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A Conference with Carrie

On February 23rd I had the pleasure of speaking at the Oregon Christian Writers one-day winter conference in Salem, Oregon.

Carrie Stuart Parks delivers the keynote address

I arrived about thirty minutes late due to an accident on the freeway but, after checking in, I entered the main auditorium and listened to the keynote speaker, Carrie Stuart Parks. Carrie is an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist and author. I had read about her before the conference. She taught classes for the FBI, Secret Service, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Her awards include the Christy, Carol, and the INSPY.  

Kyle Pratt, Cornelia Becker Seigneur, Carrie Stuart Parks. and Julie Zander

She talked about her progression from artist to writing books on drawing and on to her fiction novels. I enjoyed the way she mixed art and writing in a talk about growth. Evidently, I missed how she met Frank Peretti and came to be mentored by him. As a longtime fan of his novels, I would have taken eager notes on that.  

Fortunately, I wasn’t late for my class on Finding and Forming Critique Groups. I’ve attended critique groups for more than a decade and through them learned many valuable writing lessons and formed lasting friendships.

As authors, we spend many hours alone while writing, but sometimes we need the perspective of others. That’s where the critique group comes in handy. Getting out of our comfort zone and letting others read and comment on our work is hard, but that is what we do as published authors.

I hope to expand upon the talk and give it at other events.  


Click on the following links to read my author bio, or read more about current writing projects.

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A Meeting with Friends

For many years the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference was the only conference that I attended.

Friends and Authors Debby Lee, Kristie Kandoll, Barbara Blakey with Kyle Pratt

These last few years I regularly attend more events, but OCW is the one where I feel most at home. I have friends here. Don’t misunderstand me; this is not some small gathering of casual writers. A few years ago I was eating lunch in the main hall and Frank Peretti asked to sit at my table. I can’t remember what I ate, but I’ll never forget our conversation about his books and writing in general.

Cascade Award winner and friend, Jill Williamson

Cascade Award winner and friend, Bethany Hayes

Several hundred attended the Cascade Awards dinner tonight, the last full day of the OCW conference, but despite the size, almost every year, I know someone who wins. This year two friends, Jill Williamson and Bethany Hayes were honored for their work. I laughed out loud when presenters James Rubart and Susan May Warren couldn’t find the right certificate for two of the finalists. Susan threw off her black gloves looking for the correct paper as laughter thundered through the room. Still smiling, I said to the woman beside me, “I’ve seen worse confusion at the ceremony.”  

After the awards dinner, I hurried out hoping to congratulate my two friends and nearly ran into Randy Ingermanson. I didn’t even know he was there.

Every year during the coaching sessions and workshops, I learn things and while that’s important it isn’t why I come back. I’m not sure how something this large can feel so comfortable, but it does, and that keeps me coming back.


Click on the following links to read my author bio, or to read more about this and other writing projects.

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Oregon Christian Writers (Day 3)

Tonight the Cascade Awards were presented at the Oregon Christian Writers Conference.

During the awards dinner I sat with friends Barbara Blakey and Kristie Kandoll. Barbara is a past Cascade Award winner and Kristie was up for the Unpublished Historical Fiction Award tonight along with another friend, Julie McDonald. I really expected one of them to walk away with the award, but the winner was the third finalist, Kathleen Freeman, with her book Children of the Revolution.

Kyle Pratt and Ben Wolf with his Cascade Award winning children's book

Another friend, Ben Wolf, won in the Published Children’s Book category with his story, I’d Punch a Lion in his Eye for You. Last year Ben won in the Speculative Fiction category with his debut novel Blood for Blood, and I was the runner-up with, A Time to Endure. This year neither of us competed in that group, but next year I’m planning to enter the Speculative Fiction category again with a my unpublished novel, Seekers of Earth. Ben edited the book for me so, I’m hoping it will be a good year for both of us.

Oregon Christian Writers (Day 2)

I had a chance to talk with author and editor Ben Wolf on my second day at the Oregon Christian Writers conference.

Ben edited my upcoming novel Seekers of Earth, and will be editing the second book in the series, Recall the Earth.

Authors Kyle Pratt with Ben wolf

In those stories, humans live on hundreds of worlds and believe that over three hundred years ago pre-industrial Earth was destroyed by the advancing Valac hegemony. The Mage, a benevolent and highly advanced race, are only able to save a few thousand people. These surviving humans are offered sophisticated technology in return for their help in the fight against the Valac. Humans become the guardians of the Mage.

Seventeen year old Lucas Baldwin, the young son of a powerful lord, is on his first deep space training mission. Advancing through a captured facility he encounters a lunatic girl about his age. Only later does he realize that the girl, Rachel, is speaking English, a long dead language. Rachel talks of an Earth still in existence and more advanced than the horse and buggy world that had supposedly been destroyed. Lucas wonders if the history he has been taught is all a lie—but such thoughts are treason.

Ben and I sent many emails back and forth during the editing of Seekers of Earth, but having a chance to sit down and discuss the series was an exceptional opportunity. Thanks Ben.

Both Seekers of Earth and Recall the Earth will be released next year.

Oregon Christian Writers (Day 1)

I traveled down to Portland, today with my friend and fellow author Barbara Blakey to attend the Oregon Christian Writers conference. While we will be attending the same conference we go for different reasons. 

Kyle Pratt with Sue Brower of Gilead Publishing

Barbara is talented, traditional published writer. While she enjoys meeting and talking with people, one of the main reasons she attends conferences is to network with agents and publishers.

While I also enjoy meeting with fellow authors and discussing trends in the world of writing, I never set out to make book proposals to agents and publishers. I’m a successful indie publisher, what could a traditional publisher do for me? Well, I put that question to Sue Brower, vice president of acquisitions for Gilead Publishing, at the first dinner of the conference.

Sue spoke on a panel of editors at the start of the conference, and mentioned that if an indie writer had a platform and was reasonably successful Gilead would be interested in talking to them. So, at dinner I sought her out and ask my question.     

We discussed the books I’ve published and the projects I’m working on, and she told me several ways Gilead might help me. I don’t know if I’ll be working with her in the future, but it is something I need to consider and a great start to the conference.   

I hope the first day was as interesting for my friend Barbara.

A Time to Endure

Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference, Day Three

The third day of the 2015 Conference required endurance. 

Susan May Warren teaching in a cold room.

I know I’m late with my summary of the third day of the conference, but I have two things I must mention. The morning coaching class taught by authors Susan May Warren, James Rubart and Jeff Gerke, was always insightful—but cold. The weather in the northwest has been hot and dry this summer and the management of the Jantzen Beach Red Lion hotel must have turned up the air conditioning in an attempt to cool the entire region.

One person said, “They don’t need to give us ice water, just tap water and in a few minutes we’ll have the ice.” Another person bought coffee for the entire class. Bless her, Lord.

So, now you know why Susan Warren is wrapped in a blanket as she teaches class.

The Cascade Awards Banquet

The Cascade Award banquet climaxed the third evening of the conference. As a finalist for the Cascade Award in published speculative fiction for A Time to Endure, tension grew in me with each passing minute. At my table as my own private support group were my critique partners Barbara Blakey, Carolyn Bickel, and Kristie Kandoll. Other award nominees at our table were Cheryl Secomb, for unpublished children’s fiction, Bethany Hayes for unpublished nonfiction, and Shari Carroll, for unpublished devotionals. Shari Carroll went home that night as a Cascade Award winner, the rest of us remained finalists.  

Ben Wolf and Kyle Pratt after the Cascade Awards banquet.

The other nominees for the published speculative fiction award were Gary Bray, author of The Republic of Texas 2022 and Ben Wolf, editor-in-chief of Splickety Publishing Group with his novel Blood for Blood. I’ve never met Bray and didn’t find him at the conference, but Ben Wolf is a friend and I’m glad he won the 2015 Cascade Award for published speculative fiction.

I’ll try again next year. And maybe Ben won’t!

Night Owl Critique

Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference, Day Two

The second day of the 2015 Conference ended with a critique session.

 

I started the day with the first session of a coaching class taught by authors Susan May Warren, James Rubart and Jeff Gerke. Today, in both small groups and the class as a whole, we discussed the building blocks of great fiction. In particular we covered the opening line and paragraph of our stories. The class will continue tomorrow and the next day.

Later I attended a class with Sheila Seifert, editor of Focusonthefamily.com. Her presentation on Developing Your Voice was interesting is an aspect of my writing that I need to work on. Next I attended Greg Johnson’s, Finding Readers: The Ultimate Key to Success. Greg is the founder of WordServe Literary Group. I’m a writer and would prefer not to market, but in the changing publishing world it is a growing part of my business day. I need to understand this aspect of the business.

Kyle Pratt helping critique manuscripts at Oregon Christian Writers conference

In the hotel ballroom for dinner, I sat with Harvest House publisher and senior editor Nick Harrison, author and editor Jeff Gerke and my critique partner Carolyn Bickel. We talked about the changing book market and how it affects companies like Harvest House.  I finished the day helping with critiques. I attended at least one critique group for many years and believe they are a vital part of the editing process for new and mid-list authors. So, when Julie Zander asked me to help, I was more than willing.


Back to Boot Camp

Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference, Day One

The first day of the 2015 Conference started with Boot Camp.

Susan May Warren and Kyle Pratt at the 2015 Oregon Christian Writers summer conference

The morning started even before the regular conference with a marketing “boot camp” taught by bestselling author Susan May Warren and Nicole Miller of Buffer.com. For three hours they discussed the creation of a marketing plan that included a platform website, mailing lists and the use of social media leading up to the release of a new book. Since the release of my fifth book, Braving the Storms, is coming soon, this is a topic on my mind. I’ll be implementing several things they discussed when I get home.

After the boot camp, I registered with the conference and attended a panel with book and magazine editors. This session was not as pertinent to me as the boot camp, but I enjoyed hearing what they were looking and what they paid. The bottom line is, the editors on the panel were not interested in what I write and they don’t pay enough for me to care. I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing.

For dinner in the hotel ballroom, I had the pleasure to seat with Barbara Blakey, Carolyn Bickel, Kristie Kandoll and across from Karen Ball of the Steve Laube agency. She seemed to be interested in my writing. I’ll be following up with here and see if we can work together.

Looking Forward

The Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference may be over, but I’m still busy!

I said goodbye to Randy Ingermanson, Ben Wolf and others on Thursday. After song and praise, the OCW Summer Conference concluded and, with Barbara Blakey at the driving, headed north toward home. The four days in Portland were a truly an inspiring and fun time.

However, I’m the kind of person who looks forward, not back, and the next occasion before me is the Southwest Washington Writers Conference. This one day event is scheduled for September 13th, at Centralia College. I will be there listening to great speakers, and also conducting a workshop.

My workshop is titled, “Author Entrepreneur – The Business of Writing” and in it I will discuss the skills needed to manage a successful writing business. I’ll cover things like planning your workday, finding a niche, establishing a platform, product funnels, the 80/20 rule, marketing strategies, and more.

Until the conference I’ll be working hard on completing my next novel, A Time to Endure. The release date is coming soon, but more about that on Monday.

OCW Second Day

Tuesday, my second day at the conference, was a 15 hour day.

I study to stay informed about author and book marketing techniques, but as much as I learn, I want to know more. That led me to take Randy Ingermanson Passive Marketing class. This is a three-day class and much of this first morning was on establishing your vision and goals for success. As they say, how can you get there if you don’t know where you’re going? Tomorrow and the next day are more on the specific strategies and tactics.

One of my goals for the conference is to meet people and network. People tend to sit at the same table for meals but, at conferences, I make it a point to sit at a different table for each meal. Today, for lunch, I sat at a nearly empty table. Gradually the table filled. As we talked I learned the man on my right was a newspaper editor. A woman on my left had just finished writing her first book.

Frank Peretti and Kyle Pratt at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference

Just before the meal was served, only the seat directly across from me remained available. Moments later, a gentleman sat there. I thought he looked familiar so, I glanced at his nametag. It was Frank Peretti, one of the best-known contemporary Christian authors. I can still remember reading his first adult novel, This Present Darkness when it came out in 1986, and the sequel Piercing the Darkness, two years later. He’s written ten novels and sold over 10 million books. I told him I was a longtime fan, asked him about current projects and got this picture with him.  

All of that happened before noon. There were still two classes on public relations, an editor’s panel, an author’s panel and another class with Randy Ingermanson on Scrivener software to attend.

I didn’t get back to my room until after ten o’clock. I don’t think I could survive many conference days like this one. 

Exciting Events

I’ll be attending writer’s conferences in both August and September.

On Monday, August 4th, I’m heading south to Portland for the Oregon Christian Writer’s Summer Conference. This four day event is jam packed with nearly 30 workshops, more than a dozen coaching class and opportunities to network with many publishers, agents and fellow writers. I’ll be blogging, tweeting and posting to Facebook each day of the conference.   

Click to enlarge

Even more exciting in some ways is the Southwest Washington Writer’s Conference on September 13th. This one day event will be held not far from where I live, at Centralia College, and I will be conducting one of the 12 workshops.

Even though it is only a one day event it’s loaded with great writers and exciting workshops. New York Times bestselling author Robert Dugoni will give the keynote address, This Day We Write, at the conference. Others who will be speaking or giving workshops include the Washington State Poet Laureate, Elizabeth Austen, award winning author Melanie Dobson, and friends and fellow authors, and friends, Barbara Blakey and Shannon Winslow.

My workshop is titled, Author Entrepreneur – The Business of Writing. I’ll be blogging more about the Southwest Washington Writer’s Conference, and my workshop, after the Oregon conference.