Thursday, January 28, 2010

Why Blog?

First off, sorry I missed y'all last week. Like everyone else on the planet, there are just some weeks that are a little more out-of-control than others, and last week was definitely one of those times.

Glad to be back now, though.

Moving on...

As writers, we all know that saying something brilliant is really only half the battle. No pressure, but to be truly successful (and score those oh-so-coveted readers), we've gotta be savvy, too—especially when it comes to marketing, branding, promotion and the like...

While Facebook and Twitter is definitely one way of doing that (and great for the A-D-D creative types like yours truly), you still can't underestimate the power of your personal blog. But since keeping one going can seem like an arduous task on occasion, I wanted to offer a little encouragement on what it really does for you...

Instant Platform:
Every time I speak at a university, church and the like, people routinely ask me how they can "get his/her name out there." And while you're in the midst of hearing back from the magazines, websites, publishers you've queried lately, you can already be making a name for yourself by blogging. In most cases, it's free and relatively easy to set up, and bonus, you get to write about whatever you want. Whether it's the intricacies of your yarn collection, your favorite movies or your pets (and hey, I've even read an entire blog dedicated to Chapstick), you're the boss of what goes on your blog.

Google Me
Another great perk is that when a writer/editor/friend/neighbor/long, lost family member googles you, your blog is likely going to show up. So make sure it's updated frequently, and that can be a valuable way to get people reading your writing and provides a cyber footprint of sorts for when you're writing books, magazine articles, etc.

When you think about Target (besides the fact that I can't leave without buying something I wasn't really planning on), what do you immediate think of? Yes, the bullseye symbol. When you think of Starbucks, that mythical looking mermaid may pop into your head. All in all, those symbols make for great branding...and you want to do the same with your writing. Your voice is unique, and so is your perspective (or at least it should be), and you'll let the world know who you are and what you care about by posting on your blog. So that's something to consider when you decide what font to use, what title to give your blog, what you'll write about.

Whatever it is, it's a value-added commodity to whatever you're writing professionally with your books and otherwise.

Still not convinced that blogging is for you? Watch Julie & Julia with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, and I'm guessing you'll get inspired. And if that's enough, take my word for's a wonderful way of dialoguing with people and potential readers you'd probably never meet anywhere else. :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Two more things...

A dear reader asked last week how she could best get started in non-fiction writing. BJ touched yesterday on how you must have a platform. That's so true, and I have a few additional suggestions!

1. Research and attend conferences, just as you would for fiction writing.

A great one to go to is ClasServices. This is an amazing conference on both speaking and non fiction writing that is affordable and how I actually got my start. I attended this in Texas when I was about 18 and heard about the ACFW from a teacher leading a small group on fiction writing within the conference, famous author Gayle Roper. Invaluable!!

The great thing about that conference is they really help you determine your personality type and your strengths, as well as motivate you in a Christian-based way to get out there and shine for Christ with your gifts. They focus on speaking as well as writing, which is helpful because...

To be a successful writer in the non-fiction market, you not only need to have a blog and a platform and an audience, you need to be a speaker. This is intimidating but a necessary evil, even more so than for a fiction writer, because non-fiction writers will more than likely have the best results selling their books at speaking engagements. Your future publisher and agent will expect this of you, even if its on a small scale. You must be willing! Yes, you can be a non fiction writer without ever speaking, but your words won't get out there nearly as much. You won't be nearly as effective.

That said, once you know which direction your writing is going, you'll need to practice. Write "speeches" or lectures or inspirational messages and see if you could speak on a timely topic at your women's sunday school class fellowship or meeting. Start small and build your confidence and let God guide you from there. I posted on a similar topic about "getting out there" in regards to book signings and such today at another blog I participate in, CRAFTIE LADIES OF ROMANCE if you wanna hop over there for a little bit more about this topic.

2. Write write write, then submit.

If you don't get your work out there, it'll never happen for you, obviously. A great place to submit is I've written articles regularly for them for 5 years now. I started writing for their homeschool link, then their marriage link as a newlywed, then their parenting and women's faith links. They don't pay anything, but it's great exposure and promotion, and more importantly, the emails I've received from readers, letting me know how much God spoke to them through my article, is truly priceless. So go browse and see if you'd be interested in writing. They always accept new authors and if you feel drawn to it, let me know and I can see about contacting my editor there on your behalf. I'd be happy to help. I really believe in their ministry!

So, those are my two tips for today. Don't assume conferences are for fiction writers only. Don't be afraid to get out there and try! And of course, as always, write write write. =)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Publishing & Platform

…If you or anyone has any advice for me related to how to get started in Christian non-fiction writing (publisher suggestions, writing suggestions, anything...), please share! I feel like now is the time to step out in faith and get started, somehow…


Hi Haelie!

I love your question. I think you’re totally off to a great start by creating a blog. I say that because a blog is a great way to test out ideas and see whose needs your non-fiction can meet. The best way to do that is to ask yourself a couple of questions about what you want to accomplish:

First – Who do you want to reach?
Second – What are your qualifications and how can you grow them?

After you’ve determined your audience and its needs, you can begin blogging about those topics. (Incidentally, you may notice that your blog already runs along a particular theme.)

As you blog you can also think about magazines and other publications that reach the same demographic. For instance: I manage– so it’s a natural outflow for me to also write for Susie Magazine and similar outlets.

When you publish in various venues, you are building your publishing credits. This is something publishers love.

Of course, that isn’t the only way to get started with non-fiction. Excellent writing can overcome a lack of a platform with some publishers. But in this economy, almost all publishers want to see writers (especially non-fiction writers) growing a platform through social media, magazine articles, etc.

(Here’s my view on it: I am doing myself a favor by building an audience. I’m not doing it just to get a publisher’s interest – I’m doing it because I want my books and articles to reach as many people as they can for the glory of God.)

I'm looking forward to the other Scribble Chicks jumping in with advice about the other aspects of publishing you mentioned.

God bless you as you write for Him!

Editor, Real Teen Faith

Monday, January 25, 2010

Never Do Today...

...what you can put off until tomorrow.

Sadly, my favorite thing to tell my husband when it comes to laundry, cleaning, making dinner, etc. doesn't really apply to writing - especially if you are still waiting for that ecstatic call from a publisher.

If anything, always do today what you could potentially put off until tomorrow. We've talked about writer's conferences, CJ wrote about how to market your writing before it gets published and I hope you're catching on that the two things you need most to make it in the writing world are: 1) Contacts (not the seeing-better kind), and 2) A hard work ethic.

"But what about talent?" you shout. "My third grade teacher said I had the best creative writing papers in the whole class!"

Yes, you need talent. You need the stamina to sit in front of a computer screen debating whether you should write in present tense or past tense for hours on end. You need support from family and friends. You need training in writing and you need to be open to changes. You really need a skin that could be compared to Plexiglas - especially when the rejections start piling up.

But, mostly you need contacts - people in the publishing world who will kindly befriend you.

And here's how to make them:

1. Don't try to make contacts.

And that's all I've got for you. Picture it like this: Remember the short-shorts guy on Made of Honor who would never leave the other guys alone and was just annoying?

You do not want to be like that. And setting out for a writer's conference with the only intention being to get other people's business cards so you can email them incessantly is not the way to go.

Instead, go to conferences. Be open to whatever God has planned for you - whether that's sitting with the staff of the conference or with the keynote speaker. Talk to people and be genuine - don't be the annoying writer who can only talk about their work and what high praise they've gotten from their family and friends. Instead, listen to others. Be considerate. Do your homework on publishing houses and don't be afraid to ask questions.

And friends will come. Some of the sweetest friends I've ever made in the whole of my writing career are the people on the staff at the first conference I went to. And we're still friends! They've done more to encourage me and help me in my writing than they'll ever know. Take advantage of making online friends. Is there a writer you really admire? Send him or her an email and let them know you are hoping to be published one day yourself and ask them for any advice to get you started.

Writing is not easy nor is it a quick way to a career. Ask any of us Scribble Chicks and I think we'd say if you want to make money, you'd be MUCH better off finding a very different job. Because writing is a job - especially if you want to get published. It's hard work and, very often, heart-breaking work.

But there are those moments. That moment when an editor calls or emails and lets you know they're offering you a contract. That moment when you hold your first book in your hands and see your name right there in print. That moment when all those sweet friends you've made and celebrated with over the years get to celebrate with you this time!

And that makes all the hard work, all the lonely days in front of a computer, all the lunches that are more like trips to a snack bar, all the conferences you've been inspired and confused at, all the Starbucks you've ingested in search of one more chapter that much more worth it.

So, what are you waiting for? :) Start saving up for that conference! And start praying now that God will guide exactly the right people into your path. :) And always, always know that BJ, Betsy, CJ, Christa and myself LOVE getting emails from you!

Friday, January 22, 2010

What you can do NOW to market your writing

There’s so much information out there about what you should and shouldn’t do before you sign a contract. But how many of these ideas really work? What’s absolutely necessary and what can be left by the wayside? Here are a few pre-publication must-dos as well as several suggestions:

Must Do #1: Buy your domain name

I bought years before I ever needed it. I wasn’t risking it not being available when I wanted a website. Because there are people who buy up multiple domains in the hopes of selling them to you later for a much higher price, it’s a good idea to buy your domain name now, if you can.

Suggestion #1: Start your website or blog now

I started blogging in 2006, three years before I ever saw publication. Having a blog gave me an excuse to get my words out there for others to read, and it was great practice. Most publishers recommend their authors start blogging as a way to garner interest in their books. Search for “how to start a blog” on Google, and you’ll find several very easy ways. I use, others swear by WordPress.

Must Do #2: Be Professional

During this pre-publication time remember that sooner or later publishing professionals will read what you post. Whether in blog comments or your own blog posts, it’s imperitive to keep your tone professional. You do not want to be flaming people or speaking negative of anyone. No exceptions. I don’t care what you think about someone or what the other guy/gal did to you. And you might consider leaving the posts about controversial topics to someone else too. Unless you’re really feeling led to write about a controvery, it could get you into trouble later if you’re not careful. It’s easy to tarnish a reputation, but difficult to restore it.

Suggestion #2: Get a Facebook page and start Twittering

Many successful writers have managed to get by without FB and Twitter. But why not give yourself a leg up? Will being involved in social media make or break you? Probably not. If you write a terrific book an editor isn’t going to reject you because you’re not Twittering. But what if that editor saw your pithy comments on Twitter and checked out your clever blog as a result and then clicked on your sample chapter link, liked what he/she saw and asked you for more? You never can tell, and I don’t know about you, but I want to be doing everything I can to positively promote myself.

Warning: If you’re easily addicted to video games and the like, be warned. Social media is addictive. I haven’t completely mastered it myself, but I know I must. So enter with caution. They don’t call it Twitter (away your time) for nothing. But, social media can also be a lot of fun, and you can meet some really cool people.

Must Do #3: Write

There’s only so much time in the day, especially if you’re like me and have a day job besides your writing. So while social media and pre-pub publicity is important, it’s not as important as your actual writing time.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The dreaded "W" word.


The mere word brings terror to the soul, does it not?

Why is waiting so hard? Some say its because we live in a "microwave" generation, and are spoiled and accustomed to having everything immediately. That's partly true, but I think in some cases, its more of a concern you wanting to relieve. Or a hope you are wanting to come true so you can move on.

My family is waiting and hoping for several things right now. We're waiting and hoping for my mother-in-law to take a significant step to recovery, and get out of the nursing home we moved her in the other week and into her own apartment or house where she can be self-sufficient and enjoy life again. Heck, even TALK again would be a huge blessing. God can easily do that, but so far He hasn't. So we wait. And we hope.

My husband was laid off as many of you know from a local fire department because of irresponsible city budget cuts. So we're waiting to hear back from the other departments he has interview with, and hoping a job comes up soon so we don't have to start paying bills with a credit card or something else equally desperate. (yikes!) We have a lot of leads, but nothing official. So we wait. And we hope.

I think the hardest part about waiting is what to do in the meantime. Do you trust God will provide and keep living like everything is okay? Do you take a minimum wage job to try to supplement even a quarter of what you were making? Do you give up hope or keep it? Do you pray harder or less? What do you DO?

The same quesitons apply to our writing. Sometimes the hardest part is when the manuscript you've slaved over is mailed off. You shut the lid on the mailbox what? Do you start another book? Do you wait until you hear if the publisher/agent likes this one? Do you write creative short stories to keep the juices flowing without committing to another full length novel until you know if you suck? These are the questions that linger!

What do you think the answers are?

Regarding writing, I think its important to keep writing. Take a few days to do something fun to celebrate the send-off of your "baby", but then get back to it. Writing is a discipline of sorts and if you lose momentum, its hard to get it back. Do what works best for you, but try to keep writing as you wait. (and tell yourself you don't suck!)

I'm waiting to hear back about book stuff right now, too, and am in limbo. Do I continue with a new pitch proposal in case I get "bad" news? Do I keep working on the story I'm waiting to hear back about with the hopes they want to see a full? Do I hide under the covers until all my personal problems go away and I can focus?

As much as I love sleep and my bed, I know the answer to that last one is a resounding NO. Hiding and worry accomplishes NOTHING. But prayer and hope and faith can move mountains. We've all got a mountain of some proportion in our way. Will you join me today in rolling up our sleeves and pushing? Toss those covers back and get to work, on whatever your project might be. I'll be doing the same.

And keep praying and hoping!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

17 Simple Steps to Surviving a Writers' Conference

It's my birthday today! (Nothing like shameless solicitation of comments.) So I'm taking a break and sharing with you 17 *simple* ways to survive a writers' conference:

1. Be sure to accidentally leave your cell phone at home. That way you won't be able to talk to anyone for an entire week -- most importantly you will die at the thought of not being able to speak with your fiance for 7 days.

Furthermore, don't bring a calling-card or change for pay phones. This enhances the death-like feeling of fiance-withdrawal.

2. Schedule the first leg of your airline ticket so that you have only 30 minutes to catch your plane in Chicago. This is highly profitable, as it helps you lose pre-wedding weight without going to the gym. (*Gasp... run.... gasp... run...*)

Following step # 1 (leaving your cell phone at home accidentally) in combination with step # 2 (leaving only 30 minutes to run to your plane in Chicago) is especially helpful, since you will soon realize there's no way to contact the conference shuttle to tell them you... missed your flight. You have no cell phone.

3. When you finally arrive in California, be sure to tell the airline how grateful you are that they sent your luggage to Massachusetts. They especially appreciate it when you raise your voice and wave your hands wildly as you thank them.

4. Make the other people riding the conference shuttle wait irritably as you "thank" the airline.

5. Get stuck in the air-conditioningless shuttle on the highway for at least an hour. This helps you become acquainted with the conference faculty and students who are also stuck in the shuttle.
Editors for big publishing houses especially appreciate it when you tell them your life story, including how you wrote your first book complete with crayon drawings at age 2. Be sure to tell them you feel that same book would be perfect for their publishing house. After all, it's already illustrated.

6. Get a cool roommate, and a really stinky dorm mate. For instance, be sure that the person next door is going to snore so loudly you can hear her before you enter the building. Your roommate will be your new best friend when you offer her earplugs.

7. Thank the airline again when your luggage finally arrives... hours later. Do a happy-dance when you find all of your belongings are still inside the bag... including (drumroll please) your cell phone.

8. Call your fiance and forget that there's now a 3 hour time difference. Keep him up 'til 2 a.m. That way he won't be able to stay awake during class tomorrow.

9. Get to know some really awesome and talented writers (funny pictures to come) by seating 7 people in a car designed to fit 3. Duck every time a police car comes by. Then call your chiropractor.

10. Realize you are not a really awesome and talented writer. Choose to chicken-out and not talk with editors OR agents about your books... this especially good for the future of your writing career.

11. Come to your senses when your "mentor" gives you a swift kick in the rear and asks why the heck you're not presenting your book to editors and agents.

12. Meet with a really well-known literary agent over dinner, have her tell you she loves your pitch, then get back to your room and realize there's something hanging out of your nose. (I am not making this up.)

13. Sleep through most of the last day of workshops because you are too tired to lift a finger (other than dialing your fiance's phone number, of course).

14. Plan to have a nine-hour, overnight layover in the Denver Airport. Thank the cleaning lady when she gives you 3 emergency-survival blankets and a pillow.

15. Wonder how many people have slept on that pillow and if they had lice. Then decide you don't care because you're pretty sure you're not going to make it through the night anyway.

(At 2 a.m. in the Denver airport, going out and laying on the runway as the red-eye flights land is a pretty tempting way to end your life.)

16. Be told that it's illegal to get off the airplane when it's not the final destination on your ticket.
Actual conversation with airline attendant and me:

Me: "I have a layover in my fiance's town. I'm getting off the plane there and not getting back on for the last leg of the flight. Can you tag my bags for [name of fiance's city]?"

Airline Attendant (AA): "Ma'am, it's illegal for you to get off the plane in [name of fiance's city]."

Me: "Hypothetically speaking, if I were to get off the airplane in [name of fiance's city], what would happen to my bags?"

AA: *WINK* "Well ma'am, hypothetically speaking, if you got off in [name of fiance's city] your bags would go through to your hometown and you could pick them up the next day."

Me: "But it's illegal for me to get off before my hometown?"

AA: "Absolutely... illegal Ma'am."

17. Get off plane in [Name of fiance's city].

B.J. Hamrick is a journalist, humorist, and Real Teen Faith Editorest.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Filling Your Well

Have you ever hit a point in your writing where nothing seems to flow? Where it feels like you're pulling teeth to get out one single sentence? Rest assured, you're not alone. Every writer feels this way from time to time. Here's something I'm learning that helps unstop the pipes and allows your creative waters to start flowing again ... living life.

Sometimes as writers we will devote so much time to pouring out our thoughts and emotions on the page that we don't take time to refill. The well runs dry. If that's you today, why not try this: take a day off and play with a ten-year-old. Go to the movies. Pull out a pad of paper and just start sketching what you see. Or ask someone who works in the profession of your main character if you can follow them around and soak up what they do.

I found the latter suggestion especially helpful recently. Several of my novels take place on a working cattle ranch. And when you're working on a ranch, you're going to be riding horses. For the month of January I've been volunteering at a local horse barn. In the morning we feed the horses and turn them out to their pastures. In the evening we bring them in and feed them again. I've learned a ton just from being around these great animals. But I've especially learned from watching others much more experienced and seeing how they handle situations. Soaking in their expertise has helped me immeasurably.

So if you're stuck today, may I suggest take a deep breath and chilling for a bit? :) It's okay to take a break. Trust me, you'll come back super-charged and ready to tackle that next chapter!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Writing Comes With Dental, Right?

Last week, one of our lovely Scribble Chicks readers, Tonya, posed the following question:

Did you ever feel silly about wanting to be a writer and telling people you want to be a writer when it seems like everyone wants to be a almost sounds cliche! Did you ever feel self-conscious and insecure to tell people your dreams?

Ok, Tonya, here goes nothing...

Back in my hometown of Ladysmith, Wis., nobody ever said "hey, I want to become a writer" because it simply wasn't practical like, say, working at the local lumber yard. But since I was the kid who always came home from the library with a pile of books and a million ideas for my own, I don't think it actual surprised my Mom too much when I said I wanted to study journalism in college—even if she preferred that I'd major in education.

All she really wanted to know was if a writing career came with dental. And even though I wasn't quite sure, I assured her that it did. So case closed.

For whatever reason, I never really cared if people got my passion for writing. Yeah, in movies it's definitely a cliché when yet another character wants to become a writer, but in my hometown, I may as well have told everyone I was joining the circus. Chances are, it would've gotten a similar reaction.

I guess I say all of that because if you're a writer, you just know it. No matter how hard you try, you simply have to do it, whether people understand why or not. Will it take hard work and commitment and a whole lot of prayer to succeed? Absolutely. I mean, a quick peek at recent stats, not to mention how many out-of-work writers there are is staggering. But if you continue to work at your craft, network with others in the biz and create the best possible stories you can, all the details will work themselves out—even if your loved ones have their suspicions.

And as someone who's been writing professionally for more than 10 years now (whew!), I can attest that being a writer is really the best career ever. While it definitely has its challenging days like anything else, sometimes it barely feels like work. So basically, GO FOR IT, girl. You won't regret it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Grouchy = productive?

Ever had one of Those Days?

You know the kind. Where everything goes wrong before 8:30 a.m, you've cried twice, once to your husband and once to a stranger's voicemail on the phone, you're in the mood to break every mirror in the house becaues you're PMS-y and feel ridiculously fat, and you have a blooming headache because you were so caught up in the aforementioned drama that you forgot to drink your morning Diet Coke?

I'm having one of Those.

Which brings me to an interesting question. When you're having one of Those Days, do you write? Or does the thought of even opening your laptop make you growl and gnash your teeth?

Despite the drama and my bad mood, I actually still feel like writing! Maybe its because I know I need to, with my deadline rapidly approaching (next week!) but maybe also its because the conflict and emotion is good fodder for my characters. Hmm...

Tell me how your moods affect your writing progress while I go pull up my WIP and find a good fight scene to edit.

And pop open my Diet Coke.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

On Dieting and Writing

With the assistance of my doctor (aka The Nazi), I’ve been on a health kick recently. Natural foods. Whole grains. High protein. Basically – if it tastes like dirt I’m allowed to eat it.

It all started out okay with some natural trail mix – no preservatives. I though it tasted pretty good until my boy read the ingredients– raisins, almonds, pumpkin seeds... “Hey,” he said. “You bought a squirrel’s paradise”.

Appropriate since I was feeling a little nutty. (There’s something about nibbling on the close cousin of a pine cone that makes me want to cave. That, and the fact that I can see the Krispy Kreme “Hot Now” sign from my apartment window.)

But I’m staying at it. Why? I want to be healthy, and right now this is what it takes. I don’t do it for me. I do it for my family. I do it for health. I do it for longevity.

OK, I do it for my rapidly expanding waistline.

You see where I’m going with this.

Writing isn’t always fun. There will be days when you want to throw down the keyboard and walk away. Days when you feel a little nutty. Days when one more moment tediously editing sounds about as appealing as eating a pine cone.

When those days happen, try to push through. Do it for the people you want to reach. Do it for their hearts. Do it for yours.

Now where did I put that phone number for Papa John?


B.J. Hamrick is a journalist, humorist, and Real Teen Faith Editorest.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Five Things To Look For in A Writers Conference

As much fun as staring at your computer all day is, I hope you're making plans this new year to go to a writer's conference and meet real, live people! There is no better place to make friends, meet editors and agents and learn SO much information on writing and the publishing industry that you feel like your brain might start leaking all over your stack of handouts and free books. :)

Writer's conferences are expensive, and so to help you find the best fit for you, be sure to do your homework before plopping down the nonrefundable fee!

Here's a few questions to ask yourself before signing up:

1) What do you write? If you write fiction, be sure to check on the website what workshops will be for fiction authors and who is teaching them. You write adventure-based Indiana Jones style novels? You may not want to sink $600 into a conference that has all of its fiction classes being taught by bestselling romance authors. Are you a nonfiction junkie? Be sure to double check those workshops as well.

2) Are you going to meet publishers? If you are going with the goal of getting your manuscript into the hands of publishers, DOUBLE CHECK that the conference is going to have times available to meet with publishers and agents. One of the conferences that I absolutely love has sign-ups available to talk with editors and agents as well as opportunities to sit with them at lunches and dinners. Find the list of editors and agents who will be represented there. Research the publishing house and their needs (Sally Stuart has a fabulous book called The Christian Writer Market Guide that has updated lists every year of what each publishing house is looking for and currently publishing).

A writer's conference is an excellent way to get face-to-face time with editors and agents who would not otherwise interact with an unsolicited manuscript. Take the time to ask questions. What can you improve in your proposal? What are the editor/agent's advice for unpublished authors?

3) What are specific areas you want to grow in? If you are hoping to learn more about how to write great dialogue, find a conference that is featuring a workshop on the subject. Or, how about you want to just meet some people in the hopes of starting an online support group? Search conference schedules and be sure to find one with ample free time or after dinner socializing time.

Finding a conference with scheduled free time is one of the best things you can do! Yes, when you are paying the deposit, it will seem like paying for nothing, but you will need that break more than almost anything at that moment. Bring your laptop and plan on writing down your thoughts. Writer's conferences do more than give you opportunities and tire you out - they also inspire you!

4) Do I have the ability to travel for this? There seems to be at least one writer's conference in every area of this country, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is the best fit for you. Take the time to research conferences outside of your geographical area. You might find that with a good price on plane tickets, you'll be able to travel a little farther.

Distance can also be a good thing just for clearing your mind of all of the things at home. Even if the conference is in your hometown, plan on staying at the hotel where the conference is booked. You won't regret having the space to really get your creative juices flowing (and the breakfasts are usually worth it!).

5) Does this conference come recommended? You can only research so much on the internet before you can't find anything else out. Listen to other writers' recommendations. Join a Christian writers network like ACFW and ask around. Or, email one of us Scribble Chicks - we'll be happy to tell you what our favorite conferences have been!

My all-time favorite thing about a writer's conference? How they always seem to come every year when I need that extra "you can do it!" push. If you've never been to a conference, prepare yourself for an encouraging experience! I've never been to a conference without coming home full of ideas and stoked to get back to work.

They are well worth the investment! So go on...make 2010 the year that publishing dreams come true!

Image used from

Thursday, January 7, 2010

You Know You're a Writer When...

Ok, confession time: Like a mother in frantic "nesting" mode, I've got this weird obsession with getting everything in my apartment clean and organized once it's January 1st.

I mean I'm practically begging my hubby to get rid of the tree and can't wait to take anything down that has anything to do with Christmas. For the record, that doesn't make me some sort of Grinch, I just can't wait to start organizing, well, everything.

Not only does that mean dusting and wiping down everything even potentially dirty, but I love to get rid of stuff I don't need, including any unnecessary e-mails carefully tucked away in various folders.

Now anyone who knows me well knows how I loathe the very sight of e-mail forwards. I hate reading how I'm going to have bad luck if I don't forward something to 10 of my closest friends. Worse yet are the ones with the cheesy, Hallmark card sentimentality and pictures of fuzzy little newborn chicks or lab puppies.

But when I saw this one filed away in my "friends and family folder," a forward titled "You Know You're a Writer When..." I couldn't help but chuckle because, well, so many of these apply to me.

You Know You're a Writer When...(forwarded from
  • You would rather talk to the voices in your head than the person sitting next to you.

  • You know the research librarian’s office, cell and home phone numbers but can’t remember your own.

  • Some of the letters on your keyboard are completely worn off.

  • You would rather write than go out.

  • Your/you’re and their/there/they’re errors send you into an apoplectic fit.

  • You get cranky if you don’t get to write.

  • You’ve ever said, “The voices are getting louder; I must go write.”

  • When talking with others, you mentally edit their dialogue and compose tags and beats.

  • You’ve heard/seen something and thought, I need to write that down.

  • You’ve ever written a scene, outline, synopsis or character sketch on a restaurant napkin . . . and it wasn’t a paper napkin.

  • You wake up in the middle of the night and scramble for the pen and paper you keep next to your bed to write down a scene to make the voices be quiet so you can get some sleep.

  • You end an argument with your spouse by saying, “Oh, wait, I have to write this down–this is the perfect conflict for my characters! Now, repeat what you just yelled.”

  • Getting the scene finished is more important than food, coffee or the bathroom.

  • You have a momentary reality lapse and mention your characters’ situation as a prayer request in Sunday school.

  • A blank wall becomes the screen where the scene you’re writing takes place right in front of your eyes.

  • The easiest way for you to deal with conflict is to go home and write it into your story.

  • You have filed and cross-referenced every issue of The Writer and Writer’s Digest you’ve ever received.

  • You purposely eavesdrop when out in public.

  • At parties, your method of making conversation is to discover people in the room with interesting occupations (preferably your hero’s or heroine’s) so you can conduct research.

  • You listen to the writer’s commentary on every DVD so that you can analyze his/her writing process.

  • You have a favorite line from every movie you’ve seen.

  • You can’t write because you’re mad at one of your characters.

  • You argue with said character.

  • You have a folder on your computer labeled “Ideas.” Some of the files within this folder have only one or two words or sentences and while they made perfect sense fifteen years ago, between the software changes in that period of time garbling half the words and your own faulty memory, you have no idea what it means or where you were going with it. But you keep it anyway because you never know, you might remember it eventually.

  • You drive three hours to a city where you don’t know anyone, spend another three hours driving around the city, then drive three hours home and decide NOT to set your story there.

So be honest, how many of the following apply to you? I know that I'm guilty of at least 20...maybe more.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Which shoe are you?

Earlier this week, Erynn shared the difficulty of writing a novel's ending, and yesterday BJ talked about where we glean material for our stories.

Today, let's discuss shoes.

Hang on. This is writing related. I promise. lol

As women (or men!) we wear many different hats, right? But since I'm a shoe addict, I prefer to say shoes instead. The front page of my website ( says this: This is my site, and this is my story, about a young woman with many hats–no, wait, make that shoes–to wear, but one who loves Jesus no matter where her feet are planted. From a wife in lacy pumps to a new mother in running sneakers, to an ex-career-woman in tottering high heels, to a barefoot author, I’m just me…walking, jogging, sometimes stumbling, down the road God has placed me on.

It's true, isn't it? Some of us writers are married, some have children, some work outside the home, some work part time jobs, some struggle to keep up other hobbies they enjoy or help out at their church. No matter our age or status, all of us wear a variety of shoes - sister, friend, student, homemaker, employee, volunteer. We all have lives outside of our writing.

And this is a good thing. We don't want to be the creepy, unwashed, hermit author whose house is the target of scared neighborhood children at Halloween. It's good to have friends, relationships, jobs, hobbies, etc.

But its also difficult, because it means we have to...GASP...prioritize.

Dum dum dummmm.

How do you handle keeping up with all your shoes? I have to admit, when I worked full time for an Oil & Gas company the past several years, it was hard to be a successful wife, successful mom, successful author...some days, it seemed downright impossible. Until I realized that I needed to redesign my defintion of successful. And FYI, successful does NOT mean perfect. Please learn that faster than I did!

Then this past summer I got to quit my day job, (thanks to my generous Hubby and gracious God) and it was in some ways, harder. I had more time, technically, but in a way, I had less. Because its pretty much impossible to write while my darling toddler is staring at me with those big blue eyes, crowned with the impossibly long lashes she got from my husband (yes I'm jealous!) and NOT play. Or NOT fix her a snack. Or NOT take her for a much coveted wagon ride.

Thankfully, I'm good with discipline, and I've taught myself to take advantage of the time I have, which is basically a two-hour naptime stretch in the early afternoon. That's it, my one shot at making my deadlines, creating new proposals, plotting outlines, editing my crit partner's work, scheduling blogs and new release promotions, etc. - unless I want to stay up late past my baby's bedtime. And trust me, toddlers don't sleep in because Mommy stayed up late the night before. It, like all things, is a sacrifice. You have to choose.

So it all goes back to priorities. My daughter is more important than my writing, hands down. Every time. But my writing is more important than catching up on the recorded TV show I'd like to watch or catching a few quick Z's myself during her nap.

Time management is difficult, but doable. No matter your circumstances, find what works best for you, and remember discipline is key. Those days, put on your most practical (but stylish) pumps and get to work.

But also remember that its okay to have off days, days where you cry into the carpet and ask God how its possible any of this will ever work out, days where you'd rather crawl under the covers than return to the revisions on your laptop, days when your fuzzy, ratty bunny slippers are a must. Pray for the discernment to know when to push through and be disciplined, and when to cry in your Father's lap and rest in His presence. He'll help you change shoes accordingly.

Let God define your definition of success. Because without His guidance and help, our writing is truly all in vain anyway.

And that's like wearing flipflops with chipped nail polish. =P

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Finding a Writing Topic

I believe it was Erma Bombeck who said she learned early in her writing career that there were two people she could safely make fun of: herself, and Hitler.

I can relate. There are a lot of funny things I could tell you about people I know, but I've found that writing about my friends tends to alienate them from me.

For instance, I would love to tell you about the time my sister almost ran over me with her car.

Or I would love to tell you about the time my dad's pants split while he was preaching a sermon.

Or I would love to tell you about the time my friend's pants fell spontaneously around his ankles while he was standing at a zoo exhibit.

Or I would love to tell you about the time my friend Anna spurted coffee out of her nose all over the celebrity she was interviewing for the newspaper.

Yes, I would love to tell you about all of these things-- but as you can imagine, it would alienate me from my friends.

(So... as you can see, fodder for good stories is everywhere. As long as you get permission, or change the details of the main character and story enough that your friends don't recognize themselves.)

If you could, what would you love to write about? Here's some practice at that mostly-fiction...


B.J. Hamrick is a journalist, humorist, and Real Teen Faith Editorest.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Home Stretch

Here's the thing I've discovered:

When a novel starts very easily, it tends to end very easily. BUT - when I have trouble starting a novel, I usually have trouble ending it.

It's frustrating.

We've talked a lot on here about starting a novel, book or short story, but how do you end it? I'm facing a February 1st deadline and while I know exactly how this book is going to end, I'm just not too sure how to get there in a timely manner and without adding 10,000 more words to my final word count.

I've heard publishers aren't too fond of that.

So, I keep plodding away. I'm a write-as-I-go kind of a person, so there is very little planning involved in my novels (which might be why I face my current issue).

And here's the other problem - I am SO excited to finish this book, but I'm kind of sad too. It's the last in a series and that means I get to say goodbye to another group of characters who I have had a lot of fun writing about.

So maybe that's the reason for my stalling.

And my curiosity - how do you finish your WIPs? With shouts of joy? With DFPs (double fist pumps)? With the Miss Match series I finished each book with an ice cream sundae. Do you have any rituals you do?

Any I'm off to keep working. And maybe there's another ice cream sundae in the very near future.

Happy writing!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Make 2010 A Year of Big Dreams!

Someone recently asked me to share my advice to teens who aspire to write. I'd like to share the 4 tips I gave as my response here. Because now that 2010 is upon us, we need to keep on dreaming big. God's got great plans for you this year!

#1: You’re never too young for God to use you.
He often puts desires and dreams in our hearts when we’re young to guide us into our callings. Are you passionate about reading, books, and writing? Are you happiest when creating? Allow yourself to pursue those dreams. Chances are God’s given them to you for a purpose.

#2: Follow your heart
It’s easy to talk ourselves out of our dreams. But don’t let yourself, or your friends, or anyone. You have the desire for a reason. God’s got great plans for you!

#3: Bloom where you’re planted
There are always steps we can take right now. Don’t wait until you’re older to begin following your dream. You don’t have to go to college or take a million courses (though some choose that route). I personally learned best by reading other novels and books on the craft.

#4: Be flexible
If we had our way, our dreams would come true right now. But you know that Scripture in Jeremiah 29:11 that talks about God’s ways being higher than our ways? It’s so true. It took 14 very long years before my book was published, and I had to learn to trust God, even when I didn’t feel like it.

I’m glad now that I didn’t get published right away. If my dreams had come true the way I envisioned, it would’ve been a lot harder journey. Commit your life, and your writing to God, and he’ll make sure you get where you need to be at just the right time.

Never give up. It doesn’t matter if you’re seventeen or seventy. I know of many writers who didn’t see success in the publishing arena until they were over fifty. It’s never too late, and it’s always worth pursuing your dreams. Never stop learning.

I look forward to seeing what God brings about in this new year!