Northwest Christian Writers Renewal
April 26-27, 2024  

Continue to check back on this page for updates to workshops being confirmed for our conference

You can view the Teaching Faculty 2024 biographies.


"Pitch Ready" Session  

Carolyn Mandarano, Editor for Guideposts

Have a story idea you want to pitch but don’t know what to include or even where to start? In this interactive workshop, you’ll learn about what to include (and not!) in a pitch, get a chance to practice pitching to other writers, and learn some tips and tricks to calm your nerves. Attendees are encouraged to bring a story idea. We will look for volunteers to share their idea for feedback as well as practice pitching to a small group.

Morning Tracks

Morning tracks are 4-hour intensives delivered across the 

two mornings by these award-winning authors.

Fiction Track 

Fast-lane Your Fiction  - Tim Shoemaker

Here’s your chance to move your fiction writing skills into the passing lane. You’ll get the tools, tips, and techniques to accelerate your writing to compete in the real world of publishing. 

My goal is to help you understand these critical areas with more depth, more clarity and way more fun that you ever have before! 

  • Strong Starts- we’ll look at the kind of start that will draw your readers in—and five common mistakes to avoid. 

  • Likeable Main Character- we work hard building our characters, don’t we? You’ve likely heard tons of great techniques and tips about characterization before. But let’s look at a one little thing that we don’t want to miss if we want our protagonist to identify with readers. 

  • Creating a Scene- a story is simply a string of terrific scenes, with a bit of transition between them, yeah? We’ll look at three things you need to make each scene—and transition—strong. 

  • Show-Don’t-Tell- I know, I know. You know all there is to know about this. Or do you? We’ll look at four tips to help you do even better at this than you already are. We’ll talk about when to show—and when to tell in your story. And I promise ... I won’t just tell you all this ... I’ll show you! 

  • Deep Point of View- Some writers don’t go deep enough, and some go too deep. Let’s look at five tips to help you keep your writing at just the right level. 

  • Building Tension- Conflict isn’t enough to keep your readers glued to your story. We need tension. We’ll show you how to turn conflict into tension ... and elements we need more or less of in our story to do exactly that. 

  • Dialogue- This is a make-it or break-it aspect of our fiction. Let’s look at three things that weaken our dialogue, three ways to strengthen dialogue, and we’ll look at the critical role of interior dialogue. 

  • Avoiding Hokey Christian Fiction- We’ll look at how to write from a Christian worldview, while avoiding the three traps that reduce our writing to a “hokey” status.  

  • Satisfying Endings- We’ll look at how to end your novel so readers will want to buy your next one. 

Join us as we look at these nine areas to get your writing up to speed—or to the next level. Buckle up . . . this fiction track is one ride that you’ll totally enjoy! 

Non-Fiction Track 

From Idea to Manuscript to Masterpiece  - Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

You have held this book idea in your heart and mind long enough. It’s time to get it out of your brain and down onto paper. But you want to do more than simply write it; you want it to touch the souls of your audience, and you want it to be really good. This muli-part workshop helps develop your thinking and writing to reach toward that goal. Learn to think like an acquisitions editor and publisher as you write the book, to capture the attention and soul of your reader, and to organize your thoughts so they flow beautifully on the page. Taught by literary agent and multi-published author Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott, you will walk away from this workshop positioned to be a best-selling published author yourself. 

  • In this four-part intensive, we'll hit the ground running and you will discover how to:
    • Include everything a best-selling book needs to succeed
    • Storyboard your book
    • Write to your audience's felt needs
    • Craft a winning working title
    • Draft a winning book proposal
    • Think like an acquisitions editor
    • Draft your complete internal outline
    • Develop each section of your book so your readers keep reading
    • Write your back cover copy
    • Develop your timeline to meet your deadline

Publishing Business Track 

The Business Side of Publishing: You Have a Dream—How Do You Turn it into a Reality? - Miralee Ferrell

You’ve labored over your ‘baby’ for a long time, and now it’s time to send it out into the world, but you’re not sure where to start. What’s a proposal? Do you need to have any social media or a website in place before you start sending out queries? Do you need an agent to get a contract? What can you do to prepare for your publishing journey? Once you’re contracted, what should you expect in the way of edits, cover design, marketing, and more? How much will you have to do, and what will it look like?   

Join Miralee Ferrell, a multi-published author and owner/publisher of Mountain Brook Ink, with years of experience in the publishing industry, to learn the answers to these questions and more. You’ll…   

  • receive guidance on developing your proposal and understanding what publishers are looking for 

  • learn what to expect as you build your writing career—how much will you need to do to contribute to marketing once your book is contracted?  

  • what happens after that magical moment when the book is contracted? 

  • what if you’ve sent it to dozens of agents and publishers? Do you give up, or go indie? What is a hybrid author and can I be one? 

  • answer your questions about the industry—the final segment will mostly be reserved for your questions that we may not have covered   

Whether you’re just getting started or are multi-published, come ready to put your knowledge into practice!  

One-Hour Workshops


Crafting Characters from the Inside Out

Dalyn Weller, Author

Come learn the art—and fun--of crafting characters! We will discuss basic story, character goals and motivations. We will learn to keep asking “why” in order to really know our character before we take them on their journey to wholeness. We’ll dig into the importance of finding their greatest fear, the lie they believe, their flaws and the behavior that results, as well as their greatest desire, resulting in a deeper, richer character. 

What Great Agents Look For (Why You Need One, How to Find One, and How to Snag One) 
Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott, Agent for AuthorizeMe, Author & Speaker 

A great literary agent is able to get your foot in the door with the perfect publisher for your work. And that’s exactly what you want. But how can you make that happen? What are agents looking for and how can you evaluate and present your manuscript to be sure your prospective agent is intrigued enough to partner with you? Discover all of this and more about plunging into the publishing business by attending this workshop, taught by literary agent and industry insider Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott. 

The Ins, Outs, Ups, and Downs of Christian Speaking 
Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott, Agent for AuthorizeMe, Author & Speaker 

Get up there, talk, and sit down - isn’t that all there is to Christian speaking?  Dah!  Learn the truth about blending the spiritual and professional sides of Christian speaking.  You’ll leave this seminar with practical tips to make you look and sound like a pro and you’ll understand the importance of speaking if you plan to be a successful author. 

Effective Storytelling and Illustrations for Non-fiction Writers 
Josh Kelley, Author

One perfect story, illustration, or word picture can make your point better and have greater impact than one hundred pages of facts. Turns out, Jesus knew what He was doing with all those parables. But if you’re a “right brained” author, that kind of creativity can feel...daunting. In this workshop, former pastor and author of nearly twenty books Josh Kelley will show you straightforward techniques that don’t require waiting for the muse. 

Faith and Hustle: Writing, Querying, Marketing, and Living in the Tension
Josh Kelley, Author

Being a successful writer—or Christian—requires working your hardest while trusting God completely. This tension between faith and hustle is what full-time author Josh Kelley has learned (and is learning to) embrace. Part pastoral encouragement and part practical tough love, you’ll leave this workshop with a clearer sense of God’s hand in your life and direction for the next steps.  

Worlds within Words -- Two Part Workshop 
Kim Vandel, Author

You’ve envisioned magical worlds and distant galaxies. Now what? How do you translate that vision into words that will draw readers into your storyworld? In this workshop, you'll learn how storytelling elements such as character, setting, description, and dialogue work together to create unforgettable speculative fiction.


From Inspiration to Impact: Crafting Devotionals with Purpose 
Christina Meline, Author

Christina Meline invites you into the inspiring journey of devotional writing. This workshop is designed for aspiring authors, spiritual leaders, and anyone passionate about sharing their faith through the written word. During this enriching experience, Christina shares an intentional and Spirit-led approach to developing a devotional text. From idea to print, we will explore how to identify your audience and key themes, navigate the structure of your book, and gain valuable insights into the final stages of your manuscript. Whether you are new to the writing journey or are an experienced author, “From Inspiration to Impact” will equip you with the insights and skills needed to create a text that will resonate deeply with your readers. 


Brick by Brick: How to Build Your Story
Melanie Dobson, Author & Speaker

How do you build an engaging narrative from the opening image to the closing scene? As we discuss the foundational components of structure, conflict, and character transformation, this practical workshop will provide the necessary tools for both novelists and creative nonfiction writers to develop a compelling story.  

Write What You Don’t Know 
Melanie Dobson, Author & Speaker

Readers often ask what I enjoy most about fiction writing, but my favorite part of the process isn’t the actual writing. It’sthe research. I love exploring old houses, tracking down names and places, listening to stories, and turning the crisp pages of a diary written more than a hundred years past. This workshop covers all aspects of historical fiction research including how to effectively gather relevant information from online resources, libraries, museums, interviews, and research trips without drowning in the abundance of details. 


Breakthrough Writing: Write the Light! 
Carolyn Warren, Author & Speaker

Is there a book inside you waiting to get out? This workshop teaches how to create a roadmap so that your writing journey goes easier and faster. (This is how I wrote a bestselling book in three months.) If you’ve felt stuck or didn’t know what to write next, if you have trouble finding the time to write or if you deal with ADHD, this is for you. In 50 minutes, we’ll cover (1) READY! Uncover the depth of your idea. (2) SET! How to find time if you have none, and then how to commit to writing. (3) GO! Write your road map, the key to writing fast. (4) HOOK THE READER! Three “must do” professional techniques. This workshop inspires, motivates, and gives you professional tools to take your idea and turn it into a compelling manuscript. 

Breakthrough Writing: Get in the Flow 
Carolyn Warren, Author & Speaker

Get your writing flowing and finish your project! We’ll cover these professional techniques: (1) How to pull in the reader from the first page and avoid the novice-writer trap. (2) Set up chapter endings to keep your reader turning pages. Nonfiction should not be dull or have a sagging middle. (3) Consider a chapter structure, a hot idea for organizing your book and making it easier for you to write, too. (4) End with a bang! The first chapter gets the reader to buy your book; the last chapter gets your reader to buy your next book. God is never boring, so our nonfiction should not be, either. 


Write Scared
Deb Gorman, Author

What are the tales that grab us by the throat and won’t let go—the kind that worm their way into the soul and change us from the bottom up, the inside out? The books that move us come from padlocked rooms deep inside the author. Rooms which must be unlocked and aired before the author begins the task of forming words and paragraphs into stories that transform us. 

Do you want to write the kind of story? It’s a scary thought, but our readers want meaning and authenticity from us. Sometimes that means racing without handlebars. 

Deb Gorman’s workshop, Write Scared, will give you tools to write stories that first touch you, then your readers. Because if your story doesn’t touch you first, it won’t touch your reader. 

The End is Just the Beginning: Navigating the Path from First Draft to Querying
Debbie Austin, Author 

When you type the words “The End,” does that mean you are ready to start querying agents and publishers? Most likely not. The saying, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” is particularly relevant when querying your book. Agents are overwhelmed with the number of submissions they receive, which means your manuscript needs to be as strong as possible to get their attention. This workshop will cover what authors can do to make their manuscripts rise above the rest, like sharing in critique groups, taking advantage of first page opportunities, entering contests, finding beta readers, etc., as well as researching agents and publishers, preparing a query letter, and organizing a query strategy. Specific examples, resources, and handouts plus on-the-spot exercises will be provided in this practical workshop. 

Planting Seeds in the Mission Field: What Public School Libraries Can Teach Us About Writing Books Children Love
Sonja Anderson, Author 

What books make it onto a public school library shelf? What books get checked out the most and why? Why should I care? Would a mainstream publisher ever consider publishing anything I might write for kids? In this workshop, we’ll learn how to write for this diverse audience of millions in this deep-dive into today’s children’s books (and a few classics, too!).


Improve your Children's Book Manuscript by Keeping the Future Illustrator in Mind: Myths and Tips
Sonja Anderson, Author 

Do I need to find my own illustrator? What does it mean to "leave room in my manuscript" for the illustrator? When is it appropriate to give an agent or publisher illustration notes? How do I format illustration notes in my manuscript? How can I get the artist to see the pictures I have in my head if I don'tprovide notes? What is a cover brief and how do publishers use them? In this workshop, we will explore these questions and more, helping us write manuscripts that catch the attention of publishing professionals and, importantly, the attention of children, who will want to read your book over and over again!


What's Up with Guideposts? (A Lot!)  
Carolyn Mandarano, Editor for Guideposts

Did you know there is a whole lot more to Guideposts than our magazine and devotionals? In this workshop, you’ll learn about Guideposts, a nonprofit organization that promotesfaith, hope, and prayer in people’s lives. We feature a robust list of faith-based content offerings, from magazines to nonfiction and fiction book programs to apps and websites. We also offer free inspirational resources that provide encouragement and practical advice for military and veterans, the elderly and lonely, and anyone needing an affirmation of faith. Come hear more about our products and how you can play a role in creating content that inspires people through the power of shared experiences to believe all things are possible with faith, hope, and prayer. 

Cautious to Confident - Marketing in your Strengths  
Athena Dean Holtz, Founder/Publisher, Redemption Press

If marketing your books feels like a daunting task, join Publisher Athena Dean Holtz and Associate Publisher Carol Tetzlaff, as they guide you to reach your ideal reader and boost your book sales. Whether you’re trying to build a platform to win over an agent or you have a book in print and need to learn how to best grow your reach and sales, this workshop is for you!

We'll break down the marketing process into easy-to-follow steps to showcase your unique abilities and connect with your audience authentically. Say goodbye to overwhelming strategies and hello to creativity and purpose! By the end of the session, you'll not only have a complete audit of your current platform but also a clear understanding of your next best step. Armed with these insights and powerful tools, you'll be well-equipped to market your message with confidence!


Don't miss the opportunity to learn from these dynamic workshops.


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