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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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The Decision for a Free or Self-Hosted Blogging Platform, Part 1

Catlett.Don.Photo.2015MCWC.

Don Catlett

Social Media Expert

Most of us who wear corrective lenses have heard this question:  “Which is better? One or Two?” And, probably like most of us, at some point you’ve said, “I can’t tell the difference.” That same feeling of “not knowing” can be similar when trying to deciding the right blogging platform to use.

If you’ve considered starting a blog, you’ve probably run across the term self-hosted blog. Most people will tell you that a self-hosted blog is the way to go, especially if you’re looking to create a professional image.

But what is a self-hosted blog? And why do you need one if you can just start a blog for free through other services?

Allow me to explain the details of free and self-hosted blogging platforms, the pros and cons of each, and which one you should choose.

Free Blogging Platform

What is it? A free blogging platform is one that’s just that. It’s free to sign up for an account, get a domain (such as http://www.example.com), and set up your site. You can start your free blog with services like Blogger.com and WordPress.com.

The thing about a free account is your website’s files are stored or “hosted” on your blogging platform’s servers. While there can be costs involved after the initial set up, this simple fact is what differentiates a free blog from a self-hosted blog.

Self-Hosted Blogging Platform

What is it? A self-hosted blog is one that resides on your own server. Most people, however, pay a third-party to host their blog, which opens them to all the benefits of a self-hosted blog. Sites like iPage, HostGator, GoDaddy and Bluehost are among some of the popular companies that provide hosting services. Essentially, these companies rent out digital storage space to users to make running a website possible.

Blue.Sad.Smiley.FaceStill confused?

I will cover the pros and cons of both the free and the self-hosting options in a future article to help you in your decision of deciding which is better, one or two.

There’s More

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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(Part Two next time)

Don Catlett 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.

Keep on writing!

Marsha Hubler, director MCWC July 16 – 21

Plan to attend and get your manuscript ready for publication!MCWC.Duck.Welcome.Sign.on.Porch.7.22.14

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Montrose Christian Writers Conference Faculty Spotlight

Lora Zill

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Award-winning Poet

“If you want to become a better writer, write poetry because it teaches you to find just the right word.”

I heard that at my first writing conference 25 years ago from the keynote speaker. Since I’m a published poet and writer, and I edit and publish the Christian literary poetry journal “Time Of Singing,” I say, “AMEN!”

Writing poetry makes me a wordsmith. I come to think of words as individual markers of creativity that, when combined in a certain order, creates a work of art called a poem. Poetry teaches me to use language in all of its magic—its sensory imagery, sound, rhythm, the music of the line, and the paragraph, even white space, and yes, grammar and punctuation.

I carry the art and craft of poetry into my nonfiction. Great Christian writers such as Annie Dillard and Catherine Marshall wrote poetry, and you can see it in the sound and imagery in their prose. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood the power of poetry when he used images to drive home the great truths of the civil rights movement in his “Letter from the Birmingham Jail.” Abraham Lincoln used the cadences and sounds of language in his Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address to create hope in the hearts of his people during and after the terrible cost of the Civil War.

So during my poetry classes at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference this summer, we’ll discuss the art and craft of poetry. We’ll play with words and generate ideas using everyday objects like paint chips, seed catalogs, stained glass, magazines, and word tiles. We’ll talk about what works, what doesn’t, and why, and how to achieve our writing goals. We’ll explore our creative pen and quillprocesses and discover new insights as we write and share.

Even if you write fiction or nonfiction, you’ll learn how to enhance and strengthen your work. Most of all, we’ll honor and affirm our creative lives in these classes. We will honor Jesus as the Root and Source of all our creativity.

I look forward to working with poets with all levels of the publishing experience.

Lora

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Lora will be teaching both a Major Morning series about poetry and will conduct a three-session afternoon poetry work-in-progress seminar this July at Montrose. Poets, plan to sign up for either or both of her classes. If you’re interested in working on your own poetry in the WIP seminar, sign up ASAP when the registration opens soon. That seminar is limited to six conferees.

Marsha

Director MCWC

 

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Should You Write a Bible Study?
By Gloria Penwell

Many authors and speakers eventually come to the decision that they could, or should, write a Bible study. For various reasons they believe the market needs what they have to offer. Sometimes the thought is I can write a Bible study better than anything out there, or I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for. My particular favorite reason that I hear is I’m much more spiritually mature than most of those other authors.

But what should be the motivation for writing a Bible study?

I believe that writing Bible studies must come out of a pressing sense that God wants an author to share his/her perspective on a particular subject or passage of scripture. Many times in our personal studies, we revert to one passage or concept that God keeps impressing on our hearts and minds. We study it. We do research it. We can’t let it go. That’s a good sign that maybe God wants us to write a certain Bible study.
Before we make that decision, though, it’s vital we spend time before the Father, asking him what he wants us to do. This very special subgenre needs to be verified by much prayer and the reading of God’s Word.

Who really needs another Bible study?

Another thing I suggest authors do is to ask other people if a certain topic or theme would be helpful to them. It might even be a good idea to teach it and see how it’s received. Sometimes the promptings we get from God are for our growth and don’t particularly apply to others. Will your Bible study help others in their Christian walk?
Writing Bible studies should be a deeply spiritual undertaking. Don’t ever approach it lightly.

Gloria Penwell
Acquisitions Editor
Bold Vision Books
http://www.Boldvisionbooks.com

Gloria will be presenting the following workshops this July at MCWC:

BIBLE STUDIES THAT SELL

GET THE MOST OUT OF THE CONFERENCE

PRAYER IN THE LIFE OF A WRITER

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THE 2017 MONTROSE CHRISTIAN WRITERS CONFERENCE

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT

ARTIST DAVE WEISS

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Real Artists-Ship

There’s a story about a time at Apple Computer when the staff was working double-time to release a new product. But … there was a hold up. A programmer or an engineer was withholding his work. In his defense, he was trying to make his contribution to the project “perfect.” He was tweaking and re-tweaking, testing and retesting. In his pursuit of perfection, the entire project was held up repeatedly.

As writers we do this too. In our hearts we have a story or a nonfiction book that would really help a lot of people, but we just can’t let it go. Many of us work alone, so there is no team (or boss) to breathe down our necks. As a result we just keep tweaking it, and it never goes anywhere. If that’s you, I want to share the words of Steve Jobs.

You see, Jobs was not about to let this project be stalled. He spoke with the person in question and got a sense of the hold-up. Jobs looked the person in the eye and said, “Real Artists-Ship.”

My fellow “creative,” your work is a blessing to the world. As Christians we would say, in many cases, that our work is divinely inspired. Yes, we want to give God our best, but there comes a point when tweaking begins to reek of perfectionism and procrastination. Sooner or later it’s time to give your gift to the world. You need to put your creation out there for the world to see.

“Real Artists-Ship” is one of the workshops I plan to share at the Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference. My goal is to help you take that work you’re withholding, make it the best you can, and get it out there where it can do the most good in the hands of the people it was created to bless.

Creative Block

Have you ever struggled with creative block? Have you felt the mockery of the blank page (or screen)? If we’re going to create professionally, creative block is something we simply can’t afford. But how do we “bust the block?”

The good news is I’m going to help you explore a multitude of ways and offer tips to overcome the block. Did you know deadlines are your friends, and so are restrictions? Are you asking God for a new idea, but it seems He’s silent? I have a possible (probable) answer to that problem, which I’ll share with you as well.

These two workshops are very important to me. The most urgent part of creating anything is to finish it. However, before we can finish it, we have to have the courage to start. I have often wondered how many life-changing, world-changing projects will never be seen because their creators never finished them or, more tragically, never started. The creative life is unique because most of the time we’re the only people who can see our creation. It exists only in our minds until we create it in a form the rest of the world can see. This is doubly important in the Christian realm, where our divinely inspired projects are given by the Creator to do great good in our world.

I know all about these issues too well. I’ve spent most of my life as a professional creative, working extensively in the visual arts. When I felt the call to ministry, I began to see there was a huge need for creativity in the church. I began writing as a way of sharing creative ideas with churches online through my ministry AMOKArts. Eventually, with the advent of createspace.com, I began to compile these writings into books which I now sell at my speaking engagements. I have a blog on creative ministry at AMOKArts.com with over 2500 posts. One of my favorite things to write is presentations in which I use art, storytelling, video, drama, and more to communicate the Gospel. You’ll see an example of that as I share my presentation “Pictures of Jesus,” Wednesday evening at the conference.

One of my other great pleasures is to help people embrace and stretch their creativity. While I know most of the people at the MCWC conference have already embraced their creativity, I’m going to help them stretch it with a paint party on Tuesday evening when I’ll teach you to paint a work of art step-by-step in a fun, casual, relaxed environment. I’m really looking forward to finally being a part of this conference, and I look forward to meeting all of you.

God bless,

Dave Weiss

www.AMOKArts.com

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2017 Montrose Christian Writers Conference

Faculty Spotlight

Cathy Mayfield

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Teen Track Moderator

Legacies Let Loose

What does receiving a legacy mean to you? Do you dream of mansions, jewels, coins, savings bonds, cars? Or, like me, do you long for the stories?
When my grandmother passed to glory, I regretted not writing out the stories she told about my grandfather’s days on the railroad in the 1940s. Some I remembered; others left with her. I would love to have those stories memorialized to read to our grandson one day so he could live his great-great-grandfather’s adventures:

  1. He would laugh about the live rooster Pop brought home in his lunchbox, forgetting to tell his wife before she opened the lid, and mayhem broke out.
  2. He’d giggle over Pop’s exploits trying to cram a several-hundred-pound hog back into a crate from which it had escaped
  3. He’d wonder over the mystery of where Pop went or what he did when he’d leave on secretive trips during the war.                                                                      But those three stories aren’t enough.
    Enter my passion for helping people to leave legacies by writing their stories for their families and friends. I began simply by writing my own in a journal with the aid of passwords (an idea from the book Passwords to Your Past by Max Kelly and Dorothy Breslin), which started an onslaught of writing ideas – devotionals, Bible studies, columns, and more. And my passion grew.
    I began volunteering at senior care facilities, listening to the residents relate their cherished stories, pure joy to this writer. My goal remains to one day help them leave legacies by writing those stories and publishing them into booklet form for their loved ones to read someday.
    A plaque my daughter bought me hangs on our wall: “Home is where your story begins.” Write it down before you forget! Help others write theirs! Let the legacies loose!
    Teen Track Workshop Description                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
    Ready, Set, Write…and Finish! 2017 Montrose Teen/Young Writers WIP Class:
    • Get Ready! – Pick one of the hundreds of story ideas swimming in your head.
    • Get Set! – Do some brainstorming or free writing until you have some storyline ideas, a setting, and some characters.
    • Get Writing! – Start the writing process! Make sure you have a beginning which will hook your readers. Work on twists and turns as the middle proceeds.
    • Get It Finished! – And that’s where we come in! Bring your manuscript. We’ll help you keep going…and going. Editing…and editing. Rewriting…and rewriting. Prepare to “Get it finished!”
    Spread the word! Teens are always welcome at the Montrose Christian  Writers Conference!       Marsha Hubler, director

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2017 MONTROSE CHRISTIAN WRITERS CONFERENCE

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT

JEANETTE LEVELLIE

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As a writer, do you struggle with managing your time every day? Does “life” get in the way? Then check out Jeanette’s suggestions to help you get that writing done while all those other responsibilities get done as well:

Jeanette’s 10 D’s of Time Management for Writers

  1. Delight yourself in the Lord

Put God first and He will collaborate with you to help you meet your goals.

  1. Do away with fear

Progress in baby steps, and ask friends cover you in prayer with each new venture.

  1. De-clutter and de-junk

Managing clutter is a huge time-eater. Give yourself permission to throw or give away. Enlist a friend’s help to de-junque.

  1. Discipline your flesh

“No” is not a four-letter word. Say it with grace and dignity to activities and people that drain you or bring out the worst in you.

  1. Divide writing and marketing time

If no one knows you, your writing lacks an audience. If you don’t write, your audience will go elsewhere. Start with a 50/50 split, then adjust as your platform grows.

  1. Delegate

Enlist family members for researching, cooking, running errands, and cleaning. Consider hiring help or trading a writing or editing job for housework or cooking.

  1. Decide what’s important

Ask God to direct your steps and to help you focus on your strengths. What do you most enjoy doing?

  1. Dance and sing—take time to play

Recreation means “to impart fresh life to; to create anew.” It’s okay to do nothing for an hour or a day. You’re more productive when you take regular times of rest.

  1. Double up

Combine two jobs you can accomplish at the same time, one which requires no brain power, such as waiting at the dr.’s office and outlining an article or book chapter.

  1. Diagram your plan

Develop a written mission statement and reasonable, measurable goals. Determine what God and you want from your writing: a few published articles, books galore, changed lives, or all of the above.

The above is an excerpt from Jeanette’s class, Shock the Clock: Time Management for Writers. In addition to these and other valuable tips, we’ll explore how focus on your strengths and minimize your weaknesses to make the best use of your limited writing time.

She will also be teaching 21 Ways to Overcome Writers Block, where we’ll discover creative ways to pry your stubborn muse out of the black hole and start producing words that rock;

Writing Compelling Devotions, where you’ll learn the three major types of devotional writing and simple techniques to create devotions that stay with your reader throughout the day; and

Column Writing as a Platform Builder, where you’ll uncover the secrets of great column writing, how to develop loyal readers, and what types of columns you are best suited to write.

A Little Trivia About Jeanette:

A lively, sought-after speaker for a wide variety of groups, Jeanette is a pastor’s wife, author of four books and hundreds of articles, and a newspaper columnist. Her outgoing, nutty personality and warm teaching style makes audiences feel comfortable as they resonate with her personal—sometimes embarrassing—stories she uses as examples.

Jeanette is a mom to two grown-ups, grandma to three kids, and servant to four cats.

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