Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting Ready for a Writer's Conference: Strike a Pose

Do you need a professional photo for your writing? I say yes. And I also say you might want to include a photo on business cards for agents and editors.

No, this is not me. It's my "persona."
I have a file/disk of my professional photos to be included in any writing endeavors. A photographer, Janet, who catered especially to writers that day did my session and interviewed me beforehand to find out my personality/what I wrote. From that she worked on my session.

I have to say that I hate photos of myself. I didn’t like my photos at first because that is my immediate reaction, so I put them here on my blog to have blog-friends vote! Many of you helped me to see what you saw, and what kind of personality came through the photos. I’ve seen other writers do this on blogs and Facebook. Comments do help.

This year at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference they will have a fabulous photographer, Amber Zimmerman, available for a session appointment. Your photo should be free and clear of any usage constraints so you may use them for all of your work, which makes opportunities like this one of which to take advantage. You don't want photos that you must get permission to use each time.

As far as dress and poses—usually a photographer will address this with you. You need a face shot for things like articles, columns, and any publicity/media events. But I’d encourage you to have fun with your personality/type of writing that you do and have a few casual shots, too. (Depending on your genre and type of other writing that you do.)

The color you wear should enhance your own coloring and go with the colors to wear that emphasize the type of writing that you do. I wrote a couple articles on this, addressing what color “says” to the viewer. For example, navy blue is “trustworthy” while pink is “friendly/feminine,” and green is “earthy.” Of course, everyone’s heard of the red power tie. Make sure you wear the color; don’t let the color wear you!

Some of my shots were outside, but that was for lighting and she included some flowers. At one point I was on the ground on a white background and she was up on a ladder. Photos taken from above are flattering to your face. If someone shoots you from below, things have a tendency to “expand.” (Even if you’re not heavy.)

I think that any business card you give to an editor or agent should have your photo on it—a really good photo. (Remember that it will be small.) It does jog the memory of the editor/agent, especially when you have jotted the project you have pitched to him on the back. Make sure you have all of your contact info on that card. If you want to have a business card for all others that only lists your web site/email address, then that’s ok, but you definitely want certain people to have access to you.

Here is the photographer, Amber Zimmerman, for the ACFW conference and samples of what she’s done with authors:

The authors you see there are Colleen Coble and Denise Hunter, but she’s done many other authors because her mom is Diann Hunt (also an author.)

Amber’s page on “what to wear” is mostly for family shots, but she also wrote about photos for authors on Seekerville Blog: (GREAT article on Seekerville)

I do think it’s important as a writer these days to have a public platform/persona. When you go to sell your work you will have to have these photos, and while you may have them updated and redone when the project is actually sold (especially for books,) it’s great to have done this ahead of time, too.

You want to have your photos available for blogs, FB, Twitter, articles (written by you or ON you,) any public forum or platform, for your books, and for media kits.  We needed to be friendly and approachable, as well as trustworthy looking. You do not have to be a model or drop-dead gorgeous (glamorous) in those photos, but you should have a warmth and a joy that comes through. Be yourself but find a photographer who helps bring “you” to the picture.

What kinds of advice do you have about photos?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Marlayne Giron: When I Was Just a Kid

Marlayne Giron is my guest on When I Was Just a Kid and is giving away her book, The Victor there. Go over to read about Marlayne's fascinating childhood and leave a comment ON THAT BLOG.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Going to the ACFW Conference in Indianapolis?

I've been to many large writing conferences and have worked freelance for agents and editors, but I still remember my first meal time at an editor's table.You wonder if you forgot everything your mama taught you about eating with "important" people. Is this napkin for me or the person beside me? What if I splat ketchup all over Chip MacGregor's kilt!

Many times a first time conference attendee is baffled when it comes to the lunch and dinner times at editors' and agents' tables, or at least a little intimidated, especially if you are an introvert. If you are Colleen-Coble-type, then you can go back to writing and miss this post. (Of course, she's now eating onions, so who knows? Maybe you need this, anyway.)

At the ACFW conference during lunch and dinner, you will be given the option of sitting at a table with an agent or editor OF YOUR CHOICE. (First come, first serve. Their names will be on cards in the center of the table.) Yes, you will be able to give a short blurb about what you write (wait for it--they'll ask.) Yes, it will be noisy,and there will be others at your table who also are interested in the host of the table. The agent or editor may be distracted by any number of things. There will be announcements and wonderful things going on with Brandilyn Collins, the MC, too.She may be giving away books or causing you to snort out your tea (try to avoid the direction of the agent/editor.)

Here are a few tips when you get to the table. Don't be nervous, eat the really good food. Just be prepared. If you pray before, God can grant you peace and assurance. Really!

1.Often breakfast is reserved for faculty to have a break from conferees. Please respect the parameters given at the conference.It's ok to say hi if your eyes meet, just don't stop at the table or sit down or for that matter,or even slow down. (Break the eye contact as soon as you can--wave to that new person you have yet to meet.)

2. Don't wear fragrances, but do smell pleasant. I don't know how you accomplish this, nor do I want to know.

3.Have your business cards available without fumbling for them for others at your table. You'll also want to chat with those at your table because these people can become your good friends.(And really, you just never know how they will be bridges for you.) Ask the person beside you about her writing. Chances are, you'll relax while listening to her. And this is hard when you are nervous or an auditory learner, but try to practice true communication/listening, and not just rehearsing what you'll say to the editor/agent in your mind while the other person talks. Who knows? You may get a chance to practice with the person beside you. But you also may miss an opportunity to get to know the really cool person next to you.

4. Have your business card(no papers) with you to give to the editor/agent at your table, if the opportunity arises. Jot briefly your book title and a line on the back of the card (and genre.) Make sure you have address/phone/email on that card. If you are uncomfortable having that info for just anyone, have the full contact info ones for only the editor/agents or good friends.

5. Have your 30 second pitch(they will probably ask you) and do not hog the table talk time with the agent/editor. Answer questions, but do speak with others at your table, too. Sometimes it is difficult to hear if you are across the table, too, so be aware and be willing to help others at your table to communicate. Think of always being gracious.

6. It may just be sooo important to contact that editor/agent because you've spent so much money for this conference, but I've seen rudeness occur when people will "save" chairs at a table, and even rushing to take the chair ahead of someone else. This isn’t junior high. Be polite and trust that there will be God-incidences happening. Some editors and agents have noticed if you're chair-grabbing and they have good memories (at times.)

7. You never know who “works”for/influences the agent/editor. Be nice to everyone! (You'll be happier if you are, too. It's fun. Try it. It will confuse some people.) I've introduced myself to someone at a conference, and the person said, "Are you anyone? Oh. You're nobody. Ok. Bye." Yes, I'm Nobody, but I do remember names as they cross my desk....

8. No matter how friendly you have become with an agent or editor, be courteous and respect her/him. I saw a whole table "tease" an editor about something this editor "seemed" to be comfortable about, but behind the scenes this person went back to the room to fume/be hurt--and let organizers know about it. Be sensitive. Don't tease or talk about volatile/sensitive issues. Try to put yourself in that person's shoes.

9. There will also be author tables. Don't be disappointed if you get at an author's table. They are "scouts" for publishers and have agents, too. They're also wonderful mentors, and have much to share.

10. Do be aware that the conference is jam-packed and an overload for everyone. Presenters, editors, agents, authors may need a minute to collect thoughts or just need nourishment. Give the host a chance to sit down (do save a chair for the host!) eat a little and maybe even sample the dessert. Each one has an individual personality and will try to lead the table in his own way. He may want to know what you've been reading, what book impacted you this year, or even ask you what you think about green tea! (Yes, I was asked by an editor about that.) I even found an editor once who had attended Taylor University in Upland, Indiana and I ended up not sending her a manuscript, but a tee shirt from Ivanhoe's. (That was fun.)

10-B. Oh, one more thing--lose 5 pounds before you go as food at these things are usually great and you will WANT to eat! (Not to mention the chocolate parties.)

I have found that the ACFW conference has the nicest, most helpful people. One special time was when someone stopped me from being a deer in the headlights as she quickly prayed for me on the way to her own appointment. Don't sit in your room and order room service--get out and be with others who are just as passionate as you are at the meals. When you go into the "cafeteria," even if you are the new kid in school, you'll find a place and it will be the right place, the right time.

Hope to see the Indiana group at breakfast one morning!

Monday, August 02, 2010

They Almost Always Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti

They Almost Come Home by Cynthia Ruchti
Abingdon, ISBN 978-1-4267-0238-9, PB, 301 pages, $13.99

--Review by Crystal Laine Miller

Libby and Greg flail in the 20-year-plus marriage after the death of their daughter, Lacey. Greg heads for a solo canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness. When he doesn't return home on time, Libby; her father-in-law, Frank, and best friend, Jen, decide to look for him.

Tenderfoots Libby and Jen and seasoned Frank all struggle with their own faith as they fight for their lives, searching for Greg, as Libby gets to know her husband through his past wilderness journeys.

This book is a page-turner full of adventure, rich characterizations, and spiritual revelation. Readers will need to keep tissues handy. Discussion questions at the end make it suitable for book groups. This is one of my favorite books so far this year, and I highly recommend it to women over 30.

--REPRINTED from Church Libraries, Summer 2010. Used with Permission.

About the Author: Cynthia Ruchti

Cynthia Ruchti is the current president of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), which she’s served in various volunteer capacities since shortly after she became a member in 2002. In her role as president of ACFW, Cynthia writes a monthly “From the President” column for ACFW’s Afictionadoezine. For two years she was one of four humor columnists for Afictionado’s“Let There Be Lite.” In 2007, she was the recipient of the ACFW Member Service Award. In 2008, Cynthia won second place for Women’s Fiction in ACFW’s prestigious Genesis Contest.

Her debut novel—They Almost Always Come Home—released in spring 2010 with Abingdon Press. She’s represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency.
Cynthia writes stories of hope that glows in the dark, merging her love for storytelling with inextinguishable hope for inexpressible hurts. Her novels in progress include On the Night He Was Betrayed, All My Belongings, When the Morning Glory Blooms, and Afraid of the Light.
The radio broadcast Cynthia writes and produces — The Heartbeat of the Home — is celebrating its 30th year of ministry. The scripted radio drama/devotional broadcast airs on 16 radio stations and two cable/digital television stations. Cynthia is the editor of the ministry’s Backyard Friends magazine, a twenty-page, twice annual publication that reaches 5,000 homes, churches, and parachurch outreaches.
Cynthia’s articles have appeared in a number of publications, including Christian Communicator, Victory In Grace, Quality of Life Times, and others. Her essay “Reading by Flashlight, Writing by Heart” appears in Cup of Comfort for Writers. She also has an essay in Writing So Heaven Will Be Different, a compilation commemorating the 35th year of the Write-to-Publish writers conference. She writes a monthly column for Wisconsin Christian News and has written a number of feature articles for that publication.
Cynthia spends her days diving into words, worship, and wonder and celebrating 37 years of marriage, three grown children, and five exceptional grandchildren. One of her greatest joys is helping other writers grow in their craft. To that end, she is the assistant director and a faculty member of the Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference, has served as worship and devotions staff for the Write-to-Publish conference, and teaches at other conferences as opportunities arise. She speaks to women’s groups, at mother-daughter banquets, and for women’s refresher days. It is her delight to serve on her church’s worship team and Creative Arts team. Rather than “busy,” she likes the term “active.”