Monthly Archives: October 2009

Of Heart and Hands

“I desire to do your will, O my God;
       your law is within my heart.”

May all who seek you
       rejoice and be glad in you;
       may those who love your salvation always say,
       “The LORD be exalted!”

Psalm 40:8; 16


Father, you have placed a desire in my heart;
the desire to do your will.

Receive the gift of creativity I offer you today;
stories told through paint and word.

Let the rainbow of colors on my painter’s palette
express the love you promised, Christ our salvation.
May the tip-tap of fingers on the keyboard sing a song of joy to you.

Thank you, Lord, for all you have given me.
Take what is made of my hands and heart, and let it give you glory.



contributed by Veronica Walsh


Wrapping It Up

We’re winding down the month. We hope our comments on conferences have been beneficial to you.

Let’s kind of recap the month.

1. Conferences DO NOT guarantee an editor will pick up your work. To go to a conference with that attitude will leave you discouraged instead of uplifted.

2. Conferences DO open doors to editors that have houses not accepting unsolicited material. Most often, editors will allow you to send material to them for a period of one to three months.

3. Conferences provide networking experiences. It may be some day in the future someone you met at the conference can connect you with a person who will promote your writing career.

4. Conferences give an opportunity to be part of the writing community. It’s always great to be with people who “get” what you do.

5. Conferences can develop close friendships. Many people who attend conferences develop relationships with other attendees. Some of these friendships last a lifetime.

6. Conferences help us hone our craft. Heeding information editors and fellow authors share can expand our chances of publication.

7. Conferences can jumpstart your wriitng. After attending a conference you can be rejuvinated, inspired and excited about what you do. It can be just the boost you need to really get down to the business of writing.

8. Conferences can give direction to your writing. Some speaker may stir you to consider other genres that you have never considered before. In doing so, you may find the niche you were created for.

9. Conferences can be expensive . . .or not. Large and out-of-state conferences do cost more than some can afford. But, local and regional conferences are much less expensive. Although the larger ones may have more speakers and editors, the smaller conferences are still a great way to learn and connect with editors and writers.

10. Conferences do not have to be attended to become a published author. Many talented writers started attending conferences AFTER they had been published. Maybe the funds were more readily available then! If location or finances exclude your attendance at a conference, don’t become discouraged. Work at learning your craft. Submit! Submit! Submit! Maybe after you have been paid for a few publications you can join with your fellow writers at a conference. It will be money well spent!

Happy conferencing, Gloria

Oh, the People You’ll Meet!

Conferences are fun and can be very educational. But the best take-home I have received from them is the friends I’ve made. Writing can be a lonely occupation and writers’ quirks and the trials of writing can really only be understood by fellow writers.

At my first conference I met a woman who belonged to a critique group in my area. When I accepted her invitation to join I met Nancy Sanders and from there followed her to other critique groups that evolved from that first one. The result: close friendship with a fabulous group of writers who have helped me in countless ways with my writing. Encouragement, positive suggestions for strengthening what I bring to share, market news galore–I can’t list all the help they’ve given me. A second group led by Nancy has brought more friends and sharing, and opportunities for my helping others.

I agree meeting friends isn’t usually the reason we pay to attend writers’ conferences, but the ones I’ve made as a result are priceless!



Way back when I was a beginning writer and didn’t have a dime to spare, I still managed to attend a high-ticket conference as my first conference ever. And at that conference, I met 2 editors that resulted in nearly 20 book contracts over the years.

How did I go if I didn’t have the money to get there? I volunteered! I simply contacted the offices and said I’d be willing to do anything to help out if it could get me in the door.

They put me to work. I stuffed envelopes, helped with registration, scheduled appointments with editors and was a general girl Friday in the days leading up to the big event.

That was the beginning of an amazing journey.

Now, some 20 years later, I still have never paid a penny to attend a conference. You name it, I might have done it. From judging for contests to counting the money to getting more toilet paper to speaking and leading workshops to getting paid for manuscript critiques, I’ve volunteered my way from conference to conference.

And wonderful perks of taking time to volunteer is that often you’re invited to a volunteer’s lunch and get to sit with the editors from New York, or develop a friendship with the editors because your task is to make sure their every need is met.

So how about it…considering a conference but don’t have the big bucks to pay to attend? Volunteer. Even my cat Humphrey helps out as he just did last month when I was getting ready for one of my most recent SCBWI conferences where I volunteered to help set up and organize sign-ups for critique groups.

-contributed by Nancy I. Sanders

Looking Back—Connecting the Conference Dots

Our Wordsmiths have given top advice on how to make the most of that conference you plan to attend. They’ve done a great job so I don’t need to expound any further on the do’s and don’ts.

I’ve attended a number of conferences over the years but only ONE changed my writing life forever. I’d like to share my connect-the-conference dots time line from that conference:

DOT 1 – July 30, 1995: I attended the Masters College Christian Writers Conference and met Nancy I. Sanders in a how-to-write for children class. Nancy wanted to know all about my first book, accepted by Faithkidz (Cook) Psalms for a Child’s Heart. To my delight, she gave me her book, Bible Touch and Feel: Jonah (Tyndale House, 1994). We immediately became writing soul sisters, and our husbands and sons became friends. Nancy and I kept in touch regularly and shared our writing goals, successes and dreams from that time to the present.

DOT 2 – 1999: Something unbelievable happened! Nancy graciously asked me to join her in a proposal to Scholastic Professional Books! We got the contract BEFORE writing the book. It works!

DOT 3 – 2000: We wrote our second book for Scholastic. Fun!

DOT 4 – 2001: We wrote our third book for Scholastic. More fun!

DOT 5 – 2002: We wrote our fourth and fifth book for Scholastic.  Busy, busy, FUN!  That year my second picture book was published, The Baby Who Changed the World (Faithkidz)

DOT 6 – 2003: We wrote our sixth and seventh book for Scholastic. Exhaustion mixed with FUN!

DOT 7- 2007: Something else unbelievable happened! Nancy’s critique group, Wordsmiths, accepted me as a member. WOW! I had six more writing soul sisters—each one of them published and experts in their field!  We are friends and mentors for life, and refer to ourselves as the Wordie-Sisters.

DOT 8 – 2008: Nancy had a GREAT idea! She encouraged our critique group to start a Wordsmiths blog. Each member writes a post two or three times a month.  Because editors read our blog, several members have received book contracts, two members have acquired agents, others have had books published, some have been asked to appear as guests on writing blogs, write for e-zines, newspapers, magazines, and one even illustrates for publication!

DOT 9 – Because of my relationship with Scholastic (Thanks to Nancy asking me to join her in 1999) my own book, Easy-to-Read Science Plays: The HUMAN BODY, will be released this November 1st!

Connect my dots and you’ll see that much of my writing life began with ONE conference in 1995. No, I didn’t get a book contract or an agent that weekend. I got something FAR BETTER—a writing soul sister, Nancy (o;  That lead to a lasting friendship, published books, and now an AWESOME professional critique group of “Wordie-Girls”.

Here’s my bottom line: Conferences can lead to life-long friendships. NEVER overlook the people attending a conference just to get to editors and agents!  Who knows where those conference friendship dots may lead?


Are Conferences Addicting?

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve attended numerous national SCBWI summer conferences.  I’ve also taken part in many other SCBWI events—Writers’ Day, Editors’ Day, and Working Writers Retreats.  All have been informative, enjoyable, and always worthwhile.

However, I recently read an article that stated conferences, workshops, etc. can be addictive.  The new ideas, the networking, the chatting with friends, the opportunity to meet editors and agents and learn what they are seeking, the books everywhere you look…some writers, it seems, need the “buzz” they get from this environment.  And, they need it often.

But when do these writers actually sit down and write, the article asked?  Are their copious notes being turned into articles, short stories, and book proposals?  Are editors and agents being contacted with solid queries targeted to their needs?   Are catalogs and guidelines being seriously studied so that queries can reach the best possible market?  Or do some writers simply seek out more and more conferences that use up valuable writing time and large amounts of money?  And, are they using up even more time endlessly corresponding with people they meet at conferences?

None of these endeavors are “wrong,” but they do seem counter-productive to the true purpose of conferences.  They have tremendous value, whether they last one day, a weekend, or longer, and I certainly am an advocate of them.  But this article made me stop and think.  Can a person become addicted to conferences?  I’m not sure, but I now realize that it’s very important, especially in today’s precarious economy, to pick and choose carefully the conferences that mean the most to me and then to follow through with what I’ve learned.  I think if each of us makes the effort to do this, we will be putting our time and money to the best possible use.

Marjorie Flathers

Planning Ahead

Looking for some writers/illustrators conferences to attend in the next year? Check out the SCBWI website under Events to access a list of conferences in your area.