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Archive for March, 2017

The Nametag

Diane Stark

When I was eight years old, my mom “caught” me sitting on the floor in my closet with a purple pen and a spiral bound notebook. When she asked me what I was doing, I sighed and admitted, “Mom, I’ve been writing.”

When I was in fifth grade, I won the Young Author’s Fair at school. My story was terrible and slightly plagiarized, I think. At the end of the story, the villain melted because of the rain, and as his body became a glob of ooze on the ground, he groaned, “I melted because I’m so sweet.”  I stole this.  My mother used to say that to my siblings and me when we fussed about carrying in groceries while it was raining. “You’re not going to melt,” she’d say. “Only sugar cubes are that sweet.”

Plagiarizing a story from your own mother isn’t sweet at all.

Clearly, my roots as a writer are iffy at best. My childhood included lots of closet hiding, spiral-bound notebooks, and, apparently, theft of my mother’s intellectual property.

As a high school senior, I won college scholarships because of essays I’d written. But never for a second did I consider journalism as a major. Writing for a career? That was way too risky.

I majored in education and taught elementary school for a decade. I loved it, and I’d like to think I was good at it, but it didn’t feed my soul. Not like writing did.

I wrote late at night when my husband and children were sleeping. I even sent some of my stories to editors, and a few of them got published.

But I never told anyone.

I loved writing, and I didn’t want anyone to steal the joy I felt at doing it. So I kept it a secret.

Until I wanted to attend my first writers’ conference. I was nervous to tell my husband about it, but he encouraged me to go. So I did.

At the conference, they gave me a lanyard to wear. The tag read, “My name is Diane, and I am a writer.”

I gasped. What am I doing there? I’m not a writer, I thought. Not a real writer, anyway.

I put the lanyard around my neck, feeling like a liar.

That afternoon, I met with the editor of a small Christian publication. I sat across from him, my hands shaking. I handed him the stack of stories I’d brought and prepared to be embarrassed.

But instead of him saying, “These aren’t good enough,” he smiled and said, “These are terrific. Exactly what I’ve been looking for.”

“Really?” I said. “Because I’m not a real writer, you know. I’m just a mom.  I write at night when I think no one knows, but I’m pretty sure my husband has known all along.”

He chuckled. “A lot of us feel that way. We feel that struggle to be a ‘real’ writer. But have you seen your name tag?”

That editor, who is now my friend, gave me such a gift that day. He let me in on a little secret:  Becoming a writer isn’t about getting published.  It’s about writing.  It’s about doing the thing that God has called you to do.

I’m a writer, not because an editor likes my work, but because God created me to write.

Published or not, if you pick up a pen for the Kingdom, you are a writer.

Diane’s Topics for her Classes at

the 2017 Montrose Christian Writers Conference

July 16th – 21st

Breaking into Anthologies

Diane has been published in more than 35 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She knows what types of stories sell to anthologies and can help others tell their personal stories in an effective, emotional way—exactly what the anthologies are looking for.

Writing for Parenting Magazines

Diane has five children and she regularly writes about her “expertise” as a parent in magazines like Focus on the Family.While she doesn’t claim to be a parenting expert, she does know that what works for her kids might work for other kids too.  She also knows that magazines will pay for these parenting tips.  Diane will teach participants how to use their own parenting “expertise” to break into parenting magazines.

Conducting High Profile Interviews

Christian magazines are always on the lookout for profile pieces about Christian celebrities. But how do writers get these interviews, and what do you ask in the interview? Diane has interviewed Christian musicians, NFL and NBA stars, as well as Christian actors and actresses. She will teach participants how to acquire high-profile interviews, what to ask during these coveted interviews, and even how to control your nerves.

Writing the Profile Piece

Profile pieces are among the most salable stories a freelancer can write. Diane will teach participants how to write this type of story after conducting an interview. Information will include choosing the best quotes from your notes, researching background information, and grabbing the readers’ attention from the start.

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Diane Stark has been a freelance writer for the last ten years. She has written for dozens of Christian magazines, including Focus on the Family, The Brink, Seek, War Cry, Teachers of Vision, Faith and Friends, and 35 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She taught kindergarten for a decade before resigning to pursue a writing career. Diane is a bubbly, enthusiastic encourager who teaches other writers from a “Here’s What I Did” standpoint. She will motivate and equip conferees to succeed at their own writing dreams.

 

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Plan to attend MCWC this July and get your manuscript ready for publication!

Registration forms will be out within the next few weeks.

Marsha

Director

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An Author’s Guide to Editing, Part One

Loving Tips From Love2edit

Darlene Catlett, Copy Editor

 

Fifteen years ago, while working for a small Christian ministry, I stumbled into editing. Someone handed me a newsletter and asked me to proofread it for typos. I must have pointed out some things of value, because I found myself being assigned to proofread ads and other marketing materials, and finally I was asked to proofread a book. As I gained experience over time, my knowledge and skills grew, and I came to realize that I love to edit.

Is it true that writers consider writing to be the fun part and editing to be the boring part? I’ve heard that editing is the way to turn bland content into a work of art, or milk into ice cream!

As an editor, my perspective is different than yours. In order to sweeten the idea of editing, I put together a few editing tips for you. One of them may be just what you’re looking for!

  1. Let it be. Allow time in your schedule to write one day and edit the next. Or perhaps you can write in the morning and edit at night. If your deadline is too close to do either of those, at least get up out of your chair, walk away, and do something that will take your mind off your writing for a few minutes.
  2. Pretend someone else wrote it. If you have the luxury of setting your writing aside for several days, it may seem like someone else actually did write it!
  3. Round two. For larger works, edit in more than one sitting.
  4. Use highlights as you edit. Start out by highlighting everything. When a section is good to go, eliminate the highlight.
  5. Slash and save. When you edit out a thought, phrase, or illustration, save it somewhere to be used later. Create one document of slashed ideas and call it your Parking Lot.
  6. Read it out loud. Read it very quickly to see if there’s anything you stumble over. Read it slowly with slightly exaggerated expression as though you are reading it to a group of children. Read it to someone else and ask them to give you an honest critique.
  7. Don’t rely on spell check. So many mistakes slip through if you trust too much in technology to find your errors, i.e: though ≠ through ≠ thorough, my ≠ may, the ≠ they, must ≠ most.

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Please join me in one of the following workshops this July at the Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference to look at your writing from an editor’s perspective:

Aspects of the Editing Process

Let’s talk about what seems like top-secret information! Learn the difference between proofreading and copy editing and gain insight into the typical processes of a freelance editor and a publishing house. We’ll discover what it means to be “serious about editing… but not too serious to enjoy a good laugh over it!

Proofread with Excellence (Proofreaders’ Lingo)

In this lighthearted, hands-on workshop, we’ll have fun mastering all those puzzling proofreaders’ marks. As writers, you may see these marks during the pre-publication proofing stage, in style manuals, or from an editor prior to submitting your manuscript to an agent or publisher. Let’s decode some of the most useful ones together, and I’ll give you a tool that will save you time, should you have a need to use these markings in the future.

Darlene shares her joy of copy editing through various speaking events where attendees learn about her five C’s of copy-editing: to make the copy Clear, Correct, Concise, Comprehensible, and Consistent. Darlene lives by this motto: “I’m serious about editing… but not too serious to enjoy a good laugh over it!”

Learn more at http://www.love2edit.com

I hope to see you at Montrose this July!

Marsha, Director

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Which is better? One or Two?

The Decision for a Free or Self-Hosted Blogging Platform

Part 2

Don Catlett Working With a Conferee at MCWC

In part 1, I discussed how most of us who wear corrective lenses have heard the question: “Which is better? One or Two?”

And, probably like most of us, at some point you said, “I can’t tell the difference.”

I mentioned how that can be like deciding which blogging platform to use when considering all the differences between free and self-hosted blogging platforms.

In this article, we will be looking at the pros and cons of the free and self-hosted platforms. So, let’s get started.

The Pros of a Free Blogging Platform

There are no initial start-up costs.

Free programs like WordPress and Blogger are easy to set up and maintain without any prior website design knowledge.

The Cons of a Free Blog

Unless you pay for your own domain, you’ll have the WordPress or Blogger domain tacked onto yours, such as http://www.example.blogspot.com.

Free blogs can appear less professional than self-hosted ones.

You have less control over your blog.

For instance, people who self-host their blog with the WordPress software can download plugins to expand their website’s capabilities. A free WordPress blog doesn’t allow this, limiting you to only a few options. CSS functions and theme selections are also limited on free blogging platforms.

You have a limited amount of bandwidth, video time, and memory space.

Free platforms usually limit your advertising options, i.e. it’s harder to make money from your blog.

What types of costs are involved?

A free blog can be completely free if you want it to. However, if you’re looking to get rid of the “Blogger” or “WordPress” in your domain name, you’ll have to buy and assign your own custom domain. These can be as low as $10 depending on what you pick.

You may also choose to buy stock photos, hire a designer, or purchase an upgraded theme, which can all add to the cost of your blog.

Who should use free blogs?

Free blogs are best for people who are just exploring the blogging world or are not very serious about blogging. If you’re just blogging for fun, then by all means start with a free blog!

The Pros of a Self-Hosted Blogging Platform

You have full control over your blog, including its layout, search engine optimization, advertising revenue, additional functions, and more.

You can install custom themes to brand your blog.

You have complete access to your backend files, which allows you to make any necessary code changes.

Using a third-party host usually costs only a few dollars per month.

Cons of a Self-hosted Blog

It requires an initial investment.

It can be intimidating to new bloggers.

What types of costs are involved?

Like a free blog, any photos, domain names, and themes that you purchase will add to your costs. With self-hosting, you also have to invest in the cost of using a third-party host. The good news is that hosting can cost under $5 per month. Certain plugins, (pieces of software you can install on your site to expand its functionality) can cost money, too.

Who should use self-hosted blogs?

Since self-hosted blogs look more professional and perform more functions, they are best for businesses. They are also ideal for the individual who wants to improve his or her professional appearance and boost the functions available on his or her website.

There’s More

In my next article, I’ll discuss the difference between WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org. I would enjoy hearing from you if you have questions or comments about what we have covered.

I also want to invite you to join me at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference where I will be discussing options to help you get noticed in the digital world through blogging, websites, and social media.

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Don has been working at the crossroads of web design, photography, marketing, and social media since 1999. Learn more by visiting his website www.clearlysee.com.

Watch for registration forms and the brochure for the 2017 Montrose Christian Writers Conference to be released very soon.

Marsha (Director MCWC)

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