Five Biggest Takeaways from 2014 Southern Christian Writers Conference

Reflecting on the 2014 Southern Christian Writers Conference in Tuscaloosa, I came up with five things that I will remember the most from the weekend event.

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Edna Ellison signs a copy of her new book, Called to Write, for Kathleen Jones (right)

For more than a quarter century, Joanne and David Sloan and family have labored tirelessly to produce one of the best Christian writers conferences in the nation.

The Southern Christian Writers Conference (SCWC) draws 200 or more people to Tuscaloosa each June.

In spite of a busy schedule this week, much of it out of town, I was pleased to make it back to Tuscaloosa in time for some potentially life-changing encounters and insights from the dozens who gathered this weekend at Tuscaloosa’s First Baptist Church.

Here are my FIVE (5) biggest takeaways from this year’s two-day conference:

Edna Ellison shares her principles to become a writer on a mission.
Edna Ellison shares her principles to become a writer on a mission.

1.  Edna Ellison’s SEVEN Principles to Become a Writer on a Mission
I first heard Ellison, the author of 31 books and more than 400 articles, several years ago at this same conference.   It was great to see her back in the conference line-up with a brand new book she co-authored with Linda Gilden, Called to Write: Seven Principles to Become A Writer On Mission.

This afternoon, from her new book, she shared seven principles to become a writer on a mission

  1. Spirituality
  2. Scripture Study: A Biblical Basis
  3. Worldview
  4. Relationships: God, Self, Family and Others
  5. Communication (Including Speaking and Writing)
  6. Ministry  (including our role as a “word professor)
  7. Leadership (including writing for multiplication and duplication

2.  Candie Price’s  Suggestions for Social Media Marketing Strategy
I’m so glad I had a chance to hear Birmingham-based PR, Marketing and Social Media Strategist Candie Price, who contextualized all of the usual social media tips with a plea for the two dozen or so attending her session this morning to have a larger marketing plan.

I say “usual” because the topic of social media– Facebook and Twitter, in particular, has been a part of the SCWC for several years.   (I’ve moderated discussions at past conferences)

But  there are so many out there and many writing consultants simply say “you need to be there” without making a compelling argument WHY.

Candie Price from Priceless PR & Marketing Consulting gave lots of great social media tips at the SCWC this year.
Candie Price from Priceless PR & Marketing Consulting gave lots of great social media tips at the SCWC this year.

Price made that argument and a lot more in her 45-minute seminar this morning.

“Social media is not an island,” Price said.  “It has to be integrated, part of a plan.”

According to Price, that plan starts by knowing exactly who your target audience is for your book or writing.

Gathering that demographic information is a key part of the development of a larger social media marketing strategy.

“Most customers are on social media,” Price said.  “They’re searching and you want to be found.”

3.  Deborah Malone’s Strategies for Marketing My Own Book

Georgia-based fiction writer Deborah Malone gave all of those at her session something to think about when it comes to getting the word out about our books, whether fiction or non-fiction.

Malone left no stone unturned as she explained everything from how to utilize a QR code to send potential readers to one’s web site to the way in which she contacts local libraries to organize events where she can read her books, which are tied to communities at popular destinations around Georgia.

Sometimes we, as writers, can forget the most basic things such as making sure our photos on our social media pages are up-to-date.   Up until recently, I was guilty of that– having the same Facebook photo on my page for more than four years.

4.  Don Aycock’s Suggestions for THINKING like a CHRISTIAN WRITER

A Friday afternoon severe thunderstorm let up just in time for me to get indoors and catch Don Aycock’s evening keynote last night.

“It’s a difficult thing to lose your words, ” Aycock said.  “To write is to find your words.”

He reminded us that words can create and words can destroy.

As a reminder of how important what we do is, Aycock let us know that just like God has called us to be writers, He’s also called individuals to be our readers.

For Aycock, thinking like a Christian writer involves thinking about her writing as a sacred activity.

Quoting Tom Stoppard:

WORDS ARE SACRED THEY DESERVE RESPECT.  IF YOU GET THE RIGHT ONES IN THE RIGHT ORDER, YOU CAN NUDGE THE WORLD A LITTLE

I think all of us at the Southern Christian Writers Conference want to “nudge the world” like Stoppard and Aycock are suggesting we can.

5. A Host of New Friends in the Christian Writing Area

As one of my colleagues noted today at lunch, some of the best lessons at a conference can come not from the speakers or facilitators, but the fellow attendees with whom you interact during breaks and meals.

Carol Weeks, a humorist, told her story at a breakout session Friday for non-fiction writers.
Carol Weeks, a humorist, told her story at a breakout session Friday for non-fiction writers.

Moderating a non-fiction book writer’s breakout session afforded me the chance to meet an author of a book on a Holocaust survivor in the Birmingham area, a Christian humorist and a writer from nearby Berry, Ala. who is preparing the story of her near-death experience.

THE REAL WORK BEGINS

Like any writers conference, this 2014 edition of the Southern Christian Writers Conference is just the beginning of the change that we as writers want to make in what we do.

We leave inspired to climb to higher heights with what we write hoping that we can report major progress in the days, weeks and months to come.

I certainly left today’s conference inspired, jumping right into a couple of writing projects awaiting me as I arrived home this afternoon.

 

 

 

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

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