OCW Fall Conference

2014 Workshops

Kim Bangs: To Self-Publish or Not to Self-Publish? That Is a Question

We live in a world of multiple options for almost everything, and publishing is certainly no exception. There are many ways to get a book published, but which is the best choice for your work and for your hopes and dreams? We’ll discuss when and if there is a time self-publishing is the answer, the challenges self-publishing can cause in career development, and the benefits (yes, there are many) of working with a traditional (which is being redefined ongoingly!) publishing house.

Jessica Barnes: All for One, One for All: Writing for Multi-Author Fiction Series 

Writing for a multi-author fiction series presents a unique set of challenges to new and experienced authors alike. Using the model that has made Guideposts’ long-running series so successful, this workshop will examine the unique skills, mind-set, and approach needed to collaborate with other authors to create continuity in a fiction series that uses the same settings, characters, and voice in each book.

Sue Brower: It’s Not Personal—Taking the Sting Out of Rejection

Rejection is a frustrating reality for the unpublished writer and it often feels like a personal attack from some unknown critic who holds your career in her hands. This former acquisitions editor and current agent can tell you from experience that an editor opens your proposal with all the anticipation of a child on Christmas morning. What happens next is up to you.

Your proposal is a sales tool! It is the first and most important piece of marketing material you will ever create for your book.

We’ll discuss several key strategies for putting together your submission including:

  • Powerful Proposals
  • Synopsis that Sells
  • Compelling First Chapters
  • How to Find the Right Agent
  • How to Find the Right Publisher
  • Taking Advantage of Publishing Trends

In the end, your manuscript has to live up to the proposal.

Kara Christensen: Cracking Humor

Grab a pen, a working one. Grab paper—that old receipt works—and come on by for a peek into the inner workings of comedy. We’ll examine some of the tools of humor and do hands-on exercises to sharpen our wit.

Alice Crider: Are We There Yet? How to know if your nonfiction message is ready for an agent, and what to do if it’s not

Agents and publishers are looking for these three elements in a nonfiction author: excellent writing, remarkable content, and a strong platform. If you have two out of three of these, your chances of landing a contract with a traditional publisher are good. If you have all three, even better. Above all, you must deliver a message people are searching for in a way they can easily access. How can you know if your content is remarkable enough?

In this workshop, you will learn:

  • How to be sure you’re connecting with your audience
  • Tips for keeping your readers’ attention
  • How to craft a message people will talk about
  • Ways to evaluate your content, your writing, and its viability in the marketplace

Angella Diehl: Will Blog for Food

Do I need a blog? Should I blog? What’s the difference between a blog and a website?

Come to this blogging workshop for answers. You’ll learn the difference between (and similarities of) a blog and a website, find out some of the best search engine tips for getting your blog/website noticed, and find out the top 10 “what not to ever do on your blog” tips.

Teresa Evenson: PR Secrets of Best-Selling Authors

Learn the secrets of best-selling authors and what they did to help promote their books. Discover what they never say “no” to and the absolute three worst words to say in an interview. Find out what they did to help their publicists get them on national media and how they made the most out of each and every interview. This workshop will challenge and push potential authors to be the best they can be in order to help them share their unique message.

Teresa Evenson: The Process of Developing a Great Media Hook & Pitch

You may be an incredible writer and platform speaker, but that does not automatically cross over into knowing how to sell your book in three minutes or less. Just as American Idol judges determine if someone can sing or not in three minutes, producers, publishers, and agents also know in the first three minutes if they want to do business with you. This workshop presents the most common media “hooks” and will help authors develop the best “pitch” for their book as well as their top five talking points. In this interactive session, authors will learn how to grab the attention of agents, publishers, and producers in three minutes or less by practicing their pitch and learning to speak in sound-bite sentences. This workshop will equip authors with new skills and give them confidence to pitch their book to any editor.

Jeff Gerke: Christian Speculative Fiction

Some of us are just weird. We don’t like Amish fiction—unless it’s Amish vampires in space. Then, maybe. We would rather write about a sword in a stone than a mail-order bride. Warp drives and nanotech beat out Jane Austen any day in our book. Come hear the man who has been called the de facto gatekeeper of Christian speculative fiction share about the joys of writing Christian science fiction and fantasy, the distinctives of our beloved genre, and the prospects for publishing it today.

Leslie Gould: Keeping Your Story Straight 

You have your characters, setting, and plot, but how do you keep your timeline, arcs, and story geography straight? Creating a binder of necessary information or using a computer program to do the same can make all the difference in keeping your novel consistent, from beginning to end. We’ll discuss methods to organize your story and list everything you need to keep your story on track. What you learn will save you time in the long run, plus make your editor very happy.

Nick Harrison: How Publishers Choose What to Publish . . . and What to Reject 

This workshop will look at the way publishing decisions are made within the walls of the publishing house. What matters most? Content? Writing ability? Saleability? These questions and more will be answered as we consider how to get a “yes” for your manuscript.

James Holt: Quality-Test Your Content for Children

Children’s writing should still be sophisticated writing. The readers may be younger, but they know a good story from a bad one. This workshop will show how conflict, development, action, and out-of-the-box thinking can strengthen your writing for children. Your manuscripts will stand out from among those from writers who think a half-sized audience means giving half the effort.

Randy Ingermanson: How to Format Your E-Book for Amazon in Less Than an Hour Using Scrivener

So you want to format your e-book for Amazon and you’ve heard it’s a nightmare? Wrong! Formatting e-books is easy using Scrivener, a wildly popular word-processing tool that costs only $45. If you wrote your book in Microsoft Word, then you can load it into Scrivener in one minute and then format it as an e-book in about an hour. If you’ve got an extra ten minutes, you can also format it for Barnes & Noble, the Apple iTunes store, Kobo, and Smashwords. In this one-hour workshop, I’ll show you what a professional e-book formatting job is supposed to look like, and then I’ll show you how to do it yourself. Right there in Scrivener. On my laptop. In real time. Finally, I’ll show you where to buy a $5 book that gives you every single detail. So you won’t need to take notes or worry that you missed anything.

Bill Jensen: Changes in the World of Publishing—How to Survive and Thrive in This Constantly Changing Environment

Today’s book world is going through constant change in distribution, digital content, readers’ preferences, publishing mergers, new publishers, and authors’ promotion, publicity, and platform. Is this new environment hospitable for authors? How should authors adapt and even thrive amidst the change? Join Bill Jensen on an exploratory mission into this brave new world of publishing with its challenges and opportunities for writers.

Terri Kalfas: Writing Bible Studies in a Changing Market

You’ve been writing and teaching Bible studies for your church and small groups. Now you want to take the next step—publication. Great! You don’t need a doctorate in theology to write a Bible study, but you do need to know certain things before you pitch it to a publisher.

Terri Kalfas: How to Write Curriculum Worth Teaching 

You love to study the Bible. You’ve got some teaching experience. Could you write curriculum? In this workshop we’ll look at how curriculum differs from Bible study guides, the basic requirements for being a curriculum writer, who publishes curriculum, how to get assignments and keep them coming, Jesus’ pattern for teaching, and the basics you need to know about learning styles and stages.

Sherri Langton: Three Puzzles of Periodicals

You have a great idea, but how can it become something worthy of print? This workshop will help you solve three puzzles that often stump writers wanting to submit to magazines: 1) what makes an idea marketable; 2) what “package” best suits an idea (devotional, teaching article, how-to, personal experience, etc.); and 3) what makes a piece connect with readers.

Nicole Miller: ABCs of Social Media Success

Social media doesn’t have to be daunting. Let’s talk about the best practices behind the most successful social media marketing efforts and get down to the basics: Is social media marketing truly free? Does advertising on Facebook work? How do you optimize your time online? Bring your questions for some Q & A at the end of the workshop.

Gail Sattler: Critiquing—How to Critique and Be Critiqued, and Use Both to Enhance Your Writing

First we’ll focus on doing a critique both to help a writer and as a learning experience for the critiquer. A critique is not be about correcting grammar and sentence structure. A critique is to help enhance and improve content. Focus should be on plot, characterization, and pacing. This workshop will help the critiquer learn how to first pick out what isn’t working, figure out why, then see what is needed to make it better. Learn how to put your finger on what’s wrong, and then make a suggestion (without rewriting the other person’s chapter) on how to make it work.

The second half will focus on accepting a critique and how to use comments most effectively. Learn how to maintain your own voice when a critiquer adds something really good, how to determine what a critiquer is trying to say to make a difficult scene work, which changes to make, and what not to. Bring one page to critique.

Mary Sue Seymour: Romancing Religion: Writing a Christian Romance 

Top agent Mary Sue will share tips on how to write a romance. We’ll look at copies of clients’ romances she has sold and the synopses of these books to discover what it takes to craft a successful Christian romance. Then we’ll put into practice what we’ve learned by doing a brief writing assignment.

Poppy Smith: Seven Essentials for Speaking with Style

Every writer who wants to share his or her message and sell more books needs to know how to “Speak with Style.” Instead of dreading invitations, gain confidence to prepare and present a talk that informs, inspires, and influences your audience. Learn what holds their attention, the importance of your story, and the power of honesty and humor—all crammed into one hour!

Sally Stuart: Using How-To Articles to Launch Your Writing Career

How-to/self-help articles target one of the most open and most overlooked markets around—making it a great place for even beginners to break into article writing. This workshop will help you define what these articles are, show how to draw on your own experience, help you decide whether to specialize or diversify, teach you how to collect and organize idea material, and give general guidelines and inside tips of the trade.

Christina Tarabochia: And Now . . . the “Rest” of the Story: Searching for a Sabbath

In a world that never turns off, in a career where there is never a true finish line, with a calling that never ends, how is it possible for a Christian writer to carve out a Sabbath? Is it even necessary? We’ll examine our work patterns, explore some of the physical and mental effects of stress vs. rest, and tailor a restful plan that fits your career.

David Van Diest: Writing to Transform

Writers who can “turn a phrase” are common. Those who actually change the course of a reader’s life are few. In his best-selling book Man’s Search for Meaning (which he wrote in nine days), Viktor Frankl, the Nazi death-camp survivor wrote, “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; . . . Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” Do you want to just be a writer or do you want to have impact?

Dan Walsh: Getting Rid of the Parts Readers Skip

We’ve all done it. We’re reading a novel that’s captured our interest and, before long, we find ourselves skipping several paragraphs to find “where the story picks up again.” Sprinkled throughout the interesting, exciting parts of the book we find a lot of blah-blah-blah. Too much of this and we set the book aside. That’s not good for the reader, but even more-so for the writer. People won’t recommend a book filled with blah-blah-blah. Agents and editors won’t offer contracts. In this workshop, Dan will share tips on self-editing to help writers get rid of all the parts readers skip before they submit a manuscript to a publisher.

Susan May Warren: The Spiritual Thread—Bondage or Blessing? 

Too often Christian fiction is looked at as a “real story bound by religious confines.” I believe Christian fiction is the only “true” storytelling, engaging all aspects of a person—physical, emotional, and spiritual. This workshop will teach a beginning writer how to make a story God-driven, look at the different ways of weaving a story around a spiritual foundation, and offer tips and warnings as well as techniques that can change your story from one with spiritual overtones, to a story that touches souls.

Jill Williamson: Using Screenwriting Genius to Write Your Novel

From logline to final fade, we’ll examine the elements of a good screenplay and discuss how to apply them to fiction. As we break down each element, we’ll look at examples from both movies and fiction to see how they fit into the three-act structure. We’ll also look at several screenwriting tricks that can help strengthen your story structure.

Ben Wolf: Selling Yourself to Editors and Agents

Did you know it’s possible to get an editor or an agent in your corner before they ever see a single word of your writing? Make an impression they won’t soon forget. Learn how to present yourself by employing basic sales techniques and a bit of creativity in such a way that agents and editors will be attracted to you right away.

Ben Wolf: Writing Flash Fiction That Sells

Flash fiction is the best medium for authors to use when honing their craft and trying to break into the world of publishing. Learn what makes a flash fiction story great (elements like plot, structure, conflict, character development, etc.) and how to condense everything into 1,000 words or less. By the end of the presentation, attendees will learn why flash fiction is about to take over the world, what it takes to write compelling flash fiction, and several strategies to take their flash fiction deeper.

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