Dangling Carrots

I’m not one of those writers who feels comfortable promoting herself—of course, I haven’t had much to promote, so maybe that’s the reason. Due to the nature of what I do, I know a lot of writers, and although I don’t like to generalize, the majority of them are introverts. As a rule, we (introverts) aren’t comfortable being in the public eye. And there’s the conundrum—without some public attention, we find it difficult to ascertain if what we do has merit. It would be easy if we were writing for our own satisfaction, and I’m sure there are a few secure writers out there who do. But the reality is, if others don’t find what we write compelling, then our words have a very short lifespan.

I’ve dreamed of being a writer since the first time I read a chapter book—which, by the way, I did to win a contest. I may not like to promote myself, but the competitive side of me can usually be motivated by a contest. A weird dichotomy, I suppose, but there it is. Writing as a career is a very slow process—one from which the words, “Don’t give up your day job,” was coined. However, God blessed me with a husband who not only supports this crazy passion of mine, but believes in me more than I believe in myself. So, I did give up my day job, and I’ve spent the last six or more years learning this crazy business and getting a few kudos here and there.

My ultimate career prayer, however, isn’t that I get a book contract, although that would be pretty cool. My prayer is that I’m in God’s will. Who knows, I may be so involved in my fictional characters I miss it when God steers me down a different path. So, I check in with Him on a regular basis. As long as He brings me scripture and words of confirmation, I know I’m good to continue. But our God is bigger than that. He blesses me with a few wins every now and then to keep me motivated—like a carrot dangling in front of a donkey. Hmm, maybe that’s not the best analogy.

A few months ago, I received notification that my short story, A God Colored Lens, was accepted for publication in the newest Chicken Soup Book—Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury, which came out in June. It’s a story about my daughter, Nicole, and how God brought hope and redemption in the midst of a dark season of her life. I wouldn’t have even known about this book if a good writer friend of mine hadn’t sent me the link. A coincidence? I think not.

Then I received a phone call from an ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) representative to let me know my submission to their Genesis Contest made it to the finals. More confirmation from God that I’m on the right (or write) path. Does this mean I’ll get a book contract? Of course not. But whatever God does with me and the words He gives me, it’ll be amazing—from His perspective. The world sees success as publishing contracts and best seller lists. God has another agenda, and I don’t want to assume I know what that is. For now, I’ll just ride the path He’s given me and thank him for the blessings along the way.


Jennifer Sienes has a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in education. She was a 2013 Genesis Semi-Finalist and is a 2014 Genesis Finalist. She has three short stories published in the Inspire Faith and another short story A God-Colored Lens in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury released last month. She is represented by Karen Ball of the Steve Laube Literary Agency. Connect with her at www.jennifersienes.com.

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.

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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

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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!