Sunday, March 2, 2014

7 Things I Learned at the 2014 Christian Writer’s Guild Conference - Guest Post by Shelley Hitz

Recently I (Lorilyn Roberts) asked Shelley Hitz to share with us what she learned at the 2014 Christian Writer's Guild Conference. I was excited to have one of our John 3:16 authors to attend. Enjoy Shelley's insights and tidbits of wisdom. The information she highlights below makes me want to go next year. 

I recently attended the Christian Writers Guild, "Writing for the Soul," conference. I learned a lot of practical information I know I can apply immediately. I met some great people and took TONS of notes.  I will be sharing with you just a few of the things I learned.

#1:  Real Writing is Re-Writing
I attended the “Thick-Skinned Manuscript Clinic” conducted by Jerry B. Jenkins and Andy Scheer. In this session, they gave us two pages of notes on self-editing and then showed us samples of opening pages of both fiction and nonfiction works submitted by conference attendees. They then went through line by line and showed us how they would recommend editing the work. This was done anonymously without sharing who the author was of each piece. It was amazing to watch the editing process from two experts in the field. I learned so much.  It was like watching a before and after makeover. The key point that Jerry made during this session is that “real writing is re-writing.” So true!

#2:  The Best Way to Get Speaking Engagements
This session by McNair Wilson was both entertaining and informative. I laughed a lot, but I also took a lot of notes. One of the takeaways from this session was that I needed to be an O.Y.F.O.L. speaker.  O.Y.F.O.L. stands for On Your Feet Out Loud. McNair recommends that every speaker get on their feet and practice their talk out loud several times. Just like we need to practice a sport or a musical instrument, we also need to practice being a speaker. However, he emphasized that correct practice makes perfect. Therefore, he then went on to share how we should practice to be an effective speaker. Good stuff.

#3:  How to Contact the Media
This was probably my favorite session and was the most practical for where I am right now as an author. The presenter, Julie Neils, has worked as a publicist for well-known ministries like Focus on the Family and other major corporations. I could tell she really knew her stuff. My favorite quote from her session was, “Journalists do not want information.  They want stories.”

She proceeded to give us step-by-step instructions on the best way to contact the media and how to pitch our book as a story. One of my goals this year is to do more speaking, which includes pitching my story to the media, and this workshop helped me to know how to prepare and which media to contact first.

#4:  Interview Tips
In the session “Conducting and Writing Interviews” by Dennis Hensley he shared a ton of do’s and don’ts for interviewing guests. I have a full page of notes, but his main point was to master the skill of listening. If you are NOT a good listener, chances are you will NOT be a good interviewer. 

#5:  Sharing Our Testimony is Powerful
Dennis E. Hensley also shared a session on how to turn your testimony into a marketable book. I was interested to hear what he had to say as I have done that very thing with several of my books. He took the testimony of Paul and correlated it with how we can share our own testimony. He gave us many points to consider but a few that stood out to me were to give your story a sharp focus, point people to Christ and not yourself and to be honest, open and vulnerable. Be real and let the reader see your struggle. This session was confirmation for some of the writing I have already done.

#6:  It is Important to Encourage Each Other
Writing can be a very lonely occupation. Therefore, one thing I learned is that we need each other. I met many amazing writers during the weekend. One highlight of the conference for me is when a woman opened up to a few of us before the last session. We were able to pray with her about her unpublished book project and the ministry God is leading her into. God was in our midst and we were all encouraged afterwards.

#7:  Never Give Up
From the keynote speeches to the breakout sessions, all the speakers had similar stories. It took years for them to learn the craft of writing and years to get published. Their success was not overnight. Therefore, the overarching theme of the weekend was…never give up!

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to attend this conference.  I was inspired both professionally and spiritually. They do have MP3’s of the sessions if you are interested here.

The Christian Writers Guild is planning on changing the format of their conferences to multiple regional conferences vs. one national conference each year. This should make it more affordable for authors to attend as the venue will be closer to home. I would definitely recommend these conferences to both new and experienced authors.

Shelley Hitz is an award-winning and internationally best-selling author. She is the owner of and is passionate about helping authors succeed in publishing and marketing their books.  She teaches from personal experience. Shelley has been writing and publishing books since 2008 and has published over 30 books including print, eBook and audio book formats.

Download Shelley's free training “Building a Book Marketing Plan” ($27 value) when you sign up for her newsletter here:


  1. Thank you, Shelley, for sharing with us. Very inspiring just to read your comments and learn vicariously through you.

    1. You're welcome Lorilyn! Thank you for sharing my post.

  2. I often think back to the conference I attended years ago there - good stuff. Glad to hear they are spreading the conferences around.

    1. Lisa - I think the regional conferences will be much more convenient for authors. They should be sharing more about their plan for these soon. :)

  3. Thanks for the info Shelley! Love the idea of regional conferences. CO is to far for me. I bet the thick-skin critique session was AMAZING.