Five Reasons Why You Should Attend a Writer’s Conference

By Jennifer Hallmarkpen-994464_1280

It’s August and we, at the Writing Prompts blog, are dedicating the whole month to writer’s conferences. I’ve attended several, and they’ve made a major difference in moving my writing from hobby to serious vocation.

We’ll be sharing our own experiences this month about some of the different conferences we’ve attended, both large and small. You’ll see what you can expect if you’re trying to decide whether or not to take this big leap of faith. What goes on there? What do people wear? Whom can I meet? What if I don’t have a clue about what I need to do? Hopefully, we’ll answer these questions and more. So stick around and learn a little more about the place where writers go to connect with others, celebrate accomplishments, attend classes, challenge ourselves, and conquer fears and doubts about their personal writing journey…

What are five specific reasons to attend a writer’s conference?

  • Connect-Writers tend to work alone so connection with other writers is always a positive. I’ve made some wonderful friends at these meetings and enjoyed talking shop. And don’t forget about meeting editors, agents, and publishers. I like to discuss current trends in the industry and if I have an article, short story, or novel ready, to pitch my idea.
  • Celebrate-At most conferences, there is some type of writing contest. It’s a good place to enter your work and celebrate victory if you’re chosen. It’s equally important to celebrate with others for their achievements. I always buy a few books and chat about good news with other like-minded people.
  • Classes- And don’t forget all the classes and workshops offered to strengthen your writerly skills, learn about marketing and current trends, and just be encouraged to keep going a little bit longer. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like giving up, only to attend a class that filled up my depleted soul.
  • Challenge-As an introvert, conferences are extremely challenging, and that’s the main reason I try to go as often as possible. I need to be stretched and take chances if I plan on writing material that will lift up, build up, and stir up the people that God wants to reach through me. I also make sure to schedule appointments, though I’m usually shaking and sweating by the time I make it to their table. I keep finding out that people really are nice at these conferences.  🙂
  • Conquer-By the time a conference is over, I’m tired and overloaded with new information. I’ve exchanged business cards with numerous people and usually have arranged with at least one editor or agent to send a query or proposal. I load everything back in my car and release a giant sigh as I drive away. Once again, God has helped me to put most of my anxiety and uncertainty aside so I could enjoy and benefit from another conference. I’ve conquered, and there is no better feeling when I make it home and rest a day or so before going back over all that I’d learned.


2015-08-22 14.34.56

Betty and Jennifer at the Atlanta Christian Writers Conference

Below I’ll list a few of the ones that you can attend in the upcoming months. I would encourage you to schedule one of these conferences to visit in the future. You’ll be glad you did…

Aug 3 – 6, 2016: Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference  (Langhorne PA)

Aug. 12-14, 2016: Writer’s Digest Conference East (New York, NY)

August 15-18, 2016: Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference

Aug. 1820, 2016: Atlanta Christian Writer’s Conference

Aug. 20, 2016: Toronto Writing Workshop

Aug. 25-28, 2016:  American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference, Nashville, Tenn.

Sept. 9, 2016: Sacramento Writers Conference (Sacramento, CA)

Sept. 10, 2016: Writing Workshop of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)

Oct. 7 &8, 2016: The Tenth Annual Breathe Christian Writers Conference (Grand Rapids, MI)

Nov. 5-6, 2016: Show Me Writers Masterclass (Columbia, MO)

Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)

Feb. 17-19, 2017: The Asheville Christian Writers Conference – Writers Boot camp (Asheville NC.)

Feb. 22-26: Florida Christian Writers Conference (Leesburg, FL.)

Feb. 26 – March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (departs Miami, FL)

Writing Prompt: Deanna placed her hand on the door knob, biting her lips. Her first class at her first writing conference. What was she thinking when she signed up? Too late to back out now. She turned the knob…

3 Questions Wednesday with Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Angela AckermanIt is my privilege to welcome Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi to our blog. These ladies have written many books that help other writers. In previous interviews this year, their book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression is mentioned more than any other. . .Becca2

Hello, ladies! I’m so excited you’re here because I love The Emotion Thesaurus. 

Please let our readers know what books have fortified you as a writer? How?

Angela: I have read many great writing books; in fact, Becca and I once spent an entire year studying different craft books together so we could talk through the lessons and make sure we’d absorbed them correctly. Some of my favorites have been Writing Screenplays that Sell (Hauge), Writing The Breakout Novel & Writing 21st Century Fiction (Maass), Save The Cat (Snyder) and Description (Wood). You can find the links to these and more favorites here.

I’m actually reading Writing The Breakout Novel and it’s great. Thanks for providing the links for the books!

Becca: Certain books stand out as being instrumental throughout my writing journey. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne and King) was huge in helping me hone in on the various parts of my writing that needed work. Save the Cat (Snyder) and Structuring Your Novel (KM Weiland) gave me a crash course on story structure. Writing Screenplays that Sell (Hauge) cleared up a lot of my confusion over character arc.

I love Self-Editing for Fiction Writers too. It was such a help to me…

What secret talents do you have?

Angela: Hmmm. I don’t know if I have any stand-out talents, but I know my way around a kitchen, I am a creative thinker and problem-solver, and I would say I am probably pathologically helpful, haha!

Helpful is always good 🙂

Becca: Secret talents? Let’s see…I taught myself to type at the age of 9 and type about 100 words a minute. That’s helpful. I’m pretty good at getting out of speeding tickets, though I admit to not knowing exactly how this happens. Also, I don’t want to brag, but I’m kind of awesome at Plants vs. Zombies.

Plants vs. Zombies, huh? Haven’t tried that one. I’m more of a Candy Crush girl. 🙂

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

AngelaBourbon Pecan Chicken, roasted potatoes, strawberry salad, and for dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake. Or, I’d do a big fondue dinner, because those are just so much fun. 🙂

Wow. I’ll have to add that cake recipe to my “to do” list…

BeccaBluegrass chicken. Bacon, sour cream…It’s the most fattening meal on the planet, which is why it’s SO GOOD. And chocolate cake for dessert. Because there must be dessert.

Yum! And yes, dessert is essential…

Thanks so much for dropping by, Angela and Becca! 


new thesaurusThe Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Places

As far as story elements go, the setting is one of the most necessary, yet it’s often underutilized by writers. Together, The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Places can help authors create stronger, more powerful descriptions by showing how multisensory details can draw readers in and enhance the story. More than a simple backdrop, the setting can also be used to establish mood, steer the story, foreshadow, and build tension. Through their sensory exploration of over 200 city, natural, and personal settings, these books will help writers create realistic, textured worlds that readers will want to return to long after the book ends.

Angela AckermanAngela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are Becca2bestselling authors, writing coaches, and international speakers. Their books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.Angela and Becca also co-founded their popular Writers Helping Writers site, a hub where authors can hone their craft, as well as One Stop for Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.

If you like, stop by between June 13-20th and Rock The Vault to win some amazing prizes as Angela and Becca celebrate the release of two new books, The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus.


A Little History of Cartooning

by Betty Thomason Owens

Cartoons have been around for centuries. Even the cave dwellers drew cartoons on the walls of their caves.
Were they:

1. Documenting history?
2. Lampooning local government?
3. Entertaining the kids?
4. Drawn by kids?

Fast-forward a few years:
Woodcuts and mezzotints are used in the early printing process. Those were a bit like rubber stamps. Artists carved their cartoon or illustration backward, so when the print was made, it showed up correctly.

Long before you could attach a file or snap a shot of something and post it to Facebook or include it on your latest blogpost, illustrators and artists created cartoons. These were often political in nature. Imagine that.

Political and editorial cartoons usually express one man’s opinion–also called lampooning and often involves caricature. Have you ever had someone draw you in caricature? They will usually overemphasize and under-emphasize some of your features to make it slightly comical, but still recognizable.


An editorial cartoon of Andrew Johnson and Abraham Lincoln, 1865, entitled “The Rail Splitter at Work Repairing the Union”

This is a well-known example of early political/editorial cartoons. Notice the detail (click on it to enlarge). As you can see, it’s hand-drawn with a pencil. Most of today’s cartoons are a lot more professional, but personally, I still love the look of pencil drawings.

Note: I’m providing links below for modern examples, since most are copyrighted and require fees for use.

800px-Benjamin_Franklin_-_Join_or_DieBenjamin Franklin was one of the earliest Indie writers. Yes, he self-published, and was best known for Poor Richard’s Almanac. He was a very busy man. When he wasn’t electrocuting keys, he wrote, taught, mentored, helped draft the Declaration of Independence, wrote books, made a fortune, printed…well, you get the picture. At a critical point in American history, he created this cartoon to encourage the colonies to join together during the French and Indian War.

Dr. Seuss Goes to War

Dr. Seuss Goes to War

Another famous cartoonist was Theodore (Ted) Geisel. You may know him better as Dr. Seuss. He drew political propaganda cartoons during World War II. He took a lot of flack for it, also, but his signature style shone through those cartoons. There is no doubt who drew them. If you’ve read many of his children’s books, you’ll know he was very concerned with politics (Butter Battle Book, for one).

As an aside, cartoonists were also utilized by the war departments of some countries including Great Britain, to work on accurate maps for bomb crews.

My Grandpa Christy was an armchair politician. He drew cartoons for local “rags” — tiny hometown newspapers. He kept a scrapbook of those. I tried to get my hands on it in time for this post, but it didn’t happen.

His favorite subjects were (then) Presidents Nixon and Johnson. Why? He loved to draw big noses. He had one. He also had big ears and the biggest smile I’d ever seen. An omnipresent smile. Mom has many pictures of Grandpa, and that smile was in all of them. Except in the picture I have of him when he was about five or so, but they were warned not to smile for photos in those days.

20150313_134209Grandpa had a great sense of humor, which is one very important requirement in a political satirist/cartoonist. Open your newspaper and turn to the editorial pages. You will probably find at least one editorial cartoon. They are almost always political in nature. They can seem snarky, even cruel. Apparently, the ruder, the better.

Political/editorial cartoons sometimes make you laugh, but more often make you think. And that’s their reason for being.

Here are the promised links to some present-day quality political and editorial cartoons:

Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via Comments.

Writing Prompt: Senator Douglass opened the morning paper and was shocked to see…


Tech Talk with Debi Warford

Debi Warford Design

ladyofthehavenDebi Warford is a graphic artist who specializes in making authors look good. As you can see by the example here, her book covers capture the heart of the story. Click on the picture to enlarge. Notice the detail? The model was not visiting this castle. Debi set the model’s photograph against the background. The result is seamless. Also notice how she blends the colors and uses tone. She put the light in the window of the castle and stuck a couple of stars in the night sky. The reader’s eye is drawn to detail and they will want to pick it up and look inside. That’s what writers want. Debi’s covers sell books.

So why hire a professional? Why not do it yourself? I asked Debi those questions and more.

Tell our readers three things about yourself.

1. I’m a graphic designer who decided later in life to start a new career.

2. I’m also a jewelry designer with an Etsy site. I specialize in Victorian and Elizabethan style jewelry and rosaries. You can see my pieces at

3. I’ve been a strong Christian since 1991 and am very involved in my church. I do quite a bit of pro bono design work for various ministries.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in this field? I was in my mid-forties and feeling very stagnated in my job. I decided to try to reconnect with the things that have always inspired me: creating beautiful things, calligraphy and drawing, and my love of books.

Why do people find it so hard to pay someone else to professionally design a book cover? I think a lot of people don’t understand what professional designers bring to the table. It’s more than the ability to use Photoshop. We are trained in the same artistic principles as fine artists, and we bring those principles to every cover we design. We are also trained in marketing principles and the psychological effects of color and object placement to make the reader want to pick up the book.

cover-back_9781939603203_2700What makes a good book cover attract attention to the viewer? Good use of color, the right typography for the subject matter, and placement of images to create the mood of the book are all important.

What are the advantages of hiring someone to help, compared to do-it-yourself templates? The biggest advantage is giving the author more time and energy to do the thing that they do best—write. Knowing that you don’t have to worry about marketing your book, that your team of editor, cover artist, formatter, etc, are all doing what they do best, frees you to write the very best book possible.

What services do you provide for your client, in addition to the artwork? I also design everything that is associated with a graphic designer: business cards, logos, swag, brochures, websites, anything you can think of that’s printed or on a professional website, has been (or should have been) touched by a graphic designer.

Anything else you’d like to say regarding your field? Being able to do what I love is a great gift, for which I give thanks to God. It is my pleasure to bring a book to life by bringing its cover to life. I have met so many wonderful people through this career, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

It is indeed a gift to be able to do what you love and when you do it well, everyone is blessed by the fruit of your labor. Thank so much for sharing your knowledge with us today.

Readers, I hope you will visit Debi Warford’s Facebook page and also her Etsy shop. DebiWarfordIf you decide to use Debi’s graphic skills for your book cover, mention her interview here. The first three customers to mention Writing Prompts and Thoughts and Ideas…Oh My, will receive 10% off the cost of her services. Contact Debi via her Facebook page, or leave a comment below.

Debi Warford graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and a Bachelors of Business Administration in Marketing. Debi is quite adept with employing the most modern technology to the most fundamental artisan methods to create her visual messages. In addition to publishing industry specific designs, Debi also works with commercial arts, graphics, and signage work. She is also a disciplined calligrapher and her illuminated scripture manuscripts hang in many homes. Her hobbies include designing jewelry and firing timeless pottery.

A Writer’s Creativity and Snoopy

snoopy dancePeanuts. Charlie Brown. Linus. Woodstock. A blanket. A dog house.


I have to credit part of my creativity in my writing and life to Snoopy. Yep, the lovable beagle with the “I can do” attitude inspired me then and continues today.

As a child and into my teenage years, I loved to draw and write. I enjoyed doodling cartoons, especially Snoopy. I sketched on my closet door, my notebooks, and poster board; wherever I could spread my creative bent and get away with it.

And I wrote stories about dogs, cats, ghosts, and family, then graduated to mysteries with characters my own age who looked and acted a lot like me.

draw snoopyI kept writing and drawing.

In college, I studied art, but enjoyed the writing I did in my English classes. Snoopy stayed with me when I left college to marry, have children, and raise a family. My creativity spread to all sorts of needlework and crafts, then to cake decorating. The last birthday cake I made my dad before he died had…you guessed it…Snoopy on it.

Now I share Snoopy posts on Facebook. Why?

I guess somewhere deep inside is that insecure child whose father was sick and in a wheelchair throughout my childhood. I related to Peanuts; their struggles and their victories. The confident little beagle who flew his dog house, fought the Red Baron, and loved Charlie Brown inspired me. Maybe if Snoopy and Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty could make it, I could too.snoopy flying

Thanks Snoopy!

Complete the prompt below for an extra entry in our quarterly drawings! Submit your completed writing prompt via comments.

Writing Prompt: Write a few sentences about a cartoon from your childhood that remains with you today. Let your emotion flow freely as you remember and write.