I have known Linda Gilden from way back when. We both started in the industry about the same time. I respect her writing, her leadership, and her heart to help others live out the dream God has planted in their hearts. And it's an honor to introduce her to you!
EM: When did you take over this conference?
LINDA: This is my third year directing the Carolina Christian Writers Conference. In 2011 it moved from Anderson, SC, to Spartanburg’s First Baptist Church. There is plenty of room, and it is a great facility.
As the director of this conference, as well as the CLASS conference, can you share a little of your philosophy behind running a conference?
When I first attended a writers conference, my young children said I had gone to “writers paradise.” I think that’s because when I returned home I was so excited and happy. I had found where I belonged. I had been to a place where there were people just like me who loved to write and shared a mission to tell the world about God’s love.
I want everyone who attends one of the conferences I direct to come away just as I did from my first conference – feeling like they had truly experienced a taste of heaven on earth. I want new writers to feel encouragement and leave knowing so much more about God’s calling on their lives and their direction for fulfilling that. I want intermediate writers to discover new ways to use the talent God has given them and feel an extra little push on their journeys. I hope experienced writers will network and explore ways not only to take their writing to the next level but to encourage others to do the same.
EM: What do you offer that’s different from most conferences? (I love the Friday night event, so that’s why I included this, but you have several things to share.)
LINDA: Friday night genre groups have been very popular. Participants choose which genre they are most interested in. We offer fiction books, nonfiction books, children’s, magazine articles, marketing, and more. It is a very informal after-dinner discussion time. Three or four faculty who write in that genre lead the group. They make a few introductory comments then participants ask questions. The questions have always been so good and well thought out and open the doors for lots of good information and discussion. Everyone loves the sweet interactive time of network and learning. Since it is on the first day of the conference, it also is a good way for people to quickly get to know each other.
EM: What are some highlights from years past—for you and for attendees?
LINDA: As a director, one of the greatest joys is working with people like you who give so generously of your time, talent, and wisdom (couldn’t think of another t word even though I love alliteration!) For me there is so much joy and satisfaction in having a faculty who shares the same philosophy and excitement of helping new writers get started. I love being able to relax and enjoy the conference because I trust every faculty member completely. I know they will be kind, encouraging, and show the love of Jesus to the attendees as they help them learn and grow as people and as writers. I believe as we help and mentor new writers, we are investing not only in their work but in every one of their readers. So as we share our knowledge and expertise we are vastly expanding the scope of our own writing ministries.
For the attendees, it is a highlight of every conference to see them experience aha moments. Discovering what you have to say and that you can say it in a way that will change lives is exciting. Recently a young man gave me a copy of his book. As he handed it to me he said, “This is a conference success from last year. If I hadn’t come to the Carolina Christian Writers Conference, I never would have seen my book in print.” What a joy for the author and for every faculty member who encouraged him and gave him direction.
EM: Who do you have coming this year?
LINDA: Cec Murphey is our keynote speaker. He is such a master of words and such an encourager. I can’t wait for our participants to meet him and learn from him.
Kathy Carlton Willis will be there to lead a special Friday morning workshop on marketing. You know, when we submit a book proposal these days, one of the things the publishers want to know is how are we going to help market the book. Kathy is an expert in marketing and so creative. She will be spending time with individuals helping them come up with great plans for marketing their books, whether already in print or in process.
EM: Why do you think writers conferences are so important?
LINDA: Oh, wow. So many answers. But, for me, conferences have provided so much learning and inspiration and given me such confidence in God’s calling to be a writer.
When I attended my first conference I was scared to death (sorry about the cliché!). I only knew the one person who had come with me. Not being super comfortable in crowds, I decided the best way to get some feedback was to submit a manuscript for critique. Best investment I ever made in my writing.
The editor who critiqued my work came up to me at supper to chat. I wasn’t sure my knees were going to hold me up! I just knew he was going to tell me to go home and learn more about writing before I came back!
But you know what? He came over smiling and the first thing he said was, “Ohhhh, I loved to skip stones when I was a little boy!” (My story was about skipping stones.) Not a word about my writing.
What did I learn from that? That the heart connection is what writing is all about and that we first have to make that connection with the editors before we can make it with our readers. If we learn all we can and write our stories well, our writing will have done its job in communicating what is in our hearts.
The editor bought the article and published it in HomeLife but that experience was worth so much more than the exciting, although very small, check I received!
We would love for all your readers to join us at the Carolina Christian Writers Conference March 14-15. A few scholarships are still available so visit our website if your’d like to apply for one. If you don’t need a scholarship, register today at www.fbs.org/writers
If you live in the Southwest United States, I also direct the CLASS Christian Writers Conference which will be October 22-24 this year in Albuquerque, NM. Would love to see you there as well.
Linda Gilden knows the tremendous impact and power of words and loves helping new writers discover the joy in choosing just the right ones. She is the author of the "Love Notes" series, Mommy Pick-Me-Ups, (New Hope Publishers), Mama was the Queen of Christmas and Personality Perspectives (OakTara). She is looking forward to the release of her newest book coauthored with Edna Ellison, Called to Write. Linda has written and ghostwritten many other books, hundreds of articles, and is a regular columnist for just18summers.com and presidentialprayerteam.com. She teaches regularly at national writer's conferences and directs the Carolina Christian Writers Conference and CLASS Christian Writers Conference. Linda leads a writing group and is managing editor of The Encourager, a magazine of First Baptist Spartanburg, SC.
Linda is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She finds great joy in time spent with her family. Recently she and her eight-year-old granddaughter coauthored an article for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. magazine. Her favorite activity is floating in a pool with a good book surrounded by splashing grandchildren!