Friday, August 8, 2014

Tidbits from the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference

Downtown Philadelphia in the
I returned from the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference last Sunday and I'm still trying to catch up! It was such a wonderful time. This was the first time for me at this conference. I was invited by the director, Marlene Bagnull, to be on faculty this year, and I had a great time.

As promised, I gathered some tidbits of writerly news, publishing scoops, tips, and thoughts. Here's a rundown of my adventure at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference:

Getting there

My day started at 3:50 am. I'd already driven two hours the day before to spend the night near Denver International Airport. Still, I had to get up early to catch my flight. Thought I'd grab breakfast and coffee on the way, but McD's wasn't open. It's a good thing, probably. I cut it close catching the flight!

We landed in Philadelphia around 12:30 pm, the plane taxies to the gate, and there I am, waiting to deplane. I'm thinking about how I need to find two other people on the same flight because we're catching the same ride from the airport to the conference. I didn't have time to find them before boarding the plane, so now I need to find their cell phone numbers or something. During the flight, I checked out their photos in the conference brochure to see who it is I'm looking for.

Just then, I hear this lovely voice floating in over my head from somewhere behind me on the plane:
"Hello. Dianne? We've landed in Philadelphia and are sitting on the tarmac waiting to get off the plane..."
I'm seated by the window. I stand up, ducking because of the overhead bin, and turn around to see where that voice is coming from.
"We have the same driver so we need to connect...
I spot her. A lovely lady two seats behind me is talking into her phone. (Everybody on the plane, it feels, is watching.) I smile at her and wave.  Her voice trails off...
"...and, oh, I guess that's you looking at me right now. Goodbye."
She hangs up her phone. We laugh.

Too funny! Now I know. It's going to be a great trip.

We connect with our ride and stop at Wendy's on the way to the conference since none of us has had breakfast (or coffee!) yet.

Day Lily at Cairn University
Langhorne, Pennsylvania
We arrive at the campus at Cairn University, a seminary, and can you believe while spending three and a half days there I don't once think to take a photo of the grounds?! I did take a photo with my phone of the lilies outside the dormitory. Guess this flower-gardener has her mind on lilies, not on university grounds. Although the pond was beautiful and peaceful. Were those swans floating out there? I couldn't tell.

The Room

I check into my room and realize what it means that these are dormitory rooms. I'm handed a package containing sheets, blanket, pillow case, and towels. That means I get to make my own bed.

The room is sparse, but I'm not complaining. I'm always grateful for whatever I'm provided. By "sparse" I mean it's a really good thing I have a hotel bar of soap in my suitcase. (I knew I should have packed a blow-dryer for my hair, but didn't.)

I'm delighted to be rooming with my long-time conference friend and author Linda Evans Shepherd. We think we both attended our first-ever writers conference the same year -- 1989 in the Denver area. We've never really got to spend a lot of time together, so rooming with Linda and getting to know her a little bit more was an absolute delight. Together, I think we make a great team. She had a blow-dryer. I had soap.


The conference is already under way with the Early Bird workshops taking place.

I'm focused on getting my books and pamphlets for writers consigned and displayed on the book table. I filled out my consignment paperwork at home. I packed the books in my suitcase. I had to put two books in my carry-on to get my suitcase to weighs in at just under the 50-pound limit at the airline.

After getting my books and pamphlets taken care of, a few of us have time to catch part of a workshop by Megan Breedlove on "Writing for Women." I make some great notes on her ideas. Regrettably we have to cut out a bit early to head to the dining hall for the faculty dinner.

The director, Marlene, has only a few announcements for the faculty. I wave at many of the familiar faces on faculty. My friend and roomy, Linda, is taking phone calls on an important project she has in the works. That's exciting!

After dinner we head to the Chapel for the official opening of the conference with various speakers giving short presentations on issues of our times.

After closing, we head back to our room. It's been a long day. It's going to be a short night.


After breakfast I pick up my registration packet and schedule of appointments. As a faculty member I'll be meeting with conferees who have requested a 15-minute appointment with me. My schedule is not completely full. That's good. I'll have some breathing room.

We have a time of worship and a speaker. After that I get to attend a special workshop with a panel of speakers about "Living in the 11th Hour." The panel has some amazing credentials and it's interesting to hear their perspectives on our times.

Lunch comes and goes and then I sit in on a panel of literary agents. There's only three of them, fielding questions from the audience. It's good to hear them tell us they will work with promising authors to get them and their book proposals to a place where they will sign them as clients. Previously I'd thought we'd better be an accomplished and mature writer before we approach an agent. So that's a piece of writerly news to remember!

After that panel ends I have to hurry to my first appointment. I not only meet with conferees, I also get to request appointments with other faculty members to speak with them about my own writing project. That's my first meeting: I get to have some one on one time with actor Torry Martin. I show him a few pages of my script. He makes a suggestion and then tells me some positive things about it. I'm encouraged!

As soon at that appointment ends it's role-reversal time: I'm now acting as faculty and am meeting with an author. I'm as helpful as I can be.

As soon as that meeting is done I have to rush off because it's almost time to teach my first workshop.

I arrive at the "Teens Write" room. Twenty-five teenagers have registered this year! They are taking a break as I arrive. I get ready for my workshop. I'll be teaching them some basics about screenwriting. I wonder if any of them have even thought about writing screenplays. When I was their age, I had not.

They are enthusiastic, polite, and attentive. They have a few questions. My class goes well.

Afterwards I meet with one of these teens one-on-one. We decide to meet in the hallway. We talk. She wants a photo. Then I'm asked if I can meet with another teen. Yes, I have an open time slot. I meet with her. She's searching for direction for her writing. We talk about it.

Then I have to rush off for an appointment of my own, back downstairs in the meeting room. I'm a few minutes late getting back to the meeting room. I apologize. The man who taught the "11th Hour" workshop kindly talks with me about my blog, He makes a few suggestions. I'm grateful.

Then he must rush to his next appointment and I'm needed back upstairs to sit on a panel for "Teens Write." They are already talking when I join them (but we already knew I'd be a few minutes late getting back up there). The teens ask excellent questions. There are about ten of us on the panel and we all enjoy sharing what we've learned with these enthusiastic teenagers.

Guess what? It's already dinner time.

Afterwards, back in the Chapel, I am again encouraged and inspired by the keynote speaker, author of over a hundred books, Cecil Murphey. He talks about the heartbreak of losing his wife just over a year ago. He talks about what a blessing she was to him in a conversation they had only a short time before her passing...when neither of them knew what was coming. Here is the author (or ghost writer) of books like Ben Carson's Gifted Hands and Don Piper's 90 Minutes in Heaven, and he was so incredibly blessed by the words of his life-long companion. Words are so powerful. Words are why we are here.

Afterwards there is a booksigning for half the authors attending. Then it's late and time to walk back to the room.


It's the first of August. After breakfast, the opening keynoter is Rusty Wright with He gives us solid instruction in how to engage our culture with our words, based on how Jesus engaged His culture.

Afterwards I attend a panel of book editors who answer questions. One interesting piece of news, a publishing scoop, I pick up is that some of these book publishers are now looking for Bible studies. That's a change from recent years when usually all those publishing slots for Bible studies are filled. I'm wondering what I might have that they might be interested in...

After the panel I have a meeting with an independent book publisher. I meet with Larry Carpenter and talk with him about a slew of questions I've had that I've been dying to ask someone in the know. (Yes, even I have questions!) He kindly answers all my questions...not necessarily with the news I was hoping for. But that's okay. I've been in this business long enough to know we don't always get the news we're hoping for. He is incredibly kind, knowledgeable, and helpful.

I rush off to sit on the other side of the table and meet with conferees, hoping I can be as incredibly kind, knowledgeable, and helpful to them. I have meetings until lunch.

After lunch I'm one of the independently published authors sitting on a panel answering questions. The room is full. Standing room only in the back. We get good questions and all the panel members share good answers. I think we've helped some writers.

I rush off, back to the meeting room where I have more meetings. I stop by the desk and am delighted to learn more writers have asked for appointments with me. Now that they've seen me and know that I'm a smiling face, approachable and kind, they want to meet with me and my time slots are filling up.

I learn I have a ride to the airport the next day. That's great news!

I stop by the snack table and grab some fruit. I meet with three more writers.

Then it's time to head upstairs to find my next workshop room to teach my first workshop to adults on writing Query Letters. I find the room. A lot of people are there talking with the workshop teacher of the previous workshop. It must have been a good one. But the clock is ticking closer to the time my workshop starts. I'm feeling antsy, wanting to get set up for my workshop. With only two minutes to go, I say something, asking them if I may have the room. Then I worry that I came off as pushy. I sure hope not.

I didn't count but I think there were about fifteen adults in my query letter workshop. Many leave and return as they are going to meetings of their own. The class seems receptive and appreciative of the material I'm presenting. That's good. Soon our time is up and now it's time for me to clear out for the next workshop leader.

I take a break, and suddenly it's time for dinner.

After dinner we're back in the Chapel where we hear from a couple of missionaries in foreign countries who are attending the conference. Marlene takes an offering for them. That's okay. I'm wise to Marlene. I know she's going to do this at least two nights. I've come prepared with a special envelop with several bills in it so I have something to put in the box when it passes.

The keynote speaker is author and youth minister Rob Cook. He's good. I heard him speak at the Colorado conference in May. I picked up his book last night at the author signing. He does a good job.

We worship through song and prayer. There's another author signing and I buy another book. Suddenly another day is done.


Already it's the last day of the conference. Can you believe that? I turn in my key and check out of my room.

After breakfast I attend a panel with the magazine editors. Wish I could remember something interesting to share from that, but my now my mind is beginning to muddle.

After the panel it's time to head to my third and final workshop that I'm teaching. It's a workshop for adults titled "Shape Your Story for the Screen." There are about a dozen people in my class. I talk to them about 3-act story structure. I describe how I use a cork board and index cards to organize my stories. I share my favorite screenwriting resources. And then I give them an example by telling them the Gospel story in 3-act structure. Their questions and comments reveal they are quite impressed with my workshop! What a delightful surprise that is. I get many great comments. What an encouragement.

I walk to lunch with a man who attended my workshop because he didn't know where else to go for that time slot. He's glad he walked into my workshop. I consider it a divine appointment. This is the man who sings so beautifully with his hands as he signs the words to the hymns and praise songs we sing in the general sessions. He's such an encouragement to me.

After lunch I meet with more writers.

Then as the conference heads toward its closing session, I inventory my books and take them off the table. I haven't sold many books, but I sold a lot of pamphlets and that's good. That will help cover some expenses of coming.

I have to pack what I haven't sold back into my suitcase for the trip home. Gratefully I've sold enough that, even with the two books I bought, my suitcase is lighter so all the books can fit and it shouldn't be over the 50-pound weight limit.

At the closing session we get out the "Commitment" form. It's brightly colored and is in two halves. It says in part, "I will endeavor to complete the following manuscripts(s) before next year's conference." I know which manuscript I'm to write down. I've already asked the Lord for direction and He has given me confirmation. It's a screenplay. I can't wait to get home and get to work on it.

We write it down twice and tear the paper in half. We take one half home and deposit the other on the "altar" at the front of the room. Marlene promises she and her staff will pray over these commitments and pray for us. The next Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference is already scheduled for July 29 - August 1, 2015.

Heading Home

Philly Cheese Steak at the
Philadelphia Airport
Five of us pack into the car. Three of us are headed to the airport and we're grateful for the ride. The highway is full on this Saturday night but we're told that's pretty normal. The other side of the highway is packed with people headed to New Jersey. We get to the airport with plenty of time to get something to eat in the food court. What should I choose to eat?

I see the Philly Cheese Steak. Perfect! When in Philly... what else would I have?! I even try a squirt of hot sauce. It's yummy. I text a photo home to touch base with my husband and perhaps make him jealous.

Our flight leaves late. I talk writing with the others while we wait.

We get into Denver around midnight. I get to my car and discover it is dead dead dead. Can't even open the door with my key fob. No lights. No nothing. How grateful I am when I remember this airport parking lot offers car service. I walk to the shuttle stop and find the phone number. It's a pleasant night and I can't see another soul around so I feel fairly safe. I call. It takes about 30 minutes but a man named Dave comes, give my car a jump, and it starts right up. He points out the dome light is on. It's then I remember yes, I did turn the dome light on when I was getting my stuff together in the dark early Wednesday morning. He assures me there's nothing wrong with my car or my battery. "Let it run four or five minutes," he said. "Then you can go." I do. My car runs fine and I'm grateful.

I get back to my over-night stop at about 1:00 am. I go to bed around 2:00 am. When I get home there will be work to catch up on and e-mails to answer from people I met at the conference. It has been a really good trip.

. . .

I hope this gives you an idea of what it's like to attend a Christian writers conference and perhaps even excites you about attending one. I hope I've also given you a bit of news or inspiration that helps you along on your writing journey.

You can buy CDs of the workshops, starting at $4 each. You can also buy all the workshops -- yes, that's the entire conference! -- for only $99! And as a "first" this year, handouts are posted online for you to download.

Friday, August 1, 2014

August Article Coming ... AND "How To Get Published" E-Book on Sale!

On Sale through 11:00 PM PST
August 4, 2014 !

August Article coming 

Normally I post on the first of the month. However as the first of the month approached, I was travelling on a business trip. I thought about writing this month's newsletter blog in advance and getting it ready to post before I left.

But what I'd really like to do is gather some interesting stuff while I'm on this trip. I'll be hanging out with writers. So I bet I'll be gathering some tidbits of writerly news, publishing scoops, tips, thoughts ... etc.

I'll share whatever tidbits I gather with you soon. But I'm taking a few days off before I return to my office to work or write a blog.

So please watch for a new post for August coming in a few days... Thanks for looking forward to that with me!

In the mean time ...

"How To Get Published" E-Book is on SALE NOW!

While I'm gathering with these writers, I've used that as an excuse to put my latest product for writers on sale for them! But you can get in on the sale too, if you act fast.

This e-book is on a countdown sale on Kindle through the weekend. Here's the pricing schedule:

  • until midnight (PST) August 2 will be only $ .99. So grab your copy now!
  • All day August 3 until sale ends late August 4 at 11:00 PM (PST) will be $1.99

How To Get Published by Magazines & Book Publishers:Find Markets, Submit Your Manuscripts, and More
by Dianne E. Butts

Please use the share buttons below to share this e-book sale with your friends on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and/or Twitter. Thank you. See you soon!