Wednesday, May 4, 2016

10 Things You Can Do Now to Make the Most of a Writing Conference Experience

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In a few weeks, I’ll attend my eleventh writing conference—the sixth one I’ve attended at the Blue Ridge Mountain ChristianWriter’s Conference. If it wasn’t for this conference, I wouldn’t have the writing career that I have today. My book wouldn’t be published. I wouldn’t have the networks I have, the friendships I’ve made with other writers, the knowledge about the writing craft, or even the motivation to pursue this career for a living.

However, I’ve discovered that simply paying for a conference and showing up isn’t enough. If one wants to make the most of their time at a conference, they must do a bit of homework and go into it with the right mindset, goals, and intentions.  

Yes, the quality of your conference experience begins at home. Right now.

Below are 10 things you can do now to make the most of your conference experience:

  1. Write down your intentions for this conference. Why are you attending? What are the projects you hope to pitch? What do you hope to gain from this experience? How will this further your writing journey?
  2. Purchase professional business cards. Make sure that it displays your picture, website, genre you write, and contact info. When I go through business cards after a conference, the ones that display the person’s headshot stands out more than ones that simply include a name and info. If you have a book, I suggest investing in professional bookmarks to pass out at the conference as well.
  3. Print the conference schedule. Study the classes and highlight the ones you’d like to attend.
  4. Research the faculty. Which authors, editors, and agents would you like to make appointments with, and what do you hope to discuss with them? Make sure you understand what agents/editors are searching for. If you write children’s books, for instance, don’t plan to pitch to an agent who is only seeking historical fiction.
  5. Prepare projects you’re pitching. Have you created a one-sheet for your fiction manuscript? Have you printed a few copies of the first three chapters? Do you have a folder or binder that you can keep these in? Have you prepared to give an elevator pitch?
  6. Gather materials. Will you take notes with your laptop, notebook, or tablet? What bag will you carry, and where will you store business cards? Make sure your bag is big enough to carry water bottle(s), snacks, note-taking supplies, books you may purchase, and possibly a sweater for the conference rooms. You might also want a folder to store miscellaneous handouts, bookmarks, your schedule, etc.
  7. Prepare your wardrobe. Although you’ll sit during classes, there’s usually a lot of walking involved at conferences. Make sure you bring several pairs of comfortable shoes. You’ll also want to research the conference attire so you can prepare your outfits ahead of time. Some conferences, such as Blue Ridge, proclaim their attire is more laid-back. Jeans are acceptable. However, I would probably stay clear of jeans at other conferences, such as ACFW.
  8. Get plenty of rest beforehand. You’re going to be busy 24/7 at a writing conference. There have been plenty times I’ve stayed up past midnight, talking with people in the lobby. You’ll want to make sure you have a lot of energy stored up, and that your mind is in top shape.
  9. Bring a journal. I haven’t done this, although I probably will at this year’s conference. Often, the days become a blur when you’re meeting several people, attending workshops, pitching, etc. Every year is different, and every conference seems to further my writing journey in significant ways. If I would’ve kept a journal at previous conferences, it’d be nice to look back and remember which days made the most impact.
  10. Most importantly, spend time with God. Ask Him to guide your steps at the conference, lead you in the right conversations, choose the right classes, and give you the vision He wants you to have for your writing journey. Even if you have days at the conference that seem insignificant, trust that He’s still in control. You don’t necessarily need to come home with a publishing offer in order to feel like you’ve “made it”. You never know how God can use the friendships you make, the classes you take—and yes, even the rejections you may receive—to help further your writing journey.

Remember: The quality of your conference experience could be determined by the homework you put into it beforehand, so don’t wait until the last minute to prepare.


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Have you attended a writer’s conference? If so, what other tips could you add to this list? If not, do you think attending one could help further your writing career?

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Monday's Minute Challenge: Writing Prompt Challenge For Teens & Up!

A quick writing prompt challenge (and contest) for teens to get their creative juices flowing for the new week. A new prompt is posted, and winners are announced, every other Monday.

  1. The entry must be between 150 - 300 words. (In order to see how many words your entry is, write it in Microsoft Word, or you can copy and paste it here.)
  2. The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
  3. The winners will receive a badge for their blog.
  4. The winner will be chosen based on the judges's preferences, as well as the following questions: Does this entry capture my attention immediately? Does it make me want to continue reading? Is the writing clear? They will also take into consideration the writer's voice and style--not necessarily technical issues, such as grammar, punctuation, etc. 
  5. This is only for fun and to stretch your writing muscles--not necessarily to be taken too seriously. =)


The judge panel chooses these winners based on a point system. Keep in mind that the judges are not aware of which entry belongs to which participant until after the judging is complete.

This week's judging was, once again, a huge challenge! Congrats to all of you for writing outstanding entries.

I had never seen someone look so lost in their home before.
Well, it's not something that normal people would think. Everything was the same. The leather couch in the middle of the room, the vase with cheery flowers in the side, and the television on and running. She stepped inside the room, after being frozen for forever. And looked around. You could feel her gaze penetrating each item in the room, critically analysing it and peeling off the layers of memories until she reached the ones that contained her. She felt the peeling leather of the sofa, the polished wood of the chairs, and smelt the aroma of the flowers. I continued looking at her, transfixed by curiosity. Where had she gone? Why had she gone? I mean, not everyone had the guts to just up and go. 
I looked at her, my eyebrows knitting together. But then I saw her gaze on me. And she screamed, silent tears still flowing down her face. When had she started crying? I ducked, but even my mind knew it was too late for that. And that's when I saw it. And that's when I started screaming too. The date was November 13. 
It's January 13 today. And I still haven't stopped.

Congratulations, Ipshita! Click here for your badgeand don't forget to claim your points here. =) 

The girl stumbled out of the smoking building. She started to stagger across the pavement, her feet torn and bleeding. She tripped over her own feet and fell to the ground. I stood on the sidewalk, and watched. And waited. It took over a minute for them to get there. It was longer than last time. I watched, my eyes narrowed, as the man rushed to the girls side, followed by the girls. The boy shouted and pointed to the building. Within seconds all three of them were inside. The man scoped up the girl and carried her away from the building. I counted to ten…8,9,10. Then I pressed the button. The building exploded.
I watched at debris darkened the sky before I climbed into my car. I texted my boss, Mission Completed. A simple twist of the keys, a little pressure on the accelerator and I was gone from the site of the explosion.

Michal looked up from laying the girl down on the sidewalk. The building had exploded! A scream tore through his mouth, as the debris shattered on the ground around him. He did not care if he got hit by one. The only thing he could think of was the fact that his friends were gone. Dead. He was alone…again.
Congratulations, Mary BClick here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)

Trudging through the parking lot, I kick a stone that lies in my way. He said he’d be here. The boss, that is. At twelve o’clock.
It’s twelve ten now. A funny feeling enters my stomach. He’s usually here on time. I fiddle with a pen to pass time.
Suddenly, ink splashes onto my hand. I bite back a curse and deposit the pen in my pocket. A quick glance at my watch tells me that it is now twelve fifteen. I frown at it. What could hinder the boss from being here?
Pressure on my shoulder makes my heart leap into my throat. I whirl around and breathe a sigh of relief.
The boss dips his head. “Do you have the package?”
I swallow. Maybe that funny feeling I have isn’t because of the boss’s tardiness. I nod. “Yeah. Follow me.”
He grunts and stalks after me. My movements are shaky. What am I doing? I unlock my car, but my hand wavers at the door handle.
The boss lets out a harrumph. “What’s wrong, Cody?”
I can’t do this. My hand falls from the handle. “No.”
“Excuse me?”
“No.” My heart is racing.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” A click sounds from behind me.
Gunshot echoes in my ears.
I’m not dead. My eyes snap open and I catch the gaze of a girl as she crumples to the ground, a gun in hand. The boss lies at my feet, gone for sure.
I connect the dots as to what just happened. I scramble towards the girl, pick her up, and start running.
I don’t know her name. I don’t recognize her face. But I do know that she just saved my life.

And from the looks of it, it’s my turn to repay the favor.
Congratulations, Micaiah! Click here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)


  1. Anonymous
  2. Esther
  3. Angela
  4. Allie Taylor

    Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

    • Submit your response in the comments below, or post it on your blog via InLink (below).
    • Your response should range between 150 - 300 words. 
    • The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
    • If you'd rather not submit your post in the comments or on your blog, you may email it to me instead.

    Choose at least one:

    Note: You can always combine the prompts into one entry.

    (Optional) Write a passage continuing your entry from last week week (or whichever week you'd prefer). If you can, try to continue it using one of the following prompts.
    • Write a passage using these items: lullaby, poison, window (submitted by Angela)
    • Write a passage based on this picture (submitted by Allie Taylor)
    • Write a passage either incorporating this phrase OR based on this phrase:  

      "Once upon a time, I was free."    (submitted by Micaiah)

    Post your entry on your blog!:

    If you're posting your entry on your blog, please add your link below:

    NEW: Tag your friends!

    (Optional) If you post an entry on your blog, tag at least 3 writers who have never participated in Monday's Minute Challenge. Be sure to comment on their blog to let them know they've been tagged. (Thanks to Micaiah for this suggestion!)

    Do you have an idea for MMC? I'd love to hear! 
    Send me an email at christiswrite (at) gmail (dot) com. 

    Submit your prompt idea!:

    The prompts that are used for Monday's Minute Challenge are submitted by the participants. 

    Here's how this works:
    • You will be able to submit 3 prompts each week in the same format as above: three objects, one picture, and a piece of dialogue or phrase.
    • On Mondays, I will choose 3 prompts that have been submitted by 3 different people.
    • If your prompt is selected, you will receive 2 points!
    • You may submit in the comments below.

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