The importance of brand, platform, social network

When I originally started reviewing manuscripts for Wesleyan Publishing House, I skipped the proposal and went straight to the sample chapter. I was most interested in good writing.

Now that I’m associate acquisitions editor, I go straight to the section in the proposal titled “Platform.” If you don’t have a well-trafficked website or blog, if you’re not out regularly speaking, if you don’t have a thousand or more “friends” on Facebook, I have to reject it.

As a editor, who is first and foremost a writer, I absolutely hate that. But I do understand that, with the current economic climate, your “brand,” “platform” and “social network” are also absolutely essential for your book to sell.

That’s why St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference is devoting an hour each afternoon for a panel of experts to answer your questions about these three essential elements of your writing career. You can do this and we’ll show you how.

It’s just one of the many ways that I believe that St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference is one of the most unique, cutting edge conferences in the United States. So, join us Wednesday June 24 through Sunday June 28. And if you can’t attend the entire conference, we have a one-day session Saturday, June 27, that will take you from concept to contract.

I can’t wait! I hope to see you there! Register today.

Jim Watkins
Program director

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Pray, promote, prepare

Harry Bohrs sent this prayer list to fellow board members:

      In ten short weeks St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference will embark on a new chapter a new venture, a new approach. The time for hoping for success must now be put into prayer for success. This week pray:

      • Pray a prayer of thanksgiving for the Lord’s leadership and guidance.
      • Lift up the leaders who have, and continue, to work hard: Amy Mable and Jim Watkins.
      • Pray for the board members, that is pray for each other, as we take to our assigned duties and tasks.
      • Pray that God will sustain each and everyone who works, attends, or serves the conference.

Thanks, Harry! And thanks to each of you. Promote the conference by inviting your friends in person and on your social networks. Pray that God will use the conference for his glory. And prepare for God to use the conference to equip you to effectively and creatively share the good news!

I can’t wait!

Jim Watkins
Program director

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By Crystal Hayduk

Perusing the variety of notebooks and journals on display in the office supplies section of the drugstore, I wondered which type of blank paper would best meet my daughter Jessica’s needs.

Jessica had taken her three-week-old daughter to the emergency room in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. As the baby’s condition deteriorated and Gracie was hospitalized, we prayed for her healing and hoped for the best.

Anticipating that Jessica would want fresh clothing or toiletries, before leaving the hospital for the evening I asked, “What can I bring you when I come tomorrow?”

With unwashed hair and no make-up, wearing the same black yoga pants and T-shirt that she had thrown on 18 hours earlier, and holding her crying baby in her arms, she glanced around the room, then leaned her head onto the back of the chair and looked up at me. “I’d really like paper and a pen,” she said with a sigh.

I completely understood her request. As a concerned mother, she needed emotional relief more than she needed physical comforts. Jessica intended to use journaling to remember the facts, as well as to process the difficult experience and eventually make sense of it.

Whether she consciously chose to write because she had learned it from watching me write about tough times during her 23 years, or because she inherently gravitates to writing as one who loves words, the bottom line is that writing is therapeutic. I learned firsthand that journaling has benefits, eventually finding peace and healing after writing about my most challenging life experiences. My journals doubled as my confidante through the angst of youth, a divorce at the age of 28, the death of my parents, miscarriages, and other hurtful or traumatic events.

According to Maud Purcell, a licensed clinical social worker, writing utilizes the left brain, which allows the right brain to simultaneously create and feel. “Writing removes mental blocks and allows you to use all of your brainpower to better understand yourself, others and the world around you.”

The following are the journaling steps that I’ve found most helpful:

  1. Write. Even if for only a few minutes a day, let your thoughts flow freely. Avoid censorship and editing. Get what’s in your mind out through your fingers. Before you know it, you will fill blank books. If you prefer, create documents on your computer instead of writing with pen and paper. Just write.
  2. Keep. At least for a while, keep what you’ve written. It’s valuable to be able to return to those thoughts – sometimes a short time after writing them, sometimes a long while later. Perhaps at some point, you’ll burn or delete what you’ve written, but reading the words again will allow you to begin to examine your past perceptions based on new information. Maybe you will see the answer to prayer and your faith will be increased.
  3. Wait. Depending upon the situation, it might be most helpful to have a lengthy period of time elapse before trying to make sense of the words and thoughts. Looking back in a month, or a year or more, will help you to assess emotional and spiritual growth. Allowing enough time for some healing to occur will minimize the chance that reading the words will be like ripping a bandage off a fresh wound.
  4. Rewrite. Now revisit the situation and write again with new thoughts and knowledge. Rewriting helps us to continue to process events and the ways we’ve changed. It’s similar to revising and editing to make a story better, except that, when journaling, the facts of the story don’t change—even though you do.
  5. Pray. Ask God to show you if sharing your personal experience will help others. Is this a story that will exemplify a spiritual truth to readers in a memorable way? Could this become a memoir, creative nonfiction, devotional, or inspirational story?

Singer and songwriter Judy Collins said, “I write journals and would recommend journal writing to anyone who wishes to pursue a writing career. You learn a lot. You also remember a lot… and memory is important.”


Crystal Hayduk currently teaches nursing part-time at a public university. During nearly thirty years in obstetrics and public health, she has assisted many families through difficult situations.
Also a freelance writer, she has been published in local news sources and devotionals. Her real-life love story was published in the anthology “Falling in Love with You” (Oaktara Publishers).
Crystal lives with her family in Southeast Michigan, where she enjoys reading and music.

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Creating A Leading Character

By Patricia L. Stebelton

“You don’t like my heroine? Why not?”

I was stunned and more than a little insulted when one of my ‘readers’ (invaluable people who read and edit stories before they are submitted) told me this. After I’d spent months of writing my latest novel, she told me that readers would find it hard to relate to my leading lady—they wouldn’t feel any empathy for her difficulties or desires. Basically, this ‘reader’ found herself not caring if my heroine succeeded in the story or didn’t. She didn’t like her! Big sigh . . . I had to give my leading woman a ‘makeover’ from the inside out!


Julie glided across the crowded fairgrounds, her heart pounding so hard she couldn’t hear her own thoughts. It was the day the stunning brunette had prayed about for two years. Dan had called. The only man she’d ever wanted was waiting for her at the grandstands with a planned surprise. It could mean only one thing—a ring on her finger. Her face was flushed with anticipation. Julie knew she was breaking her promise to help her sister at the Kiwanis booth, but Angie would find someone else. She’d get over it—she always did. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Julie.

Dan turned; he’d seen her coming. She flashed him her biggest smile and ignored Janie’s wave from the bake sale tent. Julie could never let Dan know that Janie was her friend. His family was well-to-do and affluent. If she became his wife, she’d have to find new friends. Slowing her steps, Julie frowned. Dan had brought his dog with him again. She hated pet hair on her clothing. That animal would be the first thing she’d eliminate when they were married, but for now she’d pretend that she liked the beast. Running her tongue over her full lips, she fluffed her hair and hastened to Dan’s arms . . . and her perfect life. (music fade out)
Would you vote for Julie as a role model or even rush to make her your closest friend . . .? Maybe if Julie had stopped to speak with her sister at the Kiwanis booth or felt some remorse that she was ‘brushing her off’ . . . Perhaps Julie could have a moment of regret about her friend, Janie—struggling with keeping her old friends while shedding her former poverty and desperately wanting to fit in with her prospective husband’s affluent group . . . Then you, the reader, could struggle with her. Julie needs one redeeming quality! Maybe she could keep Dan’s dog and allow him to sleep in the hallway . . . ?

Many leading characters in movies and books these days are known for their flawed traits, but we have to give our readers hope for change—a reason to root for this character when life seemingly turns against them.

Although God can do surprising things in peoples’ lives, readers look for a way to relate to the main character in a story. When I recall Jonah of the Old Testament, I always smile. The Ninevites had acted so rotten that Jonah didn’t want to give them an opportunity to repent! He knew God would forgive them, and Jonah didn’t think they deserved it. That may not have been the right attitude, but unfortunately it’s human nature more often than not . . . Show a little tenderness and loyalty in your hero or leading lady—give readers hope for improvement in their future. Our leading characters have to have more going for them than strong shoulders or a pretty face . . . give them heart and a soul!

Patricia L. Stebelton: author of six Romantic Suspense Mysteries through Oaktara Publishing/

Short stories in compiled books “Whispering in God’s Ear”, “Angeles, Miracles & Heavenly Encounters 1”, and “Falling in Love With You” as well as stories in Guidepost Book stories and a devotional in “Love is A Verb”, Gary Chapman & James Stuart Bell.   Patricia and her husband live in a picturesque town in the heart of Michigan. Patricia enjoys family activities, her writing and commissioned art projects.


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No Rights Reserved


By Bonnie Rose Hudson

As writers, we get our ideas from everywhere—the supermarket, a conversation with a friend, from a headline we read. As writers who believe in Christ, we know that all our good ideas ultimately come from God. Have you ever had an idea that got you so excited you couldn’t sleep at night? Every waking minute you work on it, develop it, and polish it. You jot down every facet of the idea as it comes to you. You pray and give the whole project over to God.

Then you start the process of writing the drafts, the endless drafts! You work hard; you do your best. At the end of the day (or week or month) you are pleased. Then you send it off to the next step. Maybe it’s a blog post you are eager to share with your readers. Maybe it’s an article for a newsletter. Maybe it’s a project that needs to go to an illustrator or a managing editor for the next step. So you sit back and wait. You know you’ve given your best work to God to use as He sees fit.

But then, it happens. The blog post you knew would touch your readers generates nothing but silence. The article is rejected. The project goes through so many changes at the hands of others that you hardly recognize it when it comes back to you. And you think to yourself, “That’s not how I pictured the project working out. That’s not where I thought my idea would end.”

Has it happened to you? It has to me.

One time when it did, God reminded me of what I had just said. I had mixed up my pronouns. I had said, “My idea.” But hadn’t I given it to Him? Way back when the idea was a seed and the dream had been born, hadn’t I thanked Him for giving me the idea and turned it all over to Him to do with as He pleased?

So why was I complaining now?

Please don’t misunderstand. Sometimes, when someone changes our dream and our project in a way that doesn’t please or honor God, we need to push back. Sometimes we need to take the project back and wait for the divinely appointed time it was meant for.

But sometimes we have to accept that God knows more than we do and surrender the ideas, the projects, and the dreams to Him. No rights reserved.

Bonnie Rose Hudson works as the Executive Editor of, the curriculum site of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine®. Her heart’s desire is for every child to feel the love of God and know how special they are to Him. She would love for you to stop by her author’s blog for resources to help teach your children about missions and the persecuted Church, free history and writing printables, and to discover how you can write for the homeschool market.

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Let’s spread the St. Davids virus

I always describe St. Davids Christian Writers Conference as “The Happiest Conference on Earth.” It is filled with faith, fun and, of yeah, great seminars and keynotes.

Help us spread the word about St. Davids conference June 24-28, 2015. We want news about St. Davids to go “viral.” (Not just a snotty nose, but a full-blown, highly contageous viral campaign!

Here’s how to promote it:

1. Right click the graphic below, then click SAVE AS.


2. Then go to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and/or your own website and post the graphic with your own invitation to the conference. Use your own words so it sounds personal, but do include

      (1) June 24-28, 2015 at Grove City College, Grove City, PA

      (2) Our web address:

      (3) That it now includes an all-day, one-day mini-conference on Saturday (for those who can’t come during the week) and a Sunday morning celebration and commissioning.

      (4) And that we’ll be staying in new, air-conditioned campus apartments!

      (5) Then add something about the conference that you personally love

We’re hoping for at least 100 people for the conference—but we can do that only through your promotion and prayers!

Jim Watkins, conference director

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Dances With Verbs

by Susan Boltz

For years, I hated my writing because I didn’t like how my words sounded when I read them aloud. I searched for my voice and yearned for my writing to sparkle with my point glowing in neon. But people reading my stuff inserted their own perceptions and usually missed the point I tried to make.

I made some writing friends, and we formed critique groups. (St. Davids is an excellent place to find each otheDances With Verbsr.) They have lifted my writing to a higher level. In fiction writing, if I use am, is, are, was, were, be, been–I will endure criticism. They chide me, “Show; not tell.” The passive verbs work in dialogue and non-fiction but strangle a story as they pull the reader out of the action.

One of my writer buddies even gives the props in his stories some characterization with verbs. Tea-kettles scream, brownies beg to be eaten and cars beckon his characters to drive them. When I read what others write, my writing is challenged and pushed to new limits. If my critique group reads and praises something I’ve written, it makes my week.

As I work on a story, I dance with the verbs. I’m obsessed with them. Should my character stomp, tromp, or clomp out of the room? Should the water in a bathroom rush, gush or flush? If the water is only running, I need to change this by the second draft.

Verbs arabesque and pirouette around in my mind. With a pen stuck between my teeth, they tango across my brain. Last night, I discovered them hip-hopping through my subconscious during a dream.

You don’t want to be at the verb dance all by yourself.

Dear Reader, I waltzed you across the dance floor to whisper the truth in your ear. You need other writers. Fresh eyes and ears have the perspective to help you discover your writing strengths and weaknesses. Also, you want a group to tell you when it’s time to sit this one out, so you are not carried off by the verbs.


Susan Boltz: retired medical lab technician & basic logic assistant.  She and Bob said “I do” forty years ago and have one son.  Stays young by teaching high school students on Sundays.  Writing, hiking and baking cookies for Kairos prison ministry keep her busy.  Published in the Upper Room, Vista Magazine, andPenned from the Heart.  On December 16th, her personal story, “From Revenge to Peace” will appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Power of Forgiveness.

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Making sense of life: One goal of a personal essay

by Rick Nowlin

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the newspaper where I’ve worked for over 17 years, runs a weekly column called “Saturday Diary” for which staff members are encouraged to write personal essays on topics they choose. Over the past few years I’ve become one of the more prolific contributors, tackling issues such as patriotism, sports fandom and online dating, and publishing three this year alone.

When I first came to the PG, I received this guideline from an editor: “A Diary takes a current event in your life — from the mundane to the momentous — and makes it interesting to other people. The Diarist aims to describe an inner transformation (which can be microscopic or massive) in a way that engages the reader. Being on the op-ed page, it is in the realm of changing the reader’s mind about something. But being a Diary, it’s more about altering the reader’s perception” [emphasis mine].

While thinking about this recently, I began to understand one of our goals as writers: Making sense of life. People may hear a sound bite or a conversation that may capture their views for a moment, but for my money only on the printed page or a screen can things be truly fleshed out. And it is in the writing in which the magic unfolds — what truly happened and the time it takes to understand and reflect upon it.

It took me a while to learn this, but a personal essay is supposed to have a “takeaway” — that is, what is a reader supposed to learn that he or she didn’t know already? We writers in a sense are supposed to take readers on a journey, to bring something to light they hadn’t thought of.

In 2005 I won a carnival prize for a woman friend in quite dramatic fashion, and after thinking about it just after it happened I realized that the experience was somehow transforming me. I thought it might make for a good story, admittedly shooting for an “Aw … ” factor, so the next year I decided to enter a piece in the “personal experience” category at St. Davids. Apparently the judge agreed, as she gave it a second place, and it was published as a Diary in the PG the year after that.

I realized in 2006 just what the takeaway was. That year on my church’s singles retreat I fell into conversation with a woman who knew the friend for whom I won that prize. We talked about that a bit — she thought it a noble gesture, to which I responded, “But [we men are] supposed to do that.” As the cliché goes, “Some gifts just keep on giving,” and a solid personal essay has the power to do just that.

Contributed by Rick Nowlin, who has covered jazz for the Post-Gazette since 1998, is a SDCWA board member.

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Mark your calendars for 2015 conference

I’ve spoken at virtually every writers conference in the US of A, and St. Davids Christian Writers Conference is my absolute favorite conference with the perfect blend of information, faith and fun. (And now the board has asked me to direct the conference. What were they thinking?!)

So, mark your calendars for June 24-28, 2015, in Grove City, Pennsylvania, at the junction of I-80 and I-79.

The full conference will begin with dinner Wednesday and finish with a commissioning service Sunday morning. We’ll also feature a one-day track Saturday, so if you can only attend that day, you’re going to get everything you need to know from concept to contract.

We’re working hard to secure all our faculty and finalize the schedule by the end of October. You can see list of faculty so far.

And we’ll be utilizing Grove City College’s air-conditioned, handicap-accessible apartments this year.

According to our president, Amy Mable, “It’s going to amazing!” So join us this summer for information, inspiration and lots of laughter!

Jim Watkins, director of programming

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The ‘What If’ game for writers

by Patricia L. Stebelton

As kids, we act out our favorite action and make-believe characters. We give these ‘imaginary identities’ amazing adventures. When we grow up we usually leave them behind and live responsible lives as accountants, engineers, teachers . . . or we become writers!

SUPPOSE you’re listening to the late TV news: After days of solid rainfall, Missouri has reported devastating flooding. All who watch this broadcast feel sad that people are in danger of losing their property and lives.

But a writer might also say, ‘WHAT IF’. . . Imagine your character in a similar situation. Below is a ‘What if’ for such a scenario—An adventure, romance or suspense mystery possibility . . .?

Flood Waters

*Penny Gilotto shivered as she inched her wet, cold body further toward the highest point of the roofline. She chided herself that she’d waited too late to evacuate before the heavy floods came. “Maybe if I’d listened to the TV or hadn’t laid down and gone to sleep!” The truth was she hadn’t believed the situation was as grave as it was. What did I know? I was raised in the city! A small whimper erupted before she could call it back.

Only this morning, her rental house had been pleasantly situated alongside the river. Now, her watch told her it was 8:00 p.m., and her home was floating in the swollen river which flooded the entire valley. It was nearly dark; a thin gray band separated water from sky. From Penny’s roofline perch , her eyes hungrily roamed the muddy, fast-moving waters that raged a few feet below; she searched for help. Where were the rescue boats? Terror filled her heart!

Household items, tree limbs and indiscernible objects all floated by . . . yet she was the only life form in view—except for the pathetic, black, white and orange cat that clung to the far side of her roof. The big-eyed cat made no attempt to move toward her, and Penny was too frightened to move as well. After the last high surge of water had rocked the house top, Penny was surprised to discover the cat was still holding on tenaciously—a brave animal.

Am I brave? Facing the question straight on, Penny experienced her own inadequacy. I can do nothing, Lord, but rely upon Your mercy. She drew her drenched sweatshirt tight to her chest and prayed with her whole being. Looking at the feline, Penny felt a strange kinship with this animal who fought to stay alive, and softly called out, giving him a name, “Hang on, Rocky, don’t let go!” Her eyes lifted to the moody, swirling clouds above. Keep this little cat safe, Jesus.

Hey, you on the roof! Get ready to jump when I pull up close.We’ve only got one chance. Don’t mess it up!”

The sharp voice came from the river. Penny squinted into the bleak dusk. There in a small motorboat was a tall man wearing a black hooded jacket. She waved, indicating that she’d heard him and motioned him in. There was so much debris in the churning waters, she knew it would be difficult to maneuver his boat close enough for her to jump safely. There was also the danger the boat might tip over. Penny’s line of focus moved toward the end of the roof and the wet cat with sympathetic longing. The man hadn’t sounded very patient.

. . . . .

Will Penny save the cat? Will she land safely in the boat? Is the man a good man or bad man? Where will he take her—then what? WHAT IF’? . . . The story could go anywhere from here!  


Patricia L. Stebelton: author of six Romantic Suspense Mysteries through Oaktara Publishing/
Short stories in compiled books “Whispering in God’s Ear”, “Angeles, Miracles & Heavenly Encounters 1”, and “Falling in Love With You” as well as stories in Guidepost Book stories and a devotional in “Love is A Verb”, Gary Chapman & James Stuart Bell.   Patricia and her husband live in a picturesque town in the heart of Michigan. Patricia enjoys family activities, her writing and commissioned art projects.

photo credit: DVIDSHUB via photopin cc

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