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30th Annual Montrose Christian Writers Conference

July 14-19, 2019

Online Registration

Experienced writers will be spiritually renewed as they sharpen their word-smithing skills and learn about Christian publishing at this annual conference.

  • 4 Continuing Morning Classes
  • 1 Work-in-Progress Seminar
  • 47 Afternoon Workshops
  • 2 Faculty Panel Discussion
  • 4 Song Writing Workshops
  • Appointments with Editors and Agents
  • Professional Critiques and Consults
  • Hands-on Mentoring Opportunities


DAN BROWNELL - EDITOR Today’s Christian Living Mag., Today’s Pastor, & Smart
REBECCA DIEHL - EDITOR The Secret Place (Devotions)
DEB HAGGERTY – EDITOR Elk Lake Publishing
JIM HART - AGENT Hartline Lit. Agency
LINDA RONDEAU - EDITOR. Elk Lake Publishing
ROSEANNA WHITE - EDITOR WhiteFire Publishing
LORA ZILL - EDITOR "Time of Singing" Poetry

This conference is directed by Marsha Hubler.

Continuing Classes


Designed to provide in-depth learning and participation. Most valuable when taken as a series but all are open to those who cannot attend every day.

10:40-12:10 Monday-Thursday

COMMUNICATING TO CHANGE LIVES                                 JIM WATKINS
THE TRUTH ABOUT MAKE-BELIEVE                                   GAYLE ROPER
THE ART & CRAFT OF POETRY: New Truth from Old Stuff   LORA ZILL

TWO-DAY SEMINAR: 10:40 – 4:15 Monday-Tuesday
Brief Wrap Up: Wednesday morning (Limit 8 Conferees)
Author Pam Halter & Illustrator Kim Sponaugle

Afternoon Workshop Series

(How-to instruction on specialized topics)

Elaine W. Miller   3 Sessions:  1:30 –2:15    Tues. – Thurs.        

Alison Everill    4 Sessions:   2:30 – 4:15    Wed. – Thurs.
Where do I begin? Finding good song ideas, coming up with your “hook,” starting
strong. What are the Nuts and Bolts of crafting a good song? Rhyme scheme, matching syllables, word choice, song structure. How do I construct a professional lyric sheet and get my song publish-ready? You will also have an opportunity to share a song you have written with the group and receive feedback. Bring a demo if you have one and/or lyric multiple lyric sheets. We’ll work on any songs you have in progress using the tools we have learned and possibly write some originals! We’ll be writing during this time together! So come with a notebook, ready to create!     


Afternoon Workshops


1.  Indie Publishing vs. Royalty Publishing. What’s New? - Faculty Panel

2. Are You Ready for an Agent? - Jim Hart
3. Polishing your Manuscript Part 1 - Linda Rondeau
4. Writing Dramatic Dialogue - Rebecca I. Diehl
5. Writing for Guideposts: The Basics & Winning the Contest - Jeanette Levellie

6. Marketing for Writers Who Don’t Like to Market - Jim Hart
7. Writing for “Guideposts” and “All Creatures” - Diane Stark
8. The Art of Self Editing - Rebecca Diehl
9. Once Upon a Time: Generate Story Ideas that Draw You In - Shawn Smucker


10.  Get the Most out of the Conference - Gloria P. Holtzlander
11.  How to Start A Speaking Career - Jeanette Levellie
12.  Networking: Necessity or Nuisance - Deb Haggerty
13. “Be My Guest”: Radio and TV Interviews - Elaine W. Miller 

14. Strategies for 1st Lines & 1st Pages for Non-Fiction Authors - Jim Hart 
15. Polishing your Manuscript Part 2 - Linda Rondeau
16. From Query Letter to the 1st Royalty Check -Rebecca I. Diehl
17. Writing Mysteries and Suspense - Gayle Roper
18. Proposals That Pop - Jim Hart
19. Just for Moms (& Dads): Writing for Parenting Magazines - Diane Stark
20. Publishing Your Passion - Rebecca I. Diehl
21. Out of the Dust: Creating Characters with Depth - Shawn Smucker

22. Bible Studies that Sell - Gloria P. Holtzlander
23. Writing Compelling Devotions - Jeanette Levellie                                  
24. Tips and Tricks for Working with Editors & Publishers - Deb Haggerty
25. Our Most Essential Writing/Speaking Tool—A Pure Heart - Elaine W. Miller 

26. Nonfiction Book Proposals Part 1 - The Publisher's Process - Dan Brownell 
27. 5 Things your Editor Wants to See in your Manuscript - Linda Rondeau 
28. Stepping Out on Stage—What Does “Platform” Mean? - Donna L. H. Smith
29. You’re History (Fiction Research) - Roseanna White
30. Song Writing 1 - Alison Everill

31. Nonfiction Book Proposals Part 2 - Researching & Writing It - Dan Brownell
32. Breaking into Anthologies - Diane Stark
33. Plotting for Pantsers - Donna L. H. Smith
34. Five Life Practices that Will Improve Your Writing - Shawn Smucker
35. Song Writing 2 - Alison Everill


36. Irresistible Queries and Proposals - Gloria P. Holtzlander
37. Humor Sells - Jeanette Levellie
38. Creating Extraordinary Characters - Donna Smith
39. A Writer Speaks to Touch Hearts - Elaine W. Miller 

2:30 – 3:15

40. Five Tips on Selling a Magazine Article - Dan Brownell 
41. “I Hate to Plot!” - Linda Rondeau 
42. Seamless Self-Editing Your Story - Donna L. H. Smith
43. Poetry: For the Love of the Word and Words - Lora Zill
44. Song Writing 3 - Alison Everill

45. Print & Digital Publishing Photo Requirements - Dan Brownell
46. Writing for “Angels on Earth” and “Mysterious Ways” - Diane Stark
47. Bring Order: Use Structure to Add Another Layer of Meaning - Shawn Smucker
48. Song Writing 4 - Alison Everill 

Workshop Leaders

Dan Brownell: The editor of Today’s Christian Living, Today’s Pastor, & Smart Retailer, is a grad. of Liberty Univ. with a bachelor’s in English. He taught jr. high & high school English at an international Christian school in Uijongbu, S. Korea, before entering publishing. He’s worked as an educational test writer & editor, copywriter, proposal writer, & book acq. editor. He’s married to his sweetheart, Cathy, & has 2 children.

Rebecca Irwin Diehl: Editorial director of Judson Press & ordained to the publishing ministries in 2009, she loves working with authors to bring their words to the printed page. She’s worked in publishing since earning her undergrad. degree in English-writing in 1995. Completing a master’s in theological studies, she “found an ideal niche in Christian publishing, where her love of words meets her passion for God’s Word.”

Deb Haggerty: is the publisher & Editor-in-Chief of Elk Lake Publ., Inc., an independent, royalty-paying Christian co. that “publishes the positive.” Deb’s also an author, blogger, & professional speaker. For over 40 years she’s been writing stories, is published in over 20 books, & has 50-plus articles in print. She’s looking for fiction—mystery/suspense & contemporary women’s—& selected nonfiction: no Amish, cowboy, memoirs, devos, Bible studies, or poetry.

Pam Halter: a children’s book author since 1995 & freelance editor since 2006. Several of her authors’ books have won awards, most recently, Nickerbacher the Funniest Dragon by Terry Barto. She received Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Greater Phila. Christian Writers Conf. & won the Reader's Choice Award in the short story contest hosted by Realm Makers & Brimstone Fiction in 2015. She lives in NJ.
Jim Hart: is a lit. agent with Hartline. His clients include veteran & debut authors & represent non-fiction & fiction. He serves the Christian & general markets. He’s looking for topics that include Christian living, social issues, parenting, biographies. Fiction includes contemporary, historical, Amish, suspense. Jim’s a singer/ songwriter/worship leader.

Gloria Penwell-Holtzlander: Her expertise comes from years of attending writers’ conferences with husband Dan while he was Acq. Editor at AMG Publ. She’s now acq. editor for Bold Vision Books. Looking for fiction: romance, mysteries, historical, (no fantasy) & nonfiction: Christian living for Nuts & Bolts imprint: craft books for arts & business, how-to books on teaching, speaking, marketing & S.M.
Jeanette Levellie: Award-winning humorist, speaker, & writer, Jeanette’s the author of 5 books & hundreds of articles & stories. She grew up in LA & now lives with her pastor husband & three cats in Paris, IL. She loves to laugh out loud & help others find gold in their puddles.  

Elaine W. Miller: is an international speaker & author of 4 books. A member of the Advanced Writers & Speakers Assoc., she’s been a featured guest on radio and TV, a keynote retreat seminar leader, & a faculty member of the Greater Phila. Christian Writers’ Conf., Montrose Christian Writers’ Conf., & the Upstate NY Christian Writers’ Gathering. She’s excited to return to MCWC, where her writing journey began in 2001. 

Linda Rondeau: serves as sr. editor & acq. editor for Elk Lake Publ.  She’s the author of 8 novels, including her award-winning The Other Side of Darkness & her most recent Hosea’s Heart. She’s received awards & nominations from Writer’s Digest, Blue Ridge Christian Wr. Conferences, & Amer. Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her hubby in Hagerstown, MD. 

Gayle Roper

: has loved story all her life, whether reading it or writing it. She’s the author of over 50 books. Her fiction has won the RITA & Carol Awards, placed in the Christy Award finals 3 times, & has won the Inspirational Readers’ Choice twice as well as the Romantic Times Book Report’s Reviewers’ Choice Award. She teaches at writers’ conferences across the country.

Donna Smith: Serving as Manag. Editor for the blog “Almost An Author,” her writing experience includes radio journalism to mag. articles, scriptwriting, to slide sets & filmstrips, public relations & marketing, & promo. pieces over the past 40 years. Her debut novel, Meghan’s Choice, made the 2018 Selah Finals in the Westerns category & the finals of the Will Rogers Medallion Award in the Inspirational category.

Shawn Smucker: a co-writer, ghostwriter, & author of two young adult books (award-winning The Day the Angels Fell and The Edge of Over There), a memoir (Once We Were Strangers), & a novel releasing in the summer of 2019, Light from Distant Stars. He lives in Lancaster, PA, with his wife & 6 children.

Kim Sponaugle:  a grad. of The Art Institute of Phila., she found her heart’s vocation in illustrating children’s books. Her 1st series, Beatrice Loses Her Doll & Beatrice’s New Clothes, is with Concordia Publ. An illustrator of over 80 books, she received the Mom’s Choice Award, Pinnacle Book, CIPA EVVY, Reader’s Favorite Awards, & the Purple Dragonfly Award (1st place for illustrations, Nickerbacher, the Funniest Dragon.) Kim lives in NJ.

Diane Stark: a freelance writer for 12 years, she’s published in numerous mags. including Focus on the Family, Teachers of Vision, Faith & Friends, & 35 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. She’s received 3 Church Press Awards for her writing with the Salvation Army. She’s an enthusiastic encourager, who teaches other writers from a “Here’s What I Did” standpoint.  

Jim Watkins: an award-winning author of over 20 books & 2,000 articles. He’s served as edit. director at Wesleyan Publ. House & an editor with the Amer. Bible Soc. He’s published in popular magazines such as Christianity Today, Focus on the Family, & USA Today. Jim’s website,, has been honored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Assoc. for its creative Christian message. 

Roseanna M. White: a bestselling, Christy Award-nominated author who’s long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her 2 kids, editing WhiteFire Publishing’s award-winning books, designing book covers, & pretending her house will clean itself. Her 13 books range from Biblical fiction to historical romances set in America & England.

Lora Zill: teaches writing & critical analysis at Gannon Univ. & creative writing for Allegheny College’s arts programs for gifted middle & h.s. students. She’s a teaching artist with the PA Council on the Arts and edits & publishes a poetry journal, Time Of Singing. She speaks at writing, education, & arts conferences. Her award-winning poetry & nonfiction have been published widely. 

Alison Everill:  began her music ministry as a childhood church musician. From then until now, she has chronicled her faith journey through her beautiful music. From the moment Alison sits at the piano to express her worship for Jesus through one of her original worship songs, listeners are drawn in to hear the passion in her voice and sense her devotion to the Lord through her powerful lyrics that speak volumes not only about her music but also her life. She composes her own
music and powerfully delivers each Christ-centered message. She has co-written and published 2 songs on Dove Award winning artist Babbie Mason’s latest record project and has had several songs signed with the Gaither Publishing Company.

Private 15-minute appointments with editors and agents to show them your work, which may be suitable for their publications and/or to discuss ideas for stories. Sign-up sheets available at the conference. Bring professionally prepared manuscripts. Be sure to bring copies! No charge. 

Professional Critiques


This is a great opportunity to have your work evaluated by a published professional. You will receive a written evaluation of your manuscript plus a 30-minute private appointment to discuss ways to improve and/or market your piece.

Register for MCWC by June 15th and request guidelines for emailing your manuscript. $40.00 per critique.  

JIM HART (AGENT) – devotions, Bible studies, personal helps (LIMIT: 4)

DEB HAGGERTY (EDITOR ELK LAKE) – juvenile and adult fiction (FULL)
JEANETTE LEVELLIE - devotions, non-fiction articles, and inspirational articles                                  (LIMIT: 4)
GAYLE ROPER – fiction (LIMIT: 3)
DIANE STARK – Nonfiction: essays, short inspir. pieces, devos, Chicken Soup or                                Guideposts, & 1st person personal experience (LIMIT: 5)
JIM WATKINS - Nonfiction of all kinds (especially humor) and online writing (No                              LIMIT)
LORA ZILL (EDITOR TIME OF SINGING) Poetry of any kind; submit five poems (No                            LIMIT)

Other Opportunities

Picture books w/ Author Pam Halter & Illustrator Kim Sponaugle ($ 60) FULL

Opportunity for feedback from other writers. No charge.

Features books by faculty and conferees.  When registering, please indicate books you’ve written which you would like to sell. Please tag all books with prices rounded to a dollar.


Too many books on your shelves? Bring them to MCWC & donate them to our Budget Book Sale. Looking for good books? Check out this special sale. All proceeds go to the General Scholarship Fund. 

Listen to the sessions you missed or those you want to hear again. 


MONDAY: - Editors’ Forum: What Editors Wish Writers Knew - Learn from a panel of those who buy writers’ work. What are their pet peeves? What suggestions do they have to help you polish your work and get it published? Why does editing take so long? 


WEDNESDAY: MAKE YOUR PITCH –  a repeat of last year’s event with suggested improvements. Here’s your chance to share your book idea for no more than two minutes to an audience of your peers and faculty members. Wear a character’s costume, sing, or be as creative as you like to get your point across. Do you have the nerve?

THURSDAY: WRITERS’ THEATER- another opportunity for you to shine! Bring your own work, an excerpt from a short story, memoir, novel, or a poem and trimmed to three minutes and read it to the conferees at the Writers’ Theater, a delightful program that celebrates your creativity.  


Shirley Brinkerhoff Memorial Scholarship: $200 grant for tuition
Awarded to a writer actively striving to hone the craft of writing who has not yet secured a publishing contract.  See below for application. 

General Scholarship

Help available according to need. Please inquire when registering.   

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