Secret #5:  Bestselling authors lead with their strengths & manage their weaknesses.” – Tosca Lee

“Even bestsellers get one-star reviews.” – Tosca Lee

“Allow room for mystery in the process.” – Tosca Lee

“You waste a lot of time. We all do.” – Lindsay Franklin

“Distractions are productivity killers!” – Lindsay Franklin

“Use humor to lighten the heavy moments.” – Renae Brumbaugh Green

Which quote is your favorite?

 

An Experience I’ll Never Forget – Asheville Christian Writers Conference 2017

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This was my first time attending the Asheville Christian Writers Conference.  My first time attending any conference which was so far away I couldn’t drive to and from home each day. In fact, living in California, I had to fly myself to North Carolina just to attend this conference. I had to pay for the rental car which I drove over 100 miles each way from the airport to the hotel room which I also had to pay for. This was no small trip where my pocketbook was concerned and I was gone several days in a row, leaving my hardworking, crazy-busy husband to take care of our three boys alone. So was it worth it?

Well, let me tell you about it.

The people

One of the best things about attending a writers conference is the people you meet. I met so many wonderful people at this conference that it would take far too long to list them all. So I will limit myself to sharing just three of the many special connections I made.

em_photo-1Edie Melson taught the very first Early Bird Class for this conference on the “Hows and Whys of Social Media” and from that moment I knew I was in the right place. Not only did I learn a lot just in the short time she spoke, but her warmth and generosity came through in her words and the way she presented herself. Over the next few days I had several opportunities to speak with Edie both one-on-one and in groups. I can tell she is a woman who knows her stuff and has a passion for helping others. I am blessed to have gotten to know her.

ruth-and-i-at-acwc-2017Ruth Steel is someone I met in the halls. We made eye contact, smiled, and after exchanging names and shaking hands, I opened with the typical writers’ conference question, “So, what do you write?” (Original, I know.) When she replied that she was working on a historical fiction novel for the Young Adult audience, I immediately knew we were going to be friends. We enjoyed many conversations over the next few days and exchanged contact information so that we can keep in touch and continue to cheer each other on in our writing endeavors.

Melanie and I met in the shuttle at check-in on the very first day. There was something about her smile and her readiness to chat with anyone that told me I was going to like this lady. Turns out I was right. I think there was something about our personalities that we just clicked. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there was a particular something she let slip in one of our earliest conversations that made me instantly decide she was my new best friend.

You see, when she found out that I write historical Christian romance, she responded, “Oh! I have a friend who writes that. In fact, her book just came out.” I was like, “Really? Would you mind giving her my contact info? I’m always wanting to get to know other people in my genre.” And she says,”Sure.” And then she says this: “I forget the title of her book, hold on….Her name is Sondra umm…” and she trails off as she starts looking in her bag for something and I’m like, “Kraak? Sondra Kraak?” And she says, “Yes.”!!!

I’m not gonna lie. I had a serious fangirl moment, but I tried to play it cool. (Not too sure I succeeded. Don’t call me out Melanie!) I could not believe I had the chance to maybe get to know Sondra. I loved her debut novel so much that I pre-ordered her second one which I also loved! I know. I’m using a lot of exclamation marks. I can’t help it. Sondra Kraak!!! Okay, I think my cool cover may be completely blown now. Deep breath. Exhale.

Seriously though, Melanie is a wonderful friend and writer in her own right and I am truly blessed to have had the chance to meet her and learn part of her story. I’m looking forward to staying in touch.

The Classes & Keynote Speeches

To be honest, I have never missed so many of the classes at a conference as I did at this one! I am so relieved that I have all the handouts and audio recordings of the lessons to review later. (I missed so much because I was so busy attending appointments to speak with all the wise and wonderful faculty who had attended the conference.)

 

linda-gilden-at-acwc-2017
Linda Gilden gave a very inspiring Keynote Speech

That said, the classes I did get to attend were pure gold. Again, that first class Edie Melson taught comes to mind. She reminded us to view social media as a place where we get to connect with other writers and readers who share our passion for the written word and not just a place to talk about me, my book, and I. She also gave great suggestions on how to make sure we are making the best use of these opportunities, advised us on avoiding common mistakes, and shared great tips for making the best use of our time.

 

I have to tell you, if you have not heard Vonda Skelton speak, you are missing out! Her keynote speech had me almost bent double in my seat and wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. This lady knows how to tell a story. Have you ever met someone who’s a bit petite, but when she speaks her spark and spirit fill the room? That’s Vonda. Of course, not only did I laugh until my face hurt, but I gleaned a lot of wisdom and encouragement from her words.  Her first book was rejected 63 times before it was accepted. Stop and imagine that for a moment. That is hard. She is one tough cookie. Sending your manuscript out time and time again in the face of so much rejection takes a special kind of determination, but she didn’t give up. Today Vonda is a highly successful writer and speaker, well respected and well loved.

The Experience

Becoming a professional writer is a different experience than entering many other careers. There are many paths to choose from and many steps to take before you reach success, and success can look very different for each writer. Being a professional writer involves so much more than waking up one day and writing down a few words, or even completing a story/article/whatever kind of writing someone does. While that is a start, it is only the start.

Part of the path I have chosen involves making connections with others in my industry, submitting my work for others to judge, and approaching literary agents to discover whether they believe in my novel enough to help me find the right publisher for it. Attending this conference provided the opportunity for me to accomplish all of that.

Does this mean I’m done and can check those things off my list? Of course not. The thing about this career is there will always be another book to put out there, another risk to take, another connection to make. It’s terrifying, I won’t lie. But it can also be very life affirming.

As you know if you’ve been following my blog, I was blessed to tie for Second Place in the Badge of Honor Contest at this conference. The encouragement in that award alone is priceless, but even before I learned of this accomplishment, I was being lifted and encouraged by so many other people whom I spoke with during the conference. Whether the words came from faculty or fellow attendees, those words of support and encouragement were like water in the desert for this writer.

So, was it worth it? In a word:  Absolutely!

Do you enjoy conferences? Has anyone come into your life at just the right time to offer encouragement? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

TWEETABLES:

Find out whose keynote speech had @KathleenDenly wiping tears of laughter from her eyes. (Click to Tweet)

Is the Asheville Christian Writers Conference worth attending? – @KathleenDenly (Click to Tweet)

My Novel Ties For 2nd Place!

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2/19/2017

So I am sitting here with my fingers hovering over the keys trying to figure out what to type without sounding totally gushy and completely unsophisticated, but … I can’t help it!

My historical Christian romance novel, Waltz With Me, tied for Second Place in the Badge of Honor Contest at the Asheville Christian Writers Conference!

You guys, I am just so overwhelmed with joyful emotions! I am excited and giddy and happy and humbled and blessed and shocked and . . .

I just want to squeal with joy! Aaaaah! I just won a contest! Okay, so technically I tied for Second Place, but it feels like winning.

How awesome is it that out of all the people who entered they loved my story that much? I am so blessed! (Thank you, judges!)

Of course, I have already tweeted and posted on Facebook about my win, but I knew I wanted to post here as well because as I am thinking about this accomplishment, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all the people who have helped me get here. So I want to take this opportunity to thank them. (I know, I know, it’s not like I won an Oscar or something, but I just have to say thank you, so bear with me here.)

First, I have to thank my mom for believing in my talent even before I knew I was a writer.

I also want to thank Lexi Miller, Betty Hofman, Samantha Lurey, and Betsy Hamblin even though I wasn’t working on this manuscript at the time we were meeting, your encouragement kept me going and your critiques made me a better writer.

Of course, I have to thank the members of the San Diego Christian Writers Guild Poway and Santee Critique Groups for sharing their wisdom and encouraging me as I worked through the many revisions of this novel. And I must add a special thanks to Kathryn Hughes, my fellow historical romance author, for your invaluable feedback and encouragement, and to Tiffany Hanson, who doesn’t write in my genre, but whose keen insight and fellowship has helped to lift me up as a writer.

I want to thank my friend, Brett Burner, whose wisdom and encouragement helped me believe in myself at a time when I was truly struggling.

My Beta Readers. How can I thank you enough? Each one of you took time out of your busy lives to read my full-length manuscript and provide priceless feedback on the things you liked and the things that needed changing. It truly means the world to me to have your support.

Lastly, but most importantly, I need to thank my husband, Luke, without whose support, self-sacrifice, and undying belief in me, I would not be able to do what I do. From watching our kids so that I can get away to write, to physically acting out scenes with me so that I can figure out how best to describe them, you are my rock and I love you.

(No, I’m not forgetting God, but I’m pretty sure He doesn’t read my blog, so I’ve already thanked Him in prayer. Many times.)

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Okay. So that sounded way too much like one of those Oscar speeches, and I realize it’s not like I have a book deal (yet) or that I even won first place, but this is still a very big deal for me, and a very great honor. This is the first book contest I’ve ever entered and when you have worked so hard and for so long on something, it is so, so good to have someone who doesn’t even know you say, “Yes. What you have done is good. We like it.” And so many people have stood by me and helped me get this far that I felt compelled to thank them.

This is nowhere near a complete list. If I wrote out the complete list, no one would read the whole thing, and although there’s no one next to me as I type, waiting to play the music that lets me know it’s time to stop talking (or typing), I am hoping this wasn’t too dreadfully long.

So to everyone who has encouraged and supported me, from the bottom of my heart,

THANK YOU!!!

Do you have someone in your life that has supported and encouraged you through the tough times? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

TWEETABLES:

Have someone that encourages and supports you? Thank them today! #grateful #ChristFic

Waltz With Me by @KathleenDenly ties for 2nd Place in Badge of Honor Contest! #christfic

My First Long Distance Writers Conference

My First Long Distance Writers Conference by KathleenDenly.com

I am SO excited (and maybe a little terrified) to announce that next month I will be attending my very first long distance writers conference!!!

Thus far I have been restricted to attending those conferences close enough for me to be able to drive to and from the event each morning and night.  This time I’ll be flying!!! Okay, so maybe not every morning and night, but I get to FLY!!! For someone who once dreamed of becoming a flight attendant and now only gets to fly maybe once every 3-5 years, this is a HUGE deal!!!!

This will also be the first time I’ve stayed in a hotel room by myself since… wait a minute. I don’t think I have EVER stayed in a hotel room alone….Ummm. Yeah. Nope. Not ever…

…hmmm, what? Oh sorry. Got lost for a moment there imagining all the uninterrupted time to think and write and think and write and read and …. well you get the idea. Did I mention uninterrupted quiet?  *happy sigh*

Anyway. Aside from all that awesomeness, I also get to hang out with fellow writers for a full two and a half days while learning from those who have gone before. I’ll get a better understanding of what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong in this social media game, how to analyze my antagonist, and what common errors to look for in my manuscript, among other things.

So where and when will I be gaining all this newfound wisdom?

At the 2017 Asheville Christian Writers Conference in Asheville, North Carolina, on February 17, 18 & 19!!! Woohoo!!!

If you happen to be in attendance this year, please take the time to say hello and let me know you visited my blog. You will make. my. day! 

If you are unable to attend, have no fear. I may not be able to share everything I learn while I’m there, but once I’m back I will do my best to share with you several of the best gems I collected. So be sure to sign up to FOLLOW ME so you won’t miss out!

In the meantime, I’d love to hear any tips you have for my upcoming travels. I have only flown once since 9/11/01 and it was just a short little ride upstate. I’ve never even been to North Carolina before.

Do you have any tips for navigating the airport? Any strategies for making the most of my luggage space? Any travel tips at all, throw them at me! I’m all ears eyes !!

San Diego Christian Writers Guild Fall Conference 2016

Today I was honored to attend the San Diego Christian Writers Guild 2016 Fall Conference.  My day began with the beeping of an alarm far too early on a Saturday morning. An hour later I left the house dressed professionally and feeling good. Nervous, but good.

Munching on a power bar, I drove down the road mentally rehearsing my elevator pitch and reviewing the questions I most wanted answered today. Specifically, I was hoping to get advice on better focusing my efforts in building an author platform and I was hoping to learn more about the balance between historical fact and fiction when writing historical fiction. I have already read and heard so many different opinions on these two subjects, but I felt I needed more information to help me in making informed decisions for my own career.

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The morning began with consultation sign ups followed by opening remarks. Then came General Session #1 led by Bodie Thoene who shared a very touching story, drawing a connection from her childhood through her career as an author.

For the first Workshop session, I chose to sit in on Laura Rosthchild‘s talk, “How to Find and Work with an Agent.” While some of what she shared was a repeat of what I already knew, there were several pieces of information which were new and the insights she shared into how her boutique agency works, and what to look for in an agent were particularly helpful. After the workshop I walked Mrs. Rosthchild to lunch and had the opportunity to ask her about my platform.

During lunch I sat at a table with another agent, Blythe Daniel, and enjoyed listening to the interesting conversations happening between the various authors and Ms. Daniels. She was very pleasant and eager to speak with those at her table.

After lunch I sat in on Mrs. Thoene’s talk entitled, “Making History Come to Life: Researching and Writing Historical Fiction.” She moved our group away from the set up rows of chairs, over to a circle of couches for a more informal feel. Most of the session involved an exercise in sensory description. At the end she held a Q&A session. The question I asked was in regard to historical figures mentioned in her book and how she handled it if their ancestors were offended by something she wrote. Her response was succinct:  “I don’t give a rip.”

Following the second workshop was another General Session led by Lynn Vincent entitled, “The Enemies Within:  Overcoming Fear, Perfectionism, and Procrastination to Reach Your Writing Goals.” I found this session particularly helpful. She asked the audience for examples of their writing related fears and it was encouraging to see so many of my own fears shared by the others in the room. Her tips for overcoming these fears were helpful as well. I especially enjoyed her pointing out the Creation Story as an example of the creative process.

At the end of the day, I found the answers I needed to the questions I most wanted answered, but they did not come in the way that I had expected. While the workshops were wonderful and informative in their own right, it was the conversations before, between, and after the official sessions which wound up being of the most benefit to me, personally and professionally.

So while I recommend writer’s conferences as a source of informative workshops, I encourage you to see them as more than that.

They are an opportunity to connect with others of like minds and varying experiences. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with the person sitting next to you at lunch or walking beside you between workshops. You never know what they may have to say that can be of help to you.

What about you?

Have you attended any writers’ conferences or met anyone who touched your life or helped your career in an unexpected way? 

I’d love to hear your story! Please tell me about it in the comments below.