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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

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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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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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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