I start planning for my attendance at the mid-summer Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference in mid-April when registration opens. Being an early-bird to secure my place affords me a nice discount and stirs anticipation for how God will take me to the next level as a writer, speaker, and publisher in the coming year. 

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This year was no exception. By June I was getting my ducks in a row for my focus at the conference: Marketing. I’ve spent the last five years learning product creation and indie-publishing, turning my years of teaching and ministry experience into print publications. My goal has been to tool Christian families with literary, homeschool, and drama materials for interactive teaching and discipleship in multi-generational settings: All ages–all at the same time.

Through the years my “brand” has been tweaked and edited and fine-tuned to better reflect the promise of the materials produced at Pageant Wagon Publishing. Each word in print is an extention of my personal brand as a speaker and teacher–telling stories that lead to all good things and beauty.

But, I know I need to seek out a constant stream of mentoring and expert advice to be the best I can be so my work can impact as many families as possible for God’s glory. This is why I put so much into preparing for the writer’s conference to make the most of every moment, workshop, conversation, and interaction with so many top professionals in Christian publishing gathering each summer.

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Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference 2016 was again at the beautiful Cairn University in Langhorne, Pennsylvania the first weekend of August. Director Marlene Bagnull and her dedicated team truly pour themselves into every detail of this conference. The roster of keynote, clinic, workshop, and continuing session speakers was impressive. I always purchase the entire conference on audio so I can drink from these deep learning wells throughout the year.

Pageant Wagon Publishing exhibited a small book display of our latest publications in the bookstore area. This became a hub for making connections and networking with other writers. I loved how we could start to chat and break into prayer for each other’s ministries in written words.

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This year, our whole Cumberland County Community Church (CCCC) writer’s group attended the conference together. We meet monthly and have had the joy of growing together in our critique sessions, cheering each other’s projects on with feedback and editing suggestions.

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L to R: Ron Newman, Bob Ossler, Bruce Puckett, Janice Hall Heck, Kathryn Ross, Ed Ross. Not pictured is Stacy Zeiger who came but had to leave early; and Pastor Sal Roggio.

I co-lead the group with Janice Hall Heck, an amazing editor with years of experience and enthusiasm for the written word. She spent this past year co-authoring the memoir writings of Bob Ossler, associate pastor at CCCC, who, as a firefighter and police chaplain ministered five tours at Ground Zero in the aftermath of 9/11. His unique training as a paramedic and mortician, distinguished him on the “Pile” as, not only the go to man for prayer and comfort, but a forensic expert able to assist in the identification of remains. The trauma of such work made him an empathetic conduit for the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bring comfort to so many others traumatized by the impact of this horrible tragedy.

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The book proposal Bob and Jan brought to the conference last year was picked up by Blackfriar Publishers and is currently released and available on Amazon, Triumph Over Terror. Check out the Authors Showcase Spotlight to get a mini review. I’ll have a full review coming out the week of the official book launch on September 9th.

This year, as you may note in the photo of our group, my husband Ed attended with me. He is the brainchild behind our Clementine Jones Drama and Derring-Do Books, inventing the old gold miner “digging for gold in God’s Word” back in 1986. I joined him in the live biblical storytelling programs when we married in 2004 with my own alter ego personality of Wanda WordWise. We each took eager advantage of the classes offered. Ed especially enjoyed Dr. Harold Arnold in the continuing session about branding and platform building.

Michael Gantt was not only a much anticipated keynote speaker and workshop teacher, but he was a bit of a family connection, too. He hails from New England and has close ties with my son and his father-in-law–whom I once worked under when I was teaching–Pastor Ronald Bernier of Master Builder Ministries. Ron just released his own daily devotional with our shared grand-girl, Mackenzie, on the cover, Sitting at the Master’s Feet. Michael had brought the book to show to some of the editors in conference. So blessed to chat with him!

Michael Gantt, Kathryn Ross, Sitting at the Master's Feet

I was delighted to meet author and speaker Bob Hostetler. I’ve known his name for years on the cover of my own much marked up and flagged copy of Don’t Check Your Brains at the Door, which he co-wrote with Josh McDowell some 20 years ago. It was a go-to reference for me when I was teaching and leading in Youth Ministry.

Unfortunately, anticipating that I’d be seeing him there, I put my well worn copy of the book in a “safe” place so I wouldn’t forget to bring it for an autograph. Well–you guessed it. Such a safe place that I’ll never find it now.

Bob Hostetler The Bard and the Bible

No matter–Bob’s new release came home with me fully autographed and I’m loving it every morning! The Bard and the Bible blends two of my literary loves–Shakespeare and the Bible. This full year of daily devotionals is a masterwork of the Bards classic works coupled with a powerful, in-depth understanding of biblical principles. The most unusual devotional on the market, and the perfect gift for every geeky lover of literature and the Lord. 

One of the most impressive new writing friends I made there was young Rachael Rittenhouse. She wrote a series of fictional stories about a family of sisters in a diary format when she was thirteen years old. By age seventeen she independently published the titles and began a professional career as a writer and speaker. She also has a “how-to” book out on indie publishing.

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I can’t be more impressed with this young lady who is–you may have guessed–homeschooled. She’s working towards her college education now and I expect she will be a name to remember. 

I LOVE that I’ve had the honor of meeting and working with so many accomplished young homeschoolers stepping out into their life and careers so early with so much confidence in their calling! You will note that Fable Springs Parables is a joint effort between myself and two local young and gifted homeschoolers: Noah Berge as illustrator (did Mother Chicken’s Eggs when she was age 17), and Haley Richardson as audio book musician (currently at age 14, she is a seven time All Ireland Fiddle Champion and keeps a busy performance schedule sharing stages with some of the biggest names in traditional Irish music).

It’s always exciting to run into folks who are from old stomping grounds. Imagine my surprise when Tom Bailey tried to put me onto the work of the Foundation for American Christian Education and StoneBridge School where I taught for two years in the mid-1990’s.

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He had just been to their week long seminar and we had to post a photo to share with mutual friends in Chesapeake, Virginia. It’s the home of Principle Approach Education–and my training in that discipline is foundational to the works I write today.

Angela Schans is the sweetest heart! She is such the video queen and I knew I needed to spend some time with her, picking her brains for ideas in bringing the video element into our PWP marketing plan. She did not disappoint and our brainstorm session produced just the direction I need to move forward. Look for something happening on the video front later this fall! 

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Angela and I got a little photo-bombed by Bob–LOL.

Patricia Durgin was another “must-see” on my list. She’s an inspiring message coach who really challenged me to step further into the waters of Confidence In My Calling. What a generous heart she shared with her encouraging and instructive words. Unfortunately, as is usually the case, we always wait til the last day to take pictures and I fear I missed one with Pat. Boo.

But, got one with this fun gal–Karen Van Den Heuvel Fischer. She was too much fun in her workshop for the SEO Challenged. Boy–could I share a story or two on that score.

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I loved her enthusiasm and warmth. Her bright eyes invited me to sit and gab and I only wish we all had more time to do so. The sessions and hours in the day kept everyone on the move. She’s got a new book out titled, Hidden Bloodlines, in the thriller/suspense genre.

But, I would have to say my biggest take away from the conference was an answer to prayer for a professional network membership. I joined Christian Small Publishers Association headed up by the vibrant and in-the-know Sarah Bolme. 

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Every word from her mouth in her class and our one-on-one meetings together pierced through me with inspiration and direction. Thank you, Lord, for this professional connection! Loved meeting her theatre-geek daughter, Rachel, too–an enthusiastic lover of literature and the stage. My kinda peoples!

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The Christian Small Publishers Association is the go-to place for indie-pub authors like me who need to learn the ins-and-outs of marketing, branding, and platform building to move your book into the broader marketplace. This group is a goldmine of network connections and step-by-step teaching. Her definitive book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace is the by-my-side resource I will be marking up and flagging in the weeks to come. There’s an entire chapter with contact info and tips for reaching deep into the homeschool market–the focus audience for our PWP publications.

I’ve already begun to take advantage of the excellent on demand online teaching seminars my membership affords. Plus, her website at Marketing Christian Books is  wealth of easily digested, detailed instructions on every topic to train the indie author in all things marketing. I am looking forward to participating in a number of the programs at CSPA–and you’ll be hearing more about that in the coming months!

In the end, I return from GPCWC 2016 filled, once again, to overflowing. I will have a few weeks to organize my thoughts and begin to put into practice what I took away before the full conference sessions arrive on DVD. Then, I will take my time to work through all the dynamic training recorded in all the sessions. The conference is a significant marketing investment for me each year, but it is well worth it, providing me with so many opportunities to advance my game in training, exposure, and network connections. 

Many thanks to Marlene and company for all the sacrifices you make each year to advance God’s call to Write His Answer in the thousands of writers you have impacted for over 30 years.

God willing–see you summer 2017.

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P.S. I know I just dumped a whole lot of information and links in this post. No worries–I’ll be revisiting a number of these short mentions with longer book reviews in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Sharing Writer’s Conference Wrap-Up: GPCWC 2016 this week with:

Create With Joy Book Nook

Wholehearted Wednesdays

Christian Blogger Link-up

Sitting Among Friends

Vintage Cottage Mama

Katherine’s Corner

Faith Filled Fridays

Pink Saturday

Spiritual Sundays

Literacy Musing Mondays

Keep all good things and beauty in your life!

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