Catholic Writers’ Conference Live . . . Are you coming?

cwclSo far response to this opportunity has been slow . . . If you would like to attend but are unable to swing airfare, why not drive out with a friend?! Half the expense, twice the fun! (Right, Sarah?)

Somerset, NJ–The Catholic Writers’ Guild, in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network, will host its first-ever Catholic Writers’ Conference LIVE! at the Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center, Somerset, NJ, from Aug 5-7, 2009.

The conference will host publishers, editors and authors from all aspects of the Catholic writing world, including magazines and devotionals, novels and educational materials.  The panel discussions, presentations and workshops will cover all aspects of writing including generating query letters, crafting a good story, worldbuilding, marketing finished works and more. In addition, editors from several Catholic publishers will be on-hand to share their wisdom and hear authors propose their works.

The Catholic Marketing Network’s International Trade Show, held at the neighboring Garden State Exhibition Center (, will serve as the exhibition floor for the writers’ conference, giving writers a chance to browse the booths, meet with publishing companies, pitch their books to publishers, have their work critiqued at a private critique session and chat with the published authors at book signings at the Catholic Writers’ Guild booth. CMN will also be hosting daily Masses and rosaries at the Doubletree Hotel, and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament at the exhibition center. Other CMN events including the seminars and inspirational talks scheduled for Tuesday, August 4 will be held at the Doubletree.

Presenters for the writers’ conference include: author/Sophia Press submissions editor Regina Doman (Angel in the Waters); Pauline Books and Media Editor Sister Maria Grace,  CEO of Ignatius Press Mark Brumley (How Not to Share Your Faith), Susan Brinkmann editor of Canticle Magazine, Lisa Wheeler, Executive Vice President of the Maximus Group (PR and marketing firm for The Passion of the Christ), author/Ascension Press publisher Matt Pinto (Do Adam and Eve Have Belly Buttons?), Claudia Volkman, General Manager of Circle Press, Tom Hoopes, Executive Editor of the National Catholic Register, and mystery author John Desjarlais (Bleeder) among others.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for both writers and publishers to connect,” said science fiction writer and Catholic Writer’s Guild President, Karina Fabian. “The CMN has been especially generous in offering to share it facilities and programs with us, which really enhances the quality of the conference for attendee and presenter.”

Conference Coordinator and CWG Vice President Ann Lewis adds “There will be a lot of good information, encouragement and learning opportunities for Catholic authors at our live conference. Our goal is to help good Catholic writers to get published. The world needs their words.”

The Catholic Writers’ Guild has hosted two highly successful on-line conferences.

To register or for more information, go to Registration is $80 through June 1st, $99 through July 31st and $110 at the door.

When Faith Fails…

wolf-in-sheep“What do you do when faith fails to connect — when people who profess to share your faith say or do things you find difficult to reconcile with your most deeply cherished beliefs?”

Tonight at CWCO I posed a version of this question to Mark Shea in his “How Faith Connects Everything” chat. His response was less than satisfying. (In essence: “Get over it. We’re all part of one big family.”)

I could understand where he was coming from. No doubt he has heard questions like mine posed dozens of times in the past six months or so, and he is understandably tired of the whole subject. Even so, my eyes stung at the disconnect, the abrupt dismissal. Yes, the Church is like a large family, where joys and slights alike abound. And when faith is lost between two members of the Body of Christ, finding the path of reconciliation is not easy. I guess this is what I had hoped to hear … an acknowledgment of the pain and frustration. And an affirmation that, at the end of the day, offering that pain back to God is to choose a greater good: reconcilitation and unity.

Sadly, this difficult path of relinquishment is too often the “narrow road,” one we have a tendency to avoid because it is too painful, because it violates our inner sense of justice. After this kind of disillusionment, it can be tempting to simply walk away. (I spent most of my childhood moving from church to church.) And like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the evil one separates the weak from the pack … and drives him farther and farther way, to devour at his leisure. Continue reading

CWCO 2009: Inspiration Monday!

cwco_topic6This is the final day of the CWCO.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it … and will be able to join us again next year! If you have not already done so, be sure to sign up for the e-book and fill out the survey to let us know what you thought of the event.

This event is very much a labor of love. Karina, Ann and I have spent MANY hours putting it all together, free of charge. Our presenters also give of their time without a dime of compensation. We do it just to help other writers grow, to assist in what the late John Paul the Great used to call the “Springtime of Evangelization.”

Even so, if you have been inspired by the conference this year, please do consider donating as generously as you can. We are organizing an in-person conference at the Catholic Marketing  Network in early August — and bringing speakers in for this event will cost real dollars. We are also hoping to make some technological improvements to the website that will expand the kinds of presentations we offer. So please, if you’ve enjoyed your conference, please kick in a few dollars. Every bit helps.

In the coming week, I will be taking a break from my regular blogging efforts, and will be reprising a few classic columns for your general edification and enjoyment. Remember, if you know of someone who is an adoptive or foster mother, or a mother of a special needs child — please be sure to sign up for my monthly newsletter by dropping me a line at

God bless you!

CWCO 2009: Weekend Edition


Are you enjoying the CWCO? If you’re free on Sunday evening at 6, be sure to stop by and chat with me!  I’ll be giving away a free copy of my book “Raising Up Mommy: Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments”

Typically at EMN the weekend post is based on a personality from one of the readings that week. This week we have a real doozy: the daughter of Herodias, who conspired with her mother to bring about the murder of John the Baptist, the cousin of Christ. In the sixth chapter of Mark, we read:

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.

[Herod’s unlawful wife Herodias, who hated John,] had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee. His own daughter came in and performed a dance that delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask of me whatever you wish and I will grant it to you.” He even swore many things to her, “I will grant you whatever you ask of me, even to half of my kingdom.”

She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”

Her mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.”

This Gospel reading has many useful applications in the life of a writer:

*  Truth creates as many enemies as friends.  Had John stayed out in the desert in obscurity, instead of taking his voice of truth into Herod’s court, he might have lived to old age. Instead, he fulfilled the task God gave him. It takes real courage to speak the uncomfortable truth, for we cannot always predict or control the outcome. But in the end, truth has a life of its own — and lasts longer than we do!

*  To win the war, we must be prepared to go behind enemy lines — and accept the consequences. Truth, spoken in love, is an irresistable force. And yet, every war has its casualties, and a soldier of the cross must be ready to forfeit even the good to obtain that which is best.

*  Herod was motivated by pride and lust; Herodias by vengeance. However, the girl was taken by simple sloth: She deferred to her mother’s evil influence, even when that meant doing an objectively evil deed. How often do we get swept along, doing evil simply because we are too lazy or too ill-informed to stand against it and do the right thing?

CWCO 2009 Friday: Journalism

cwco_topic4Today at CWCO we are hearing from the journalists and other publishing professionals from print and electronic media: newspapers, magazines, blogs, and non-traditional publishing.

Most people don’t start out by publishing a book. First, you have to develop what is generally known as a “writer’s platform” — you know, the tentacles of influence we send out into the universe (both virtual and actual) that creates a readership for our books. It’s the radio appearances, blogs, columns, television spots, magazine articles, and other “brand building” efforts you put out there that will make a publisher sit up and take notice.

Of course, while you’re doing all this you still need to be polishing your craft, making your writing as tight and compelling as it can possibly be. This weekend, we have several individuals who will be sharing with you some of their favorite writer’s resources. In the meantime, I wanted to put together a list of books that have helped me to become a better writer. If you have other favorites, I invite you to list them here in the comments. 

Some presenters were kind enough to send me their favorites, and I’d like to list those here as well:


Devon Ellington (Dialogue Workshop)








Kristen Johnson (Screenplay Workshop):



STORY by Robert McKee



WRITING SHORT SCRIPTS by William H. Phillips,

Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect, Second Edition by Claudia H. Johnson,  


VIDEO:  Writing A Great Script Fast: Part 11 Setups & Short Films Plot Points



Because of Mama: Drafting the Short Screenplay

The Gimme Credit Short Screenplay Competition


British Short Screenplay Competition:

Duke City Shootout:



Frank Creed (Manuscript Polishing Workshop)


The Bible, God. If Christian fiction’s not theologically correct, don’t waste the hope, ink, paper, and postage.


Topical Textbook. Any will do–great reference guide.


Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, by Strong (Duh). Doubles as an effective doorstop, and you won’t waste time hunting down that needed verse.


Book Marketing for the Financially Challenged, A.P. Fuchs. (Poor guy didn’t get teased at all in school.) Off-topic for polishing, but very handy.


The Marshall Plan for Getting Your Novel Published: 90 Strategies and Techniques for Selling Your Fiction, Evan Marshall. The first half of the book is MS polishing, and solid advice in the second half.

The Chicago Manual of Style, University of Chicago Press. The editing bible, filled with good habits to form.


Roget’s Thesaurus, Revised by Robert L. Chapman. Be a wordsmith.



CWCO 2009 Thursday: “If You Send an Editor a Query Letter”

cwco_topic3Today is one of my favorite days of CWCO 2009: Real, live editors from Catholic publishing houses all over the country are going to be chatting with aspiring (and, in some cases, previously published) writers. Some writers pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars (I kid you not) for this kind of networking opportunity … and here at CWCO they get it for FREE!!!  (Of course, if an actual CONTRACT results from these discussions, you might want to make a donation of $20 or more to the CWCO coffers and get your a nifty conference e-book!)

In honor of today, I thought I’d dig out this little chestnut to entertain the troops while their waiting nervously for their turn.


Have you ever wondered what happens to the hundreds of query letters and proposals you have generated over the course of your writing career? Does some editorial assistant use it to line the bottom of her ferret cage? Do they cast shovels full of unsoliciteds onto the fire at the annual editorial weenie roast?


If you’ve ever wondered about this–or are just a fan of the full-circle themes of Laura Numeroff–keep reading. This piece, based loosely on the experiences of some editors I know (many of whom have exceptional assistants), offers a glimpse into the real world of editors everywhere. Enjoy.

If You Send an Editor a Query Letter…
(With thanks to Laura Numeroff.)
(c) 2004 by Heidi Hess Saxton

If you send an editor a query letter, she’ll want an SASE to go with it.

When she sees the SASE, it might remind her that she’s almost out of stamps. She is also low on Diet Coke and Excedrin Migraine. So Ms. Editor loads up her 1993 Toyota Tercel with three large bags of cans–last week’s soda supply–to take to the Piggly Wiggly on her lunch break.

On her way to lunch, Ms. Editor will pass the Fed Ex man, who is carrying a stack of boxes for her: three manuscripts (two of them late) and 260 proposals her cute-but-clueless new assistant requested while Ms. E. was out of the office last week. This reminds her to compose an ad to find Fabio’s successor.

As she faxes ad copy, Ms. E’s eagle-sharp editorial eyes will fall on her day planner: Meeting today at 3:00 with the publisher to discuss next year’s fall lineup. Ms. E. digs production quotes and sales projections for her top six proposals (including your query, which she skimmed with enthusiasm as she guzzled her lunch) out of the mountain of paper in her inbox, getting a paper cut in the process.

The blood reminds her of the last editorial planning meeting, when some hapless editor (never mind who) suggested going to contract again with a talented but unknown writer, whose last book sold so poorly that the warehouse was using remainders as door stops. Ms. E. shudders and combs her pile of proposals for evidence of marketability, leaving frantic messages for you to e-mail her sales figures for your previous books and a copy of your speaking schedule for the following year. While Ms. E. is on the phone, one stressed-out graphics designer and three unhappy authors leave their own frantic messages, on a line to which no one but her mother is supposed to have the number.

Thoughts of her mother will remind Ms. Editor of a manuscript her mother’s hairdresser’s nephew sent for review “when she has a free moment.” Ms. E’s mother has been gently chiding her daughter about it for the past month. It doesn’t seem to matter that the house Ms. E. works for doesn’t publish science fiction, or that the young man couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag. Ms. E. must convince her boss to publish it, or the hairdresser will make Mom look like she’s backed into a weed-wacker for her fiftieth high school reunion. Ms. E. reaches for the Excedrin next to her office clock, and sees it is now 3:05.

Late for the meeting, Ms. E. carries your e-mail between her teeth, proposals in one hand and her Diet Coke in the other, and sprints for the conference room. Her ideas are met with unanimous enthusiasm. Giddy, Ms. E. proposes to give you a six-figure advance and a three-book deal. Someone asks Ms. E. if she’s been sniffing glue.

The glue remark reminds her of the stamp on your SASE, which you so obligingly supplied. Ms. E. uses it to give you good news and bad news: They want to publish your book. But she doesn’t work there anymore. If you want the contract, Ms. E. adds, please send a full proposal and three sample chapters to her colleague, who was smart enough to keep her mouth shut during the previous editorial meeting.

A little surprised, you go ahead and submit the requested material, putting the new editor’s name on the envelope. Four weeks later, you get a form letter from the new-and-even-more-clueless editorial assistant. “Sorry, but we don’t accept unsolicited proposals. Next time you send a SASE… Be sure to send a query letter with it.”

Heidi Hess Saxton is the editorial director of, a freelance writing and editing business. She has ten years experience as an in-house editor, most recently as senior editor of a medium-sized CBA publishing house. For permission to reprint, contact Heidi at

CWCO 2009: RIP, Michael Dubruiel

In memory of Michael Dubruiel, who passed away suddenly yesterday, I’ve posted this reflection over at Mommy Monsters. Please take a moment to join the CWCO community in prayer for the Dubruiel-Welborn family.

Amy shares her thoughts about the ordeal here.

Michael’s final — and sobering — column can be found on Amy’s blog here.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord,
and may your perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed
Rest in peace.

CWCO 2009 (Wee Cook) Wednesday: Marketing!


***Today Matt Pinto (Ascension Press) is unable to be with us at 4:00 for his chat, but is planning to join us in August at the Live Catholic Writers’ Conference!  Have you registered yet?***

Wednesdays at EMN are typically “Wee Cook Wednesdays,” with a recipe designed to keep family happy and you on track. So … before you head on over to the CWCO conference today, why not throw something in the crock pot that will taste like you’ve been in the kitchen all day?!

Just head on over to my personal blog “Mommy Monsters Inc” and feast your eyes on three chicken recipes you can whip up in a jiff … “Deadline Chicken” is my personal favorite.  A couple of sweet potatoes, cans of corn and beans, chicken pieces (fresh or frozen), and a jar of salsa is all you need to make you go “Mmmm!”

Today CWCO is devoted to all things marketing related: From how to put together a proposal or query letter to how to promote your book once it hits the store shelves. And, since today is about marketing, I thought I’d take a moment to put in a plug for the “Extraordinary Moms Network,” an online resource I created for mothers facing extraordinary challenges — especially mothers of adoptive, foster, and special-needs families. I also have a special place in my heart for military moms and women in difficult marriages. Some of the most popular features include:

Miracle Mondays: Stories of moms who overcome tremendous challenges
Wee Cook Wednesdays:  Kid-friendly recipes for busy moms
Weekend Ponderings:  Reflections from Scripture for Extraordinary Moms

If you or someone you know would like to be on the EMN mailing list, just drop me a line at God bless you!

Okay, now let’s all head on over to the Catholic Writers’ Conference Online. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to make a donation and get a free copy of the conference e-book! (You can do this even if you aren’t registered for this year’s conference….)