April McGowan

On Writing: Writing Conferences

Writing Conferences

Type-TypeOnce people discover I’m an author, they inevitably ask how I got published. I think everyone is hoping for a rags to riches story. When I start talking about the hard work of writing, their reactions vary between eyes glazing over, eyes filling with sympathy, or eyes filling with fear.

It’s those fear-filled eyes I want to address today. Those are the eyes of a secret writer: Someone who wishes they could be published one day, but sees little hope in the dream so they don’t dare hope. I used to have those eyes.

Some eighteen years ago, I began writing my first novel. I’d written a lot of short stories and loads of fan fiction (if you don’t know what that is, no worries. Those who do will nod. It’s a conversation for another time). But a novel was this seemingly insurmountable mountain. Many years and many drafts later, I had what I considered to be a brilliant piece of work and didn’t have a clue what to do with it. So I began searching on the internet for ways to contact publishers. Little did I know you needed an agent to do that, and in order to get an agent you had to be published. Talk about frustrating! And then, one publishing company took pity on me and wrote suggesting I find a local writer’s conference.

Writing conferences were an unknown to me. As I’d written an inspirational fiction novel, I figured I should find a Christian conference to attend. So I searched for OREGON CHRISTIAN WRITERS and low and behold, a group with that very name existed!

Do you know what I did? I said a quick prayer and wrote directly to them. Sue Miholer, of Oregon Christian Writers, wrote me right back and told me about their summer conference and suggested I attend.

And that, dear friends, is how I began this writing-toward-publication-life. Now my first novel wasn’t published. Neither was the next one (although I had publishers ask to read it, so I knew I was on the right track). BUT the third one was. You know that novel as Jasmine. I wouldn’t have ever been published, however, if I hadn’t honed my craft, studied the market, networked with other authors, found beta readers, joined a critique group, practiced pitching to professionals, and approached agents and publishers in person (the only place you can do that is at conferences!). ALL of those previous things were offered to me through my local writer’s conference.

My favorite writer’s conference, Oregon Christian Writers, is now registering for their 4 day summer coaching conference. So if you’ve ever dreamed of telling a story, writing articles, and being in print, now’s your chance to get serious about that dream.

Oregon Christian Writers

Summer Conference Post Card jpeg

Come join us as we encourage one another in pursuing the dream God has planted in our hearts. Click here to register: http://oregonchristianwriters.org/sc2016-vision-voice/ .

I hope to see you there!


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Timing is Everything

file000683881360Timing is everything.

I haven’t blogged for a while. Months really. I’ve been in a period of physical and emotional recovery. This has taken up all my mental energies for the past year. While I’ve been journaling, trying my hand at poetry, working on scant chapters of my next novel, and copying books of the Bible (Psalms, Revelations, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, Ephesians and now working through Romans so far), my blog has come to a standstill.
I’ve had people write to me and ask me to keep going. I’ve had lots of encouragement in this period of downtime–you know who you are, and I thank you!
But, timing is everything.
20160611_111536I’ve got this rosebush outside my living room window. It used to be huge and unmanageable. It rambled all over the place–despite aphids and other critters using it for meals. Then we built a fence. I truly gave no thought to the rosebush when we built that fence. But in doing so, we unwittingly blocked its light source, and it began to shrink.
I grew sicker, and as I did, I watched it die back more and more, to a stub.20160611_143723 I considered moving it several times. But making the decision and mustering the energy to do so seemed out of my ability. Truly, until last year, I’d given up on flowers and the like. It felt like too much to handle. But last year one of my dearest friends encouraged me and brought me starter plants and I made my porch a flowery haven rekindling hope in my spirit. It’s now my favorite place to sit and read and visit.


This year, when I looked out the window, I thought that rose was surely dead. I felt rather bad. In 20160611_111530the midst of illness and depression, I’d let that poor thing die. And then, seemingly overnight, it sprang to life. Whatever water source it found, whatever trace light it horded, it still had life.
So, today I decided to move it. But when I looked up how to transplant a rosebush, the article said, “Wait until very early spring, before it has any growth, just after the ground has thawed.”
So, I might have to wait again, another season before I dig up that poor thing. But I can assure you, I won’t forget about it again.

Now, God doesn’t build a fence around us and forget us–we’re the likely ones to do the forgetting. But He might build a barrier around us to protect us. He might put a hand on us to keep us still while we recover. He might put us in situations where all we can do is wait–wait on the gardener to be pruned back, to be nurtured, to rest. He could bring you to a place where you have no where else to turn because He wants to meet you there.  It might be a hard spot, one we can’t see a way out of, but He’s there, waiting for us to turn to Him and ask Him for help, waiting for us to rely on Him solely. Waiting for us to turn our lives over to Him so He can take the lead. Waiting for us. Loving us.

Timing is everything.

Jesus said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he bears much fruit. For apart fromm me, you can do nothing. (John15:5)

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Wonderfully Made by author Danika Cooley

9781781916780Most of you know I’m a homeschooling parent. Being such, I’ve read a lot of books over the years. I’ve read several age-appropriate books on conception with my children over the years. I have to say this is one of my favorites. It reinforces what a gift from God our kids are. I wish all children knew that deep sense of love the Father has for them and that they would carry it with them through their whole lives. If you have young people in your lives, please order this book. You can find it HERE on Amazon 
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1. What inspired you to write Wonderfully Made?
One of my kids’ favorite stories has always been the story of how God formed each of them in the womb, how they’re special and loved, and how anticipated their births were. They loved hearing about the day of their birth. I wanted moms in other families to be able to share that story with their children using science, Scripture, and beautiful illustrations.
2. What was your main goal in writing Wonderfully Made? 
I want children to understand that they’re individually and purposefully created by a loving God, and that there is a second birth into the Kingdom of Heaven available to them. Each child is unique and special, and each is loved dearly not only by their parents, but also by their Father in Heaven.
I also want a new generation of children to grow up understanding the marvelous truth of what happens in the womb, and when it happens. I want them to know what Scripture says about life in the womb–both the creation of life and the existence of life.Both of those goals were heavy on my heart while writing Wonderfully Made, and I’m overjoyed to see the book available to families around the world.
3. Which part of researching Wonderfully Made was the most personally interesting to you?
Did you know that a baby’s heart starts beating at four weeks? That’s actually two weeks after conception. By eight weeks, six weeks after conception, all of the organs–other than the lungs–are working! And babies dream in the womb three months before they’re born. How amazing is that? Learning about the development of babies in the womb was so much fun for me. I also loved going through the Scripture that talks about life in the womb.
4. What are you reading right now? What authors (living or dead) have influenced you most?
Right now, I’m reading Everyday Grace by Jessica Thompson, Pitchin’ A Fit by Israel and Brook Wayne, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Church History in Plain Language by Bruce L. Shelley, Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, and the Gospels. Reading is definitely one of my favorite parts of my work–I read about a book a week for reviews, books with my boys, and bigger works on the side.
5. What was the book that most influenced your life — and why?
I was definitely a bookworm growing up, and I read everything I could get my hands on–some good, some not-so-good. This may sound cliche, but the book that has most influenced my life has been (and continues to be) the Bible. I’ve read it through many times, studied it, and it’s changed me. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God’s Word never returns void, that it accomplishes what He purposed it for. It has certainly changed me.
I also love reading biographies about Christians that have gone before us. I find it so encouraging to see how God has worked in and through their lives. I also find it really interesting to read their writings–it helps me get outside of my 21st century American bias when I’m thinking through issues with Christian living and theology.
6. Do you have a certain writing space, somewhere you go “just” to write your books? An office, a lake cabin, a hotel? What do you love about that space? How does it inspire you?
We have a library that I love to work in late at night, after everyone is asleep. It’s nice to be surrounded by biographies and great works while writing. Also, I just really love the room–it’s filled with artwork my kids have done, and we’ve stuffed little mementos into the open spaces on the bookshelves.
7. Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing a book?
I love writing. Research can sometimes be tedious or overwhelming, but it’s worthwhile to commit to researching well. I think it makes the story so much richer (and more accurate). 
8. Did you always have a talent for writing, or is it something you wanted and needed to work harder to achieve?
I’ve always loved to write. That said, writing is a craft, and like any skill, it needs to be developed with practice, and through criticism and study. I’ve studied writing, I read widely, and I’ve had a lot of excellent input from some amazing editors and writers.  
9. With all of the duties that you juggle, when do you fit in the time to write?
For me, finding time to write is the same as finding time to exercise, eat, or sleep. I consider it a necessity, so I work hard to make time for it. I’ve also sacrificed other activities to fit it in. I don’t watch television, I prioritize my time, and I often write when I might otherwise be sleeping. 
10. Is your writing style different now than it was when you first began? In what ways have you grown in your writing?
I think it’s taken me time to find my voice and hone my skills, and I suspect that I will continue to improve as a writer–we always get better at the things we practice. 
11. How did you get your start in writing/getting published?
I attended a writing conference for beginners at a local Christian college six and a half years ago. A children’s author graciously sat down with me and explained what I needed to do to write for children, and directed me to a local writer’s organization. I began attending conferences with Oregon Christian Writers four times a year, and writing for Christian children’s magazines. My first acceptance letter came three months after that first conference.
12. What do you recommend for others who are getting started?
It’s a good idea to find a local writer’s organization and learn about the business. I think writing for magazines is a clarifying process, which I highly recommend. Also, if you want to reach people for Christ, writing for magazines can really extend that reach. 
13. What would you say to a young person who aspires to be a writer? What advice would you give? Also, what would you tell his/her parents in order to help them be supportive in their child’s efforts to pursue writing as a career?
The most important thing you can do is learn how to write. It’s also important to learn about the industry. Find writer’s conferences and workshops, attend, take notes, and really learn from the authors there. Don’t let rejection letters stop you–just keep working on your craft. I’d also suggest finding a mentor–someone who is already writing for publication–and humbly following their advice. Also, read widely. Read many genres, from different time periods. Practice writing, but as you do, think about what you’d like to say, and who you’d like to say it to.  
14. Would your advice be any different for an adult who would like to break into the business? How?
My agent, Chip MacGregor, always says a successful writer should have great writing, a great idea, and a great platform (the people who read your work, or listen to you speak). It’s important to work on all three.
As far as platform goes, serve your readership. For my Christian friends, really work unto the Lord and glorify Him in all you do. He is sovereign over all things, and will open the doors He wants opened.
Really, writing professionally is a lot of work, but it’s also a great opportunity to communicate, to practice your craft, and to get to know some amazing people. I feel humbled and blessed to be writing professionally.
15. What else do you want readers to know? Consider your likes and dislikes, interests and hobbies, your favorite ways to relax — whatever comes to mind.
I love to play board games with my kids, hike, paint (I majored in art), garden, and cook. I love my family, and I feel so blessed to be able to spend time with them. I homeschool my younger two, and that’s just a gift. Teaching children about the Bible, theology, and Christian history is my passion–I hope to be a lifelong student, and a lifelong teacher.
Author Bio:
Danika Cooley is a married mother of four, a grandmother, a blogger, a curriculum developer, and a writer. She homeschools her two youngest children in Oregon. Danika’s three year Scripture survey for preschool to high school, Bible Road Trip, is used across the globe.  Website:   ThinkingKids
Connect with Danika here:


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