Q & A with novelist Melanie Dickerson: Sharing God’s love through magical tales

6 Jun

Inspirational novelist Melanie Dickerson is having a great year.

Her latest book, The Orphan’s Wish, is due any minute from Thomas Nelson Publishers–and it adds to the impressive list of fairy tale novels that have become fan favorites and critical successes.

The Orphan’s Wish is a creative “retelling” of the Aladdin story, and follows such novels as The Silent Songbird (a retelling of the the Little Mermaid), The Golden Braid (a retelling of Rapnuzel), the books in the “Regency Spies of London” series and many more. She’s made it on the New York Times Bestseller List and also won the 2017 Christy Award for Young Adult fiction.

Melanie earned a bachelors degree in special education of the hearing impaired from The University of Alabama and has worked as a teacher in Georgia, Tennessee, and Ukraine. She lives with her husband and two children in Huntsville, Alabama.

Melanie will be one of the keynote speakers at the Southern Christian Writers Conference this weekend, and I got a chance to talk with her about her writing–and what she’s planning on talking about at the workshop.

Question: Tell us about what you right and the message behind your novels.

Answer:  I write Christian historical novels. Most of them are written specifically for teens or young adults, but they seem to appeal to people of all ages who like adventure stories and clean, inspirational romance. I try to write books that will encourage–encouragement is my spiritual gift–and will help young women in their decision-making and thought processes. I tend to write the stories that I needed when I was a teen, about 16 years old, and struggling with my thoughts and feelings about myself and about God and life. I desperately want to get the message across that God loves each person, that he has good plans for your life, and he longs to bless and help you. But our part is to pray and believe and trust him in every circumstance, and to make wise decisions.

Of course, the main purpose of any story is to entertain. Without lots of excitement and all the necessary elements of a good story, no one would read my novels! But it’s almost impossible not to let the truth about God and his message come through! That’s my philosophy, anyway.

Q: How did you become a novelist? What was that journey like?

A:  I became a novelist when I wrote my first novel at the age or 13 or 14. I wrote a second novel before I finished high school. I loved making up stories, and I wanted to be an author as my career, but when I realized how difficult it was to get published, I quit writing in favor of getting a “real job” and getting out on my own. Thankfully, God brought me back to writing in 2003, when I caught the writing bug again, and I’ve never looked back.

Q: What sort of inspiration and information are hoping to bring to the SCWC?

A: I am teaching a workshop on Conflict and Tension, which are essential to every good story. It’s such a broad subject, I hope I can at least scratch the surface and share some helpful tips. And I’ll be speaking about how to be a successful writer. I hope I can share some encouragement for all the writers there not to give up on their dreams. I have 3 key characteristics every writer needs, and they all start with “T.”

We can’t wait to see Melanie this weekend.

Let us know if you need more information about the Southern Christian Writers Conference.

Learn more about the conference here.

Learn more about Melanie at her website.

 

 

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What’s so great about writing conferences? Check out why we love them

5 Jun

Have you ever thought about attending a writing conference or workshop, but wonder if it’s worth your time, money, and effort?

If you’ve asked yourself such questions, we’re here to say: Writing conferences can be wonderful experiences?

While (obviously) some conferences are better than others, the best offer some great benefits to their attendees.

Here are 10 reasons why writing conferences can be beneficial experiences to both aspiring and published writers:

  1. You get practical instruction from professionals. Conferences provide sessions and talks on any number of topics, led by professionals in the industry or published writers themselves. Topics can run the gamut from novel writing to poetry to songwriting to feature writing–and everything in between.
  2. You can meet with agents. Getting to know an agent is invaluable to your success as a published author. Many writing conferences offer sessions with established agents; they’ll look at your book manuscript or discuss your ideas, then offer practical advice.
  3. You can pick other peoples’ brains. When you attend conferences with the aforementioned individuals–editors, publishers, agents, writers, authors–you can pick the brains of people who know what they’re talking about. You can get answers and insights in a way you can’t get any other way.
  4. You learn about trends in the writing industry. Professionals who speak at writing conferences know what’s up in the writing industry. Need to know more about using social media? Need to know more about what trends are popular in novels today? You can get the scoop on everything that’s essential in today’s writing and publishing world.
  5. You get to talk with other writers. You also get to meet plenty of other writers, whether they’re the speakers or they’re other conference attendees. There’s nothing like spending time with like-minded people.
  6. You get to talk about your writing. Do you ever think that some people in your life get tired of hearing about your writing? At a writing conference that will not happen. You will have plenty of time and opportunity to talk about your writing–with people who are truly interested.
  7. You can explore needed resources. A writing conference can provide you with a wealth of resources–whether it’s names of agents or editors who are looking for writers, websites that can be helpful, new avenues of publishing, books you should read, or writing groups you can become a part of.
  8. You get inspired. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you come away from a writing conference. You’re inspired! You’re ready to write!
  9. You simply enjoy a getaway. Sometimes you just need to find some time to get away and focus on your own needs and dreams. A writing conference is the perfect combination of vacation and motivation.
  10. You develop a plan. A good writing conference will leave you with a plan. You’ll come away knowing what you want to write, and you’ll have the resources and information to develop a plan to get started on your endeavors.

 

Q & A with literary agent Karen Moore: “We hope to engage the hearts of writers to motivate their direction”

29 May

Karen Moore will be at the Southern Christian Writers Conference on June 8-9 alongside her husband Bruce Barbour; the two of them will be doing workshop sessions and also meeting individually with authors looking for an agent.

Karen is an award-winning author of more than sixty books, which cover a wide range of topics and include daily devotionals and gift book formats. She is a regular author with Christians Art Gifts and has published with Simon & Schuster, Faith Words, Thomas Nelson, and Abingdon Press.

She and husband Bruce work through their Literary Management Group, Inc., a full-service literary agency and publishing consulting firm that has represented best-selling authors and properties including Zig Ziglar, Sandra Felton, and The Beginner’s Bible and consulted with publishing houses including Thomas Nelson and other large companies.

I recently had the opportunity to ask Karen a couple of questions about the agency process, and how she hopes to help writers attending the conference in Tuscaloosa.

Question: What advice would you give to someone who has written a book–or perhaps has a book idea? What steps do they need to take to find success?
Answer: This is the topic of my workshop for SCWC this year.  I advise writers to stretch and bend and look at their ideas from every angle they possibly can. When they are done with that part of things, they should ask themselves questions about their idea, like: “What attracts me to this idea?”  “Will this idea educate or inspire or motivate a reader? Will this idea stand up against some of the other works already in print?  Is this a BIG idea?  If the writer can answer those questions, they can build an outline and put a proposal together.  After that, they can start writing!
Q: How do you help to inspire writers at the Southern Christian Writers Conference?
A: It’s hard to know what inspires one individual writer over another, but one thing I always try to remind myself and other writers about is that no matter what your experience level may be, it’s important to recognize that no one else has your voice. No one else will handle your subject matter or genre in the same way you do.  It’s good to  start any project by listening for God’s direction, and then write and rewrite as though you are writing for God Himself.  We all need to practice our skills, keep idea notebooks, try a direction, and then try another. It’s important not to put yourself in a box.  Keep moving! Writers write nearly every day! At SCWC, Bruce and I both try to inspire new ways to think about writing, and we try to turn up the light of understanding about process and how publishing really works.  We hope to engage the hearts of writers to motivate their direction.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your relationship with Bruce, and how the two of you work together to help writers?
A: Bruce and I often discuss proposals that come in to his office or mine.  We have different skill sets and experience with different genres.  If one of us really likes an idea that comes in, but it is not our area of expertise, we’ll share that proposal with each other and discuss whether we think it is strong enough to pursue.    We keep up with current market trends and since we have years of experience both inside big publishing houses, and outside as consultants, we believe we can guide writers toward greater opportunities.  We’ve both been trained to take a nugget of an idea and see how it can be nurtured into a big idea.  Seeing an author’s work hit the shelves and serve readers in a new way, brings us both delight.
You don’t want to miss meeting Karen–and Bruce!–at this year’s Southern Christian Writers Conference.

Dear Graduate…

29 May

College and high school graduations are taking place all across the country. My middle daughter, Delaney, graduated this last weekend from college and is getting ready to head off to Atlanta, where she will go after her master’s in divinity at Emory University.

For now, we’re enjoying her being at home for one last Summer.

And I had to write this small ode to how I felt as I saw her walk across the stage at Birmingham-Southern and receive her college diploma. (And how I felt the day before, as I snapped this picture of her holding onto her teddy bear Katreena–which she has had since she was 6.)

~ ~ ~ ~

Time flies
when you’re 5.

Walking into kindergarten,
holding tightly onto Momma’s hand.

Then running, rushing, spinning, flinging
headlong into whatever may come.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

“A teacher, a singer, a preacher, a president.”

No fear, no frailty, no fight
(except when you hold tight
onto your teddy bear at night).

Time flies
when you’re 21.

Walking into graduation,
holding tightly onto Momma’s heart.

Then running, rushing, spinning, flinging
headlong into the world you envision.

Some fear, some frailty, some fight,
but more smiles, songs, sunshine.

The world awaits,
the future beckons.

Anything can happen.

Time flies
when I’m 50.

You were just 5.
Just 10, just 13, just 18.

Turn your head for a second,
lose sight of you on the playground.

Blink.

The minutes, the moments,
the years disappear.

But the love.
The smiles.
The pride.

Those grow.

 

Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg is coming to the SCWC on June 8

23 May

We’ve got BIG news for those coming to the Southern Christian Writers Conference this year. If you register for the conference you automatically get to attend the dinner and awards ceremony for Southern author extraordinaire Rick Bragg. We are beyond excited about Rick being with us, and know you will be too! Here’s the press release that went out today about the announcement:

~~~~~~~~~

Rick Bragg has been selected to receive the 2018 National Award for the Encouragement of Writing. The award recognizes an individual who has been exemplary in supporting writers over many years.

The award ceremony is schedule for Friday, June 8, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Tickets for the ceremony and dinner are $15. Information is available by emailing vision.press.books@gmail.com. The deadline to purchase tickets is May 28.

A professor of writing at the University of Alabama, Bragg has spoken at conferences and writing workshops around the nation. The number of writers he has inspired is legion, and many say he is their favorite living writer.

Bragg won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 1996 and has had a number of national best-selling books.

He has received more than 50 writing awards and his Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing (while he was working for the New York Times) cited his “elegantly written stories about contemporary America.” He’s also won the Southern Book Prize and Harper Lee Award.

To learn more about Rick Bragg and his writing, check out his page on Wikipedia.

Read his collection of essays at Southern Living.

Buy tickets to Rick’s ceremony/dinner at the Southern Christian Writers Conference website.

The Southern Christian Writers Conference is the perfect start to your Summer

17 May

 

The annual Southern Christian Writers Conference is mere weeks away…and we’d LOVE to have you participate with us.

The conference has been around for 26 years and regularly attracts attendees from around the Southeast and the nation for two days of instruction, motivation, and fellowship.

This year’s conference is June 8 and 9 at First Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and features keynote speakers Melanie Dickerson and John Phillips.

Workshop sessions throughout the weekend include such varied topics as songwriting, magazine writing, nonfiction book publishing, and social media marketing.

And, as a special highlight, world-renowned author Rick Bragg will receive the Joanne Sloan Award at a Friday night dinner.

Learn more at the SCWC website (GO HERE), where you can check out everything about the event and also pre-register.

 

Q & A with musician Keith Elder: “Songwriting is cheaper than a therapist”

8 May

Keith Elder will be speaking at the 2018 Southern Christian Writers Conference on songwriting. His experience will inspire and inform any attendees who are songwriters–or who may have an interest in learning more about this creative endeavor.

Keith is a full-time United Methodist minister who has more than 30 years of experience writing and performing for concerts, conferences, and church events. Along with music for his albums, he has written many theme songs for service organizations and special events and also has written and produced several small-scale musicals. He also leads and participates in songwriting workshops and symposiums.

I can’t wait for all of you to meet Keith–and be inspired by his music!

Question: When did you get started songwriting?

Answer: Early on, I was pretty good with words—loved word games like Scrabble, crossword puzzles, etc. There was always music in our home—Mom played piano and organ, and Dad sang. I was a teen in the late Sixties and early Seventies and resonated with James Taylor and John Denver and a dozen other folk/rock/pop artists. And, I guess, one day I gave the songwriting a shot. I remember having to write poems for classes (one 100-line epic for an eighth grade English class.) I honestly cannot remember the first song.

Q: Did it evolve from your playing music?

A: It definitely evolved with my playing music. I started guitar when I was fifteen—mimicking all of my folk heroes—and as off Spring, 2020, I will have played guitar 50 years! Cannot believe it! But it is still fresh and interesting. It’s a rare day that I do not play. I work on songs daily as well. I probably have fifty “song bits” in my phone right now—and at least that many on my laptop.

Q: For anyone who wants to be a songwriter, what are some of your important pieces of advice?

A: Listen to great songs and ask yourself, “What made that so moving?” Write toward a feeling—not a concept. Show me, don’t tell me—that is, paint word pictures. Think details in the verses and big ideas and emotional hook in the chorus. Write something every day! It may just be working on the right word or phrase or verse in a song. You don’t have to finish the song every day or even every week, but write something EVERYDAY.

Write what you know—that is, draw from your own experience.

Q: Tell me a little bit about the processes you do/teach at songwriting seminars, sessions? What can people expect at the SCWC?

A: We’ll start by seeing where people are—experience-wise. I’ll share a dozen or so basic songwriter tips that apply to most any genre.  I’m sure I’ll share songs or bits of songs for illustration’s sake. We’ll brainstorm song possibilities and pick one to work with for remnant of time. I’ll share some resources that will help them on their songwriting journey.

Q: How do you balance being a pastor and a songwriter/musician?

A: New songs are like misbehaving children—you can’t keep them down. You just work on them whenever you have pockets of time. And you have a set time each day that you write. At least, that’s what the pros do. Builders build. Preachers preach. Songwriters write songs.

As for balance, I see and treat my pastoral duties like a do-list. The songwriting fills in the rest of the time like water fill as the space between rocks in a gallon jar.

Q: What does music “do” for you? How does it enrich your life?

A: I jokingly say that songwriting is cheaper than a therapist. Being a song crafter, I get a general sketch and then work out what I think, believe, feel, want. Finishing a song and then sharing it is, perhaps, the most gratifying thing I do. I think, because it was something I was meant to do.

Learn more about Keith’s music at his website–KeithElder.com.

And check him out on Youtube–

https://youtu.be/zsxzV25uuTI

We hope to see you at the Southern Christian Writers Conference. For more information, visit the SCWC website.