2018 Summer Conference Coaching Classes

We are pleased to offer ten morning coaching classes taught by some of the top editors, agents, and authors in Christian publishing. These in-depth classes meet for three consecutive mornings for a total of seven hours of instruction. Note: Some classes have caps, and a few classes require early registration. Register early!


Children’s/YA Critique Group with Sally Apokedak (Premium class only, $100 extra, Fiction & Nonfiction) Class limit: 12

 Receive feedback on not only the technical aspects of your work but also on its marketability. This class is open to writers working on children’s books (from picture book to young adult and everything in between). Each conferee will give and receive critiques on the first chapter or an entire picture book text. We will look at the four vital areas necessary to be published (or to have their readers love their self-published work):

  • voice
  • character (or author platform for nonfiction)
  • plot (or structure for nonfiction)
  • marketability (premise for fiction and felt need for nonfiction)

Preconference work required:

  • Send the first chapter of a novel or nonfiction book (up to 2,500 words) or an entire picture book (up to 1,000 words) by July 16, 2018 to an address you will be given after you register for this class.
  • Critique the work sent by the other 11 conferees.


Sally Apokedak
Sally Apokedak

Sally Apokedak (formerly with the Leslie H. Stobbe Literary Agency) launched her own agency Apokedak Literary Agency and small press, Paraklesis Press (both focused on children’s literature), in 2017. Sally has been studying, reviewing, and marketing children’s books, as well as giving writing instruction for 20 years. As the manager of the Kidz Book Buzz blog tour, she was privileged to work with best-selling and award-winning authors such as Jeanne DuPrau, Ingrid Law, and Shannon Hale. Her clients include best-selling and award-winning clients: Hannah C. Hall, Taryn Souders, and Joyce Magnin.


Plan Your Dynamite Website with Laura Christianson (Marketing, intermediate)

 Does your website deliver a powerful, professional punch in two seconds or less? Or are you embarrassed to send people to your website because it’s so awful? Whether you’re in the beginning stages of establishing your brand or you’re re-branding your writing business, this hands-on class will help you plan a solid foundation for a professional website.

Geared for writers who view writing as a business and believe that a website (with built-in blog) is a critical investment. (We recommend that you bring a laptop, but one is not required.)

During the class, you will:

  • Organize your website’s overall structure and decide on key pages for your website.
  • Understand why your blog must be fully integrated into your website.
  • Learn why an email list is the backbone of your site.
  • Create a compelling free offer that entices people to subscribe.
  • Discuss how social media serve as a referral source to direct people to your website, blog, and ultimately sign up for your mailing list and newsletter.
  • Discover a design style you love (and that visitors to your site will love).
  • Practice crafting captivating written and visual content.
  • Get top tips for optimizing your website for discoverability.
Laura Christianson

Laura Christianson helps everyone from pre-published writers to best-selling authors establish a vibrant online presence. She owns Blogging Bistro, a business that builds custom websites and provides website education. She has partnered with publishers such as Revell, Bethany House, Franciscan Media, Moody Publishers, and Simon & Schuster to promote their authors. She is the author of several books and thousands of articles.


Wanna Play? with Lonnie Hull DuPont (Creativity, all levels)

This class is for any writer—seasoned or newbie, fiction writers, poets, memoirists—who wants to nudge the right side of the brain to open that room where creative ideas live. Simply put, we’re going to play. Together we’ll experiment with lots of writing exercises/games, and we’ll write new pieces, phrases, and poems. We will also share our new writing in this supportive environment and identify successful literary devices and techniques. So come with an empty notebook or laptop and an open mind, and let’s get some new writing going!

Lonnie Hull DuPont

Lonnie Hull DuPont has been in the publishing industry for many years, and she currently acquires books at Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. She is also a former teacher, an award-winning poet, and a published writer of nonfiction and memoir. She enjoys studying the animal world and writing about it, and she is the author of Kit Kat & Lucy: The Country Cats Who Changed a City Girl’s World. She lives in southern Michigan with her husband Joe and two highly evolved cats.


Your Best Book Now! with Bob Hostetler (Nonfiction, all levels)

In these fast-moving, hands-on sessions, Bob imparts an inspirational and practical process for conceiving, crafting, completing—and selling—the best nonfiction book(s) you have in you. More than two dozen authors can trace their first published book to the process taught in this class.

Bob Hostetler

Bob Hostetler is an award-winning author, literary agent (Steve Laube Literary Agency), and speaker from southwestern Ohio. His 50 books, which include the award-winning Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door (co-authored with Josh McDowell) and The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional, have sold millions of copies. Bob is also the executive director of the Christian Writers Institute (christianwritersinstitute.com). Read more about Bob at www.bobhostetler.com


Become a Best-Selling Author with Your First Credit (or How to Write for Magazines) with Susan King (Nonfiction, periodicals)

It’s not in hardcover, and you’re not the only author on those pages; but when a magazine publishes your work, you reach tens of thousands more people with your message than most books do—and with a much faster turnaround time. This class will focus on writing for any genre, how to market your nonfiction articles, and also how to get published in The Upper Room, the world’s largest daily devotional magazine—with millions of readers in 33 languages and more than 100 countries worldwide.

Susan King

For more than 23 years, Associate Editor Susan King has served at The Upper Room, a daily devotional magazine that reaches millions of readers in more than 100 countries. One of her greatest joys has been representing The Upper Room every year at several Christian writers’ conferences in the US and Canada. Two years ago, she retired from 27 years of teaching English and feature-writing classes—most recently for Lipscomb University but also for Biola University and Abilene Christian University. Formerly, she served as writer, book editor, and radio-program producer/on-air talent for The Institute of Scriptural Psychology; wrote magazine features as a freelance writer; and functioned as a seminar facilitator in leadership and group dynamics.


How to Apply the Five Most Powerful Methods of Story Creation to Your Novels with

James L. Rubart (Fiction, all levels: Eight students may take the Premium option for an extra $100) Class limit: 20

During this coaching class, all participants will learn to break down, in detail, the five most powerful methods best-selling authors use to create their stories. Yes! There are time-tested formulas that always work!—as well as proven building blocks you must understand and learn to apply to your novels and when you’re generating new ideas. Plus, you’ll learn how you can harness the secrets of blockbuster movies and use these to develop stories that will draw the attention of editors, agents, and ultimately readers.

The eight premium students will submit synopses and the first five pages prior to the conference (instructions will be sent after you register) and will meet with Jim during mentor appointments for personal feedback based on setting up story, story world, the hook, etc.

James L. Rubart

James L. Rubart is 28 years old, but lives trapped inside an older man’s body. He thinks he’s still young enough to water ski like a madman and dirt bike with his two grown sons, and loves to send readers on journeys they’ll remember months after they finish one of his stories. He’s the best-selling, Christy Book of the Year, INSPY, Carol and RT Book Reviews award winning author of eight novels as well as a professional speaker, co-host of the Novel Marketing podcast, and co-founder of the Rubart Writing Academy. During the day he runs his branding and marketing company that helps businesses, authors, and publishers make more coin of the realm. More at www.jameslrubart.com


Redefining and Refining Your Career in a Changing Publishing Climate with Cynthia Ruchti (Professional WritersFiction & Nonfiction)

This coaching class, designed for published authors and speakers, will explore how today’s publishing models—both traditional and indie—come preloaded with challenges and opportunities; dissect the role of marketing and platforms and how to use them to the best advantage; reevaluate success concepts to refresh career goals; and offer practical advice for writers invested in moving forward. The class will include small-group discussions with agents, editors, and marketers to offer workable insights for refining the writer’s publishing path, passion, and purpose.

Cynthia Ruchti

Author, speaker, and literary agent Cynthia Ruchti tells stories Hemmed-in-Hope through novels, nonfiction, devotionals, and speaking events for women and writers. As an agent with Books & Such Literary Management, she helps her clients establish and reach their writing career goals. Following three decades as writer/producer of a 15-minute daily scripted radio broadcast, Cynthia honed her skills as a novelist and nonfiction author. Twenty-two of her books have been published to date with more contracted. Her prayer is that her readers and event attendees will gain greater confidence to say, “I can’t unravel. I’m hemmed in Hope.” More at www.cynthiaruchti.com/


Writing Inspiring Nonfiction with Mick Silva (Nonfiction, all levels)

This will be a class of nonfiction critique with an emphasis on making the work become play, along with discussion about best writing practices and process. Attendees should bring pages they’ve been working on to share (up to 10 pages) and be prepared to do new writing around several themes. In her memoir, Hourglass, Dani Shapiro says novelists can use “willful blindness” to write, but in nonfiction, the why and what often form the plan even before any words hit the page. How then can writers get past the head to write from the heart, especially if that is only something that’s received, not achieved? Come learn how to write the best nonfiction.

Mick Silva

Mick Silva is an author coach, speaker, writer, and editor with more than 18 years of experience, including new acquisitions for Focus on the Family and WaterBrook Multnomah. Freelancing since 2010, he’s worked with more than 100 authors—memoirists, novelists, pastors, counselors, and many amazing moms—including a few bestsellers. His first co-authored e-book is on the art of writing inspirational memoir. He writes about the wild world of editing and publishing at www.MickSilva.com.


The Healing Power of Your Story with Sarah Thebarge (Memoir, all levels)

Writers often face many questions when they consider writing a memoir: How do I find my story? How do I tell my story in the best, most compelling way possible? How do I organize the narrative? What’s at stake when I tell my story—and when others read it? This informal, interactive class will teach you how to find your story, give you techniques for how to tell your story well, and discuss how the process of storytelling can be healing to you as well as your literary audience.

Sarah Thebarge
Sarah Thebarge

Sarah Thebarge is an author, blogger and international speaker. Her writing has appeared in Christianity Today, The Huffington Post, Relevant, National Geographic, and USA Today. She’s the author of the memoir The Invisible Girls and Well: Healing Our Beautiful, Broken World from a Hospital in West Africa. The Invisible Girls was chosen as the “First Year Experience” book for incoming freshman at Mississippi State University, where Sarah delivered the convocation address in 2014. She lives in San Francisco. Read more about Sarah at www.sarahthebarge.com.


Extreme Scene Makeover with Susan May Warren (Fiction, intermediate)

So, you’re halfway through your book and suddenly . . . you’re bored. You know you have good stuff waiting in Act 3, but getting there feels like you’re dragging an elephant down a dirt road. Or, you’ve written the story, but Act 2 seems to grind the story to a halt. You know you need TENSION, but what kind of tension, and how do you build it into each scene? We will start with an understanding of the components of creating scene tension. Then we’ll work through your scene step by step to show you how to restructure, strengthen, and build powerful scenes that give new energy and life to your story. An essential class for writers who want to deliver powerful novels in all genres. **Participants must have a completed scene to work on.


The essential Scene Tension Equation

How to decide what kind of scene to write

How to build emotions into your scene

How to build a powerful scene hook using metaphors and symbols

**We will choose two scenes from submissions to work on publicly during the class. To be considered for inclusion, please send your scene of no more than 1,800 words no later than July 20, 2018, to an address you will be given after you register for this class. You will be notified of acceptance before the conference

Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren is the USA Today best-selling and award-winning author of more than fifty novels with Tyndale, Barbour, Steeple Hill, Summerside Press, and Revell Books. A two-time Christy winner and a RITA winner, she’s also a multi-winner of the Inspirational Readers’ Choice award, and the ACFW Carol Award. A seasoned women’s events speaker, she’s a popular writing teacher at conferences around the nation and the author of the book, The Story Equation.She is also the founder of Novel.Academy, the school for novelists that builds writing careers! A full listing of her titles, reviews, and awards can be found at www.susanmaywarren.com.