Pitching to Agents

At the Write to Inspire Conference, August 26, 2011, twelve chosen writers will pitch their manuscript to Literary Agent Karen Ball. If you are one of these people, do you have a plan?

Here are a few “tricks of the trade:”

Plan Ahead

Have your proposal in hand along with a professional photo of yourself and a business card. Some people prepare a one sheet that contain a short summary of their manuscript, a photo, a bio, and contact information. These are nice for quick reference. However, I suggest you have a well-drafted and well-edited proposal with you in case the agent requests it.

Dress Well

Don’t over dress, but don’t under dress. Consider the impression you wish to make and dress accordingly.

Use Breath Fresheners

Before your interview, have a mint, brush your teeth, or use mouthwash.

Be on Time

This should be self-evident, but if you are someone who struggles with time, set an alarm on your phone or watch a few minutes before your interview so you can arrive and compose yourself before you meet.


Take a deep breath before you go into the interview. Believe it or not, agents are people, too. While you do want to make a good impression, remember that the only person’s opinion you really need to be concerned with is God’s.

Be Polite and Genuine

While asking how a person is doing is polite, being genuinely interested shows character. An aside here: when we first moved to California from Canada I thought Americans were very rude because they’d ask, “How are you?” and then walk away. While I’m a little more used to it, I find I instantly like someone who waits for an answer.

Let the Agent Guide the Conversation

When the agent asks what you have for her, answer with a short, one sentence summary, otherwise known as the elevator pitch. Don’t forget to say whether your work is fiction or nonfiction. If she indicates she wants more, than you can give more, answering with concise statements.


A cheerful countenance is not only nice to see, but helps you be positive. I look for something that will make me smile, in particular something that will make me laugh at myself. If I can laugh at myself, then I am better able to face anything I might receive.

Be Thankful

The agent has taken the time to listen to you. Thank her, even if you are rejected.

One More Tip

Learn what the agent likes or dislikes before you come to the interview. I’m not just referring to work. Learn whether she likes chocolates, flowers, etc. I once took a Mexican Coca Cola to an agent I was meeting with. Another time when I interviewed with an editor, we spent more time talking about our dogs than about my manuscript.

Agents and editors can still be your friends, even if they reject your work. Think of your interview as an opportunity to make a new friend or bless someone God has brought into your life. After all, they are people, too.

Bonus Tip: if you are pitching to Karen Ball, do not wear perfume. She is highly allergic and will not be able to devote her full attention to your pitch.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Lynn Squire is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and the president of the ACFW SF Bay Area Chapter. She resides in California with her husband and three children and spends several hours a day corralling her vivid imagination into short stories, novels, and creative nonfiction. This led to the creation of her book Best of Faith, Fiction, Fun, and Fanciful. You can find her work at: http://faithfictionfunandfanciful.blogspot.com/


10 Reasons to Attend Write to Inspire

After one look at the conference agenda, I couldn’t find one reason why I should pass up the opportunity to attend the 2011 Write to Inspire conference in Elk Grove, CA. But, I found 10 reasons why I couldn’t risk missing it!

10. You’ll get 2 days of quality teaching from Karen Ball and Ginny Yttrup for under $100.00!

9. You’ll learn about editors, agents, refining your craft, the power of storytelling, finding your voice, marketing, and so much more!

8. You’ll be eligible to win a chance to pitch a book idea, or submit a proposal, to Karen Ball. (Editors note: our contest and pitching deadline was Aug. 15)

7. You’ll have the opportunity to sell your book on consignment and buy books from the Inspire bookstore during the conference.

6.  You’ll have extensive networking opportunities. (Bring your business cards)

5. You’ll meet experienced writers who are devoted to investing in God’s Kingdom by encouraging you and sharing what they know.

4. You’ll fellowship with beginning and experienced authors who respect and understand the perseverance needed to hone our craft as we write for God’s glory.

3. You’ll have the opportunity to make lasting friendship with other Christian writers.

2. You’ll be prayed for before, during and after the conference.

1. You’ll experience God using you to encourage others as He equips you to reach the ends of the earth, one story at a time!


2011 Write to Inspire Conference

with Karen Ball and Ginny Yttrup

August 26 & 27, 2011

First Baptist Church of Elk Grove, CA

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Xochi (pronounced so-she) Dixon is an author, speaker, and Bible teacher who loves Jesus and digging into God’s Word. She lives in Fairfield, CA with her hubby, Alan, their teenage son, Xavier, and their doggy-daughter, Jazzy. She enjoys amusement parks, baseball games and reading. Currently working toward a BA in Christian Ministry through Regent University, Xochi serves within the Youth Ministry at First Baptist Church of Vacaville. She writes Teen Fiction, Non-Fiction for women and teens, poetry and devotions.



Announcing the 2011 Write to Inspire Contest Winners

Inspire Christian Writers proudly announces the winners of the 2011 Write to Inspire Conference Writing Contest:

Here are all the finalists with Karen Ball and Ginny Yttrup.

From left to right: Jennifer Sienes, Karen Ball, Susan Gregory and Julie Williams

The Fiction Winner: “Texie” Susan Gregory for Slender Reeds

Fiction First Runner-Up: Julie Williams for Where Freedom Lies

Fiction Second Runner-Up: Jennifer Sienes for Absolution


From left to right: Kris Lindsey, Karen Ball, Jennifer Harrison and Marcia Harris Brim.


The Non-Fiction Winner: Jennifer Harrison for Saving Beth

Non-Fiction First Runner-Up: Kris Lindsey for Trading Stress for Peace

Non-Fiction Second Runner-Up: Marcia Harris Brim for Secrets in the Garden


Susan Gregory and Jennifer Harrison, our winners,  will receive a full edit of their first three chapters and either their chapter summary  or synopsis by Karen Ball.

All our Runners-Up received an autographed book from Karen Ball along with a $25 Amazon.com gift card.

On behalf of ACFW and Inspire Christian Writers, Congratulations to our winners and runners-up!

From Picture Book to iPad App: Step 2

I completed the draft of the storyboard for The Prisoner of Carrot Castle and sent it to Nur (developer) for comment. Once we settled on the storyboard, it went on to Kate (illustrator) so she could get started on the scene art and come up with an estimate of her time.

My first video conference with Kate took place on January 11th via Skype. It was great to meet her and even see sketches she made of Aiden and the castle people. We both got very excited as we anticipated our creations coming to life on the iPad.

Step Two: Complete Storyboard
The storyboard for the app comprises dividing the picture book manuscript into scene/pages similar to a spread in a picture book. Each scene in the storyboard consists of story narration, art notes for illustrating the scene plus any spot illustrations used in animation, animation notes and sound. Two types of animation were defined:

  • One-off animation—animation that occurrs with the narration (happens once).
  • Touch animation—animation that happens when you touch a spot.

Below is an example of one of the scenes from the storyboard:

Scene 2
(Narrator) A loud, scruffy voice came from outside the cell, “Hey! What’s going on in there?” Aiden froze. What am I going to do? I’ve got to get out of here!
(Art Notes) Aiden with a frightened look staring at the cell door with hatch, chains to restrain prisoner hanging from cell wall
(Interactive Animation Notes) Touch hatch to hear “Hey! What’s going on in there?” Touch Aiden to see different pose, touch chains to make them shake and rattle
(Sound) “Hey! What’s going on in there?” Chains rattling

Eventually the storyboard will include the art/illustration for each scene.

We are forging ahead on our project. I hope you are enjoying following along. Keep tuning in to see The Prisoner of Carrot Castle come to life. If you missed Step 1, look here.

What kind of things do you like in an iPad children’s app?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Chris Pedersen and her husband live with a chocolate lab named Brandy in the beautiful Sierra foothills in California. With two grown children and three grandchildren, Chris turned her career of writing technical material—from manuals to magazine articles—into writing for children and crafting non-fiction stories from real life. She is working on a picture book, The Prisoner of Carrot Castle, developing it as an iPad app. Her other work in progress is a chapter book titled How I Survived Third Grade.

Published work includes Work and Wag, an article about dog jobs, appeared in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. Magazine. Her dog story, A Saving Transformation, is in THE DOG NEXT DOOR by Revell. In addition, since conquering cancer with diet, Chris blogs about health, her heart passion, at Healthy Journey Café where she dishes out recipes and tips to achieve optimum wellness. Her writing journey is chronicled at Paws and Ponder.

Gotta Start Somewhere

I have a confession to make.

Last week I was so plagued by self-doubt and insecurities that I almost canceled my registration for the ACFW conference in September. Who am I to think I’m ready to attend a writers conference? My book isn’t finished. I’m unsure of my theme. I’m just not ready!

Thankfully, I came to my senses. Aided greatly by some wise words from Ginny Yttrup, author of the “masterpiece” Words, and one of the speakers at the Write to Inspire Conference on August 26th and 27th.

“I began attending writers conferences when my sons were toddlers-about 18 years ago. I learned everything I know about writing from those conferences…”

You know what that tells me? It’s never too soon to attend a conference. After all, the learning needs to start somewhere. Why not learn at the feet of those who have traveled the road before you?

Ginny’s statement is one that I needed to hear. I try so hard not to have super huge expectations as I prepare for my upcoming conferences but truth be told, crazy hope manages to squeeze in.

Hearing that Ginny attended conferences for 18 years! Wow! What a wake-up call. A needed reminder that learning to craft a masterpiece takes time.

The bottom line is this: all we have control over is writing a great story – something that can be learned. The rest is up to God’s perfect will and timing.

“I’m not the writer of masterpieces-I’m simply a gal who loves God and followed His call in faith even when all seemed hopeless. He is the One who created the masterpiece and gave me the gift of doing it through me.”

No matter where you’re at on your writing journey (thinking about writing or the author of piles of books), I hope I have the opportunity to meet you at the Write to Inspire Conference or ACFW’s Conference.

I’ll be at both…learning!

Will you be there too? If not, what’s holding you back?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Lacie Nezbeth is a stay-at-home mom with three children under the age of six.  In between nurturing her children and devoting time to her husband, she is immersed in blogging and writing fiction. Stop by her blog and say hello:

THE REAL DEAL: One Moms Journey To Having It All

I Have No Idea How to Get Published

I read a blog post once and I’d love to give the author credit, but for the life of me I can’t remember where I saw it. The takeaway from the post, however, was genius, and went something like this:

Debut authors have no idea how to get published. They simply know how they got published.

At the time, the dream of my story on a bookshelf seemed a near-impossibility. I assumed every published author could tell me exactly what to do.

But, the more I talk to debut authors–the more I read about their journeys–the more I understand just how small we authors are in the gigantic machine that is the publishing industry.

Oh, we play a part. Each of us. A vital, important part. But, we’re very specific cogs in a very particular machine, and our journeys to that spot are near impossible to duplicate.

That blog post was right: I can’t tell you how to get published. Because I don’t know.

I can only tell you that my first book will be coming out next summer and the things I did, as misinformed as they sometimes were, didn’t prevent it from happening. Here are a few things I can pass on to those of you walking a few steps behind me on the road to publication.

Waiting sucks. For everyone. I hate waiting. My agent hates waiting. My writer-friends hate waiting. We all hate it. But, it’s part of the process. It doesn’t mean bad things. It doesn’t mean good things. It just means you’re waiting. You can let it drive you crazy or you can write your way through the wait. The choice, as always, is yours. I say write. Life is short and there are words out there that need to be put on paper. And by submitting your novel to editors and agents, you’re saying, “Hey, I can do this! I can put words on paper.” So, do it. Do it while you wait.

Timing is everything. I have a whole blog post worked up on this point, but the short version is this: Are you ready? Not ready for good things to happen to you–though that part is awesome–but are you ready to work? Because the word “contract” is synonymous with “a ton of work.” So, don’t begrudge the wait. Timing is everything.

There will be hiccups. Oh yes! And they’ll hit when it’s most inconvenient for you. In my case, my first agent quit the business of agenting while my dream publisher was actively considering my manuscript. Um. Yeah. Inconvenient to say the least and havoc on my nerves. But, while I was panicking, every writer-friend I know told me the same thing, “If someone wants what you’re selling, hiccups won’t stop them from buying it.” And you know what? They were right.

Playing by the rules worked for me. There are folks out there who recommend sending pink, perfumed pages of your romance manuscript to every editor you can think of. There are brave souls who claim they’ve attracted the attention of a super agent by standing on their heads and serenading them from four stories down, but I am far too squeamish to attempt feats of grandeur. Instead, I paid attention to submission guidelines on agency web pages. I stalked agents and publishing gurus on Twitter to get a feel for their likes and dislikes, and then I queried only those who seemed to fit my manuscript. It took a bit, but it worked.

You need a writer friend. Or two. Or twelve. Because this road can be lonely if you let it. The good news is there are lots of ways to interact with writers: crit groups, workshops, conferences, bookstores. If you can find another writer in your hometown to connect with, all the better. Nothing beats a cup of coffee with someone who understands the daily grind of writing sentences.

Acknowledge the luck factor. That’s right. I said it. Of course, I generally attribute these luck-type things to God and His providence, but it’s important to understand that being in the right place at the right time really does have its advantages. Often, that’s something you can’t control. It’s like acting: Sometimes you’re exactly what a publisher (or agent, or editor) is looking for. Sometimes you’re not. Accept that rejection–like in issues of love–can be about what they want, not who you are. Decide to be okay with it.

And, finally, keep the faith! The funny thing about hope is this: We all have something to hope for. You may be hoping to land an agent or attract a publisher. Me: I’m hoping my book sells. There are no guarantees in this industry, but the rest of us can spot a bitter soul a mile away. Keep hoping, keep dreaming. Keep believing. And write because you love it.

I have no idea how you’ll get published, but my guess is you’ll find a few things along the way that are worth passing on. Share ‘em. Share them here or with a friend. Share them on your blog or at your crit group. Share them with the guy you see standing in the writing aisle at B&N.

Our journeys are all so different, but the business of writing sentences ties us together.

So, spread the love!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Shannon Dittemore was raised by parents who pastor their local church and are constant figures of inspiration. As a youth, she traveled with an award-winning performing arts team, excelling on stage and in the classroom. Later, she attended Portland Bible College, continued acting, and worked with an outreach team targeting inner-city kids.

She and her husband Matt lead the youth ministry at Living Way Community Church in Roseville, California. They are proud parents of Justus and Jazlyn.

ANGEL EYES is Shannon’s debut novel and the launch of a young adult supernatural trilogy. It will be published in the summer of 2012 by Thomas Nelson. Shannon is represented by Holly Root of The Waxman Literary Agency and is an active member of Inspire Christian Writers of Sacramento. You can find Shannon at www.shannondittemore.com.