• conferences,  writing

    I’m Here – OCW 2012

    Packing should not be done the way it was today. Lately, time is a precious commodity, and like gold, I have very little. The consequence is a suitcase stuffed with almost every outfit I own. No order, no plan. I have no idea what I’ll be wearing tomorrow.

    But…I have arrived at the 2012 OCW Summer Coaching Conference. Despite the heat, everything is wonderful. The location is beautiful. The instructors are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. And I remembered my curling iron this year. Big cheer for that one!

    I’m thrilled to reconnect with wonderful people, learn, and hopefully not melt. The temperature is expected to be in the 90s all week. For Oregonians, that’s hot!

    And the big Nelson news…We signed those pesky refinance papers today! Yes, I know that is not writing related, but we’ve been in this process since March. Bravo to my financially savvy husband.

  • conferences,  guest blogger,  writing

    Conference Season – Part 7 – Blue Ridge

    Jodie Bailey is here just in time to tell us about the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

    Okay, I admit it.  If I had the funds, I would be a conference junky.  It’s likely that “conference season” would find me all over this country at every single workshop I could soak up.  There’s just something about the air at a good conference, something that gives you a shot of oxygen and gets you excited and pushes you through on those days when it feels like writing is the hardest job in the world.


    The first conference I ever attended was the 2009 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.  And I went right by my little lonesome self, making the drive from west-central Georgia to the North Carolina mountains with only God and my iPod for company.  The drive itself was amazing, but God started working on me right about the time I hit the NC border.


    See, one of the reasons I was going to Blue Ridge was to meet Chip MacGregor, and that scared the fool out of me.  I wanted to query him, but first I wanted to meet him.  Why waste both of our time querying if I couldn’t even talk to him?  From his blog, I knew he pulled no punches, and I knew I needed that.  As I was driving and praying and singing, God suddenly said, “Don’t pitch.”


    Do WHAT?  I just paid all of this money and am driving all of this way NOT to pitch to anybody?  Surely, God’s lost His mind, right?


    But the further I drove the more I knew, He wanted me to keep my mouth shut.  He wanted me to lay aside ever expectation I had and go in there ready for anything, not focused on a goal, just to let Him have all of the control.


    So, I did.  And I had an amazing week.  There was no pressure, no stressing about a sit-down with anybody.  There was total freedom to be me, to speak when I wanted, to observe as much as I felt the need…  See, I had never sat in a room full of writers before.  After the very first hour, I called my husband and yelled, “I have found my people!”  There’s something about learning you are not crazy, that other people get dragged out of bed in the middle of the night because their characters won’t pipe down.  There are other people who stare at a computer screen all day and talk to imaginary voices.  I was in heaven.  I met people who were instantly my friends, simply because we “got” each other without even speaking.  It was amazing!


    And it wasn’t just the people.  That conference center is a total retreat.  You’re up in the mountains in these beautiful rooms with no TV.  And it’s quiet.  (They do an Autumn in the Mountains retreat that I want to do, by the way…)  It was a beautiful recharge, a stepping out of everything and into the writing life, fully immersed.  Talk about charging your batteries!


    I did get to sit down at an appointment with Chip at that conference, but I asked questions.  I never pitched.  My heart was about learning and not about selling.  It felt good to have someone who knew what they were doing walk me through the good and bad of my proposal and my premise, to point out what worked and what needed help.  (I did manage to throw a pen at his head by accident.  Trust me, that could ONLY happen to me…)  Many months later, I did land at MacGregor Literary with Sandra Bishop who, like Chip, pulls no punches when it comes to telling me what works and what doesn’t.  God knew exactly what He was doing.


    If you’re going to your first conference, go with God’s leading.  I honestly think one of the best things to do is to just go and be. Enjoy being with people who are just as “alien” as you are.  That was the best thing I got out of Blue Ridge, being with “my people.”  Oh, the classes knocked my head around they were so awesome, but the people won my heart and are the reason I’ll go back.


    Jodie Bailey is an avid reader, a life-long writer, and an aspiring beach bum. She is a stubborn child who resisted God’s calling for two decades until He hit her over the head with a Beth Moore Bible Study book, and she finally figured out He wanted her to be a writer. When not tapping away at the keyboard, she watches NCIS reruns, eats too many chocolate chip cookies, wishes she were at the beach, roughhouses with her daughter, and follows her Army husband around the country. Jodie’s debut novel, Freefall, will be released by Steeple Hill LIS in November 2012




    Conference Season – Part 1

    Conference Season – Part 2 – Lisa Buffaloe – ACFW

    Conference Season – Part 3 – Angela Breidenbach – INCWC

    Conference Season – Part 4 – Kimberly Buckner – My Book Therapy retreats

    Conference Season – Part 5 – Christina Tarabochia – OCW

    Conference Season – Part 6 – Karen Barnett – Mount Hermon

  • ACFW,  conferences,  guest blogger,  writing

    Conference Season – Part 6 – Mount Hermon

    Today we’re joining Karen Barnett for an insider’s view of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.


    After the evening session, I hurried to my room and grabbed my laptop, making a beeline for the lounge—I wanted to check my e-mail before turning in for the night. I sank down into a soft chair by a crackling fire. Within moments, the room began to fill. Before I knew what was happening, authors Mary DeMuth and Randy Ingermanson sat on either side of me, talking about their journeys to publication and offering me hope and encouragement. Other published writers joined the circle, aspiring writers ambled in, an agent sat down, an editor pulled up a chair. My laptop lapsed into screensaver mode, long forgotten. Jokes flew, stories were shared, and laughter ruled the evening.

    Why is the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference special? Where else can you kick up your feet and feel at home while surrounded by the best in the business?


    Here are the top ten things I love about Mount Hermon.


    1.  Beautiful Location—The Conference Center is situated in the California redwoods, not far from Santa Cruz. When you step out of a stressful appointment or an intense workshop, you walk out into beauty that refreshes the spirit. God uses those moments to remind me He is in control.

    2.  Casual atmosphere­—Casual dress rules the day. You can leave your high heels and business suits at home. Most registrants wear jeans and slacks, layered t-shirts and sweaters. I like to pack scarves and fun jewelry pieces to dress up the casual look.

    3.  Unparalleled access to editors/agents—Lunch and dinner tables are hosted by faculty members, including agents, publishers, magazine editors, and published authors. It’s like a back door into the publisher’s office. The host keeps the conversation flowing around the table, speaking to each person and asking about their writing. If they’re interested in your project, they might request an appointment or ask to see your proposal. Good-bye slush pile!

    4.  Speaking of meals—Mount Hermon’s are the BEST. Ask anyone.

    5.  Pre-conference submissions—You are encouraged to send two copies of your proposal ahead to the conference, either to published writers for critique or to editors/agents for review. There are also opportunities during the conference to have your work critiqued on the spot by a member of the critique team. This is all included in the cost of registration.

    6.  Major morning tracks—Morning tracks are classes that you follow for the entire conference to receive in-depth instruction on the subject of your choice. The tracks vary, but they generally include classes for fiction, non-fiction, public speaking, magazine writing, and social media.  Specialized tracks are offered for teens interested in writing, for beginners (Head-Start, actually held before the conference), and for published writers (career track—by application).  Personally, I love the intermediate mentoring tracks. You pay a few dollars extra, but the class size is limited and you get personalized teaching based on your needs.

    7.  Afternoon workshops—With forty workshops to attend, how do you choose? (I decided not to stress out about it and bought the CD recordings for the ones I missed).

    8.  Trend-spotting—One of my favorite parts of the conference are the panel discussions. This is a fantastic time to find out what is selling, where publishing is heading in the future and which of these individuals you would most like to work with.

    9. Casual conversations—From the moment you board the airport shuttle to the moment you leave, God arranges divine appointments. An editor might not hand you the rich-and-famous contract, but you might meet a favorite author and become friends. You might have a casual discussion at a table that leads to a magazine article (true story). You might catch someone’s airplane during an ice-breaker  or get lost with someone on the hike to the cross… and make a friend for the long writer’s journey ahead. And like I said earlier, some of the best conversations happen after hours.

    10.  Confirmation of the Call—The first time I went to Mount Hermon, I hesitated calling myself a writer. Attending this conference taught me is that YES, I AM a writer—without question. God has a call on my life. Each year I go back, I feel it anew. The conference at Mount Hermon gives me the energy I need to make it through another year.

    The Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference is held every year over Palm Sunday weekend, so add it to your calendar for next year: March 22-26, 2013.


    Karen Barnett writes historical romance for the Christian market and has been published in Guideposts, Ladybug and Babybug magazines. She lives in Albany, Oregon with her husband, two kids and a houseful of pets including a dachshund who loves to chew up her daughter’s dance slippers. When she is not writing, Karen enjoys hiking, photography, leading worship with her church’s children’s ministry and decorating outlandish birthday cakes for her kids. She blogs at “Cannot Be Shaken” found at http://www.cannotbeshaken.blogspot.com.



    Don’t miss next week. It’s our final installment with Jodie Bailey sharing about Blue Ridge


    Conference Season – Part 1

    Conference Season – Part 2 – Lisa Buffaloe – ACFW

    Conference Season – Part 3 – Angela Breidenbach – INCWC

    Conference Season – Part 4 – Kimberly Buckner – My Book Therapy retreats

    Conference Season – Part 5 – Christina Tarabochia – OCW


  • conferences,  guest blogger,  writing

    Conference Season – Part 5 – OCW Summer Coaching Conference

    I’m excited about today’s guest post. Christina Berry Tarabochia was one of the first writers I met when I began my publishing journey. She’s a joy! Not only do I think Christina is amazing, but so is the OCW Summer Conference. Read on…


    May the 4th, be with you …

    A long time ago at a conference far, far away—

    Wait, it was actually not so long ago and very near to me, but Oregon Christian Writers summer conferences have truly been an epic adventure in my life.

    At what other conference have all the editors and agents—even female ones—sprouted mustaches overnight? It happened at OCW! (Must have been something in the water.)

    Where else has an editor honestly been in danger from an alligator attack? It happened at OCW when Andy McGuire, then with Moody Publishers, came out a side door of the lodge and unknowingly stepped into a wildlife show for foster children on campus as part of an outreach. A mere yard from a chained up alligator, he thought the kids were pranking him as they yelled their warnings until he turned around and came face to face with a scary reptile.

    Where else could I have sat down at a breakfast table with Francine Rivers and been prayed over and ministered to regarding my then-husband’s unfaithfulness? God’s presence at OCW is amazing!

    Where else could Angela Hunt come to keynote and actually change her planned speech after seeing the spirit of unity and encouragement that pervades the entire conference?

    I could tell story after story about the fun I’ve had at OCW—a banana instrument prank, a crazy dress-up night, the year we all melted in the heat, the celebrity stalkings—but that’s not really what captures the heart of OCW, and I’d be doing a disservice to the wonderful organization not to go deeper.

    My first year, back in 2004, my mother and I arrived with high expectations and lower-than-we-thought-we-had skills. The OCW community welcomed us right in. Within two years, we were both on the summer conference staff, committed to making sure every conferee and editor and agent has the best experience possible. Without OCW’s bringing in the best of the best, I would not have learned the skills to write and contract an award-winning novel.

    Here are a few of the highlights and examples of what sets OCW apart from other conferences:

    ~small town, forested settings. In our new setting of Aldersgate in Turner, Oregon, there are rich-smelling pines, meandering trails, possible deer sightings, and even a water slide!

    ~coaching classes. These continuing education classes are usually capped at 12 people. Each morning, you’ll spend a few hours interacting with one of the best writing professionals in the word.  I’ve had the privilege of studying under Eva Marie Everson, Bonnie Leon, Lisa Samson, Bette Nordberg, Chip MacGregor, Karen Ball (twice!), Wendy Lawton, and Alice Crider.

    ~a focus on fiction AND non-fiction. You can learn about poetry, screen-writing, devotionals, magazine articles, memoirs, marketing, social media, and more, as well as novel writing.

    ~the afternoons are spent in a few workshops—with way too many good ones to pick from, so all the sessions are recorded and available for purchase on CDs—followed by agent or editor panels or the autograph party. (I’ll be teaching All I Really Needed to Know about Writing I Learned Editing this year!)

    ~giveaways. After each keynote, the winner of the drawing gets either a gift certificate to the book store or a HUGE basket of how-to books or FREE TUITION for next year’s conference.

    ~quality. The first time I went to a large national conference, I realized I had met nearly every one of the editors and agents at OCW. Truthfully, the editors and agents were a lot more likely to remember me from the smaller conference compared to the national conference.

    ~tables. Since OCW is more intimate, you can develop true relationship with other writers, editors, and agents. It’s much easier to find the table of one you’d like to talk to during lunch or dinner in a smaller venue! I would count many top editors, several agents, and a few best-selling authors as true friends because of the time we’ve spent connecting at OCW.

    ~food. Served buffet-style, which allows for repeat visits, the food is amazing. Many conferees, myself included, went crazy over the stuffed meatloaf last year and the chef was kind enough to share the recipe in the next OCW newsletter.

    ~manuscript critique. Some conferences don’t let you send manuscripts ahead. Some conferences make you pay to send manuscripts ahead. Some conferences only let you send to pro-writers. OCW offers the amazing chance to submit a mini proposal to THREE editors and agents of your choice and you are guaranteed some kind of feedback. Plus, this year, one can also submit magazine articles!

    ~prayer team. Every single person who sets a foot on campus has been covered by prayer first by our prayer team. They are always on hand to encourage and comfort.

    There are so many other amazing things, like the fantastic bookstore, the staff, the volunteers who shuttle people from the airport, and the music, but I think the best thing someone reading this blog can do is come experience it for him or herself.


    Christina Berry writes about the heart and soul of life with a twist of intrigue. She holds a bachelor’s in Literature, yet loves a good Calculus problem as well. Captain of a winning Family Feud team, Christina is also a purple belt in tae kwondo and would love to own a de-scented skunk.

    Her debut novel, The Familiar Stranger, was a 2010 Christy Finalist and Carol Award winner. Released from Moody, it deals with lies, secrets, and themes of forgiveness in a troubled marriage. Christina is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, the Redeemed Writers critique group, and has served on Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference staff for the past six years. A newlywed who found her prince on eHarmony, she runs a thriving editing business and manages a household of five children and one cat.

    A moving speaker and dynamic teacher, Christina strives to Live Transparently–Forgive Extravagantly!

    Her work has also appeared in The Secret Place, The Oregonian, The Christian Communicator, and Daily Devotions for Writers.


    Conference Season – Part 1

    Conference Season – Part 2

    Conference Season – Part 3

    Conference Season – Part 4


    And still to come…

    May 11 – Karen Barnett – Mount Hermon

    May 18 – Jodie Bailey – Blue Ridge