Monday, October 7, 2013

Yeehaw!: Mingling with Best-sellers in Texas!

In a few weeks, I am pleased to return as a presenter at the East Texas Baptist University’s annual Christian Writers Conference in Marshall, Texas. This conference was not only my first writers’ conference to attend, but I also was able to teach my first ever writing class there last year.

This year I’m back with “Building Writing Credibility (Through Newspapers).” The teaching opportunity has turned out to be an incredible experience, and I can’t wait until the end of this month to head to Texas.

Through this conference I’ve gained valuable insight into the publishing world and how to build a solid foundation as a novelist as well as had a great time visiting with fellow believers/writers. In reflection on last year’s wonderful conference, I thought I’d share some of the highlights and what I learned in a few of the classes.

One class I attended was “Secrets My Editors Taught Me” by national bestselling author Lisa Wingate. Lisa is an award-winning journalist, magazine columnist, popular inspirational speaker, author of 16 books and one of a select group of authors to find success in both the Christian and mainstream markets.

Lisa Wingate and I with her award-winning novel
It was so nice to meet her and to congratulate her for having the first ever ACFW Carol Award winning book (Dandelion Summer) to receive a perfect score from the judges. I also got to meet with her for a one-on-one consultation, which provided answers to many of my publishing and writer platform questions. You can check out her website here for more about her books and writing tips.

Some of what she said in her class:
“Standing out in the publishing industry, we are not to have the mindset of writing something that has not been done. It‘s not impossible, but it's much harder to get a first sell if it's something out of the box (with no defined genre/market).”

“Know your brand and fit in it. Mine is women’s fiction and deals with things like female relationships (friends, mother-daughter, etc.). Your branding helps editors determine advertising, book covers, etc.”

“In your book, you want a character that is relatable and has the right type of language/voice.”

The two-hour pre-conference workshop I attended was taught by Literary Agent and Author Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency. He answered all sorts of our questions from reasons he rejects manuscripts to how he became an agent. For more about Terry, visit his agent profile here.

A few of the things he said:
“Publishing is not a selection process but a survival one.”

“A good book is not enough. We [agents and editors] are looking for exceptional. That’s why 80% of all submissions get rejected.”

“The difference between a good and a great book is flow. You may not have everything in its proper place.”

The other class I was able to attend was author Judy Christie’s “Build a Better Writing Life.” Judy is from Louisiana like me and we hit it off right away, especially since I was reading a copy of her book, “Gone to Green.” She’s super nice and so encouraging. To check out her books and writing tips, go here.

Author and fellow Louisianan Judy Christie and I with her first novel, "Gone to Green"
Some things she said:
“You must acknowledge ‘writing’ as a priority in your life and carve out time for it, then stick to it.”

“To keep organized, it’s good to identify your writing goal by keeping some sort of a journal or notebook and list every writing project you have.”

“How to become a consistent writer involves figuring out when you write, recording how much you write and having accountability.”

“If you’re not excited about writing a book, then you need to rethink writing it.”

Tips for Attending Your First Writers Conference/s

Attending writers conferences can be overwhelming. I would suggest that before attending the largest ones such as the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference you look into smaller ones in your surrounding area. I have also attended the Southern Christian Writers Conference in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and it was wonderful.

A good piece of advice that Terry Burns gave first-time conference goers was that you must develop a “filter.” He said to use it to only take in the limited amount of information you need at this particular part of your writing journey, because you can easily be overwhelmed and miss what you need to know right now.

Interested in Attending?
The East Texas Christian Writers Conference is held each year on the last weekend in October at the East Texas Baptist University campus in Marshall.

On Friday, there is a pre-conference with a two-hour workshop and dinner with a keynote speaker (this year it’s Don Piper!), plus the opportunity to mingle with presenters and fellow attendees before the full day of the conference, which is on Saturday.

The pre-conference event costs extra, yet--even with the full conference--the cost is just over $100. That’s what I call “bang for your buck.” If you have not checked this conference out, check out the website at

Have you found a gem of a conference near you? What’s your favorite advice you’ve received at a writer’s conference? I’d love to hear about it!

Morgan Tarpley is an award-winning newspaper reporter and photographer in Louisiana. She is also a historical novelist currently seeking representation. Besides writing and traveling to over a dozen countries, her interests include acting in her local theater, photography, and singing.

For more information about Morgan, visit her website ( and blog ( You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Goodreads.


  1. Glad you got a chance to rub shoulders with some favourite authors. Enjoy the buzz of a writers conference.

  2. Hi world traveler! I attended Writing For the Soul Conference and lapped it up. I'd like to go the ACFW conf. next year, but may settle for the local one here in Sydney as James Scott Bell will be the main speaker.

    1. Hi Rita!

      That's great! Hearing James Scott Bell sounds fantastic! So glad you have the opportunity! Thanks for commenting! :)