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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.


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A Few More Pictures

This year’s Southwest Washington Writers Conference is over and we’re already being asked if there will be one next year.

Yes.

Author Kyle Pratt teaching at the 2016 Southwest Washington Writers conference

As some of you know I’ve been involved in the planning of this conference from the start and this year, like those past, it did well. The organizing committee quickly decided to proceed with the fourth annual conference. Preliminary planning will begin soon. If you’re interested in attending the conference next year, the best way to stay informed is to sign up for the Southwest Washington Writers Conference newsletter.

This is our cookies. Cookies featuring the staff of the 2016 Southwest Washington Writers conference

Since I blogged about this past conference in the This is my Cookie post, I’ve received many more pictures. Some very nice pictures were taken of me, and I didn’t even know it had happened. I can’t show them all, but decided to share a few more in this post.

If you were there, let me know what you thought of the conference and, if you have pictures from any of the previous Southwest Washington conferences, send them also.

This is my Cookie

The third annual Southwest Washington Writers Conference was held this last weekend in Centralia, a nearby town to where I live in western Washington state. I’ve been involved in the planning and operation of this conference all three years, and believe this conference was the best one yet.

Author Kyle Pratt with his cookie.

One of the conference organizers had cookies made. Within the frosting of each treat was the edible image and class title of each presenter. This is my cookie. See, it has my name on it.

This year I taught a class with bestselling local author, Carolyn McCray, on indie book distribution or, should indie authors use only Amazon or use other distributors. I favored using many distributors, such as Nook, Google Play, Kobo and Smashwords, while Carolyn likes staying exclusive with Amazon.

Authors Carolyn McCray and Kyle Pratt

In the picture Carolyn says she looks insane. Because of the kind of books she writes, I thought it might be a marketing technique. I also attended a class on Social Media Strategies with marketing professional Veronika Noize and another class on on indie publishing with author Maggie Lynch.

I’m glad we’re done for this year, but I had a great time.

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.

Amazon vs. The World

I know it’s a long way off, but the Southwest Washington Writers Group posted a nice write-up of my upcoming workshop with bestselling author Carolyn McCray on their website today. I liked the title of their blogpost, Amazon vs. The World, so I stole it for this post.

 Authors Kyle Pratt and Carolyn McCray

Authors Kyle Pratt and Carolyn McCray

Our workshop at the conference is called, "Indie Publishing: Amazon KDP Select vs. Everyone Else," Carolyn and I will discuss the benefits of going exclusive with the Amazon Kindle Select program or using other distributors, such as Nook, Kobo, and Google Play.

The conference organizers are promoting the workshop this way,

“In this strategy prize fight, Carolyn McCray, with nearly 750,000 books sold, champions Amazon exclusivity. In the far corner Kyle Pratt, with his bestselling Strengthen What Remains series, fights for a wider view and explores Nook, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play and other smaller vendors.”

The conference will be on September 17th in Centralia, Washington state. For more information visit the Southwest Washington Writers Group website.

I know that’s five months from now, but big events need time for planning, scheduling and promotion. I hope to see both my writer and reader friends, at the conference.

Planning for the Conference

We’re already planning the next Southwest Washington Writers Conference.

 Julie Zander, Scott White and Andy Skinner

Julie Zander, Scott White and Andy Skinner

The rains came down hard and steady today, but still I ventured to downtown Centralia for a meeting at The Station Coffee Bar & Bistro across from the Fox Theatre. It seems to be something of a hangout for local authors. Lately, I’m there at least once a week to meet with other authors. Planning for the 2016 Southwest Washington Writers Conference bought me out on this rain soaked day. Over warm drinks, I met with fellow writer Julie Zander, Andy Skinner from the Lewis County Historical Museum, and Scott White of the Historic Fox Theatre Restorations.

Much of the planning for our local conference is done. New York Times bestseller author Jennifer Lauck will be the keynote speaker and will teach three workshops. Bestselling author and Christy Award winner Leslie Gould will teach a workshop called “Romancing Your Novel.” I will be teaching a workshop with bestselling author Carolyn McCray on indie publishing. Several other workshops will be announced soon.  

Planning today centered on finalizing the schedule, getting the registration page of the website ready and approving the new logo. We hope to have everything up and ready by the end of the month. For more information visit the Southwest Washington Writers website and, if you’re going to be in this area on September 17th come by and visit. It’ll be a fun day!

Carol Award Winning Friends

I’m pleased to know three Carol Award winners this year. 

The Carol Awards are the American Christian Fiction Writers recognition for the best Christian fiction. This year the ACFW conference was held from September 17th through the 20th in Dallas, Texas. While I didn’t attend several people I know did, and received awards.

Nadine Brandes

Carol Eaton and Nadine Brandes at the 2015 ACFW Carol Awards.

A Time to Die, the first book by Nadine Brandes, came to my attention because of the praise it received from both readers and reviewers. I found the plot, pacing and characters to be superior to that of most speculative fiction and planned to watch her progress. I’ve also recommended the book several times. Earlier this year I joined an online critique group. Only after become part of the group did I discover that Nadine was one of the members. While I’ve never met her in person, I look forward to working with her.

I’m thrilled that Nadine Brandes won the 2015 Carol Award for speculative fiction for her novel, A Time to Die.

Carol Eaton

Carol Eaton is the moderator that brought me into the online critique group. When I joined I knew Nadine by reputation only, and Carol not at all. While I’ve never met her in person, after many emails and critiques, I feel I’ve gotten to know her. However, she never mentioned that any of her work might receive an award.

I’m very pleased to say that Carol Eaton has won the 2015 Carol Award for speculative fiction for her manuscript, Null.

Melanie Dobson

While I’ve met Melanie Dobson twice, I’ve never read anything by her. My wife has enjoyed reading several Dobson novels, but historical romance is not my usual read.  

Melanie Dobson winner of the 2015 ACFW Carol award for historical fiction

However, I’ve met her twice. Last year she presented at the Southwest Washington Writers Conference, which I helped organize and I spoke with her briefly. This year she presented again, but unfortunately brought a Mac to an all Microsoft facility. I was called upon to help, and together with Melanie we melded the two operating systems in time for her class.

I wish I had the opportunity to congratulate Melanie Dobson in person for winning the 2015 Carol Award for historical fiction for Chateau of Secrets. I’m sure I’ll be seeing the novel soon.

One of the nicest things about being a writer is the chance to meet such talented and creative people.

My Local Conference

The 2015 Southwest Washington Writers Conference is over.

Marketing expert Veronika Noize and Kyle Pratt at the 2015 Southwest Washington Writers Conference

Seattle has conferences for writers, and so does Portland, but until last year this area lacked that level of education and networking. The first year of the conference, I both presented and helped with the organization and operation. This year I just helped. While both conferences were a success, this year attendance rose and the operation ran smoother.

The morning of the conference we came in early to complete final preparations. Julie Zander soon discovered the main auditorium was locked. She got it open just in time for me to turn on the projector, computer, adjust the lights and test the microphone. I finished as the first few people walked in.  

Authors Kyle Pratt and Jennifer Shaw Wolf at the 2015 Southwest Washington Writers Conference

As with last year, we had both a Keynote address and a mini-keynote. Jane Kirkpatrick, author of more historical fiction books than I care to count, provided the keynote. She spoke on the skills a writer needs to develop and often needs to discover within. Scott Eagan gave the other keynote. As an agent, he spoke on what his profession could and could not do for a writer. He spoke well, but as a purely indie writer, I’m not looking for an agent.

This year attendees had their choice of twelve workshops on everything from writing poetry, to editing and marketing. Melanie Dobson spoke on putting romance into genre writing. Unfortunately she brought a Mac to an all Microsoft facility. Again, I was called upon, and together with Melanie we melded the two operating systems in time for her class.

Authors Lisa Burnette and Jane Kirkpatrick at the Southwest Washington Writers Conference

I attended the Writing for Young Adults and Story Structure classes by Jennifer Shaw Wolf. I think she did both presentations well, and I learned things in both. However, I looked forward to the class with Veronika Noize on Marketing. I missed it last year because our presentations were at the same time. I’m an author and have little interest in marketing, but as an indie writer, the responsibility falls on my shoulders. She had many good ideas which I look forward to trying over the next few months.

Both years the conference has been organized by a few members of the Southwest Washington Writers Guild. As I mentioned, I’ve been a part of both efforts. We’re already planning the event for next year and I’m looking forward to it.

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.