Conferences

Making a Difference

One of the teachers and keynote speakers at the Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference was Cecil Murphey. In case you’re not familiar with him, Cec is a New York Times bestselling author and international speaker who has written or co-written more than 100 books. Some of his best known titles include Committed But Flawed, 90 Minutes in Heaven and Heaven Is Real (with Don Piper), Touchdown Alexander (with Shaun Alexander), Gifted Hands and Think Big (with Dr. Ben Carlson), and Rebel With a Cause (with Franklin Graham). He’s a former pastor, missionary, and teacher, so has a wealth of experiences to draw from for his writing.

Cec lives in metro Atlanta and has been a mentor to our local writing group for several years, so anytime we get to see him or hear him teach is a special treat. One of the many things I admire about Cec is his transparency — he’s the same Cec wherever you see him and whoever he’s with, whether he’s teaching a group of new writers, catching up with fellow authors at a conference, or sharing his heart and wisdom from the platform. He’s also one of the most generous people I’ve ever met, and funds numerous scholarships for Christian writers to attend conferences across the country each year. I’ve benefited from those scholarships twice myself. 🙂

He spoke one morning during the conference on “Write His Answer … Transparently.”

“When you open up and become real, you’ll begin to connect with people,” Cec said. “There’s something wonderful about letting people know who you are. Being authentic is where you make the difference.”

Cec was talking to us from a writing perspective, but I think the same philosophy holds true in every corner of life. Nobody wants a fake friend. Nobody wants to play games, trying to figure out how much of what someone says is true. Nobody wants a surface-level prayer partner.

Instead, we want to know that the people we feel closest to are being honest with us. We want to know we’re not the only ones having struggles. We want to know that when someone says they care, they mean it.

In other words, we want — dare I say crave? — transparency.That’s not to say we need to bare our souls to the cashier at Kroger, but people want to know that the people around them are real. I think that especially holds true with Christians, where we sometimes have the misguided idea that we’re supposed to always have our “perfect and fine” face on for the world. If that’s all the world sees, they’re not seeing the real us that God helps through each and every day.

I do better with this on some days than on others, and in some situations versus others. But it’s my goal to put that transparency into practice more every day. How about you?

Categories: Christian speakers, Conferences, Monday Musings | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Wednesday Writing: The Editor Scoop

When you’re at a writers’ conference, one of the best ways to learn what editors or literary agents want is to attend open forum-type sessions where they answer questions. We had a few opportunities at the Philadelphia Conference to sit in on panel discussions with literary agents, magazine editors, and book editors.

During one of the sessions, book editors were asked to share their greatest struggle in working with writers. Here’s a sampling of responses from the 10 editors present:

  • Working with unteachable writers. Every writer should always be willing to take constructive comments and learn how to become better.
  • Not being clear on communication. Don’t read too much into emails – approach the other person directly if you think there might be misunderstandings.
  • Finding the 40-45,000 word book desperately struggling to get out of an 80,000 word manuscript.
  • Ministering to a writer with a fragile ego. Criticism is meant to make you better at what you’re doing, but editors have to share comments delicately.
  • Receiving material from an author who isn’t as prepared as he or she should be. Really check your research and other information for factual errors before submitting to an editor.
  • Receiving a book proposal that says the project is aimed for “everybody.” Take the time to shift from writer to reader to know who the manuscript is really for.
  • Intellectual and spiritual arrogance – a writer who doesn’t allow for teachability or improvement. Recognize that you aren’t perfect … yet. 🙂
  • Being a dream slayer. An editor so wants you to be good – be the best you can before submitting.
  • Not following submission guidelines. The material might be good, but the editor will pass on it because it doesn’t fit their guidelines.
  • Seeing authors who want to be published so desperately that they follow the bandwagon instead of their passion.
  • Dealing with the “new mommy” mentality. Becoming published and spreading the word about a book is a lot more work than some authors expect. Some authors just want to see their name on the cover and aren’t committed for the long haul, so their “baby” never makes it past the crib.

So, what do you writers/authors think about these? Do any of the comments surprise you? Learning new things every day …

Categories: Conferences, Wednesday Writings, Writing life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Philly Recap: Better Than Deserved


I’m back from the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers conference, and have narrowed my current state of mind down to two adjectives: exhausted but exhilarated.

Going to a conference (especially one that lasts several day, like Philly) will wear you out – body, mind, and soul. You’re probably sleep deprived from the get-go after spending hours to polish and prepare everything you hope to share with editors or agents during appointments. Your mind works full-tilt during the entire conference because of all the information you’re trying to absorb during keynotes and workshops. Your emotions can soar during praise and worship time, bottom out after an appointment that didn’t go as well as you’d hoped, then soar again when a different editor offers you a contract on the spot (it never hurts to dream, right?).

But a conference also gives you the tools you need to become a better writer and make your story the best it can be. It introduces you to people who “get you” – because, let’s face it, not everyone understands that all the voices in your head don’t mean you’re crazy, or that a cemetery visit really can be a fascinating research trip, or that you really do need to get up in the middle of the night to write that idea down because it’ll be gone with the sunrise.

I saw some friends from other conferences, traveled with two friends from my local writers group, and met new friends along the way. I had really encouraging appointments with some faculty and learned great things in workshops. I met God during worship times. And, as always, He was better to me than I deserved through those scheduled appointments and “divine” appointments that continued until we were at the airport Sunday morning. This isn’t the time or place to go into details, but I’ll sum it up by saying He just blows my mind.

How has He been good to you lately?

Categories: Conferences, Monday Musings, Writing life | Leave a comment

EMACW conference wrap-up

My local writers group, East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers, hosted its annual conference last weekend. It’s so fun to look back over the past few years since we started ‘conferencing’ and see where God has taken us. We plan, we pray, and He comes through for us in a big way. We’re worn out when it’s over, but it’s a good kind of exhaustion because we’ve been with God and other writers.

Our faculty featured international author and speaker Rusty Wright; American Christian Writers founder Reg Forder; and Josh Talkington and Ben Rigsby of SnapShot Interactive. EMACW members Alicia Stunkel and Joyce Fincher started us with devotional and praise and worship time each morning. Both days were packed with good info, but here are a few nuggets I mined along the way …

  • The words we wright might not only have an effect on people who are REborn as Christians; they can someday have an effect on people who aren’t even born yet. Wow, that’ll make a writer stop and think.
  • No matter how many writing books I have, there are always more to add to the collection. 🙂 And there are definitely always more things for me to learn!
  • Want to start building relationships with the media so they’ll see you as a valuable resource? Start by contacting the reporter and pitching a story idea that has nothing to do with you and your ministry or book. Share a few good stories, start building that connection, and then when you’re ready to pitch your own things you won’t be a stranger.
  • I finally learned how to set up a separate Facebook page for my writing. Then I actually came home and did it!

A special congratulations to Beverly Varnado, whose entry won the WestBow Press self publishing contest! Bev’s novel is Give My Love to the Chestnut Trees. EMACW members Terri Webster and Patricia Manns were the other finalists, so congrats to them too! Beverly has some potentially exciting things in the works for her books and screenplays, so hop over to her website and blog for more info.

Laughter, learning, praise, and prayer. What a great time together.

If you live in metro Atlanta, we meet the second Saturday of each month. Check us out online and enjoy the slideshow here of a few shots from the weekend!

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Categories: Conferences, Wednesday Writings, Writer's resources, Writing life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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