Writing life

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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Writing life

Trading Gideon for a Levite

I’ve long said that I’m a writing conference junkie. Big, small, or in between, there’s always something to learn and someone to meet. There are also many wonderful choices, and I like to keep up with what’s happening even if I can’t attend.

One that I’ve looked at for several years and have read many great things about is the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. I decided early this year to just save my pennies so I could go to a big conference next year. That’s what I’ve been doing, but God apparently had another plan. I kept finding myself on the Philly Conference site again and again … and again. Then, through a series of events I can only attribute to God, I ended up applying for a scholarship. My essay/application was sent along with a letter from the director of my local writers group (East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers). I prayed it through, gave it to God, and knew that if He wanted me there He’d make a way.

On Tuesday I found out that He made a way. 🙂

I am completely humbled and amazed to be chosen for one of four scholarships given to members of local writers groups across the country. I’m so grateful to Marlene Bagnull for directing the conference and offering me this opportunity. I’m so indebted to the wonderful Cec Murphey, who is a mentor to our local group and is such an inspiration to and example for writers everywhere. His generosity makes it possible for writers like myself to attend many conferences each year. We love you, Cec!

Most of all, I’m overwhelmed by God’s work in my life and His attention to me. I’ve been in a real season of prayer over my writing during the past few months and seeking God’s direction. The Philly Conference offers the chance to meet with and learn from some people who aren’t always at conferences, and who could be real helps on my writing journey. I prayed that if God really wanted me to change directions that He would open the door for me to go to Philly and take those first steps. Now He’s done that, along with giving some other confirmations I hadn’t asked for.

So many times when I’ve tried to discern God’s direction, I fall back on what I call the Gideon approach — asking God to give me a sign one way or the other, like He did with Gideon’s fleece (the story’s in Judges 6 in the Bible). I think that’s OK sometimes, but know it’s not the way I always need to be.

A couple of weeks ago God reminded me of the Israelites when it was time to cross the Nile River into the Promised Land. He told the Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant to step into the water and that the path would be made (check it out in Joshua 3). He didn’t do it while they were waiting safely on shore — He only parted the waters once they took those first steps in faith and trust. I think that’s what God wants for me, too — to step out in faith more often and then let Him handle the rest.

I believe that’s what He did with the blessing of this conference scholarship. He made the way for me, and He knows the reason why. Now I just have to keep writing, keep trusting Him, and wait to see what happens. What a joy!

Writing life

Not Being Scared to Speak

My local writers group, East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers, hosted Tammy B. Melton as our speaker on June 12 and had a blast together! I think part of the reason we enjoyed her so much was because she touched on a couple of different topics and was so very real and humble that we couldn’t help but love her and relate to her.

First, she told us about her book, Loving God With All Five Senses, which she published through Xulon last year. She shared the story of how God helped her through the writing process, how she searched for a publisher, and why she decided to self-publish. Then she was brutally honest about what self-publishing was like and what kinds of challenges she’s faced.

Loving God With All Five Senses is a 6-week Bible study that begins with a week of understanding how wonderfully God made us. Then each of the following weeks looks at the different senses and how they relate to our spiritual lives. Each week studies how God created the sense to work, how misuse of it can hinder our relationship with God and how it can help deepen our relationship with God. I’ve worked part of the way through my book and it’s a great wake-up call to help you be more in tune with yourself and with God.

And if that weren’t enough … then she got to our ‘real’ talk — getting past that fear of being a speaker. Many of us think that we can’t be speakers because we’re writers, but Tammy pointed out quite a few things that speakers and writers have in common. Things like being passionate about what we communicate, needing to organize our thoughts in a logical manner, crafting good openings and closings, and needing to spend time in prayer and with God before we begin. Hmmmm … maybe that shift from writer to speaker doesn’t have to be as scary as some think.

Tammy also heads up a non-profit organization called Legacy Ministries (www.legacyministries.info), which helps encourage and train people for ministry opportunities. It’s a really neat organization, so check out their site. And if you’re looking for a women’s Bible study book or a speaker for your group, I’m sure Tammy would love to talk with you about those things too!

Writing life

EMACW Conference with Marion Bond West and Julie Garmon

My local writers’ group (EMACW — East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers) had the fun of hosting a conference a couple of weekends ago. We’re so blessed that our director works for a local technical college and handled arranging the meeting space for us. You can’t beat having a state-of-the-art conference facility at your disposal.

We had a nice crowd (about 40, which is what we had prayed for … next time we’ll pray for more!) and top-notch speakers: the mother/daughter team of Marion Bond West and Julie Garmon.

If you’re familiar with Guideposts, both those names mean something to you. Marion is the magazine’s most published writer (and she’s quick to add ‘and most rejected’ to that claim to fame), and Julie has also written many things for Guideposts and other magazines. Marion signed copies of her latest book, Praying for My Life.

They taught about how to write the type of inspirational articles Guideposts likes, how to write (and not write) devotionals, and how to focus on take-away value. It was the first time they’ve taught together, so they seemed to have a lot of fun with that. They taught us so much and felt like part of the family by the time the day ended. I think that’s part of the beauty of being writers — we all understand and love each other and the creativity God blessed us with.

I hope you enjoy a few photos from the day (double click the images to enlarge them)!

Julie Garmon & Marion Bond WestOur wonderful instructors, Julie Garmon and Marion Bond West.

Our director Colleen welcomed everyone to start the day. We’re blessed to have several members who write music and lyrics, so have a subgroup for them. Cindy, the leader of the songwriters’ group, led us in several praise and worship songs. After that time and a devotional and prayer we were all in the right frame of mind for learning and listening to God!

Marion teaching. She had a basket overflowing with copies of Guideposts with her articles and spent a lot of time showing them to us — what worked, what didn’t work, the stories behind the stories. Very interesting, especially to a group of writers!

 Julie loves to teach with visual aids. Here, she uses a couple of Barbie dolls to illustrate how we need to be real in our writing instead of dressing things up and trying to impress people. Readers love us so much more when they see that we’re real!

Notice Wanda the Wig Head on the table. She’s all dressed up with loads of jewelry, feathers and other fanciness … but she would’ve been just fine with some earrings and pearls. Their point (other than to make us laugh)? Sometimes we keep adding and adding to our writing when we need to keep it simple. That’s especially true with pieces like devotionals, where we need to focus on one point and not go off on oodles of tangents or try to cram too much into a short space. Hmmmmm … I’m sure I never try to do those kinds of things (yeah, right).

Please visit www.emacw.org if you’d like to learn more about our group and upcoming meetings or special events. We have members who write fiction, non-fiction and poetry … members who are published and those who are unpublished … members who have babies and members who have grandchildren … and we all love each other and writing for the Lord dearly! I can’t imagine a better motto than the one they crafted years ago: “Because He lives, we write for Him!”