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 ruthloganherne.com, 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! 




44 comments:

  1. Ruthy, this sounds amazing! I'm so glad you shared about it. My sister lives in Nashville, so I really need to try to go to this next year. I know how hard it is to get the Ruthinator out to a conference, so that means I need to come there if I want to see you in person again! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Missy! We would have so much fun!!!! The timing of this one is perfect...after farm season. And the length is perfect because you know I lose interest quickly! :)

      WE WOULD LOVE THIS TOGETHER!!!!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Ruthy. Sounds like an awesome conference and awards ceremony (except for the three forks). Congratulations on your final - so happy for you!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think I used the right forks. I THINK I DID!!!!

      But if I didn't, everyone was too gracious to scold. It was the nicest crowd.... And no politics. A few jokes that were actually funny.... but no one pressed an agenda.

      Gosh, that was refreshing!

      Delete
  3. Oh, I love this, Ruthy. Sounds like you and Beth had a great time. Loved hearing about the workshops. I didn't even know they offered workshops. And what an honor for you to be nominated. I loved Her Secret Daughter. Such a touching story. Of course, you made me cry, so that annoyed me, but I forgive you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a one-Kleenex-box story, for sure.... I love a sacrificial mother. Oh be still my heart, that's what almost every story should have... A SACRIFICIAL MOTHER!!!!

      Okay.

      Got that out of my system!

      We did have a great time, and these workshops, the conference is all because ECPA took over the Christys... and they're goal is to keep polishing it for the jewel it is.

      Mindy, honestly... so many nice folks. Loved it.

      Delete
  4. I don't have the kind of money for writing conferences. Yet I know that it is so important. Perhaps this might be an answer. I will have to keep it in mind.

    I am so grateful for Seekerville.

    Hope everyone has a great day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wilanil... don't you fret. You worry about getting to the point where the conference is a real networking help. I didn't go for years... a lot of years! And that was okay. Like you, I was busy learning, editing, polishing. You're doing the right things in the proper order. Go you!

      Delete
  5. This conference is on my bucket list!

    The travel expense is the biggest thing that keeps me home. When you don't live near an airline hub, you add a quick $300 to your airline ticket every time! But maybe I can convince hubby to drive...it's only an 18-hour trip. :-)

    I'm so glad you and Beth got to go, and thank you for sharing your trip with us!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hear you! I use my Southwest miles card so the airfare was nothing. That's a huge help. Of course there's only enough for a couple of things/year, but that's okay. It helps!

      And RWA is in NYC this year so I might go down there and visit folks... and go to the party. I've only been to the Harlequin party once, so that would be fun. And I love to visit NYC... with my boys both moving on from there, I won't get across the state as much as I used to.

      We'll see.... it's a busy time here on the farm, so that's something to think about.

      Delete
  6. Yes, to ALL of this! I have not had much time to attend conferences over the years, what with having babies and all, but now I can. I am blessed to have an amazing husband that can take time off work to stay home with the kids (which he LOVES!!!!) while I get time to meet new people, see old friends, and hang with my favorite author, Ruth Logan Herne.

    I absolutely loved the conference and gala, and look forward to attending again next year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was just a solid experience all around. Loved it. And I'm so glad you were able to go. It's important to meet people and we all know I need a handler.... ;)

      Delete
  7. Lee-Ann B: Thanks Ruthy for your post! As always, informative AND entertaining to read. :) I haven`t attended any writer conferences but when I was working before my brood, I attended a bunch of conferences for professional fundraisers. I didn`t regret attending, and learned so much from them. I`d love to go to some writing conferences but traveling costs, and finding childcare at this stage is a challenge to come up with. We don`t have as many writer conferences in the Great White North (though we do have a few). Maybe someday. :) PS - Our library has a copy of `Her Secret Daughter`and I devoured it! (lol - not literally - I`m sure my tummy wouldn`t thank me for it).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lee Ann, I wonder why it doesn't always recognize you? BAD BLOGGER!

      I'm so glad you loved that story... I did, too. A great take on a secret baby.... And you know, there are regional conferences that can be really nice. But I thought you lived in Arizona? Am I messing this up?

      Most likely, my brain is often compared to a sieve....

      Draining...

      Draining...

      Draining. :)

      Delete
    2. I know..can't figure out why it won't recognize me. Bah. Technology - love it and hate it. I live across the big pond from you. LOL I can see Rochester on a clear day from the top of the hill in the north end of our city not too far west of Toronto (Oshawa). My uncle used to live in Arizona but I doubt you know him. LOL That's like asking if you know Mike from Canmore (hahaha - Canadian icon!)

      Delete
    3. Hey. I might know him! :) Okay, so you are north of me!!!! SWEET! And they have a New England writers conference, don't they? Something to think about, my friend!

      Delete
  8. Sounds like a fun time and a great payoff for all the hard work you put into your writing! Thanks for breaking down the details, you make it sound very appealing. And congratulations on your nomination! Though my favorite of your Love Inspired books remains The Lawman's Yuletide Baby. You really got me with that one. Tears! A lovely book :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thank you, Jenna! ... And just between you and me, The Lawman's Yuletide Baby was also entered.... because I thought both of those stories just gripped the heart, back to back. I'm so glad you loved that one because I did, too. OH MY HEART.... that baby????

      Are you kidding me????

      And the reviews on it were amazing.

      God bless Love Inspired for letting me write my stories my way... and we might have to start including tissues with them! :)

      Thank you, pretty Jenna!

      Delete
    2. There you go... custom-made Ruthy tissue packets would make for some awesome swag at conferences ;-)

      Delete
    3. Hahahah! Then I'd have to remember to bring them! But... I concur! :)

      Delete
  9. Awww, Ruthy, I LOVED reading this. I was in Nashville for ACFW, and I so enjoyed my time there. After reading this report, it makes me want to go to the Art of Writing conference!

    I would love to hear more about the Story Brand workshop you attended. Maybe you should write a blog post on it . . . or invite Donald Miller to share . . . ;) Of course, I'm not telling you what to do. :)

    How fun that you found next year's gala dress! I hope you'll share pictures after the event next year! Thank you for sharing your impressions here. This sounds like a truly worthwhile conference.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeanne, we're going to give away a copy of his book soon... but Beth and I want to read it first. We each got a copy and we don't need two... And in the workshop he was the motivational speaker, so we didn't do workshop per se.... it was encouragement and seeing the forest for the trees and it made such perfect sense.

      He's running a mega million dollar corporation (he counsels big businesses and politicians all the time... And this was all from an idea he had about how to "brand" your product... and it's amazingly simple.

      Because we keep it simple.

      I'm going to play with implementing his thoughts over the next couple of months.... and then work it into my 2019 as part of the framework.

      Smart guy!

      And the COOL thing about the November date is that I'm at my thinnest in November.... It's so funny, but true, because I have all the summer and spring work and I'm always moving... so what fits in November is not likely to fit in March after five months of writing.... Isn't that the way of it???

      Delete
  10. Sounds like you had an amazing time! I would have loved to see you two tooling around Nashville in that big ol' truck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a great truck!!!!! If I didn't know that my husband would take it out into the fields and mess it all up, I'd get a used one for here.

      But my husband, Farmer Dave, is NOT good about obeying Ruthy vehicle rules.

      He must be watched! :)

      Delete
  11. Happy that you and Beth had a fantastic time. Thanks for telling us about the workshops, the camaraderie,that incredible dinner and the awards ceremony. And your clothes for the event next year. You'll always be a winner. Love stories with a sacrificial mother. Will get a copy of Her Secret Daughter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, you are the sweetest thing! And I'm putting your name in for a copy today, so who knows???? And I must catch up on mailings again... Land sakes, I fall behind every month or so.

      #bad

      #busy

      #stillbad

      Delete
  12. Sounds like great fun! I'm not a big city girl, but I think it would be fun to visit Nashville for a short time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lila, Nashville is so delightful. It's not a big city like New York or LA... it's medium... smallish airport... very comfortable to get around, too. But it is growing and that means the traffic at commuter time is crazy because the roads aren't big enough to handle the in and out of all of it. So that's a little crazy. We figured out that skipping commuter time driving was the smart thing to do. I'm so glad you stopped by today!

      Delete
  13. I hit 50,402 and I'm still going in Nano. Pardon my bragging, but after failing for the last 3 nano's I'm so excited to have finished well. Wonder what my final count will be on November 30

    ReplyDelete
  14. This was a fun post, Ruthy. I felt like I was there with you. Please put me in the book drawing.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for sharing your adventure. So fun! I appreciated all your insights. I see the value of attending even if I never get nominated. Of Course, I have to enter. Put my name in the candy dish I'd love a copy of either book.
    Cindy Ervin Huff

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cindy, you are tucked in and I agree...you've got to enter, LOL! And the ECPA has opened this up to self entry because not all publishers enter an author's work. It's a pricey entry.... but it was totally worth it to me... :) I do intend to go next fall even if it's just for conferencing and cheering others on... because it was that informative and good.

      Delete
  16. Hi Ruthy, I loved reading all that went on that day! It sounds great! So glad you could attend, and what an honor to be a Christy finalist. I hope to go some time. Blessings to you and Happy Thanksgiving.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carrie, you would love it and fit right in because you're about the nicest person on the planet! :) It was a stellar experience all around... and they really went all out to make sure all attendees (not just finalists) felt special... and that directions and places were clear. You know how frustrating it can be if you can't find rooms, wings, hallways... this was cunningly easy! BONUS!

      Delete
  17. I'm so glad you had a great time at the conference. It sounds like such fun! Congratulations on being a Christy finalist! That's fantastic! Your book sounds so wonderful. Throw my name in the hat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Winnie! I am throwing your name in right now!!!

      Delete
  18. Ruthy, thanks for this post. I'm late, but loved reading your take on the Christy Awards and pre-conference. Nashville isn't far from Atlanta! I'll think about next year. Would love to see you there. Missy too! We could drive together! Congrats again for being a Christy nominee! Such a well-deserved honor!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Debby, thank you! What a lovely thing to say.... And we could all meet there, yes! Wouldn't that be fun????

      Delete
  19. I live just south of Nashville and wish I could have met up with you. Maybe next year, I can scrape enough pennies together to just join you there!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amy, how fun that would be! There were writers of all stages there, and we all mingled, having fun and giggling like schoolgirls and learning like grown-ups. A perfect mix!!! :)

      Delete
  20. Ruthy, I had planned to go the conference this year, but I could't make it. Will mark it on my schedule for next year so that I finally get to meet you.

    ReplyDelete