Christian Writers Conferences

by Sandra Schoger Foster

While working at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, CA, I spotted an advertisement in the campus newsletter, Would You Like To See Your Writing in Print? What are The Next Steps? Call Author, Carmen Renee Berry and sign up for a weekend seminar in Sierra Madre, CA (close to Pasadena). Ohmygoodness. I started to hyperventilate right at my desk, but took a deep breath and got up the courage to call and nervously inquire about it, then signed up. I had started writing several books and didn’t know what were the next steps, so I thought this would be perfect. I learned a lot at Berry’s  the seminar and realized I really wanted to do this writing thing. Carmen told us at the conference that to find the right publisher would take persistence, but eventually it would happen. She used a large part of the seminar to find out our Meyers-Briggs personality type, and used it in conjunction with how we write, which helped to help the group see our individual style and why we write as we do.
Author Marilyn Woody told me the only thing she did to get published was to attend Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in Northern California, where she met with a publishing house rep. The writer’s conference convenes every spring and it was just before Christmas, so I had a few weeks to decide. Again, I nervously signed up. It cost a lot more money than the day and a half seminar in Sierra Madre, involved travel, and lasted five days. I loved every moment of it from 7:30 am devotions with Karen Ball to the Night Owl sessions. It energized me to be with 450+ other writers. That's all we talked about and that's all I wanted to hear. 

In one of the workshops, I got an idea to write a gift book. I played with the title in the margin where I took notes, and wanted to run back to my room and write this story. I disciplined myself to stay put, but continued to jot down ideas for the book. A few years later (and a lot of edits by my critique group) at Mount Hermon, I talked with a rep from Thomas Nelson Publishing and he liked it a lot and gave me "permission to send." One year later, nearly to the day, my book Daddy, Will You Dance with Me? published, and arrived at Mount Hermon in time for Author's Signing Night. 

A few of the keynote speakers at Mount Hermon have been Ted Dekker, Liz Curtis Higgs, and Jerry B. Jenkins. Every speaker gives encouragement and urges us on, and not to give up. Fiction writers, Davis Bunn, Brandilyn Collins, James Scott Bell, and Angela Hunt, to name a few, have kept us spellbound in workshops as they givewith examples of plot and structure, crafting a plotstory that grips readers, getting your character into character and makinghow to make every scene propel the story forward. Every year for nine years,  I attended Mount Hermon; took a morning track, sat in the afternoon workshops and made friendships that are still strong today. 
Jerry B. Jenkins, Writer's Guild, conferences in Colorado Springs at the Broadmoor Hotel, is good too. Theirs is in February, and it’s fun to fly from Southern California and experience walking in snow instead of seeing it on the mountain tops. Every workshop gave good counsel on writing. I appreciated being able to sit until under the tutelage of Jerry Jenkins himself. In a general session, he gave writing tips, such as, don’t say “he clapped his hands.” Just say, “He clapped.” Then he asked, ‘what else would he be clapping?’ He urged us not to use “he said / “she said,” but instead, set the stage and then use dialogue and the reader will know who’s speaking; such as … Tom sat down and stared at the floor, his head in his hands. “Where could she have gone?” We know it’s distraught Tom doing the talking here. I understand they have their conference in Denver instead of Colorado Springs now.

CS Lewis Foundation presents Oxbridge Institute in England every three years. July 24-August 6, 2005, I attended one week in Oxford and one week in Cambridge. We stayed in the college dorms at the colleges and studied creative writing under Kathleen Norris. In her workshop, sShe talked about “reclaiming the language of story, meaning language that is not abstract, or argumentative, but which relates experience in such a way that readers can better reflect upon their own experience.” She said to “write with heart, edit with head.” One thing she said I remember as I write, “never use a long word when a short word will do.” Also important,. “Don’t use scientific words, foreign words, “’Christianese,” ,’ or jargon, i. It makes the writer sound like he/she is trying to impress.” She encouraged us to write and the inspiration will come, instead of waiting for the inspiration to come and then write. 

The Institute was intense in a good way. Rick Warren spoke in the general session. There were speakers from around the globe, as well as from many universities in America. A memorable experience, to be sure. 

To sit in the chair of CS Lewis at his desk, in the house where he lived, looking out his window to the beautiful garden felt great. I could only hope some of his writing genius would rub off on me (I’m still waiting!). The next institute is in the planning stages for Oxbridge 2011. Check it out on

I attended CLASS (Christian Leaders, Authors, Speaker Seminars) with Florence Littauer in Mesa, AZ, Upper Class in Hartford, CT, Loma Linda, CA, and met at CBA in Denver, CO for CLASS Reunion. Florence is a class act (pun intended). She has such experience and knows how to share it with her audience. In Hartford, CT she nailed me on my book Daddy, Will You Dance with Me? when I gave my talk on my book. She drew out from me that I wrote that book out of a desire to have a heart-connection with my father that like the little girl did in my story. I had no idea about that while I wrote, but realized then it’s true. Florence was correct.

Each year I attend OCCWF (Orange County Christian Writers Fellowship) day-conference and see many friends from Mount Hermon. Each conference is unique and brings a variety of freelance editors, authors, acquisition editors from publishing houses, and agents to sign up to talk to them about our productagents. OCCWF strives to make it better every year, and are is doing a great job. The keynote speakers were interesting and encouraging. Kathy Collard Miller asked the question, “How do you react to compliments, criticism, and competition?”. She gave scripture and personal accounts.” She knows her stuff. Mick Silva spoke next and encouraged us by saying “God loves us unconditionally. Make this come through in your writing.” In a workshop, Susan King suggested we “write like you’re writing to a friend. Trade in the ‘God voice.’ “ 

I love to read over the notes I took from these conferences or listen to the CDs of the workshops. The literary juices start flowing just like when I attended. There have been many ups and downs, and I like the ups better, but I've probably learned more during the downs, and realize God is working it all for my good and His purposes. I've been a contributing author to several books, written articles, and haven't made a lot of money, I might add, but it's been worth every penny spent. 

Next week I have an appointment with my writing coach, Carmen Renee Berry. She's looking at chapters of my novel and we're working on it together. Someone to read it with fresh literary eyes does wonders for the perspective. It was ten years ago that I attended her Next Steps writers seminar, and we're still friends and continue to hope one of our efforts will be published. 

Write on!


Sandra Schoger Foster, ACFW member, is a freelance writer, and the author of Daddy, Will You Dance with Me? published by Thomas Nelson. Dad, Let's Play Catch! is finished and at the publishers. Her publishing credits include writing her personal experiences with the Dobsons in Family Man, The Biography of Dr. James Dobson by Dale Buss. She contributed two chapters in Making the Blue Plate Special, The Joy of Family Legacies, by Florence Littauer, Marita Littauer, Lauren Littauer Briggs. She is a contributing author in Bein' a Grandparent Ain't for Wimps by Karen O'Conner, has written numerous articles and is writing a novel.