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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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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

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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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2017 Montrose Christian Writers Conference

Faculty Spotlight

Cathy Mayfield

mayfield-photo-mcwc-2017

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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The Montrose Christian Writers Conference

Faculty Spotlight

HAS GOD CALLED ME TO WRITE?

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Barbara Scott

 

Are writers made or born with their gift? What is a Christian writer? Is it too late for me to start writing? I’ve asked and pondered every one of those questions at some point in my life.

Viewpoints differ as to whether a writer is made or born. Not that I’m in any way holding up Jack Kerouac, a twentieth-century novelist and poet, as someone to emulate. Quite the contrary. But he did answer the first question above rather succinctly in an essay published in 1962 in Writer’s Digest. He wrote, “Writers are made, for anybody who isn’t illiterate can write; but geniuses of the writing art like Melville, Whitman or Thoreau are born.”

You may sigh and take your hands off the keyboard at this point. Your internal dialogue might go something like this: “I’m not illiterate, but I’m certainly no genius. Who do I think I am? Maybe I should quit right now if that’s what it takes. Maybe I just thought God called me to write. I don’t even know where to start.”

Well, as Julie Andrews once sang to her young charges in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start.”

Most of the people God called in Scripture were quite ordinary. God’s Holy Spirit wrote the Scriptures by using the minds, the hands, the writing implements of ordinary, obedient people. God still works the same way today. Some writers are young. Some are old. Some are educated. Some can barely spell.

That’s why Marsha Hubler asked me to teach a series of workshops for novice writers in July at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. No writing experience necessary. Following are descriptions of the major morning workshops I plan to teach beginners who believe God has called them to write:

Lingo Lessons

In a comfortable, non-judgmental session, I’ll explain the basics and answer any questions about the language of writing, editing, and publishing to help you navigate these new waters. If you bring the first paragraph of any project, I’ll critique your work during the third major morning session on editing.

The Write Stuff

Think of this session as Writing 101. Learn about proper formatting, margins, and fonts; how to write a synopsis, proposal, and query letter; and how to use more than the spell-check feature on your computer. Bring a pen and paper or your laptop to class.

What’s an Edit?

Not every word you write is golden. That’s why every writer needs an editor. Editing is more than proofreading for spelling mistakes. This session will explain the various types of edits and when, why, and how each is used.

Graduation Time

We’ll tackle issues such as how to build a network of writing friends, finding a critique group, attending conferences, pitching your ideas, and how to know when you’re ready for the next step. Do you want to remain a hobbyist or take a leap of faith and seek publication?

I’ll also teach a few short afternoon classes:

The Power of Storytelling

In an interactive session, I’ll discuss the role and importance of writers—fiction and nonfiction—in God’s plan, from your calling to how to change lives with stories that touch the heart. Learn the elements of a great story, even if you write nonfiction.

Pick a Genre

Is God calling you to write? Don’t know what to write? In this workshop, learn the characteristics of each genre (type of writing) and how to discover your “sweet spot.”

Please join me in July and let’s start at the very beginning.

Barbara’s Bio:

An inspirational book editor for more almost twenty years, Barbara Scott has recently returned to her first love—writing. In the fall of 2016, Gilead Publishing released her novella “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” in an inspirational collection titled Sleigh Bells Ring. Barbara is the coauthor of two bestselling novels and wrote numerous gift books and devotionals before her long stint as a senior acquisitions editor for several Christian publishers.

 

Today’s Book Feature:

Keystone Stables Book Five

LEADING THE WAY

Can Skye help Katie Thomas, a blind foster girl, learn to barrel race a horse?

http://www.amazon.com/Leading-Way-Keystone-Stables-Book-ebook/dp/B003SE75ZI/ref=pd_sim_351_6?ie=UTF8&dpID=511o8hwVNXL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_OU01_AC_UL320_SR206%2C320_&refRID=0WD7GM9G0BRSCZKCKZFM

 

Keystone Stables Book 5

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