Meet Conference Leader Bonnie Compton Hanson!
E-mail: Bonnie Compton Hanson
Personal Web Site: Bonnie Compton Hanson
Conference Web Site: Orange County Christian Writers Fellowship
Bonnie Compton Hanson is author of over 25 books for adults and children, including the seven-book Ponytail Girls series, plus hundreds of published articles, stories, and poems (including 25 for Chicken Soup for the Soul). Her new suspense novel for adults, Songs for a Mockingbird, is due out by June 1st. She also spent many years creating children’s curricula, crafts, music, and visual aids for several publishers, for both Christian and general markets. A former editor and missionary to Australia, she speaks to MOPS, seniors, schools, and women’s groups, leads writing seminars, mentors new writers, is a pastor’s wife, and adores her grandchildren and pets. She puts her M. of Ministry in Christian Communication to work as an adjunct instructor in Creative Writing at Concordia University.
Featured conference: Spring Writer’s Day
The Orange County Christian Writers Fellowship has been reaching out to our local Christian Writers for more than 30 years. Besides sponsoring local critique groups and a newsletter, we sponsor each spring a Spring Writer’s Day. This year’s conference will be April 12, 2008 at Mariner’s Church, 5001 Newport Coast Dr., Irvine, CA 92603. The Courtyard Irvine Inn offers reduced rates for conference attendees needing overnight lodging. Registration, breakfast, and book tables are open at 7:30 A.M. Signups for consultations with editors and noted authors begin at 8:00 A.M. The conference itself begins at 8:45 AM, continuing until about 4:30 PM, including lunch and afternoon break. Besides three keynote speakers–including Dan Benson, Editorial Director for NavPress—there will be 20 workshop sessions covering everything from screenwriting to devotionals to novels to creating “brands.” For more information, see www.occwf.org.
Q: How did attending writers conferences change your life as a writer?
A: I’ve made contacts there with editors that resulted in the publication of some of my books and articles. Which of course is pretty neat! But that’s not the only benefit.
Conferences are also a great place to fellowship, network, worship, and learn the nuts and bolts of writing. That’s where I learned about query letters, proposals, one-sentence summaries, agents, and writing three chapters first for nonfiction books (not the entire books) until I have a contract for it. Plus the importance of sharing my writing with other writers for honest critiques.
Years ago I thought the important thing about writing was to be inspired; after that, the words would just flow, and my efforts would soon be published. Boy, was I off base! From conference speakers I gained a lot of understanding about the publishing industry, techniques, even sympathy for the editor who may want to publish my “masterpiece,” but is shot down by his own marketing committee. Editors are people, too, who want to do the best they can—especially Christian editors who both want to produce life-changing books, but not run into the red on costs vs. profits, thus endangering their company’s finances. They need our prayers, just as we should all pray for each other.
Q: What was your favorite all-time writing conference?
A: My favorite was probably one years ago at Biola University, when we had a week-long writers’ conference there. I was on the faculty, teaching a workshop on writing for Sunday School and church curricula. Few students signed up—but later I saw many of them develop a lively ministry in this area, which thrilled me. Much of our time at this conference was informal—and I got to fellowship with and question personally many editors and wise mentors. Although I was teaching, also, I learned even more from others.
Q: Share some of the diverse hats you wear as a conference leader.
A: Planning takes all year long, because many editors have a full schedule, booked months in advance. We have six on our planning Board, plus two advisors (I’m one of the advisors). By the time the actual conference day arrives, we will all have put in many hours on preparation work. I’ve been in charge of all phone calls inquiring about the conference. Besides leading one of the workshops myself (on Writing for Children), I’ll put in several hours consultation time there with attendees, plus help at the Book Table, and wherever else needed. I’ll probably also help at the last minute delivering cases of bottled water, extra toilet paper, and tablecloths (won’t be firmed up till next week). Also I help prepare the consultation schedules.
Q: If someone is already a published writer, what steps should he or she take to become a speaker at a writer’s conference?
A: If you’re very famous, don’t worry—they’ll find you. As for the rest of us, you probably won’t be invited to speak at a conference you’ve never attended or never even heard of. So start by looking up Christian writers’ conference in the back of your Sally Stuart’s Christian Writers’ Market Guide. Contact the leaders of those conferences that interest you, with an informative brochure about yourself and your ministry—containing recommendations from others, if possible. Or you can do your initial contact via e-mail.
A hint: you’ll more likely meet a need if you fill a unique slot (such as writing family memoirs or murder mysteries), but also can speak or teach on some of the most-wanted topics, such as getting started writing, writing novels, attention grabbing articles, writing nonfiction books with a ready readership, etc.
Q: Share one tip you’d like to give to someone attending a writing conference for the very first time.
A: Go with an open heart and mind. Don’t get pushy and try to intimidate an editor or argue with him or her. On the other hand, don’t just hide in the background. Relax, smile, listen, learn. Keep pen and paper handy. Know that you can contact these speakers later if you aren’t ready to show them something today. If you are working on a book or article and are excited about it, develop a one-sentence summary telling everyone who asks its genre, readership, and what’s unique about it. In other words, do a sales job! If possible, also develop a one-page summary of your book or article—including title, something about it, and why you are qualified to write it. Make several copies. If someone asks what you’re writing, you’ll have that one-pager ready. Network, smile, make friends. We’ll be praying for you—and looking for your book on the Best-Seller List!