Saturday, April 12, 2014

Heart to Heart with Agent Jim Hart...

Jim Hart is an agent with the Hartline Literary Agency, and will be teaching workshops at St. Davids on “Why You Should Hire an Agent” and “Proposals that Pop.”  He also will offer free 15-minute appointments to conferees interested in pitching their books to him. Jim was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer the following questions.
—Audrey Stallsmith      

Why did you decide to become a literary agent? 

I really needed a job that I could be passionate about.

Is the job harder or easier than you had expected?

Parts of the job have been a challenge. Receiving eight rejections in one day from a single publisher can be hard!

In your experience, what is the biggest mistake that beginning writers make when approaching an agent?

Not doing their homework. Is your book even appropriate for the agent that you’re sending to? Have you looked at their preferred submission guidelines? Are you prepared with a convincing and complete proposal?

If you could change one thing about the Christian publishing industry, what would it be?

I think I’m struggling with the idea of turning some authors into ‘literary rock stars.’ I recognize the need for strong marketing – without it books would not be sold. But, as a follower of Christ, I tend to be uncomfortable with the pedestal that the Christian entertainment industry, as a whole, seems to put creative people up on.

Do you market only to Christian publishing houses or are you willing to approach secular ones as well?

I’m beginning to approach general market publishers.

What types of books and authors do you prefer to represent?

I have a very eclectic palate when it comes to books. I like nonfiction books that deal with church growth, evangelism strategies, and also biographies. For fiction I just like a good story, regardless of genre. I lean toward unique and quirky styles. It’s okay with me if it’s a story that I’ve already heard, if it’s being told in a fresh manner.

How necessary is it for those authors to have an online presence these days, and which of the following would you consider the most important:  a web site, online articles, social media, or a blog?

I personally like to see a professional looking author web page that is content rich with blogs, videos, and great graphics. Look professional and you’re more apt to be taken seriously. If you don’t have an adequate, substantial, national platform, then it’s going to be tough to have a publisher pick you up. If you’ve been published, you still have to be a major component in the marketing process, and that includes an ‘all-of-the-above’ mentality.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Shirley Stevens at St. Davids: "Participating in the Poem" Workshop

Shirley Stevens will be leading a fascinating new workshop at St. Davids this year, called "Participating in the Poem." I asked her what was going to make this workshop different, and she graciously shared with me some thoughts on her workshop. We urge you to try this fun and interactive way to learn new things about poetry ... and yourself.
—Linda M. Au

When I lead workshops, poets ask me if I consider poetry an oral form or a written one. Of course, my answer is both.

The earliest poets memorized and recited their poems since there was no written form. It is important to pay attention to both sound and sense.

I have found that dialogue poems are fun to write and perform. Paul Fleischman's "Joyful Noise" won the Newberry Award for poems in which insects interact. I have written poems in which animals speak to one another, objects interact, and humans dialogue with one another.

Jana Carman and Patti Souder, who were in my St. Davids workshop, went on to write two books of Poems for Two Voices in which Biblical characters interact, These poems were performed by a drama troupe in an Off-Broadway Theater.

I hope that you will bring your poems to class. We will read poems aloud by modern poets. You will write poems in class and read them in small groups as well as to the class as a whole.

This class is for a range of writers from the beginning poet to the advanced. Prose writers often profit from practicing the art of poetry writing. There is definitely a carry off to polishing your prose. After this workshop I hope that you will look for opportunities to perform your poems, ranging from poetry readings to church performances. Poetry should not be limited to a static form on the page. It is meant
to be heard.
—Shirley Stevens


Friday, March 21, 2014

Attention Writers: St Davids Christian Writers Conference Scholarships Available. APPLY NOW!

Have you been thinking about taking your writing to a new level? Do you yearn for relationships with others that share your same interest - writing?

At St. Davids Christian Writers' Conference, you'll find like minded people and so much more.

If you've never been to a writers' conference and have always wanted to go and learn to hone your craft and discover new opportunities to share your writing, then consider St. Davids this year.

Don't keep telling yourself you'll attend someday when you have the money, or maybe you've been saving and waiting for the right time.

Each year, Saint Davids offers a variety of part-time and full-time scholarships for interested in attending that may be facing some financial difficulties.

St. Davids, unlike many of the writers' conferences around the globe, offers a relaxed setting filled with learning, fellowship, and laughs. It's a great place to get to know other writers, exchange experiences, brainstorm, and have a more one on one classroom environment with the staff.

Just check out what others have had to say from their testimonials on our page, or better yet, come check us out for yourself.

Scholarship applications are due April 30th.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Discovering Your Purpose as a Writer

One of the popular topics in today’s Christian circles is about "call." God’s call on your life. It starts with seeking God and knowing His heart and purposes, being still, listening, and embracing what God brings into your experiences. Then we persevere through the downs of life and stay humble during the ups of life.

Vocation is one of those huge life choices that reflective Christians want to get right. If a nudge has been after you (that internal NUDGE is one of the Holy Spirit’s first forms of communication), to write, to testify to God’s greatness in written words, to share your story which is, of course, Jesus’ story through articles, novels, poetry, comics, cards, blogs, or any other forms of writing — have I got a day for you.

The 23rd Annual To Writing Success writers conference will be held on Saturday, April 26, 2014 with keynote speaker Mike Dellosso talking about "Discovering your purpose as a writer." This one day writing conference offers workshops in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. This year we have a focus on writing Children’s books. There is also a general offering of workshops dealing with the craft, business, and life of writers.

This teaching conference is a great place to test the waters if you are considering becoming a writer — or if you know you want to write, but don’t know where to begin. Informal, relaxed, and reasonably priced, the conference also offers various contests in poetry, non-fiction, and fiction, and the opportunity to have 6 pages of manuscript critiqued by a professional.

Early bird registration of $55.00 ends March 31 so sign up today.

Visit our web site at for information about the speakers, workshops, and registration details.

We meet at Emmanuel Christian Church, one mile off exit 130 on Interstate 79 in western Pennsylvania. This conference is supported by a core group of writers who will gladly share their expertise, even if they aren’t leading a workshop. And if you are confident of your call to write, it’s a great celebration for surviving another PA winter and recharging your batteries to write for God’s glory one more year. There’s nothing quite like a group of writers loving and supporting one another. Don’t miss out; join the fun!

Gloria Clover
Director of the Writing Success Writers' Conference

Friday, March 7, 2014

Weaving and Writing

I'm in the process of learning how to weave. As I've worked my way through the learning curve, the phrase "weaving a story" has taken on a whole new meaning. If you've never tried weaving, here are some of the highlights.

  • The longest and most intense part of the process is in the preparation.
  • No matter how careful you are, threads will get tangled, sometimes hopelessly, forcing you to cut them out.
  • Threads will twist when you least expect it.
  • If you don’t press hard enough on the beater to keep the rows close together, you’ll end up with holes in your work.
  • It’s easy to get confused as to which way you’re working, especially when you have to stop and pick up your work later.
  • When using a variegated thread (as I am), you don’t know what the finished product will look like until you’re finished.

Starting a new project fills me with excitement and anticipation. Sometimes I get to a point where I’m tired of the pre-process and just want to get to the writing. If I skimp on my research, character development, or plot line, it’s not long before I get stuck. Having to stop and do more research, brainstorm new ideas, or sit down and have a heart-to-heart with my main character ultimately takes longer than if I’d taken the time I needed in the preparation stage.

I love my words and stories—as all of us do. I can go off on tangents or fill my manuscripts with words and scenes I think are beautiful and marvelous. But when I objectively look back, I discover a tangled mess. The only solution, painful as it is, is to cut out the sections that do not contribute to the story.

Even with all the planning in the world, my story occasionally takes an unexpected twist. At times, this can add dimension and design. Or, I may find myself trapped in a dead end. Then I must retrace my steps to where the twist happened and fix it.

I need to work consistently on a project. When I continuously pick it up and put it down, I lose that momentum that causes a story to flow. That leads to holes in the plot, disappearing characters, and forgetting where I was headed in the first place.

At times, like during NaNoWriMo, it can be fun, invigorating, and refreshing to just write, not knowing how it will turn out until the end. While this approach does contain some risk, the story may end up being worthwhile, or a piece whose value is contained in the practice and the process. Either way, the joy is in the journey.

I’m convinced that whoever coined the phrase, “weaving a story” must have been both a weaver and a writer. The parallels are inspiring. So, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my weaving . . .

Susan Reith Swan is a freelance writer and editor who has loved St. Davids since 1991. In addition to writing, she can frequently be found crafting, knitting, or snuggling with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel while she reads. Check out her blog, Li-tea-ra-ture at

Friday, February 28, 2014

A new direction?

From the “Be careful what you pray for — you just might get it” department:
I believe that God is calling me to write a book. No — seriously.

How do I know that this came from God? Because it was something I never envisioned. Though I dabbled in poetry as a teen and wrote song lyrics in my 20s, I consider myself primarily an essayist and have worked for nearly 16 years as a professional journalist.

However, at the end of last year I began praying, and asked other people to pray, that I might find more and better opportunities to write; naturally, I thought that would mean writing for magazines. Besides, many, if not most, writers that I know are working on books and I didn’t want to add to the glut.

So what caused the inspiration? Picking up a book at a conference in February and realizing, This guy is talking about some of the things I’ve been concerned about for years. Maybe I can add to the conversation.
So far, after about two weeks of work, I have about four pages of notes. I’ve never done this before, so I’m learning as I go.

And that may be the point.

From what little I know about book-writing, it calls for far more commitment than the essays, feature pieces and hard-news articles that have heretofore been my bread-and-butter. If I do embark on this, I will need to find a way to get to the word processor on a more consistent basis, perhaps every day.
Though many people have told me that I’m a talented writer — one of my college professors, upon my saying to her that it might take me 10 years to become established, responded, “It won’t take you that long” — I still will need to put in the work on this project. As Thomas Edison said, “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.” Fortunately, I know people who have done this and will help me get rolling — another reason to come to conference in June.

Will I get it finished? Will it be published? Will it sell? Only God knows.

If you’re wondering, I do have a topic and even a working title; however, that’s not important. What’s important is that writing becomes as much about who I am as what I do. It could be that, once I get started, I’ll be able to hone my craft — and, in the process, improve what I’m already doing and get to where I want to go.

Rick Nowlin

Friday, February 21, 2014

I Want To Be A Writer

I want to be a writer.

Those words change life as we know it, especially once you realize that the essence of writing is more than simply coming up with a great idea. It’s researching and brainstorming, reading and studying, editing and revising, building a platform and networking.

Once that truth sets in, the question that inevitably follows is this: Where do I start? You start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. I admit I love that memorable line from the classic movie The Sound of Music, and every time I listen to Julie Andrews sing it, I can’t help but sing along. If only following her advice were as simple and fun as singing the song.

Most new writers are so excited about the prospect of writing the great American novel that they want to skip the prerequisites. I remember thinking I could. I was an English major in college, had been teaching writing and literary analysis for years, what more could I possibly need to know? As it turned out, quite a bit. The more I delved into the writing world, the more I realized I had to learn. The fact is, I’m still learning.

The naked truth is that there is no shortcut to writing well. Stephen King, in his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, says it this way: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”

Writing a lot means making a commitment every day to get something on the page. Understand and accept in advance that much of what goes on that page will have to be revised and rewritten numerous times, but don’t give up. Remember that writing in spite of the obstacles is vital to becoming a good writer.

Reading a lot requires more than a proclivity for speed reading. It requires careful study of the books fundamental to your craft. Read books by various authors in your genre. Study and dissect them. Make notes on sentence structure, word choice, and descriptive language. Analyze how the authors develop mood, tone, character, and plot then apply what you learn to your own work.

Purchase instructional books on the writing craft. (See the many options in our bookstore.) Highlight them, dog-ear them, and make notes in the margins. Complete their sample exercises and practice their techniques until your work transforms from cautious imitation to confident creation. 

Another key ingredient to learning to write well is to talk with other writers. Find a writers group in your area, research online options, or make plans to attend a writers’ conference. The St. Davids conference runs from June 17-21—just over 100 days away—and registration begins in March. We have a limited number of scholarships available and offer a significant discount for those who register by May 10. Explore our Web site and see all the opportunities we have to offer then come join us for a week you’ll never forget. 

The writing life is a journey. If you’re ready to take your first step, try St. Davids. It’s a very good place to start.

Vickie Price Taylor has a bachelor’s degree in English Education and has spent the better part of the last decade sharing her passion for writing with high school students. A lover of fiction, she is most often either reading a good book or working on writing one of her own. Her stories have earned finalist positions in both the 2007 Molly Contest and the 2011TARA Contest. She currently serves as director of the St. Davids Christian Writers Conference. When she’s not hanging out with her family or jogging the trails in her home state of West Virginia, you can find her on her blog at