Monday, September 29, 2014

{Pizza with Laurie} The Lord Will Personally Go Ahead of You...

I'm going to do the cheesiest thing ever (no YES, pun intended!!) and institute Pizza with Laurie. So since I don't drink coffee, humor the foodie of the Alley and pretend we're sitting across from each other sharing the pizza of your dreams. Today, mine's New York-style cheese. 

Aaaaand GO!


Before I left for the ACFW Conference on Wednesday, part of a Bible verse played through my mind continually: 

"Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

According to the Internet, there are 13 verses that speak of this concept. I had no idea what this would mean in reference to my conference, but I had a feeling I'd find out. So I tucked it away in a safe place for quick recollection. 

Can I be honest here for a minute over our proverbial pizza? Two days before I was supposed to leave for conference, I blurted to my husband that I didn't want to go anymore. It's the most ridiculous and world's most irrational thing in hindsight, and I didn't mean it for one second. But there were all kinds of last-minute curveballs. I had close-call issues with my design and printing. I was sleep-deprived. Work was crazy. Unexpected finances kept popping up. I was a little hesitant to leave my daughter -- not because she wouldn't have been able to handle it like a rockstar, but because I'd been enjoying my time with her so much lately

But the biggest deal was that I feared I'd lost my writing mojo. I took a month-long-plus-change sabbatical from writing because I was frustrated at the amount of time I spent staring at a blank page. I needed to reevaluate. So I felt disconnected from the writing community and didn't know what would happen when I plunged back in. My instinct usually tells me to dip a toe in at first. But there is no such thing as easing into something when it comes to the ACFW. Not really.

"The Lord will personally go ahead of you..."

I genuinely believe that God went before me at the conference and ordained meetings with fellow writers, shaped my words where my own mental capacity would have failed me, and surrounded my writer friends and me with protection. Those words from the Bible became so much more real to me than a blanket reassurance I'd repeat to convince myself that I couldn't ruin His will for my writing no matter how badly I flubbed a pitching appointment :)

Are you facing a huge event in your career like a conference? A personal plot twist? An unexpected financial woe? No matter what your uncertainty looks like, know that where you waver, God is constant. He won't forsake you when you need Him. He will go before you to soften hearts, fill you with bravery, and help you give Him the control He needs in exchange for peace about the situation. 

He's sort of wonderful like that. 

When has God gone before you in an uncertain situation? 


Laurie Tomlinson is a wife and mom from Tulsa, Oklahoma, who enjoys stories of grace in the beautiful mess. She is a member of My Book Therapy and the American Christian Fiction Writers. Her work is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary and received the Genesis Award in 2013 (Contemporary) and 2014 (Romance). 

Connect with Laurie here:

Twitter - @LaurieTomlinson

Typewriters, Alleycats and Answering the Call!

Well if you haven’t heard yet, I signed a publishing contract with Lighthouse of the Carolinas last Thursday at the ACFW conference in St. Louis. It is the first small step forward in a very long journey toward publication. Let me give you a quick flashback of inspiration.

I’m an Appalachian girl. In fact, I’m so Appalachian that Andy Griffith is my fourth cousin and “Mayberry” is my old stompin’ ground. Well, “Mayberry” (or Mt. Airy, NC) was considered the ‘city’ to where I grew up about ten miles away. My childhood world in the Blue Ridge Mountains consisted of a culture of storytellers, but not the kind that actually write the stories down – the storytellers I knew were those that shared amazing tales of generations ago. Scots Irish wanderers, stoic Cherokee, British rebels and French aristocrats, who journeyed to the Blue Ridge Mountains and decided build homes there. From those varied natives and immigrants developed a heritage of warriors, adventurers, and….storytellers.

I come from a long line of those storytellers, but I’ve chosen to take my stories and weave them into fiction with a colorful splash of Appalachian humor, romance, and faith.

I started creating stories pretty early in my childhood, but it wasn’t until my Granny Spencer bought a second-hand typewriter for me, that a dream was born.

I was ten years old and remember saying to her. “Thank you, Granny, but why did you get me a typewriter?”

She smiled, her gray-blue eyes twinkling. “Because a writer needs one.”

A writer? Me.

And thus began the journey.

I’ve been story-creating ever since – but I didn’t start “story-crafting” until about ten years ago when I began taking writer’s courses, reading craft books, and attending conferences. I wrote in the nooks and crannies of my life as a pastor’s wife, mother of five and full-time speech-language pathologist. I learned how to make the dream fit into my real world. It’s been a long journey with well over 40 rejection letters and a heap of disappointment to boot, but in the process I’ve strengthened my craft, met some AMAZING writers, joined a ‘sisterhood’ of the most wonderful ladies I know (Alleycats), and been given the opportunity to have a fantastic, compassionate and positive agent represent me. (Thank you, Julie Gwinn)

The dream didn’t come quickly or with fireworks and music. It came in a quiet, unexpected way.

After I met with the lovely Eva Marie Everson at The Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference in May, had Julie Gwinn send my full manuscripts to them upon request sometime over the summer, I was pleased to receive a contract offer for one of my books last week.  After some prayer, then some chatting with Julie, we made a quick decision to sign the contract at ACFW so that as many of my Alleycats could be present as possible.  (Because, besides my parents, my granny, my kids, and my long-time buddy, Jessica, The Alleycats have been the BIGGEST encouragers in my life.)

I’m still in some sort of ‘dream fog’ about it all. I’ve been pursuing publication for ten years and now….? What happens next?

I’m getting ready to find out and I’m sure I’ll bring the wonderful Alley readers along with me as I discover what’s on the ‘other’ side of this dream J

I think my granny discovered this dream in me – a dream, designed by God, and cultivated through the care of encouragement and perseverance. God has dreams in all of us – dreams to glorify Him through our lives, whether it is to write a novel, serve a neighbor, journey to the mission field, be a loving parent, or teach in a classroom. He’s working His beautiful plan out in all of our lives. He has encouragers along your journey too.

Sometimes the journey is short

Sometimes it’s long

But there is never a time when it is purposeless.

You and I will fulfill the dreams God’s inspired in us.

Without further ado, here’s a blurb about my upcoming novel, A Twist of Faith.

Dr. Adelina Roseland feels confident she can correct anyone’s speech. Accent reduction is her specialty and she’s worked ten years in research with it to attain her dream job: Professor at the University of Virginia. Her dreams come to a full stop when she is sent to a tiny town in a crevice of Appalachia called Ransom, Virginia, to begin a new program for UVA’s satellite university there. Determined to prove herself, Adelina makes a daring wager with her arrogant supervisor. If she can pass Appalachian cow farmer, Reese Mitchell, off as a Harvard grad and help him with a job interview for a corporation in Chicago, then she can present her research at the National, launching her career to further heights and moving her as far away from Appalachia as possible.

But Adelina didn’t plan for the faith and friction of single-dad Reese Mitchell or his chaotic family. Drawn into a culture she’d been trying to forget for the past fifteen years, Adelina finds the warmth of family, the hope of faith, and the joy of love melting away at the deep wounds of her past. But when Reese discovers that he’s been a mere pawn in her step up the corporate ladder, will he be able to forgive her deceit or will their miscommunication end in two broken lives. And will some good old-fashioned Appalachian grit from a meddling mother rescue this culturally-diverse couple?


With humor, romance, heartbreak, and a twist of faith, find out how this modern day bend on the delightful classic, My Fair Lady, teaches the timeless beauty of second-chances and the eternal truth of everlasting love.


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Writers Alley Weekend Round-Up

Many of our Alley Cats have been having the time of their lives in St. Louis at the ACFW Conference. Casey got to be on stage and pass out Carol Awards. Pepper had a signing party. Amy and Pepper hung out with The Band. Great memories were made and God was blessing right and left. If you are like me and didn't make it to the conference, rest easy knowing that our Alley Cats will be bringing you wisdom and news from the conference, so don't miss it! It's gonna be grand.

The Alley Weekly Line-Up

Monday - Pepper will be sharing the details of her book contract with Lighthouse Publishing!

Tuesday - Laurie will be sharing about her conference experience and how God goes before her no matter what.

Wednesday - Mary is talking about eBook trends. Fascinating data here!

Thursday - Krista will be sharing great stuff from the conference.

Friday - Casey is hosting Emilie Hendryx today. I do believe there will be some talk about marketing, which is always a good topic to learn about.

Alley Cat News

Our Super Alley Cat, Pepper Basham, signed a contract with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas! Her debut book is slated to come out in 2015. Pepper will be bringing you all the juicy details here tomorrow, so be sure to stop by.

Alley Pal News

Jeanne Takenaka won The Frasier at the ACFW Conference last night! Congratulations!

The Awesome Link Round-Up

You Don't Have To Make Your Bed To Write A Book (Storyline Blog)

Why You Need To Write A Series (Writer Unboxed)

Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love To Write (

How To Write A Short Story With Deep Structure (And Win A Prize For It) (Write to Done)

YOU Are Your Best Source Of Motivation (Kaye Dacus)

How To Create The Habit Of Writing (Write to Done)

Have a fabulous week!


This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is a minister's wife and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Live from ACFW with Amy & Pepper!

Greetings from ACFW St. Louis! We are having an absolute blast so far and things are just getting started. We thought we'd share the TOP 5 REASONS ACFW ROCKS!

#5. It's totally normal, and even encouraged for adults to dress up in costume. (Genre night!)

#4. Rubbing elbows... gleaning wisdom from more experienced authors and respected leaders in the writing world. (Mentors, editors, publishers, agents galore!)

#3. Worship! One of the unique things about ACFW is that it's about much more than fiction and technique. It's about answering a greater calling. And about bringing the focus back to the One who inspires our stories.

#2. Encouragement. Journeying together on a walk that may seem solitary at times, but is actually far from it.


#1. Fellowship! Seeing all of our weird, likeminded, friends from all over the globe gathered in one place. We love you all so much!

What are your favorite things about ACFW?

And stay tuned for some big signing news on the Alley MONDAY!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A conference prayer

It’s here! ACFW conference 2014 begins tomorrow! Follow The Writers Alley on Facebook to see updates from our Alleycats at conference!

So many hopes and expectations converge over these next few days. Let’s pray that God will be at the center of it all.

For those who are travelling… Lord, keep them safe. We ask for itineraries to run smoothly, for timely flight connections, for safety on the road, for time to reflect and relax and mentally prepare.

For those who are anxious… Lord, give them peace. In all the hurry and busyness, let them turn their minds to you and find a place of calm. Take away all anxiety and worry, pressure and expectation, and fear of the unknown. Replace these things with your perfect peace. May they rest in you.

For those attending conference for the first time… Lord, may they have the time of their lives. We pray for new friendships to be formed, for eyes and ears wide open to soak everything in, for hearts willing to learn and the confidence to go after their dreams.

For those who’ve been before… We thank you for friends old and new, for fun and laughter, for morning coffee-runs and conversations that last late into the night. We ask for eyes to see those who are lonely or in need of encouragement, and the generosity of spirit to reach out beyond themselves and help someone else along the way.

For writers who are feeling burnt out… Lord, give them fresh inspiration. Fresh ideas. Fresh joy in the craft and a renewed passion for their calling. You know those who need a little extra something this year. Those who’ve pursued their dreams for so long they’ve grown tired and discouraged along the way. Please bless them with a song in Praise and Worship, a light-bulb moment in a workshop, a word of encouragement from a respected mentor, the divine connection they so desperately need, the open door they’ve been longing for.

For writers who are pitching… Lord, please gift them with peace and clarity. Help them articulate the essence of their story with passion and heart. Give them the confidence to believe in their ideas and the grace to understand that not every editor or agent will be a perfect fit for them. We pray for a spirit of calm over the appointment tables, for great conversations between writers and industry professionals, for writers to leave their appointments feeling satisfied that they represented themselves well.

For the editors and agents… This is such a busy time for them. Amid the clamor of voices, pitches and ideas, please give them the discernment to recognize the people and projects that would be a great fit for them. Keep them sharp and alert to what your Spirit is saying. Give them the ability to filter through distraction – a noisy lunch table, an imperfect pitch from a nervous writer – and catch the heart of each idea that is offered. May they consider each project with open-mindedness, honesty and grace. When they are tired, please refresh their spirits. We pray for blessed times with colleagues, valuable professional connections, and exciting new projects to acquire.

For those who can’t go to conference… Lord, help us to trust in your good plans for our writing journey. Renew our spirits. As we hear good news and exciting stories filtering back from our writer friends at conference, may we rejoice with them whole-heartedly. We thank you for how far you’ve brought us and give you praise that the best is yet to come.


How can we pray for you this week? Please share your prayer requests in the comments section so we can lift each other up in faith!

Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she mothers by day and transforms into a fearless blogger by night. Her popular creative home-making blog, A house full of sunshine, reaches over 50,000 readers a month. She's a Genesis finalist for women's fiction and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on TwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Conference Guide for Introverts: R.E.L.A.X.

Shhh...most of us writers are introverts.

Sure, there are many exceptions to the rule...but statistics show many of us tend toward the quiet side of the spectrum and value a little bit of alone time though we may have many friends. Is this you?

Even if not, let's talk, because conference can be a bit of an overload for most people emotionally. Yes, you love meeting up with your online friends, get energized by amazing classes by some of your favorite authors, and love making new friends. However, you also may feel nervous about meetings with editors, confused about the plan your agent might have for your novel (it can be hard to make intellectual decisions with so much going on), a bit panicky about making that important contact.

What's a conference-goer to do?

Just R.E.L.A.X. Its in God's hands.

R est--make sure you get enough of it. 

Its hard to sleep in a new place, challenging when you're excited or struggling with nerves. Friends and roomates provide plenty of opportunity for socialization. Chocolate parties, My Book Therapy Pizza party, nights out on the town are just a few of the evening options. Good luck getting sleep!

Just remember, you don't need to take advantage of every opportunity. If you're overwhelmed, sometimes its better to sit out of an occasional activity to get some refreshment. Especially if you have an important appointment the next morning.

Also, think about taking a nap, even if you might miss an afternoon class to do so. I missed a few classes the first time I attended and I didn't regret it. It enabled me to get some much needed quiet time with God. Schedule rest around your appointments.

E nd your day with down time.

The truth about many of us introverts is that we can't fall asleep right after a social event. The reason? Our bodies are wired to need the down time and socialization can use up all of that energy. Go ahead and go to that evening get-together, but give yourself a bit of margin. You won't be able to fall asleep right when you return, so plan accordingly. Its a great time to spend a few minutes winding down in prayer with God or reading a few verses.

L isten for God's prompting.

Chances are you won't have enough time to chat with everyone on your list. You may not even get to see every agent or editor you hoped to meet. But God will give you enough time for the unique opportunities he has for you at conference. And they might not be what you're thinking.

One afternoon I was headed for a class, but instead found an acquaintance and we ended up praying together for 45 minutes. That was the more important appointment and could have easily been missed. 

What does God want you to do at conference that may not be on your agenda? I'm not sure, but I do know he has a plan. If he provided for you to attend, he has a reason behind that. It might be at the appointment desk, or in the prayer room, or the cafeteria. Rest assured though it may involve your career, he also has a larger plan for you as a child of God. 

A lways look for the opportunity to help someone else. 

#1 way to forget about yourself and your nerves (and any other emotional issues you are dealing with) is to minister to other people. Consider spending time volunteering, if you are an introvert it doesn't have to be emceeing the banquet. Help in the prayer room, the appointment desk, or the bookstore. Better yet, pray for those waiting for their meetings. Think of someone else first. Give a small gift to an author who has encouraged you in your journey. There is an opportunity tailor-made just for you.

X tra time with God. 

Ironically, the times we crowd God out of our schedule are the times we need the most time with Him. Conference is often running from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed (also often morning). When emotions run on high, come aside with Him.

Bring your Bible with you throughout the day. I wrote some Scriptures on index cards and meditated on them. Even find a bathroom if necessary. There are quiet spots, you just need to be intentional. For some introverts you might want to consider rooming alone so it is easier to find that time. Read a verse or two and focus on it, then read more when you find another few minutes. Spread your time out throughout the day. Also, consider waking up before your roomates to spend a few quiet moments in prayer. 

If you're headed to conference, don't forget to R.E.L.A.X. this year! God's with you and He has a good plan for your conference time! And if you're not, God has a plan for that, too. It is the second year in a row I have not attended, both times I thought I would be able to come...but it turns out God had some better plans for me at home. I will be moving across several states in a few weeks. 

Julia enjoys writing women's fiction whenever she can find a chair free of smushed peanut butter sandwiches and lego blocks. She is a wife and homeschooling mama of two littles. She also enjoys writing for Library Journal and Wonderfully Woven.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Why I Don't Write...But It's Why I Should.

By Ambro on

Why I don't write:

1. Every time I open my WIP, I remember the last rejection, the sting of those critical words, and wonder, can I ever prove myself better than that?

2. It hurts too much to write, because I fill with hope in the newness, and fear the pain of being dashed again.

3 The stuff of Life consumes my brain, and while I try to focus on the 16th century setting of my novel, my brain just fills with the 16 things I need to get done on my to-do list.

4. My heart's not right with God. It's just so beat up and bruised, how can I take pleasure in something as frivolous as writing?

5. I allow myself to believe the lies above, and forget... why I SHOULD write!

IT is the rejection and critical words that fuel my attempt to grow and write better.

It is the hope that grows, even if it seems dashed for a moment, it is rampant always with ever forward step. I haven't found hopelessness to take residence for very long, so why would I allow it to stop me from my dream?

Life will always throw a million things to do. It is the downfall of this busy culture. Taking time to pursue the stuff of my heart won't put a dent in all the time I spend in the busyness of life.

I find healing in writing. It's a gift from God, so why would He put stipulations on it? Only when I am happy and content with my walk can I write? No. It is when my heart hurts most that my writing shines with truth and emotion.

So what stops you from writing? Have you ever thought maybe that stumbling block is actually a place to dive off into your writing instead?


Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written five Historical Romance novels, has an Historical underway, and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one sheets, selling Jamberry Nail Wraps, and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check out her author page at and her personal blog at 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Writer's Alley Weekly Round Up

It's the week before the ACFW Conference and many of The Alley Cats are gearing up to attend. Packing. Ordering business cards. Shopping for "the dress". Polishing up the One Sheet. Making last minute babysitting plans. And on and on it goes. Does it sound familiar? Are you excited? Or are you like me, staying home, hoping for some texts and some pictures from my friends, and praying for their success throughout the conference?

Well, we have a fabulous week for you at The Writer's Alley! Stop by and be blessed by the words of wisdom from these gals.

The Alley Weekly Line-Up

Monday - Angie's post is "Why I Don't Write...But It's Why I Should". I'm sure we can all relate to this one!

TuesdayJulia will be posting about the challenges of being an introvert while attendinga writing conference....particularly the ACFW Conference just right around the corner.

Wednesday - If you are attending the ACFW Conference next weekend, you definitely need to stop by and read Karen's prayer for those attending (and those who aren't).'s wonderful.

Thursday - Ashley is sharing ways to deal with the exhaustion at a writing conference and the importance of finding time to recharge; then you can look for ways to encourage others

Friday - Amy has returned from a long vacation and has a great post lined up for you!

The Awesome Link Round Up

It's Okay If What You Write Stinks (Kaye Dacus)

Writers As Casualties of Commerce by James Scott Bell (Kill Zone)

Famous Writers on the Creative Benefits of Keeping a Diary (Brain Pickings)

First Ever Write To Done Flash Fiction Contest! (Write to Done)\

Author Conference of the Future (JA Konrath)

3 Essentials That Determine Your Writing Success (Positive Writer)

FREE Book Download: Writing Naked by Marcy McKay (Mudpie Writing)


This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is a minister's wife and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Authentic Marketing

Ugh. The big, bad “M” word. It’s not one of my favorites and truly, if there were less letters in it, I’d be labeling it a four letter word.

In fact, just so I feel better, let’s go ahead and label that “M” word something not-quite-so-delightful. Imagine it as a dart board and we’ll send flaming arrows into it…


As a writer, you can never get away from marketing. You will always have to market yourself, because only if you become Richard Castle, Dan Brown, or Janet Evanovich, will you never have to market yourself again. And I’m pretty sure those writers all got to be who they are because of good marketing.

Publishers don’t have as many dollars and the ones they do have are being stretched thinner and thinner.
So how do you authentically market yourself without burning yourself out and turning everyone away from your product? Here are a few things I’ve learned and have proven helpful in my journey to market myself.

Let Twitter/Facebook fan pages be your mouth piece for promotional work. Personal facebook pages (different than public, fan pages) are viewed more as a way to connect with friends and family—not market your product. Once in a while is fine. More than that and people start to ignore you.

Get on social media now. Not later. Not when you have a book contract. Not when you finally have an agent or finish that book. Get on it now. You’ll have less pressure to get out there and learn it all at once and instead can take in small bites.

Mix personal with professional. Everyone likes to know a bit about a person, beyond just the fact that you want them to buy their book. Be relatable, but learn the balance between oversharing/posting and posting what people are going to be interested in.

When in doubt, don’t post it. If you’re unsure if you’re oversharing, posting too many times in a day, etc…then don’t post. It’s better to post once in a while with something witty and fun to read than every hour with a long, drawn out diatribe.

People are visual, so find images that market your brand and share them in your status updates, tweets, etc.

Realize you are becoming a public figure. People will start to recognize you at conferences. Will read your content and have a connection with what you are saying. No matter if you are doing this because you like to blog—and people are really like what you have to say—or you are doing this because you are trying to build an impressive audience, you are becoming someone people will notice. Don’t be noticed because you’ve been annoying, but be noticed because you’ve been authentic. Think about a door-to-door salesman or the salesman at the local car dealership, the cashier at your favorite grocery store—do they make you want to have repeat encounters with them? Why or why not?

Be personable. Be unique. Be authentic. I can’t stress that last word enough. It’s the only way to stand out in social media and on the marketing platform.

Nothing in marketing is a fast process. It’s a slow growing yeast, mixed in a little bit at a time until you look back and see what an audience has been built in you just being…you. Taking time to get to know and invest in other people’s interests, promote them. Show unabashed support for your fellow writers. You’re in this together and together you’re a mighty force to reach readers.

What are your best marketing tips?

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She is a country girl now living in a metropolis of Denver, Colorado.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What are you REALLY trying to say? (Guest post by Sherri Wilson Johnson!)

Krista here! I'm so excited to host fellow indie-author Sherri Wilson Johnson today!! We've known each other a while know but rubbed elbows again in an indie-author loop we're on together (I was posting massive amounts of questions in preparation for the release of A Side of Faith... I was--am--GREEN I tell ya!)

Sherri has some GREAT books out, including her most recent, To Laugh Once More. Check them out on Amazon!!


What Are You Really Trying To Say? 
Writers are experts at talking to themselves. They're also experts at hearing voices in their heads. No, we're not crazy! We're just creating.

While we hear the voices in our heads and masterfully put them down on paper (or into the computer), do we really write what we've heard?

Recently, while editing for the umpteenth time my new release, I decided to try the text-to-speech feature on my computer. I often write using the voice-to-text feature on my phone, so I thought I'd give the reverse process a shot.

Boy, was I surprised! Quite often, I didn't type what I meant to type. And even though I'd read over the text a gazillion times and even had readers read it, none of us caught these errors. Even on my final run-through before hitting PUBLISH on Kindle, I found another missed mistake. I pray there are no more, haha!

After I write the first draft of a novel, I wait a month or so before I begin editing it. I call this the crockpot stage. I let the novel sit in my computer and cook a little while. When I come back with a fresh pair of eyes, it's easier to find my mistakes.

After the first round of edits, I print out a chapter at a time and do manual revisions. Then I have readers check out the story to see if they like it, and I ask them to let me know of any errors they find.
Then I start the process of catching "taboo" words and phrases, the words or phrases you shouldn't use if you're looking for a deep point of view in your story. I keep this list beside me, and I go one-by-one to check and see if they're in the story. If they are, I rework those places.

After that, I convert the Word document to a PDF and begin the process of letting the computer read the manuscript to me. For a PDF, you go to VIEW, READ ALOUD, and ACTIVATE READ ALOUD. Then you go back to VIEW, READ ALOUD, and hit READ TO END OF DOCUMENT. Some versions of Windows have this feature also. Mine doesn't. But you can find out how to do it by doing a quick search of your computer for the text-to-speech feature.

While the computer is reading, I keep my Word document open so I can make changes as I HEAR the mistakes I've made. It's amazing what you see with your ears that you don't see with your eyes. With my latest novel, I read the manuscript probably fifteen times. I was surprised when I let my computer read it to me with my earphones in my ears to block out all other sounds. I found even more errors.

Spell check wouldn't have caught these errors because the words were spelled correctly.

Check out these examples: 
  • The man behind the counter wore a white shirt, black plants and black suspenders.
  • Her eyes bugled.
  • Mother would've washed her mouth out with lye soup for listening to Marigold's gossip because there wasn't much of anything she could do to her ears for hearing it.
  • I'll send an initiation to my dear sisters to come for a long visit. 
  • The man behind the counter wore a white shirt, black PANTS (not plants) and black suspenders.
  • In the second example, I typed BUGLED instead of BULGED in the first example. I can't even imagine what it would look like for someone's eyes to bugle.
  • In the third example, mother would have washed her mouth out with lye SOUP not SOAP.
  • In the fourth example, she was going to send an INITIATION to her sisters instead of an INVITATION.
It's easy to make mistakes that spell check won't catch and that you and your readers won't catch either. The reason I didn't find these errors was because I knew what I wanted to say. I read what my mind said I was saying. I read it before my eyes even saw it.

Next time you edit, why don't you try to let your computer do the talking for you?

Sherri Wilson Johnson is an Inspirational Romance novelist, a speaker, and a former homeschooling mom who’d rather have laugh lines under her eyes than worry lines across her forehead. She lives in Georgia with her husband, her two children and her Chihuahua, Posey. Her favorite thing to do when she’s not with her family is to curl up with a good book or work on her current work-in-progress. She loves to dream of visiting romantic places and is passionate about the Lord, motherhood, homeschooling, and writing. Sherri is the author of To Dance Once More, Song of the Meadowlark, and To Laugh Once More. She is a columnist with Habits for a Happy Home and Choose NOW Ministries.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'Twas the Week Before Conference And All Through the Writer's Houses

This year the American Christian Fiction Writer's Conferene (ACFW) will be held next week in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Alley Cats are excited to see you there, to cheer you on, encourage you, and pray for you. Be sure to say hi. We love to chat.

If you are unable to come, there is an "At-Home-Conference" available for all ACFW members. Click this link to register: (if you attended last year, it will say you're registered, but you will still need to update your information).

After you register, if you want to participate in the Facebook group, let Karen Beery know at and she will send you an email invite to the group.

Between now and then let's talk about what we can pack to make our time at the conference smoother.

One HUGE lesson I learned was: prayer should be the first thing I pack. Not as in hide inside my suitcase, rather it needs to be the foundation for my packing. Talk to God without ceasing. He will prepare your heart and help you to remember to pack exactly what you really need.

Some of the things you will want to remember to pack for this trip are:

1. Empty space -  That sounds weird, right? But it's true! You will be receiving free books and have a chance to purchase books signed by authors in the bookstore. You will need space to pack them. Fear not, though if you're like me and find yourself sitting on your suitcase trying to zip it shut, these books can also be mailed to you.

2. Clothing suitable for a job interview - When we meet with an agent or editor, we need to show our genuine interest in pursuing our writing career. In many respects this is a job interview. On the other hand, the interviewers (editors and agents) you will meet at this conference have your best in mind. They really care and want to talk with you. They are real people with hearts for God. So dress to impress, but don't be afraid.

3. Money for Friday night dinner - This meal is not provided. The purpose is to give us a chance to network with friends and other writers. There are many restaurants in the area ready to handle our crowd. This doesn't mean there won't be long lines, but the food and company is sure to be good.
4. Business Cards - I give my business cards to everyone, even people I know. My business card has my email address, my website, and my photo. I love looking at the stash of business cards I've received from others at the conference when I get home. I spread them out on my bed and think about the people associated with them. Not only are these cards a great tool to remember friends and network, they also serve as a tool for your appointments. An editor, agent, or mentor may not have the space to carry your one-sheet, first chapter, or proposal, but they are willing to take your business card. Be sure to have a photo of you included on the card. Names run in and out of our head, but a photo speaks a thousand words.

5. One Sheets - A one sheet contains a short blurb about your book, maybe a related picture, your name and contact information and basic information about what you plan to pitch. Do a separate one sheet for each project you plan to pitch. The purpose of this fantastic gem is it works the same as a safety net for a tightrope artist. Walking into an appointment all prepared to tell the person on the other side of the desk all about our book is easy, until we suddenly forget everything--even our name! Having your one sheet ready to set on the table reminds us of information we planned to say or we can hand it to the agent-editor to look at. I have been saved several times by my one sheet. If you would like help making your, Alley Cat Angie Dicken offers this service. You can contact her at

6. A nice outfit for the Saturday night Gala - Conferees will dress in a range of clothing ideas for the Gala. This is a dress up time. A time to feel pretty or handsome. There will be dressy pantsuits, floor length, calf length, knee length dresses. Some will be Sunday best, others will be glittery. Jeans are not suggested. Several have found the perfect dress at Goodwill or a consignment shop. You don't need to spend boo-koo bucks.

7. A fun outfit for Thursday Night's Genre dinner - This is the night we get to dress like one of our characters. Sorry, no weapons real or fake allowed. Hotel security will not be happy to see these. You can dress like a victorian mistress of a manor, an alien, a superhero, even a villain. HAH I just remembered Wednesday Adam's costume in the Adams Family. She said "I dressed like a homicidal maniac. They look like everyone else." Have fun!

8. Camera, medicines, Bible and any other necessities.


9. Optional-exercise clothes. There is an exercise room in the hotel.

What to leave home-

1. Scented perfumes, lotions, etc. The conference is fragrance free due to many coming who have allergies.

2. Your entire manuscript. Feel free to bring one chapter, a one page, and business cards. Editors and agents don't have the space to take the entire manuscript and will ask you to mail or email it to them instead if they are interested. Consider bringing a flash drive with any information you want to have. The hotel has a business office complete with computers, copiers, and etc.

If you are able to go, this will be a great time to learn more about the writing craft, pitch your work to agents and editors, network, and just be with others who completely understand why you would want to have a conversation with one of your characters.

If you are not able to go, you can still benefit from the classes by getting an mp3 recording. Also, we will be focusing on helpful writing topics here on the Writers Alley. Stop by each weekday for a new writing concept.

Your turn: 
1. If you are going to the conference and have been there before, what are you looking forward to seeing, doing again?

2. If you are going to the conference and have never been there before, what do you hope to accomplish and what question do you have that we can help you with.

3. If you are not going to the conference, what topic would you picked for a class. We will address this topic here on the Writers Alley.


If you found any typos in today's post...Mary Vee, (that's me sheepishly grinning), is waving her hand as the guilty party. 

If you have questions or would like this topic discussed in greater detail, let me know in the comment section. I'll gladly do the research and write a post...just for you :)

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

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