Monday, November 7, 2011

The Best Little Conference You Never Heard Of

Ever heard of the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference? I hadn't until a couple years ago when I stumbled on its website. God made it possible for me to be there this weekend, and I highly recommend it.

One hundred seventy-four writers from seventeen states and Canada gathered at the Wesleyan Church World Headquarters on the north side of Indy to hone their craft, fellowship and worship with other writers, and meet in one-on-one consultations with a cadre of professionals--literary agents, editors, and established writers.

Best-selling author Angela Hunt (above), whose books have won the coveted Christy award, along with several other honors, was the keynote speaker. Her experience in writing everything from children's picture books to non-fiction and adult novels equipped her to encourage and inspire writers, no matter where they were on their journey.

She equated writing to constructing a building. Both the builder and the writer need the correct tools, and both need to work hard. With the "write" tools, one can build "words, sentences, even books."

I loved Hunt's style. She was natural, intimate, and professional all at the same time. She interacted easily with her audience and kept us smiling--sometimes giggling--while conveying serious points. And she wasn't afraid to chase a rabbit or two, if they happened to cross her path.

I wish I could have attended all the sessions, but that just isn't possible. I was twice blessed to hear Les Strobbe (left), whose credentials would fill this blog space. Saturday's topic was "Are Agents Really Necessary?" Since he is one, he was qualified to address the subject. I expected him to say, "Absolutely!" He did, going into detail about the value and responsibilities of an agent. He also discussed how one should go about seeking an agent, not necessarily accepting the first one to show interest in one's work.

On Saturday Strobbe's topic was "Expanding Your Ministry through Writing." He urged attendees to examine their own areas of expertise and experience. How might we use our experience to minister to the Body of Christ or to reach others for Him? It was a thought-provoking session.

James Watkins (right), award-winning author of sixteen books and over 2,000 articles--and a great stand-up comedian, I might add--did a serious workshop on how to be humorous in our writing. First, he explained the value of humor as an attention getter and a teaching tool, and then he listed and defined the various types of humor. We laughed and learned.

Shannon Marchese (left), senior editor of fiction for WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group (a division of Random House), warned writers about "Speed Bumps in Fiction Writing." She gave us a handout that I intend to keep close by to review from time to time. Most of the ideas listed were familiar to me, but then I've studied my craft for a long time. We never finish learning to write well.

She warned against such things as:

Cheesy foreshadowing, when writers use cutesy devices which give the plot away (such as a boat named "incommunicado" when the problem in the marriage is poor communication);

Deus ex machina, endings that smack of the hand of God reaching down to suddenly right everything or endings that have a new unknown character suddenly appear as the cause of all the woes;

Flat characters--bad characters being over-the-top bad and good characters being too good, because both types are equally unbelievable and unlikeable;

Purple prose or overwriting;

Poor research, even in contemporary novels. "Know your cow-birthing scenes."

I entered the room for Andy Scheer's session "Is Your Manuscript Ready To Edit" feeling a bit sad, knowing it was the last session of the conference for this year. Scheer's upbeat style soon lightened my mood. As was the case with most of the presenters I heard, the sixty minutes allowed each session was not nearly enough to cover all he or she intended. Scheer could have used twice that.

He broke down the various aspects of our writing and explained how we could self-evaluate manuscripts, addressing issues related to both fiction and non-fiction. I liked what he said about point of view, suggesting that writers consider how a scene would change if related from a different character's POV.

 Todd Burpo, minister and author of the best-selling book Heaven Is for Real, also spoke. From the impassioned way he addressed his audience, it was clear he believed the account he gave.

Now you know about the Indianapolis Christian Writers Conference. The 11th annual conference is slated for the first weekend in November 2012. Mark your calendars to attend. Will I see you there?

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Write on!


  1. I enjoyed going to a part of the conference. I had business elsewhere for Saturday afternoon, but I thoroughly enjoyed all of Friday and Saturday morning. I received inspiration, motivation, and education!

  2. Rick, it was good to see you at the conference. Sorry we didn't get to chat longer.

    Write on!
    Because of Christ,