Tips on Writers Conferences

The Pacific Northwest Writers Conference was held last week, Thursday through Sunday, a wonderful event bringing together hundreds of writers, agents, and editors to talk about the publishing world today. This was the 57th conference of PNWA, and there was, as usual, something new: Power Pitches. Think of them as speed dating for connecting writers with agents or editors. The idea was that for three minutes, a writer could “pitch” her or his book idea to an agent or editor, who would use the final minute or so to give feedback and, with any luck, ask that some pages be sent subsequently for review. At the sound of the bell, the writer left the chair and was immediately replaced by another writer, making another three-minute pitch.

This went on in 90-minute blocks. It was grueling, but after the first four or five pitches, a writer usually had it down how to proceed, and had probably refined the pitch enough to say it without reading it from a notecard. The pitch – now streamlined and easy to say – can later be used in approaching other agents through email or letters.

Writers conferences provide an invaluable opportunity to talk face-to-face with people who have the expertise and potential to bring work to print. But a few general tips can help make best use of the time:

1. Research the conference ahead of time to make sure this is the right conference for your material. If no publisher or agent on the roster will work with spiritual material and that’s what you write, this is the wrong conference for you. Spend your money where it can do you the most good.

2. Assuming this is the right conference, research agents and editors ahead of time to make sure you know who will represent your specific kind of work. This is best done on their websites, but pay close attention when these individuals speak to conference attendees, because their interests can change or they may be seeking material on behalf of colleagues. The best thing is when you can relate your work to a specific writer the agent represents or title the editor published and explain how your work is similar.

3. If an agent or editor requests to see pages, make sure you send them, even if time transpires before you can get them ready to send.

4. Make sure that in every contact you have, the agent or editor will perceive you as easy to work with and completely professional. One thing this means is that you adhere precisely to guidelines given for sending in your material.

5. Keep reading current books in your arena, keep writing what you write, keep attending writer events, because it is all a large network, and your place is in there, waiting for you to claim it.


Run Your Race, Part 3

At the close of the previous blog entry, I made the controversial statement that running your race will require more than will-power; it will require faith in supernatural assistance. This is a sticking place for many of us. Either we like to think we are independent and capable of standing on our own two feet, no matter what life throws at us – and therefore we don’t need religion, or we tell ourselves that we accept religion up to a point but the supernatural piece is more than we can swallow. People who have been “educated” to rely entirely on logic and scientific explanations are especially resistant to the idea of supernatural assistance.

But somewhere in the running of our individual races, most of us eventually realize that the supernatural piece is not negotiable, and putting our faith in it is really the only option if we are to have peace in our hearts, if we are to see our place and realize that we are not God.

Hebrews 12:2 continues the thought of 12:1, advising that the way we are to accomplish the running of our race is to look to Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith.” Even faith, then, which we might have assumed was our responsibility, our side of the relationship, is not left to us alone but comes to us through supernatural assistance: begun in us and completed in us by Divine Spirit.


Run Your Race, Part 2

Last week we got a start on Hebrews 12:1, which tells us to “run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us….”

But that is almost always easier said than done, so the verse provides useful guidance on how to go about it. First it reminds us of a great “cloud of witnesses” who illustrated how faith looked and functioned in their lives, examples that still “surround” us now.

Second, it tells us to “strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us.” This is the tricky part. It may be difficult to identify all the unnecessary weight we allow to get in our way in life, and even if we can identify all the things and people that fall into that category, it can be even harder to strip them off and throw them aside. In some cases, they have formed the basis of our lives for decades. As if those things and people who unnecessarily weigh us down were not enough, each of us also has some impediment that is a particular stumbling stone – something that may not hang up our friends but for us creates such a block that it often seems impossible to overcome. It might be procrastination or resentment or feeling inadequate or perfectionism or fear of whatever stripe or a desire to remain invisible or even simple laziness. Whatever it is, each of us privately knows that awful thing that deftly and cleverly clings to and entangles us.

Will-power alone will not be enough to overcome that private issue that swamps you again and again. If you are going to run your race, you have to rely on faith in supernatural assistance.


Run Your Race, Part 1

Some of the best advice in the Amplified Bible is in Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us….”

Since this chapter, Chapter 12, starts in the middle of a thought – there can’t be a “therefore” unless something important came before – taking a moment to see what came before is a necessary step. That means looking at Chapter 11, which is a long chapter about faith. Not only is faith defined for us in the familiar “faith is the assurance of what we hope for, the proof of what we do not see,” but explicit examples of faith are given from the lives of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Isaac, Joseph, and others.

These are some of the individuals who make up the “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding us. The point of naming them is to encourage us to look to their example and realize that their faith shows us how to function in faith in our own lives, how to run with patience and endurance the unique race set before each one of us.

Check back next week for another thought or two about this chock-full verse.