Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Art of Writing Conference & The Christy Award Gala

I had the honor to be a 2018 Christy Award finalist for my February Love Inspired book "Her Secret Daughter". The book is a beautiful story of a mother's sacrificial love... and how the darkest times of our lives can be turned to brightness with faith, hope and love... and sacrifice.

The Evangelical Christian Publisher's Association has coupled an afternoon-long writing conference called "The Art of Writing" with their detailed handling of The Christy Award and The Christy Award Gala. Here is a link to their initial press announcement in 2017. 

There are multiple writer's conferences throughout the year. Regional conferences, national conferences, romance conferences and Christian conferences. The goal of a writers' conference is to teach, inspire, share, network.... it's multi-faceted. And no conference can be all things to all people. Authors need to weigh return on investment when they lay out the costs of attending a conference. That's one of the first pluses about this abbreviated conference. The ECPA offered the afternoon sessions and the gala for $69.00/each. If you signed up for both, the bundled price was $99.00 Now if you're flying in and staying at a hotel or air B&B, you're adding costs. Those have to be looked at. But if you can drive in and share a hotel room, you can literally be part of this conference for a few hundred dollars. Including food and Starbucks coffee.

The sessions and Gala are all at Lipscomb University in Nashville. Parking is free. You're shuttled into the heart of the university. Your buildings are to your right, left and in front of you. Nothing about this was difficult. (this is not true of a lot of conferences) Added to that, Nashville has become a hub of publishing, second only to New York City now. For additional networking possibilities, the writers conference is scheduled to follow ECPA's "Publishing University" (PubU) where publishers are gathered for a day-and-a-half affair to help expand their markets and understanding of publishing trends.

Food and Starbucks are adjacent to your areas.

Food is plentiful and lots of inexpensive choices in Nashville areas.

Hotels are expensive there, but if you're sharing a room, that one night at the hotel just became $100 instead of $200.... Or if you share with three or four folks, then you've reduced that cost again!

Here's the rundown on The Art of Writing Conference sessions: (This is the part you should pay attention too, although the gala was AMAZING and fun.... but work first. Fun after!)

1. First session was amazingly informative hour-long talk by Donald Miller, CEO of "Storybrand". I learned more in this one hour of information than I have in dozens of marketing classes over the years. You know me. (If you don't know me, then you should know me because I'm not easily impressed.) I'm a Yankee and we Yankees tend toward skepticism. When Don explained his thoughts on simplification, it made perfect sense. And his timing was spot on. We also received a hardcover copy of his bestselling book "Building Your Story Brand", courtesy of Harper Collins.

2. Second session was an editor panel addressing common myths of publication. Panel was Shannon Marchese, (Waterbrook) Dan Balow (Gilead) and Beth Adams (Howard Books). Panelists addressed common misconceptions about author perceptions of publishers in a direct manner. They also asked me about Love Inspired... and that was nice, to be able to tell folks about one of my publishers in a professional forum. Amy Green from Bethany House was the moderator for this, and she did a great job of presenting questions and adding bits from her perspective as well.

3. Sarah Arthur, author of over a dozen books on the intersection of faith and fiction in story. Sarah came to us two weeks out of chemo after a summertime diagnosis of breast cancer. To say she was inspiring is like a crazy understatement.

4. Author panel on writing, publishing, indie publishing, choices, opportunities, faith. This panel had a slightly uncomfortable NYT bestselling author Charles Martin (who did an amazing speech that evening... I realized he's not real comfortable with on-the-spot questions but seemed quite comfortable offering his prepared remarks and that's okay!), Joanne Bischoff, Carla Laureano, Jerry Jenkins and moderator Beth Adams (who is an executive editor with Howard Books but also a co-author with me on the Mysteries of Martha's Vineyard series out of Guideposts).

Fun thirty-minute break in the middle allowed us to browse cool stuff in the lobby, including our own Carrie, Beth's and Annie's "Just Read" tour tables...  light refreshments included fruity water, bottled water, soda, coffee and bags of Cracker Jacks. It would be wrong of me to pretend I don't love Cracker Jacks, which meant I was amazingly happy. :)

Following the four-session conference, there was a light reception in one hall while finalists had a private reception in another hall where they could mingle and meet past Christy winners, presenters, industry professionals, publishers, etc. Both receptions were great hug-giving photo-op opportunities... and made folks smile. An office was turned into a cloak room for the day, so that day clothes could be swapped for evening clothes in a nearby ladies room... And how fun was that, all of us getting ready together? Laughing? Helping? The best!

Then this was all followed by the most elegant gala I've attended in my writing career, including THREE forks...

You know it's fancy when three forks are involved! :) A most delicious dinner... not rushed... the banquet staff had the tables set so that each course moved quickly and calmly.... and then a two hour gracious and pretty flawless presentation of awards with funny or warm or philosophical vignettes separating the award presentations.

In ten hours, from noon registration pick up to the gala's close shortly before ten o'clock, the day was absolutely marvelous... for $99.

I was so glad to see packed rooms. Meet publishers. Meet editors. The kindness of everyone was notable.

What I would do differently: Just one thing and it's on a personal note:

I was in the Opry Mills Mall and saw a beautiful holiday skirt and top on a mannequin and bought it... because I'm wearing that to next year's gala! That means I'm not hinging my trip on a Christy final... I'm already planning to be there and enjoy Nashville and ECPA hospitality again!

I loved my evening dress, but it was a little understated for the formality and this way I got one on sale (HAPPY!) and timeless. Because who knows how many of these fun events we might get to attend in our lives?

The timing of this one works well for me because farm season is over... life is calming down... and I love getting together with other industry professionals and aspiring authors. My time here in Seekerville has made that such an important part of my joy of writing... and it's so much fun to meet the people beyond the tiny Google pics! :)

To sum up, this was a great experience. I didn't come home with the beautiful award, that's true. This time! :)

But I came home with good business savvy, some great ideas and new friendships... and also an incredibly good impression of Stan Jantz and the ECPA. Stan is the CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and just a downright nice man. And Cindy Carter, the Gala organizer, is amazing.

Beth Jamison of Jamison Editing went with me. We took a day and tooled around Belle Meade (after we got in from the airport), The Hermitage (Andrew Jackson's home), The Gaylord Opryland Hotel (stunningly beautiful!). There is a ton to see and do in Nashville... we drove through Music Row and saw Vanderbilt University (gorgeous!) but limited ourselves to three stops... because hopefully we'll be there again next year.

And our car rental was crazy fun for us farm women... because the car we were renting came back damaged so Avis gave us a Nissan Titan V-8 crew cab 4 x 4 to tool around Nashville... and we love driving pick-up trucks, so this flashy monster was great fun!

Feel free to ask questions... and there are cheaper hotels in the Nashville area. A lot of them... so if you don't mind driving, you can book rooms a little farther from Lipscomb University and save some money that way, too.

I've got two copies of my Christy finaling book "Her Secret Daughter" to give away today...

 and two copies of  my duo with Linda Goodnight "A Cowboy Christmas"...

Leave a comment below and I'll tuck your name in the candy dish... usually I'm using the cat dish for drawings, but with the holidays approaching, I think a candy dish is more festive. :) #holidayfun

Multi-published, award-winning author Ruth Logan Herne loves creating unforgettable characters in house-next-door settings or opulent neighborhoods... or even prairie meadows! Visit her website at, friend her on facebook as Ruth Logan Herne and/or follow her on Twitter! She loves to chat with readers... and writers... and pretty much anyone who'll listen! 

Monday, November 12, 2018

30-Day Writing Habit Challenge!

Missy Tippens

Are you looking to develop or maintain a writing habit? This post is for you! Whether you’re writing madly right now with NaNoWriMo and want to continue the habit, or you’re not writing at all, I hope today’s post will help. PLUS! I have a challenge for you at the end to assist in forming your new habit.

When researching how we develop habits, I checked out the Psychology Today blog. I’ll be sharing my takeaway from these two posts and will include some tips from the articles:

The Habit Replacement Loop by Bernard J. Luskin, Ed.D., LMFT.

Stop Making New Goals--Create Habits Instead by Marcia Reynolds, Psy.D.

In Dr. Reynolds’s article, she quotes a study by Neal, Wood and Quinn that says we humans are creatures of habit—and in fact, nearly half of what we do each day is out of habit (repeated behavior). So I think we need to choose wisely what we make into a habit rather than just falling into a pattern by default.

Want to be in the habit of watching TV? Watch TV daily.
Want to be in the habit of checking email? Check email daily (or 45 times a day!).
Want to be in the habit of writing daily? You get the picture. :)

But often we’ll set a goal of getting up early and writing each day (or of writing after dinner or during our lunch break or while in the carpool line or at soccer practice with the kids). And then we’ll jump into that new schedule we’ve committed to. But before we know it, we hit the snooze figuring we need the sleep more. Or we get caught up in a new series on TV that’s all the rage. And quickly, that new goal goes by the wayside (New Year’s resolutions, anyone?). Before we know it, we’re back to our old habits.

Dr. Reynolds says, “You must take deliberate, consistent actions repeatedly over time to defy your brain if you want to achieve the results you desire.” She says we basically have to trick our brain into accepting that the new habit is “achievable and worth the effort,” so we don’t start rationalizing (I need sleep more than I need to get up and hit the gym).

Crazy how our brains work! That’s why working gradually, and daily, will help us change our habits or form new ones.

In his article, Dr. Luskin says: “The good news is that we now know that, through repetition, it's possible to form and maintain new habits.  Enter ‘The Habit Replacement Loop (HRL)’.”

He talks about habit memory as if it’s similar to muscle memory. And says repetition is the key to creating an automatic habit response.

Luskin specifically mentions the 3 components of habits:
1.  A trigger/cue (for me, this would be finishing my devotional/prayer time, and then sitting down at the computer with my coffee and opening Word).
2.  The behavior (the actual writing—aiming for attainable goals repeated over and over).
3.  A reward which causes our brain to remember (keeping track of and cheering my successes as well as reminding myself that I’m doing something positive that is helping my productivity)

This reward fits in nicely with Reynolds’s idea that we need to demonstrate to our brain that what we’re doing is GOOD and something we can succeed at.

We can do this! We can replace old habits with new. We can train/re-train ourselves to consistently write.

To help you do that—should you choose to accept this mission!—I’ve come up with a 30-Day Writing Habit Challenge! I’ve created a tab at the top of the blog. Click it and you’ll find a daily writing prompt for the next 30 days. Some are short and fun, some will make you think, some will help you with craft. I tried to come up with a variety to keep you interested and writing each day. And I hope that by the end of 30 days you will have tricked persuaded your brain that writing daily is a good thing and you’re going to be great at it!

Feel free to check in to encourage each other in the comments section on the Challenge tab (comments only, not your writings). Then we’ll celebrate at the end. Even if you don’t take the time to comment daily, I hope you’ll let us know if you finish the challenge! And if you’re NaNo-ing, feel free to join us any time you can.

So, do you think daily repetition with rewards can help you change or create habits?

While we're chatting today, let's be sure to remember our Veterans. I'm grateful for them and their families who have sacrificed so much for our country! I hope you'll thank a Veteran today.

Missy has a recently-released Christmas novella! His Perfect Christmas.

Unlucky in love, police deputy Hardy Greenway has spent his life in the friend zone. But now he’s fallen hard for the girlfriend of his nemesis. Dori Blanchette has been waiting for a proposal from her boyfriend, but how can she say yes when she has feelings for Hardy? With Christmas tree ornaments playing spontaneously and secrets being revealed, there’s no telling who will end up together at Christmas!

Welcome to Dahlia, Georgia, where everyone feels welcome!

After more than 10 years of pursuing her dream of publication, Missy Tippensmade her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, Holt Medallion, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, and the Romance Writers of America RITA® Award. Visit Missy at,

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Weekend Edition


If you are not familiar with our giveaway rules, take a minute to read them here. It keeps us all happy! All winners should send their name, address, and phone number to claim prizes.  Note our new email address and please send your emails to

Monday:  On Monday we faced the mind-boggling (now) question of what would we do if the Internet disappeared? What would we miss? How would we function? Ruth Logan Herne offered two lovely books up for giveaways... The winner of Ruthy's Christmas duo with Linda Goodnight is Elaine Stock! And the winner of the 2-in-1 with Gail Martin is Lila! Congratulations, lovelies! 

Wednesday: Mindy Obenhaus pulled back the curtain to reveal her writing process in Where Do I Start (to write a book)?

Friday: Beth shared her opinions on When Not To Read, and gave a wonderful recap of the Christy Awards!

Monday:  Missy Tippens is talking about how to train our brains to develop a writing habit. If you're doing NaNoWriMo right now, be sure to stop by to find out how to continue your writing streak! And if you're new to writing or not writing regularly, then come by to find out how to get started. She'll even be providing a "30-Day Writing Habit Challenge" that will give you daily writing prompts!

Wednesday:  On Wednesday Ruth Logan Herne is hanging out to talk about the recent Art of Writing Conference and Christy Award Gala she attended in Nashville a few days ago... She rated both as a "MUST DO AGAIN" and that's a little rare for our Ruthy! Stop by Wednesday... Ruthy will be happy to answer questions about the ECPA-sponsored events (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) and she's got more Christmas book giveaways... See you then, my friends!
Friday: Winnie Griggs is over in Dallas this weekend having a blast at a fun reader con. She'll be by on Friday to tell us all about it and share a writing tip or two.

Ruthy was in Nashville for the 2nd Annual ECPA-sponsored Art of Writing Conference and she saw so many wonderful people there! More about the conference on Wednesday, but here are a few pics of the amazing day at Lipscomb University in Nashville.

Ruthy and Beth Jamison of Jamison Editing. Beth edits all of Ruthy's indie work...

Carrie Booth Schmidt and the wonderful Eric Schmidt, Beth Erin, Ruthy, and Suzie W.

Megan Besing and Sara Ella!

Heather Day Gilbert, Michelle Griep and Ruthy (three finalists for Short Form category)
Amazingly wonderful reader and author Kc Frantzen and Heather Gilbert 

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

Erica Vetsch will be signing books at the Christos BookCenter located at 3611 Salem Rd SW, Rochester, Minnesota 55902. Saturday from 5-7 pm, and Sunday from 8am-12:30 pm. Come by if you're in the area...or drive a long ways and come by anyway! :)

Three  Christmas Novellas--previously released though not in print books, only ebooks.
Longhorn Christmas, The Sweetest Gift, The Christmas Candle

Longhorn Christmas Netty Lewis, a lonely young widow is saved from a raging mama longhorn by a passing cowboy who's been wandering since the end of the Civil War.She needs help surviving her rugged life and caring for Jeremiah, her young son. Nettie and Roy, along with Jeremiah begin a journey toward Christmas, family, home and love.And a herd of longhorns are making the way hard.

A sweet re-telling of The Gift of the Magi--with a happy ending. The Sweetest Gift She longs for music. He needs a valuable horse to improve his herd.When Christmas comes the gift they truly give  is the gift of love.
The Christmas Candle A lonely widower with a pair of out-of-control sons he never got to know while their mother was alive.A woman with a love of nature and beauty and scent...and the little boys seem determined to destroy her way of life.A feisty Ozark mountain granny who doesn't put up with much nonsense.The gift of a candle for Christmas and a Christ child who is a perfect match for this scent of heaven.

Missy's Christmas novella, His Perfect Christmas, has released! Click here for more info.

From Romance Writers of America RITA® Award finalist author Missy Tippens comes the Home to Dahlia, Georgia, series of novellas.

Unlucky in love, police deputy Hardy Greenway has spent his life in the friend zone. But now he’s fallen hard for the girlfriend of his nemesis. Dori Blanchette has been waiting for a proposal from her boyfriend, but how can she say yes when she has feelings for Hardy? With Christmas tree ornaments playing spontaneously and secrets being revealed, there’s no telling who will end up together at Christmas!

Welcome to Dahlia, Georgia, where everyone feels welcome!



The second book in the new Love Inspired Suspense
Amish Witness Protection Continuity
Hiding in Plain Sight
The second thrilling Amish Witness Protection novel

After Julia Bradford’s son witnesses a gang shooting, hiding in witness protection on Abraham King’s Amish farm is the only hope the Englischer and her children have. Even as danger closes in, Julia is drawn to the community’s peaceful ways—and the ex-cop turned Amish protector. But when their location is discovered, can Abraham protect her family…and possibly have a future by her side?

Pre-order HERE!

You'll also find Debby chatting on the
Christian Fiction Readers Retreat Blog:

Writers Beware of the Legal Pitfalls-Copyright Basics pt 3 by Karen Van Den Heuval at Thyme For Writers

12 Weeks to a First Draft by Writer's Digest University at Writer's Digest

The Benefits and Drawbacks of Immersion for Writers by Hayley Watkins at Live Write Thrive

In Loving Memory
Bonnie Roof

Beloved supporter of Christian fiction, authors and readers, long-time Seekervillager Bonnie Roof went home to Jesus on November 7, 2018. Not only did Bonnie love and promote authors whenever she could, she was also a faithful prayer warrior. With Seekers Annie & Carrie, she started the Christian Fiction Readers Retreat in 2016, and they personally counted her a dear friend. One that will not easily be forgotten and whose impact will be felt for years to come. Earth is emptier, but oh the rejoicing in heaven as she dances with her Savior. 

Condolences can be left for the family HERE

Friday, November 9, 2018

When NOT to Read and The Christy Awards Gala: One Reader's Experience

by Beth Erin

As my love of stories has grown, my role in the book world has obviously evolved (from avid reader to reviewer/book blogger/influencer to bookish magazine editor). I’m not sure this makes me an expert on anything, but it certainly has given me a generous dose of reading experience. Yet, there are also subtle ways the story footprint has quietly seeped deeper and gently spread wider in my little world.

Until an experience brings my attention to its increasing size and strength, I'm left unaware. Before I share about the most recent situation that triggered this wave of emotion and introspection, I’ve compiled the following etiquette guidelines with help from my book sisters for a bit of fun and perhaps to challenge our more rebellious villagers. Shockingly, there are times when reading is generally frowned upon.

Do NOT read when… 

driving, mowing, biking, skateboarding,
cooking a new recipe,
your children are asking for permission to do something crazy and/or dangerous,
your husband is 'in the mood',
engaged in an important phone call,
you are in church (except DO read your Bible and any applicable song/hymn lyrics),
attending weddings and funerals,
using power tools, heavy tools, and sharp objects!
swimming (unless you have a waterproof ereader tethered to your person... in which case I am jelly and want one)
operating heavy machinery or unfamiliar exercise equipment
at the dinner table (unless you are eating alone then go for it, the characters will keep you company!)
attending parties, social gatherings, and organizational meetings (unless you are super stealth)
attending a baseball, basketball, football, volleyball, soccer game or golfing, (ya might miss the "fore" while engrossed in your book unless you select your seating carefully, travel with a lookout… pop flies happen, y'all… or is that a foul ball? idk)

Do NOT read if you…

don't want to improve yourself (reading makes you more empathetic and smarter),
don't want to learn new things,
want to make conversation with strangers,
don't want to stretch your imagination,
are wearing your birthday suit (this is especially important for readers who read on a device with apps: beware of accidentally bumping Facebook live or some such travesty, there are things which cannot be unseen)
would rather rot your brains out with a television,
would prefer to watch the grass grow, or paint dry, or other equally exciting happenings,
feel empowered to fight crime, slay dragons, or engage in other high-risk behaviors which you are completely unprepared for because of your extensive collection of action/suspense/fantasy books.

Use extreme caution when reading and…

walking, running,
changing diapers,
doing dishes, cooking,
showering (curtain) or bathing (proceed at your own risk),
recognize unrealistic expectations (I’m totally series about this one. For example, don't read romance if it has a negative impact on your thought life, read Every Woman's Battle by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn)

The Christy Awards Gala

If y’all haven’t watched The Christy Awards Gala yet, allow me to highly recommend it and remind you of the Facebook live playback link. As Ruthy mentioned in the Weekend Edition, she is one of this year's finalists so I'm sure she will share more within the next week or two. I also had the honor of attending this year's event in person and the evening completely blessed my reader heart. 

From a shallow first love for their stories, beyond the early new love of common faith and friendship, to a deep, abiding love for my people who happen to be authors, an individual, familiar, bosom friends, spirit deep and God gifted love. Love filled that theater and I felt like more than "just a reader" in a crowd of professionals. There was a sense of belonging, of a second home, an extended family... their sorrows are my sorrows, their joys, my joy.

The fact that this profound gift was given on the same day our dear friend Bonnie Roof stood face to face with our Lord did not escape my notice so whether God was simply generous with a fresh touch of His grace or Bonnie put in a good word for me (she always had a kind and encouraging praise to share), I'm grateful for God's perfect timing, His patience, and His presence. 


Comment below for a virtual hug and a chance to win a signed copy of Ruthy's Refuge of the Heart or The First Gift (with their traditionally published cover design). One winner for each title will be announced in the Weekend Edition.

Do you read in any of our NOT situations above? Who here attended the Christy's? who watched live? who watched the playback?

I feel obligated to leave this here, just in case...
Beth Erin is an Associate Editor of Hope by the Book magazine and a Christian Fiction Readers Retreat associate. She is a Christian fiction enthusiast, book reviewer, and blogger. Beth strives to edify and connect with readers and authors at Faithfully Bookish and on social media. She also contributes to the Hoarding Books & Diversity Between the Pages blogs. She is passionate about promoting authors and their entertaining, encouraging, and redemptive stories.