Online Catholic Writers Conference, February 11-13 *highly recommended*

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I received an email reminder that registration is still open for the Catholic Writers Guild online conference this coming weekend. If you are an aspiring Catholic writer, you should seriously consider attending this conference.

(FYI: I forget what the clergy and religious rate is, but it’s usually *very favorable*, so follow the instructions to find out. If you qualify, you’ll love the discount.)

My experience with the CWCO:

I showed up at my first online conference with the CWG as someone who had always loved to write, was the go-to person for office writing jobs, and at the time I had just started blogging so anonymous as a first foray into writing for a public audience. My first conference did two things for me:

  • I learned about the publishing industry and what, as a writer, I had to do to get published.
  • I have taken several writing workshops which have dramatically improved the skill level of my craft.

I came to the conference as someone who loved to write and had a lot of writing practice, but whose formal training ended at English 101 level. So the conference was my entry course into professional writing, both for fiction and non-fiction. . It was absolutely invaluable.

The other thing the conference did was introduce me to the Catholic Writers Guild.

Is the CWG for you?

As someone with no connections to the publishing world and no experience* or training in professional writing, the Catholic Writers Guild was the thingthe one thing, the thing that changed my life that ultimately led to my posting.

However, let me warn you: just joining doesn’t do the magic. You will benefit from the guild if you are actively involved by volunteering. I met people from the industry while volunteering at CWG conferences. I gained experience taking on projects as part of the daily operations of the guild. Throughout the process of carrying out this work – and this is job — I formed relationships with other writers who shared my interests.

If you’re already a pro and already have a path mapped out for you in publishing the types of works you want to publish, then you probably don’t need the CWG. You might like it, but professionally it won’t be your only lifeline. On the other hand, if you’re new to the writing industry, and especially if you’re new to Catholic publishing and don’t know where to start to achieve your goals, the CWG can absolutely help you succeed by as a Catholic writer.

Is there a market for Catholic fiction and non-fiction?

Let’s be clear: Catholic publishers are always looking for good writers with good material. It’s about developing your craft (which the conference can definitely help you do) and connecting with the kinds of publishers who are interested in the kind of writing you do.

Your perfectly matched editor may or may not be at this year’s conference, but the people you meet at the conference and through volunteering with the CWG can help connect you.

My experience with CWG pitch sessions:

I’ve volunteered at online conferences and (when possible) in person for several years, which allowed me to learn how presentation sessions work before I was ready to present a book myself. . I will tell you that as a volunteer doing conference work behind the scenes, the acquisitions editors who met with me would usually ask me if I didn’t have anything interesting – I didn’t. But they will be ask if you seem like a smart, friendly, polite person, because publishers are highly motivated to bring out good books and they will sniff them aggressively. Finally, I had something to sell.

I was pitching Class management for catechists to our Sunday visitor to one of the CWG’s online conferences. They were interested. I sent in a proposal, and if I remember correctly, the acquisitions editor took a look and presented it to his committee at OSV. The book wasn’t what they were looking for that year (trust the publishers on that – they know their stuff), so I didn’t end up with a contract. A friend from the guild recommended that I contact Liguori next (she had written for them), and that turned out to be the perfect solution. I did a major rewrite, by the way; one of the things editors do is review your submission and tell you how to tweak it to make it what their readers need.

Once you’ve proven you can deliver a well-written book and aren’t a complete nightmare to work with, publishers who know you will start looking for proposals. OSV is a regular at CWG conferences, but The Practical Book of Evangelism was actually a thoughtful project idea with an editor then at OSV who had worked with me in the past on smaller projects (some of them unpaid for me — great learning experience, and sometimes a necessary step to someone with no prior experience in the trade, and which in turn led to paid work).

So I didn’t use the conference pitching process for my second book, but used the same basic skills. I would consider presenting at conferences as an opportunity to make initial connections, but that’s just the beginning. It’s okay for book pairing to involve testing the waters, getting feedback, and refining your ideas.

Even though OSV didn’t end up publishing the first book I pitched to them, their interest gave me confidence and told me where to buy my proposal next, and it established the beginning of a positive working relationship. Since OSV is one of the publishers to hear presentations at this year’s online conference, I’ll just tell you: the publishers I worked with throughout the publishing process of The user manual were on top. I would gladly work with them again if I had a suitable book to suggest.

In conclusion . . .

  • If you are a new or aspiring Catholic writer, I recommend the CWG’s online conference workshops.
  • If you need to jump-start your career, are getting into a new genre, or just want to meet other Catholic writers, take a look at the workshops and see what you think. (After reviewing the schedule, if physically I *can* attend, then yes, I’m going. We’ll see.)
  • If you want to be published in Catholic fiction or non-fiction and you don’t know where to start, I recommend that you register and volunteer with the Catholic Writers Guild as your first apprentice.
  • If you’re not sure, click on the various conference details and see if that sounds like your thing.

There’s nothing magical about the Catholic Writers Guild, but if it’s what you need and are capable of working, it’s absolutely the organization equipped to help you become a published Catholic author. .

*Uh: I had written some very nice draft instruction manuals explaining to my colleagues how to use our in-house accounting software? And my supervisors were pleasantly surprised that my research on a narrowly defined aspect of the GATT negotiations was so eminently legible. So I mean, yeah, obviously I had genius talent. And an absolutely fascinating portfolio, isn’t it?

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