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Workshop Electives

As part of your conference registration options, you will be given the choice one of the following Workshop Electives from each of the available time slots.

As you review the options, you will see that each class is marked with a Level. The Levels are a tool to help you determine which classes will be most beneficial FOR YOU. These same Levels are also used to to help you select Continuing Education Sessions. You can find Level Definitions by clicking HERE, or you may also use the link provided in the navigation menu to the right. After reading the Level Definitions, make note the workshops and sessions you most want to attend and have it handy when you complete your registration. Please note, some classes have requirements the presenters have set for attending those classes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You are encouraged to study the workshop sessions carefully before registering. In an effort to be as environmentally responsible as possible, handouts for sessions will not be available onsite. You’ll receive handouts for your sessions via email the week prior to conference. If you purchase the complete syllabus, that electronic copy will be included in your registration packet.

Workshop Elective Session 1: Saturday- 9:30 am – 10:30 am

WS1 Huddle UP!
How to have a successful critique group
Presented by: Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck, Beth Vogt, Lisa Jordan
Level: A

In this class, Award-winning, best-selling authors and writing partners Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck and other members of the MBT Core Team will teach you a new way to huddle up with other writers, regardless of their craft level and genre, to transform each other’s writing – and your careers.

Workshop Outline

Sally is just getting started. Jenny is multi-published historical roman novelist.  Carol just finished her third speculative fiction manuscript. And Debbie is a memoirist.  How can these four writers create a powerful critique group?

In this class, award-winning, best-selling authors and writing partners Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck and Beth Vogt will teach you a new way to huddle up with other writers, regardless of their craft level and genre, to transform each other’s writing – and your careers.

Learn:  How to structure a Huddle Up (critique) group
The questions to ask
How to encourage….and critique
Expectations and realities
How to grow together

WS2 Empowering the Writer in the Author/Agent Relationship

Presented by: Sue Brower
Level: B

You don’t have to have an agent to be published these days, but it sure helps. In a constantly evolving marketplace, the agent should be more than a gatekeeper that shuttles manuscripts between the author and potential publishers. A good agent is your coach, guidance counselor, advocate, and sometimes, biggest critic

Workshop Outline

Empowering the Writer
• Hiring an agent is one of the most important decisions of your career.
Make sure you are prepared for the process.
• Key factors in a good author/agent relationship
o Preparing Identifying your needs
o Sharing the vision
• What can and should an agent do for you?
o Introducing Publisher to Author
o Contract negotiations
o Brainstorming
o Career Management
o Run Interference
• Connecting with your “dream” agent
• Q & A

WS3 How to Create a Unique Idea with Spiritual Heft

Presented by: James Rubart
Level: C

The secrets of creating unique story ideas, that editors and agents haven’t seen a thousand times before, and also carry a spiritual weight that captivate readers during and AFTER they finish your novel.

Workshop Outline

James L. Rubart has often been told his stories are not only unique, but carry a spiritual weight that continues to resonate with his readers long after they put his novels down.

In this workshop, James will reveal the techniques and secrets that he uses in the creation of all his story ideas, as well as how he crafts his novels for maximum spiritual impact on readers.

WS4 Publishing Contracts

Presented by: Rick Acker & Steve Laube
Level: D

An experienced agent and a bestselling attorney-author explain the key terms in traditional and indie publishing contracts and answer your questions.

Workshop Outline


• We’re going to walk through the key provisions in two basic types of
contracts: traditional and indie

o Subsidy or vanity contracts typically are in the middle, but lean toward
the traditional model

• Contract differences driven by economic differences

• Clauses that are fair in a traditional contract may not be fair in an
indie contract, and vice versa

• We’re going to talk about how each model works, not recommend one or
the other


• Main thing all authors give publishers: rights to the book

• Reversion clauses


• Main thing all publishers give authors: money

• Audit rights: How you know the publisher isn’t cooking the books?


• Who takes care of registering and protecting the author’s copyright?


• Who decides on (and pays for) the cover, editing, and title?


• Who sets the price, and whose job is it to get the book into stores and
let readers know about it?


• What happens if someone sues?


WS5 Scrivener Basics

Presented by: Lacy Williams
Level: A-E

Learn the ins and outs of this writing program that can help you with plotting, maintaining research, and even formatting ebooks.

Workshop Outline

From the top
• Create a new project
• Start writing
• Basic views, corkboard, outliner
• Settings
• Folders & text documents
• Research folder
• Compile (“export”)

Digging a little deeper
• Importing existing manuscripts
• Wordcount
• Making notes within the manuscript
• Keywords
• Snapshot function
• Spellcheck/thesaurus
• Templates


Workshop Elective Session 2: Saturday- 11:00 am – 12:00 pm

WS6 Walking on Water
How to Rise above an Agent’s Slush Pile
Presented by: Steve Laube, Tamela Hancock Murray
Level: A

Veteran literary agents Steve Laube and Tamela Hancock Murray will coach authors on how to present themselves successfully as they conquer the murky, jellyfish-infested waters of publishing.

Workshop Outline

Stories of proposals that even the Coast Guard couldn’t save

The most common errors that keep a proposal in dog paddle mode, panting for breath

Proposals good enough to compete in the Olympics and why

WS7 Mind Magic Writing

Presented by: Ronie Kendig
Level: B

Come hear some “sleight of hand” maneuvers to psychologically capture your reader’s mind—without them realizing it!

Workshop Outline

Tricks to Captive Your Reading Audience
Marketing experts use psychological tools in advertising campaigns and promotions to ensnare consumers. Producers do the same thing with the set up and carry through of their scripts. We writers have similar, if not the same, tools right at our fingertips that can take a technically accurate manuscript and transform it into a brilliant masterpiece.

There are elements in writing that will either spur your reader to maintain the journey, or detour at the nearest exit. These are inherent in the choice of words, the mental picture you paint. It’s almost like cheating, using the right techniques, words, sentence structure, and other aspects of writing that have psychological value.

Outline of Techniques, Tricks, and Tips:
• White Noise - Each Page you write has a visual, psychological impression. Find out what yours is saying!
• Word Buffet – We have an arsenal to choose from—strike up some variance!
• Inherent Implications – words that carry particular gender references and implied meanings
• Fast Forward – tips and techniques to speed up the intensity and tone of a scene or paragraph
• Business Writing – how to write in a way that doesn’t put your reader on the defensive

Examining the Facts – Last 15 minutes will include a review of writing samples and Q&A


WS8 Creating the Essential Backstory

Presented by: DiAnn Mills
Level: B

This hands-on, Power Point workshop shows the importance of how everything that happened to your character before chapter one, line one, motivates you character into fresh and compelling action.

Workshop Outline

The value of backstory
What it is
What it isn’t

Investing in your character
Showing motivation
Showing character growth

Using backstory

Where does backstory fit?

WS9 Medicine in Fiction
View From Inside
Presented by: Richard Mabry, Candace Calvert, Jordyn Redwood
Level: C

Three medical professionals, all multi-published in medical fiction, present material that will help you ramp up your writing through the use of medical details in your work, while answering questions and
shedding light on some misconceptions.

Workshop Outline

Are you tired of asking yourself (or your colleagues), “What disease would do this?” Do you wonder if what you see on some of the medical TV shows or read in novels is realistic? Would you like to make
your scenes more accurate with a peek into the workings of a hospital emergency room or operating room? This is the course for you.

Areas to be covered include:
    1. Tripwires: medical errors in fiction
    2. Romance in the supply closet: avoiding medical cliches
    3. Incorporating medicine: choose a disease, any disease
    4. The inside scoop: what the ER, OR, and doctor’s office are like

WS_10 Building a Professional Speaking Ministry

Presented by: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Level: D

Authors are, by default, speakers…but on what should you speak, should you charge, how often should you speak…? Let’s figure it out.

Workshop Outline

I Reasons why a writer should develop a speaking ministry
II Speaking topics
    A. “Given” subjects—writing journey, personal testimony
    B. “Alternate” subjects—specific to speaking events, special
III Creating a professional contract
IV Staying out of trouble with the IRS

Workshop Elective Session 3: Saturday- 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

WS_11 Settings That Live and Breathe

Presented by: Kim Vogel Sawyer
Level: A

Uncovering the elements to create a setting for your story that comes to life on the page.

Workshop Outline

Let’s talk “senses”
What makes my story location unique?
How do I “drizzle” rather than “dump” setting details?
Examining samples of “setting dumps”
Practice: Rewrite samples to create sensory-rich yet
integrated-into-the-story descriptions of setting
Examination of current WIP: Choose 2-3 scenes and do setting checklist


WS_12 Making the Cut
How to Get Signed as a Debut Author
Presented by: Daisy Hutton & Amanda Bostic
Level: B

Learn what it takes to get signed as a debut fiction author today (and what to do while you’re waiting!).

Workshop Outline

Getting signed as a debut fiction author is more difficult than ever—but it does still happen. HarperCollins Christian Publishing (Thomas Nelson & Zondervan) is the largest publisher in the industry and one
of the leading signors of debut authors.

In this workshop you’ll receive insights from Daisy Hutton, Publisher, and Amanda Bostic, Editorial Director, about what catches the attention of their team:
• What they want to see in your writing
• What they want to see in your proposal
• What experience and background can be an asset
• What platform they expect you to have

WS_13 Brainstorming Strategies for Writing Nightmares

Presented by: Michelle Lim
Level: B

Brainstorming Strategies for Writing Nightmares gives you strategies and hands-on practice to overcome writer’s block, weak plot, boring characters, and predictable endings.

Workshop Outline

I. Writer’s Nightmare Inventory
*Writers block   *Predictable Plot   *Sagging Middle   *Flat Dialogue   *Vanilla Characters   *No New Story   *Flat Character Arc   *Overwhelmed   *Paralyzed By Deadlines   *Time Challenged
A. Identify Points of Struggle
1. Timing
2. Seasons
3. Deadlines
4. Inventory Triggers
B. Identify Strengths As A Writer
C. Identify Other Hobbies Or Talents
D. Identify Your Fears  
II. 3 Areas of the Writer’s Life That Cause Writing Nightmares
A. Soul Isaiah 55:3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. (NIV)   
1. Give Time And Attention    
2. Wait To Hear    
3. The Living Soul
B. Relationships/Responsibilities (Job)
1. Family    
2. Church/Outreach-
3. Guilt
C. Writing World
III. Brainstorming From A Place of Strength
A. Source of Your Story Ideas
B. Most Memorable Story Elements
C. What You Love About Your Stories
D. Identifying Writer Strengths      
IV. Brainstorming Nightmares By Focal Point
A. Micro Analyzing
1. One Word Strategy  
2. Boomerang Strategy
B. Macro Analyzing
1. Question Jar Strategy
2. Target Focus Strategy
V. Predictability Strategies    
A. Rabbit Trails Strategy
B. The Big Wow Strategy
VI. Plot Plateau Strategies
A. Mountain Stakes Escalation    
B. Scene By Plot Chart
VII. Vanilla Character Strategies
A. Cast Diversity Mapping    
B. Secrets

WS_14 Imagery & Subtext
The Subtle Elements Of Fiction
Presented by: Winnie Griggs & Renee Ryan
Level: C

Two multi-published, award winning authors discuss and demonstrate how the effective use of imagery and subtext can take your writing to the next level and add layers of depth to every scene.


Workshop Outline

Some of the best fiction advice we’ve ever received is surprisingly simple and yet remarkably complicated.  It goes something like this: The scene is never about what the scene is about.  More depth=stronger

Imagery and Subtext are what makes your scenes, and consequently your entire book, memorable.  What lies beneath the surface of the scene is what your readers will remember.  Thus, this workshop will teach writers how to dig deep within their characters and storylines to uncover what’s beneath the action.

Introduction - purpose of workshop and what we expect to accomplish

1. Imagery:
a. What is it
b. Methods for Employing it
c. Specific examples to illustrate discussion points
d. Hands On Exercises
2. Subtext
a. What is it
b. Methods for Employing it
c. Specific examples to illustrate discussion points
d. Hands on exercises
3. Q&A

WS_15 Has The Dust Settled?
Industry’s Perspective on What We’ve Weathered & What’s Yet to Come
Presented by: Panel of Industry Professionals from Publisher's Weekly, CBA, RT Reviews, Munce Group, CBD, etc.
Level: D

Veterans of the industry say, “Publishing is always in a state of flux. The pendulum swings may be wider, high tech, and scarier for those either claustrophobic or afraid of heights, but publishing has never been a concrete object.”

Authors who understand the fluctuations and learn survival techniques are more likely to succeed in an industry with a recognizable foundation but innovative architecture. In this workshop, trusted industry observers offer their perspectives on weathering an uncertain but intriguing publishing environment. What appeals to the buying/reading public? Who will still be standing when the dust settles?

Workshop Outline

Workshop Elective Session 4: Saturday- 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm

WS_16 Keys to Writing A Bestselling Christian Romance

Presented by: Karen Witemeyer & Jody Hedlund
Level: A

Learn the basic building blocks of writing Christian romance from two bestselling authors whose contrasting styles offer a multi-layered perspective for finding your authorial happily ever after.

Workshop Outline

Enhance the fantasy:

•Create main characters that enhance the fairy-tale.
•Heroes should be rugged, masculine, strong, yet flawed. You as the author
should fall in love with them as much as your heroine. If you do, your
readers will, too.
•Heroines - whether feisty and independent, or bookish and quiet - they
need to have an inner strength that inspires admiration in the reader.

Dwarves and wicked step sisters – Create memorable secondary characters

•Secondary doesn’t mean two-dimensional.

Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo – Set the stage to create opportunities for romance

•Get the hero and heroine together as often as possible but in natural and
believable ways.
•Find unique ways to let the hero express his growing affection.

Dragons and poison apples – Create a page-turning external plot

•Put plenty of obstacles in your characters’ paths.
•Give them challenges to overcome that mirror their internal conflicts.
•Give the reader the unexpected – don’t end the scene the way the reader
•Make your villain strong enough to truly challenge the hero/heroine. The
villain must push the characters to the next level of spirituality and

Mirror, Mirror – Create an internal struggle that tugs at the reader’s
heart and opens the characters to spiritual growth

•Emotional scars
•Conflicting goals within the same character
•The internal conflict should tie into the development of the romance
•While physical attraction is important and realistic, it should never
outweigh the emotional and spiritual closeness that constitutes true love.
•Don’t wrap up the romance until the end. If we have them living
happily-ever-after too soon in our story, we release plot tension.
•A romance must have a happily-ever-after. The more sigh-worthy the
ending, the more satisfied the reader will be when they close the last page.

WS_17 Creating a Story World

Presented by: John Otte
Level: B

Learn the factors that go into creating a vibrant story world and, more importantly, how to share it with your readers. Class is for ALL genres!

Workshop Outline

I. The Need for World Building – Readers want to be able to immerse in a world. The same is especially true if a story is set in a real place (as illustrated by the movie “New in Town”).  Readers want to
feel as though they can get in the car and drive there. The way to make that happen is by building a vibrant story world.

Factors to consider:
Naming Conventions
Fictional Languages –Think through unique terminology.
Planetary Construction – How many stars and/or moons? How long is a day or year?
Geography and History – What kind of climate/weather? Urban, suburban, or rural? What’s the region’s history?
Politics and Culture – Who’s in charge? Family structures? Ethnicities and how do they get along?
Economics – What do people do for a living?
Religion and Theology – What religions are available? What do they do?
The Supernatural – What are the rules? How much divine intrusion is there in people’s lives?

II. Series Bibles – These are a way to keep information organized.
What to include:
Character Bios / Photo Inspirations
Timelines and Histories
Maps of buildings, cities, and regions
Cultural data, family trees, political systems, rules for magic, religious beliefs, etc.

III. Sharing the Bible – So how do you share the information you’ve put in your Bible?
The Infodump – Never do this, and especially don’t do this at the beginning of a book.
Via dialogue – Good for revealing character. Avoid any statement that could be prefaced with “As you know.” Good to use the Dumb Puppet Trick, where on character doesn’t have the info being shared (like in the movie “Twister”)
The Half Life Technique – Based on a videogame of the same name. The author only shares the information that is vital and leaves the rest as background information.

WS_18 Author Law 101

Presented by: Rick Acker & Cara Putman
Level: C

Two attorneys who are also multi-published authors give practical answers to legal questions about copyright, libel, piracy, trademarks, and other thorny topics that authors face.

Workshop Outline


• What it is

• How to claim and register

o Why registration matters

• Public domain


• What it is

• Common issues

o Pictures

o Music

o Song lyrics and poems

o Book reviews and writing classes


• Basic definitions and rules:

• Using them in a book

• Basics on how to protect your own:


• Definition

• Mostly an issue in fictionalized biography and autobiography

• You (generally) can’t be sued for defaming the dead


• The problem: Pirates who don’t think they’re doing anything wrong

• Congress’s solution: the Digital Millennium Copyright Act

• Authors and publishers need to protect themselves


WS_19 Get Published – STAY Published
Building a writing empire
Presented by: Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck
Level: D
Prerequisites: At least 2 published books

Learn how to create your own writing empire from time management to finances to career planning to how keep selling novels to publishers – and readers.

Workshop Outline

What does it take to become a successful author?  It’s not enough to write a powerful book. To stay published, an author must learn everything from time management to finances to how keep selling novels to
publishers – and readers. 

Learn how to create your own writing empire from award-winning, best-selling novelists Rachel Hauck and Susan May Warren

• How to brand yourself and your empire
• Your marketing personality, and how to leverage it
• How to manage your time
• Finding Flying Monkies and assistants
• Finances…money management basics
• A business plan to go full time
• Secrets to staying published


WS_20 Hybrid Publishing: The Best of Both Worlds

Presented by: Colleen Coble
Level: D-E

Learn how to navigate the balance between traditional publishing and independent publishing as seasoned authors join USA Today bestselling author Colleen Coble to discuss the dos and don’ts of the hybrid world.

Workshop Outline

You must be at least 18 years old to attend conference without a parent/guardian present with you at all times.

Participation of an individual presenter, agent, editor, or publisher in the ACFW conference does not constitute endorsement by ACFW. Conference attendees are advised to use due diligence and take personal responsibility when choosing industry professionals with whom to schedule appointments or enter into agreement.

August 20, 2014: Late Registration rates in effect. - September 1, 2014: Walk-in registration rates go into effect.