Faculty Interview: Kate Jameson

Interview by Alex Mellen (PWR class of 2014)

Kate Jameson works as an editorial assistant for two children’s magazines (clubhousemagazine.com and clubhousejr.com) at Focus on the Family in Colorado. She also interned with Focus on the Family while a student at Taylor University.

Kate, how did your Professional Writing major at Taylor University prepare you for working in the publishing world?

Well, for one thing, the required internship turned into a full-time job! The major helped me develop a wide range of skills in the publishing world. Not just writing, but editing, publishing, and even networking. Because I have such diverse skills, there are an equally wide variety of jobs I could pursue.

 What made you choose Taylor?

I chose Taylor because of the Professional Writing program. My older sister attended Taylor and when the program moved from Fort Wayne [TU’s former second campus], she told me about it. It was exactly what I was looking for. It promised to not only develop my writing skills, but to help me turn my passion for words into a career.

What was your first byline—the first piece of writing you had professionally published?

I don’t [remember] the exact details, but I know it was a devotional for The Secret Place, either late in my freshman year or early in my sophomore year at Taylor.

What drew you to magazine writing and publication? What kinds of opportunities are available in the magazine industry for writers?

My first experience with magazine writing came through my internship. I loved the pacing of it. With books, you spend months and months on one story, and with newspapers (at least the one I had experience with), you only had a few days. Our magazines come out monthly, so we’re able to spend a couple weeks on each piece. It’s long enough that I feel confident that the story is the best it can be and short enough that I don’t get sick of it.

Magazine writing also provides really great opportunities for writers. In any given issue, we’ll have stories and articles from five or six different writers, sometimes more. Writing for a magazine is a great way to build experience and get bylines under your belt.

What kinds of articles or stories would you be interested in acquiring at the conference? What do you look for in a writer or manuscript?

I’ll be accepting short story and article manuscripts (but no book proposals). For our magazines, we often need nonfiction pieces about kids doing extraordinary things, crafts, and recipes (we publish fiction too, but we get so many fiction submissions it’s hard for a first-time writer to get picked). We look for writers who can entertain our child readers and teach them important lessons at the same time. For our younger magazine, we’re always looking for unique Bible stories.

You blog regularly at your blog site where you talk about fairy tales and occasionally share video posts. What do you like about fairy tales, and how do they influence your own writing?

Dr. Hensley is fond of saying that there are no new stories. And that’s definitely true. Fairy tales, often tied into a country’s folklore and history, are some of the oldest stories we have. They were passed down orally for generations before being written down 200 or 300 years ago. Not only have they been preserved for so long, they’ve remained classics. So many modern hits can trace their inspiration back to fairy tales. Sure, they’re usually short, but they tell a lot in their simplicity. They didn’t need to be any longer.

Fairy tales were very often used as teaching tools, so in writing for children I employ similar techniques and plots. I also just love those stories and I’m currently working on a series of novels that are adaptations of some of the famous fairy tales.

What’s your background with children’s writing?

I’ve always appreciated children’s writers, especially after working in the children’s section of my local library in high school, but I never thought I’d be a kid’s author. That changed after my internship two years ago. I got to write a couple stories for the magazines and I really enjoyed the challenge of telling a story in a short space that was complete and still at a child’s level of understanding.

I’m also writing a series of picture books about a mischievous kangaroo. I just started querying agents and it’s very nerve-wracking.

Name a book, nonfiction or fiction (or fairy tale), that is not directly about writing but has taught you something about writing.

I’m not sure I can pick just one. I’ve got a collection of fairy tales and mythology books that are some of my best sources of inspiration. I love to study the stories of different cultures, both to get ideas and to see how storytelling changes and stays the same through time and different countries.

Kate will be teaching one session at the conference:
Do’s and Don’ts of Children’s Writing

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Faculty Interview: Linda Glaz

Interview by Alex Mellen (PWR class of 2014)

What was your first job in the writing/publishing field?
I worked as a volunteer proofreader and final reader for two small publishing houses, and I was a reviewer for an online romance site.
How did you become a literary agent? What do you enjoy about it?

Terry Burns [author and former Hartline agent] asked me to work with him as his editorial assistant. I loved it! Now, I absolutely adore finding not good but great stories to take to publishers in the hope that they will see the same awesome story and publish it!

What exactly does an agent do?
More than most folks realize. But I’ll give you Agenting 101. Agents are very much like the publisher’s filter. We weed through the piles of submissions to find those few nuggets of gold. In reality, that’s probably 2 to 3 percent of the submissions on a good day that we think we might be able to work with and that we think we might have a connection for at a publishing house. Then we have to compare those to our other authors to be sure we aren’t already handling a similar project with one of our clients. Then we make a guesstimate of how much time will be needed to get any material ready to go out. We take into consideration the writer’s platform, not only for nonfiction, but fiction as well. Then, if we decide we want to work with this particular client, we offer the writer a contract which outlines everything that we will do for them.

Once their work is ready, we begin to send their well-worked proposals out to publishers to see if they might be interested. If they are, we negotiate a contract, all the while looking out for the writer’s interest. Then, later, we keep track to be sure they are being paid correctly, and that they stay on top of their deadlines. These are just some of things that an agent does for his or her client, but probably the best known.

Tell us more about the Hartline Literary Agency.
Hartline is one of the most established literary agencies serving the Christian market. It now works in the general market, as well. They are family-owned and do their best to make a client feel like part of that family. Their authors have won Christys, Willas, Carols, Ritas, and many other prestigious awards.

Why are agents essential for writers to have?
They know the market. They know who they should and should not approach with projects. They also know, and this is very important, whether or not projects are ready for submission. Too often a writer gets overly excited, too soon, and simply isn’t ready to go forward with their submissions.

What kinds of material are you hoping to acquire?
I love fiction, first and foremost. I look at some nonfiction, but fiction is my first love.

What makes a writer’s manuscript stand out to you?
The first page! Something had better happen on that first page to keep me turning pages.

You’ve written a few novels yourself. How does that experience help you relate to writers and increase their chances of getting published?
Oh, well, I know how it feels to bleed on a page. I know how painful it is to put my work into someone else’s hands, trusting they will do well by me.

Your two conference topics are about romance and gender dialogue. What do you like about these subjects, and what made you want to teach about them?
I like to teach the gender topic because I read so many romance novels where the man is a giant wimp. No way would the romantic lead in a story think and talk the way some of them do. And that led me to a brainstorming session with my son, yes, he’s a military alpha—lol—and he was able to help me get inside a man’s head, as much as any man will allow. So I learned a lot and wanted to help female writers who write males, and male writers who have to write females, to understand some of the typical differences!

Can you give an example of this?
Let’s think of a serious alpha male military character who finds himself falling in love. His internal dialogue MUST reflect who he is, not who the AUTHOR’s voice is. For example: I’m so in love with Jamie Leigh that my heart’s pitter-patting in my chest. Her cornflower blue eyes make me wanna sing and dance with joy, gosh darn it. I’d love to run my fingers through her silky, coppery curls. Ah, yes, the good life. A sweet woman to be part of my walk down a road of absolute happiness. Gee, I’m a happy camper!

Yeah . . . no! Not gonna be believable. A guy is still a guy. An alpha male, even more so. The outward dialogue as well as internal MUST be the gender’s voice, not the author’s. Tough one to learn but so doable with a little practice.

Linda will be teaching two workshops:
Ahh, ma cherie, come fly away weeth me! (Writing Romance)
He said. She said. Oh my! (Gender and Dialog)

Faculty interview: Jerry B. Jenkins

Interview by Alex Mellen (PWR class of 2014)

Jerry B. Jenkins will be serving as one of our keynote speakers and running his “Thick-skinned Manuscript Critique Clinic” (more on that below).

What was your first byline—the first piece of writing you had professionally published?

I’ve always looked older than I am—an advantage at age 14 when I wanted to be a sportswriter, not so much now when I wonder if I’ll ever live long enough to be as old as I look. The sports editor of the local daily didn’t ask whether I was old enough to drive when I sought a job as a stringer, covering local high school sports. He assigned me a game, and my parents drove me to it and then back to the newspaper office where I wrote it up. I could not have been good and had a quarter-million clichés to get out of my system, but the sports editor saw potential and said so, edited my story, and printed it. I was paid one dollar per column inch, and so have been a professional writer for more than 50 years. I became the full-time sports editor of that newspaper at age 19.

You’ve written dozens of novels, but you’ve also penned several nonfiction books and biographies. Are there differences in how you approach writing fiction and nonfiction?

Oh, they’re as different as night and day. Fiction is your own creation. You invent the world, the setting, the characters, plot, etc. Admittedly, sometimes fictitious characters are just as obstinate as real people and surprise you with what they say and do, but in the end a novel belongs to the author. I’m a “Pantser,” meaning I write by the seat of my pants as a process of discovery. I try, as Stephen King advises, to put interesting people in difficult situations and write to find out what happens. That gives me an out when readers demand to know why I killed off their favorite character. I tell them, “I didn’t kill him off—I found him dead!”

Nonfiction cannot be done Pantser style. It must be outlined. My specialty has been first-person, as-told-to autobiographies. The secret to success with those is to recognize that they are not in the least about the writer. My first New York Times best-seller came when I wholly got out of the way, truly caught the subject’s voice, and wrote the book not as if I were a writer with his skill set but rather truly in his voice.

Tell us more about your writer mentoring program, the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild. What is its origin story, and what does it offer?

For nearly 15 years I owned the Christian Writers Guild, with a headquarters, staff, and carefully chosen mentors all over the country. I wanted to restock the pool of Christian writers, and I did not plan to or expect to make money at it. It was my way of giving back to the industry — paying it forward, as they say. I did, however, hope that Guild would eventually at least break even. But I was reluctant to cut corners or scrimp on quality, so after a while it became a financial albatross. When I finally shut it down with all the bills paid, it had had a remarkable run.

A year or so later, still feeling the desire to teach and give back, I started the Jerry Jenkins Writers Guild with an entirely different model. I engaged a most creative (and young) management team that handles all the behind-the-scenes stuff, and I handle all the teaching/coaching/mentoring online myself. At www.JerrysGuild.com, for a modest monthly fee we offer:

  • Live Online Workshops (one per month since January 2016, archived on the site, as are all the features below)
  • A live Office Hours session (where I answer members’ questions for at least an hour and guarantee an answer in the Forum on our site if anyone’s question doesn’t get answered during the session)
  • Manuscript Repair & Rewrite sessions, wherein I have recorded myself editing a member’s first page, along with rationale for every change (the most popular feature we offer)
  • A monthly Master Class, a recording of my interview with a publishing expert, asking all the questions you would ask
  • Free access to two of my courses: Fiction Jumpstart and Nonfiction Jumpstart
  • Lots of Bonus Material (manuscript proposal examples, etc.)
  • A Forum where members interact with each other daily and occasionally with me; already people have found writing partners, formed virtual critique groups, etc.

We recently hit the 2,000-member mark. I’m so deliriously happy keeping up with all of them—despite lots of twelve-hour days—that I take only one or two speaking engagements a year now. Which makes me very happy to be coming to Taylor’s conference.

You’re offering a thick-skinned manuscript critique clinic at the conference. You’ve been wielding your red pen on writers’ first pages for years. Why is this workshop so popular—what have people told you they appreciate about it? Why should writers intimidated by the red pen submit their manuscript anyway?

I think writers are tired of getting form-rejection letters that merely tell them their manuscript “doesn’t meet a current need.” After a few of those, they’re desperate for someone to simply tell them the truth and show them, hands-on, what needs to be fixed and how to fix it. That’s not an editor’s or an agent’s job. But I’m happy to offer it because writers all over the world have told me it’s the most practical, applicable training they’ve ever received. Yes, it can be painful, and I never expose the name of the writer. But neither do I hold back. I’m not mean, but I am forthright and simply show them how much editing their piece would take to become a sale rather than a rejection. My goal is to teach writers to become ferocious self-editors. The most amazing thing about these sessions is that people tell me they learn as much from my editing of others’ writing as from their own. Writers with the most potential recognize that they need to develop a thick skin and get serious about revising.

What is your most recent novel, The Valley of the Dry Bones, about?

The Valley of the Dry Bones is set in California, ten years into the future, and shows what the state would look like if a drought never abated and lasted seventeen years. A contingency of sixteen people feel called to stay in the largely abandoned, condemned state. These holdouts face a clash of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and politics that pit friend against friend, with the future of the country at stake. In the midst of this chaos, while facing their most menacing opponent, the leader becomes convinced he’s heard directly from God Himself.

Name a book, nonfiction or fiction, that is not directly about writing but has taught you something about writing.

Alll Over but the Shoutin’ by Pulitzer prize-winning writer Rick Bragg is his memoir of growing up in the deep South, one of three sons raised by a single mother. It is, hands-down, the most gut-wrenchingly poetic piece of beautiful writing I have ever seen. I think Bragg is our best living nonfiction writer, and I always highly recommend him to any writing student. Some writers make you want to emulate them. Bragg makes me simply want to surrender and reread his succulent paragraphs.

Jerry Jenkins will be giving a keynote speech on Saturday morning titled “The Surprising Value of Fear as a Motivator.”

In addition, we will be honored to have him teach two back-to-back workshops at the conference, his “Thick-skinned Manuscript Critique Clinic.” To submit your writing for possible evaluation in this session, transmit the first page (only) of your work-in-progress (fiction or nonfiction) to debbie@jerryjenkins.com no later than midnight Central Time, Sunday, July 16. Be sure to leave your name off the writing sample itself. (No one is identified or embarrassed.) Formatting guidelines are strictly enforced. Click here for guidelines.

Faculty interview: Dr. Hensley

Interview by Alex Mellen (PWR class of 2014)

What was your first byline—the first piece of writing you had professionally published?

My first modest success in publishing was in writing for half-a-penny a word doing short stories and brief devotions for Sunday school take-home papers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as Challenge, Conquest, The Baptist Bulletin, and Vital Christianity. The first serious money I made was when I started to write profiles and interviews with popular musicians during the 1970s, which I sold to Guitar Player, Contemporary Keyboard, Downbeat, Country Music, and Music City News.

What led you to begin teaching writing at the university level?

During the 14 years I worked as a full-time freelance writer, I taught a lot of seminars and workshops across America at secular and Christian writers’ conferences, and I enjoyed that very much. When Dr. Jay Kesler, who was president of Taylor University in 1996, approached me with the idea of creating a professional writing major, I accepted the challenge and became a full-time professor in 1997 at the Fort Wayne campus of Taylor. It took three years to develop all the courses and recruit students, but by 2000 we were in full gear. By 2009, when the major was moved to the Upland campus, we had more than 90 professional writing majors in the program.

Why should high school students thinking of attending Taylor University come to this conference?

We always have a special track just for younger writers, so this provides a good way to learn more about writing and publishing and even to get to talk with Taylor students who are professional writing (PWR) majors themselves. The high school students can ask about specific courses and internships and independent studies.

Why did you choose the topics you did for this conference?

I consider myself the “utility player,” in that whatever holes we may have when creating the full range of topics for the conference, I can step in and do that topic. I like the chance to do a variety of teaching on subjects related both to writing and to marketing.

What does your most recent book, Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects, offer to professional writers or those who want to start writing for publication?

I am very excited about this new book. It is a combination of the very best freelance articles and columns I have written for the past four years for such magazines as Christian Communicator, The Writer, Advanced Christian Writer, Writer’s Journal, and Writer’s Digest. In the book I first review all the basics of entering the field of writing, such as understanding the copyright laws and setting up a manuscript and learning the terminology of professional writing. I then move into topics such as writing style, proofreading, interviewing, researching, marketing, and promoting. It’s a very content-heavy book, and the early reviews have all been extremely positive.

Name a book, nonfiction or fiction, that is not directly about writing but has taught you something about writing.

The book that had the most impact on me was Jack London’s semi-autobiographical novel Martin Eden. Although it is a novel, it does a marvelous job of presenting the challenges a writer faces when desiring to have a career as a full-time author. The story is enthralling, the writing is superb, and the theme is powerful.

Dr. Hensley will be teaching three sessions at the conference:
Titles, Leads, and Closings
Writing and Marketing Your Testimony (Or Someone Else’s)
The Business Side of Writing

SAVE THE DATE: AUGUST 5-6, 2016

Plan to join us for Taylor’s Professional Writing Conference
to be held on beautiful Taylor University’s campus from
1:00 p.m. on Friday, August 5 through 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 6.

Just $99 gets you two days of sessions to hear from agents, editors,
publicists, and other publishing professionals, a one-on-one appointment,
Friday dinner, and Saturday breakfast and lunch.
(Overnight accommodations are additional and are available on campus
or at area hotels. See the Accommodations page for more details.)

Taylor University’s Professional Writing Program is recognized for its students becoming published authors of articles and even books before graduating from the program. Now you can learn from Taylor faculty as well as editors, agents, and professional writers at the university’s writing conference August 5-6, 2016 on the Upland, Indiana, campus.

Faculty for the conference include:

Dennis Hensley: author, chairman of Professional Writing department; author
• Linda Taylor: instructor, Professional Writing department; freelance editor
Dan Balow: agent Steven Laube Literary Agency
• Rebekah R. Blomenberg: copy editor/line editor Annie’s Publishing
Ann Byle: agent Credo Communications
Amy Green: publicist Bethany House
• Keren Baltzer: lead nonfiction editor Guideposts
Regina Jackson: VP product management Warner Press
• Lin Johnson: author and editor of The Christian Communicator
Ginger Kolbaba: author, former editor Today’s Christian Woman
Katie Long: acquisitions editor Wesleyan Publishing House, Light from the Word
Holly Miller author, contributing editor at Saturday Evening Post
Drew Neuenschwander: technology for writers
Rachael Phillips: author, humorist
James Watkins: author, editor ACW Press
Heather Gemmen Wilson: author, memoirist, professor of writing
Lawrence W. Wilson: author, acquisitions editor with Wesleyan Publishing House
• Estee Wells Zandee: editor Zondervan

 

Check back! More to come!

Mark your calendar now for August 5-6, 2016, to learn how to get published at Taylor University’s Professional Writing Conference.

Contact
Linda Taylor
TaylorPWRConference@gmail.com
Taylor University
236 West Reade Avenue
Upland, Indiana 46989
Phone: (765) 998-5591