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 …

Philly Conference 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?

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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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!