Transcripts

"Writing for the Religious Market" with Eileen Dunn Bertanzetti

Thursday, January 11, 2001

Moderator is Kristi Holl, web editor for this site, author of 24 books, and a writing teacher for fifteen years.

Eileen is Eileen Dunn Bertanzetti, author of four books for Christian publishers and over 130 articles and stories for the adult and children's markets.

Names color coded in blue are names of viewers.

Interviews begin promptly at 9 p.m. Atlantic/Canada, 8 Eastern, 7 Central, 6 Mountain, and 5 Pacific

Moderator: Good evening, everyone! I'm excited tonight to have with us my good friend Eileen Dunn Bertanzetti to speak about "Writing for the Religious Market." Eileen has published four books and more than 130 articles and stories for adult and children's magazines and newspapers, plus the electronic book market. Welcome, Eileen!

Eileen: Hi!

Moderator: Eileen, who influenced you the most to become a writer?

Eileen: My parents. They always did a lot of reading, and my dad worked for a newspaper.

Moderator: Who is your greatest supporter now?

Eileen: My husband Greg. Without his support, I couldn't do what I do.

Moderator: Since the holidays, I've heard from a lot of TIRED writers. We all get weary sometimes. What recharges you when you're mentally and creatively weary?

Eileen: I go hiking with my dogs. I like to cook something special for Greg. My best thing to recharge is prayer.

Moderator: Eileen, on to the topic for tonight... Do writers have to be of a certain--or any--religion in order to write for religious markets?

Eileen: No, a person can be (at least in theory) an atheist and write for religious markets.

Moderator: For what denominations have you written?

Eileen: Baptist, Assembly of God, Mennonite, Catholic, Nondenominational, and others.

Moderator: How DO you handle writing for different denominations and keep their requirements straight?

Eileen: When I first started writing for different religious publications, it was for a Seventh-Day Adventist periodical. I knew nothing about that religion, so I spent some time in the research section of our local library and studied some books that told me all about that religion. For other religious publishers, I did similar research.

wendymh: I assumed that a religious magazine would give first preference to a person of that specific faith. Is this true? Or do they just judge on writing they like?

Eileen: Not necessarily. But you can determine that easily enough by sending for each publisher's writer's guidelines and studying them to see what they use and from whom.

TinaMiller: Don't some religious markets have certain criteria, though, requiring writers to adhere to their statement of faith? (I am the managing editor of a new Christian magazine, and we require our writers to adhere to our statement of faith. So does Today's Christian Women, I believe.)

Eileen: Yes, some certainly do require that, and the only way to find out what the criteria are is to send for their writer's guidelines. If they're a book publisher, send also for their catalog. If they publish periodicals, send for sample issues and theme lists. Study all of that to see what tone and topics and religious slant they use. You'll also find certain publishers have "taboos" you must always avoid.

Moderator: When you write Christian stories, how do you suggest good morals without being preachy or pushy, which is a common complaint from editors?

Eileen: You can begin with a story of any type and just try to tell a good, interesting, captivating story. At the same time, don't have in your mind this "message" you want to put across to the reader. Most of the time you just need to tell a good story, and the "message" will be there by the time you're done, and it won't sound preachy.

Moderator: Many new writers ask what exactly constitutes religious writing? Do you mention God on every page, or just show families praying? Or is the Christian angle implied instead of shown?

Eileen: Again, it depends on the publisher's needs. Study those guidelines. Sometimes the Christian angle is shown, while sometimes it's implied.

Moderator: Do the Christian magazines use theme lists?

Eileen: Oh yes, and sometimes they'll use what they call a "calendar" or a list of what their religious themes of each Sunday or each month are and you'll have to write to satisfy that list.

wendymh: I have made up charts for scripture study. Would any magazine be interested in these?

Eileen: I'm sure. The best place to go to find out which markets need what you want to write is Sally Stuart's annual guide called Christian Writers' Market Guide.

Sara: I know a writer for a Christian publisher who writes regular stories and then her editor adds in families saying grace or the kids going to youth group, and calls it Christian. Do you just tack on details like this to call it Christian writing?

Eileen: I wouldn't do that, but I know it happens. I've read authors' comments on a particular piece they've done for a Christian market, and they've said basically what you just said, that the editor "tacked on" a religious item.

TinaMiller: Referring to an earlier statement, as an editor--and a reader--I'd be upset to learn one of the writers in a Christian magazine was an atheist!

Eileen: I would too. And I'd wonder how they could pull it off! I don't think they really could, do you? The editor would sense that the tone and the intention and the lack of true faith and love of God were missing.

Moderator: What if a writer wants to write Christmas and Easter stories for religious magazines since they need more every year? How do you find a different angle to use?

Eileen: If I were you I'd go to my local library and study recently published magazines to see what's being used. As I read those stories and articles, ideas, new angles and slants would pop into my head. I've done this, and it's worked. Keep a pencil and pad of paper with you at all times.

Moderator: Is it easier to get published in the religious markets? Do they pay as well?

Eileen: I would say that it's "easier" to get published in religious markets, but that certainly does NOT mean that religious markets use material of lesser quality. Just the opposite is true. It's just that religious markets usually can't afford to pay the higher rates of secular markets, and so your more "experienced" writers might choose to submit to secular markets, and that would naturally leave room for the inexperienced writer in the religious markets.

Moderator: I know you combined writing with raising a family, Eileen. How did you juggle caring for kids, your husband, your house, and your job?

Eileen: To tell you the truth, I didn't do a good job of combining my home responsibilities with my writing. I ended up giving up on submitting my book manuscripts after they were rejected a few times But I didn't give up on writing. I kept writing, even though I didn't have time to do a lot of submitting. If I had to do it over again--and this is the valuable information I have to give you about this whole topic--I would hire a young teen to come in and watch the kids once or twice a week while I was at home so that I could have some quiet time to write.

TinaMiller: What are your books about, Eileen?

Eileen: My first two published books are about Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1868-1968). He was a famous priest who did all kinds of miracles by God's grace. I wrote a children' biography about him and then an adult meditation book based on his words and Scripture. Then I have a third children's book about him coming out in electronic as well as paperback. A fourth book that is out is a Christian romance.

TinaMiller: How did you land your first book contract?

Eileen: I think it was a result of a lot of prayer and of course hard work. It is an amazing thing. My friend had written about Padre Pio and told me to write a children's book about him, so I did. I had already written a dozen books which didn't sell, so I was pretty leery about selling this one. But I wrote it and it sold and then I decided to ride the research I'd already done and write an adult book about him.

wendymh: I understand that you also write for an online publisher. I have been asked to write a weekly column for a web site. What I am writing could easily be later put together for a book. How can I protect the rights to this material so it can be published later? Am I stupid for doing this?

Eileen: I don't think you're stupid at all. But at the same time, it's hard to protect your rights online. Do you belong to Author's Guild? They're trying to do a lot of legal things to protect online materials like yours.

james55clinton: Do you need permission from anyone to write about Padre Pio?

Eileen: No. But you do need written permission to use his words in your own writings. I received written permission from Italy where he lived.

Granny Jannie: If a non-Christian were to write a Spiritual article, rather than a Religious one, where could that person go to have it published?

Eileen: Again, take a look at Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide and that will give you publishers who could use material written by a non-Christian. The guide would give you an idea of who wants what topics. The guide has an index that lists the various topics used by various publishers.

wendymh: Everyone is devouring the Left Behind series. Isn't this making the Christian writing marketplace more popular and bringing new interest?

Eileen: I would guess that is so. Just like the Harry Potter books are putting children's books on the New York Best Seller List.

imhopeful: Are the publishers open to Christian Christmas children's books or is the market inundated with them?

Eileen: I'd say that the Christian market can always use a good Christmas book. For example, there are tons of ABC books out there. Just look in your local children's library, but a good ABC book will always find a home.

Judi: How many articles did you have under your belt before you tried to get a book published?

Eileen: I "tried" to get a book published before I tried to get a short magazine piece published. Now here's the benefit you get from my failings. I can now tell you from experience that it's more logical to try your hand at selling to periodicals first. Then you build up a list of credentials that show the book editor that you can follow through with ideas, get them onto paper and off to editors, and that you can do all that with a professional style and in the amount of time allotted by the various periodical publishers with whom you work.

Moderator: Do you belong to a writer's group? Do you recommend critique groups for new writers?

Eileen: I don't belong to a writer's group, but I think it would be a great thing to do. I exchange ideas and questions with friends like Kristi and my good friends Teri Martini (many times published books) and Veda Boyd Jones (also multi-published).

AnneKelly: Do you need an agent in the religious market -- especially to publish your first book?

Eileen: No, you don't need an agent. It's sort of like in the secular children's market, where an agent wants to handle you only after you have published a book. There's the rub. But again, I refer you to Sally Stuart's guide. There is a whole section in there specifically devoted to giving names and addresses of agents who handle religious writers. You can write to them and ask.

radiant: What types of Christian children's books are parents looking for? What types of fresh ideas are there that haven't been already put on the market?

Eileen: I've read that Christian parents are looking for the same things that nonChristian or nonreligious parents are looking for. In today's crazy world parents are hungry to find good solid reading material for their children that gives those children basic values of family and morality. That doesn't mean you have to make your writing sound "preachy" or "didactic." Again, send for writer's guidelines and sample issues and book catalogs to get a feel for what each publisher wants.

SaraJ: Are adult Christian readers wanting the same things for themselves? I know it's harder to find good adult books like that.

Eileen: I think they're basically looking for the same thing for themselves, although of course you will hit adults at a different level than children.

Granny Jannie: Where can we order Sally Stuart's Guide?

Eileen: Call your local bookseller first. They need your business. If that doesn't work for you, then go online to Amazon.com and you'll find it's really easy to order it through them. Or try any of the other online bookstores.

SaraJ: I'm sorry if someone already asked this, but how many rejections did you get before your first sale?

Eileen: No one asked that. Well, I'd say I received about twenty-five rejections before my first periodical sale. And I wrote and had rejected about twelve books (about a total of thirty times) before selling my first book.

Judi: Approximately how many articles did you actually have published before you were able to get a book published?

Eileen: I had about fifty short pieces published before the first book sold.

radiant: Wow!! What kept you persevering, after so many rejections?

Eileen: I prayed a lot and kept asking why and asking what to do next and when the road was black up ahead, and I couldn't see where I was going, I kept on going. It also helps to have a supportive best friend like my husband. Even now, when I tell him, "Greg, I don't know if I can do this assignment right," I can always count on him to encourage me. Remember I mentioned my Guardian Angel? I think Greg has wings too.

radiant: Did you have to change your style or different themes of writing so you were able to get your books published?

Eileen: Yes, for the first children's book that sold I sent "my" version of the story to the editor and she said, "We want your book, but we want you to rewrite the whole thing so that it fits the style of the other books in the Weaver Books series. So I studied the other books in the series and finally came up with the style the editor wanted. Phew! Thanks be to God too.

Moderator: That sounds really hard to do! Exactly how did you first get something published? Was it in the religious market?

Eileen: Yes, I first got published in the religious market. It was a true story about my best girlfriend's little son Andy. I sold the story to OUR LITTLE FRIEND, a 7th-Day Adventist publication who stated, in their writer's guidelines, that they use only true stories.

Granny Jannie: It seems that you lost your individuality when you published your first book. Is that true?

Eileen: Oh, I don't feel that that happened. I think that writers sometimes overrate the "imaginative" and "freedom of expression" parts of writing. If you're writing about a topic about which you are passionate and it takes that passion in order to last through many many revisions, you won't mind sticking to a certain publisher's style if it means you can write about your topic AND then have a lot of readers share that passion with you as they read your work.

Moderator: You've published four books. Do you promote them? If so, how?

Eileen: I promote the two Padre Pio books. I give bookmarks about the books to anyone who wants them. And I give presentations--slide shows--about him to anyone who wants me to do so.

AnneKelly: Do you also write for the secular market?

Eileen: Yes, I have written--and am now writing--for the secular market.

radiant: Did you already know the editor who asked you to change your first book?

Eileen: I didn't know her until I received her first letter back to me.

wendymh: Do you write for a specific time period each day or do you write so many words a day? I try to write 2-7 thousand words per day.

Eileen: No, I don't, but I think that's a great idea. I used to do that. Now that I'm writing a book on assignment, I don't count the hours, I just work on it every minute I can, including at night. I set deadlines for myself. For example, "Eileen, you will finish the outline in two days."

AnneKelly: Do you think your religious writing experience helped get your articles accepted in the non-religious market?

Eileen: Yes, because writing for religious markets is basically the same as writing for secular markets. They both demand your best.

Moderator: To what types of magazines should a new writer submit manuscripts in order to increase the chance of selling to those markets?

Eileen: Good question. Submit to magazines--and here's where you DEFINITELY need those writer's guidelines and sample copies--that publish weekly, or that publish a larger percentage of new and/or unpublished writers, like religious publications. Also, to find out who those markets are, check the editorial requirements in writer's market guides.

radiant: Where do you obtain the writer's guidelines and sample copies?

Eileen: That's easy. I mentioned Sally Stuart's guide, but there are lots of other market guides too. I'll mention some in a minute, but first let me tell you that what you'll find in those market guides are not only the names of publishers, but also their addresses. So you write a very short letter to the publishers you're interested in and say, "Please send me a copy of your writer's guidelines in the enclosed SASE." And they'll send them to you quickly, usually.

Moderator: Eileen, where do you yourself get ideas for your religious writing?

Eileen: I write mostly nonfiction. And I find my ideas in the people around me. The people at church, but also the people I read about in the paper. For example, there was a woman who saved a puppy's life in a remarkable way. Wouldn't that make a good story? Or a good idea for the basis of an article or interview?

wendymh: Do you have a really good filing and organizational system that you would like to share? I find ideas all over the place for different types of markets and articles. I am in different phases in each project. I end up with piles all over the place. I have a filing cabinet that I am starting to use because this is getting ridiculous.

Eileen: There is an unwritten rule for writers: "File, don't pile." I use boxes that I label. Those boxes I ordered from a company that sends them in hundreds at a time so they're cheap. I also recycle manila envelopes and use them to file.

Judi: Once you got your first publication, did you find it easier to get your foot in the door so to speak? I haven't yet been published and I'm not finished with the LRWG course. Getting close though. I'm sending in assignment 9 tomorrow.

Eileen: Yes, getting your foot in the door helps, but it's no guarantee. There really are no guarantees in the writing world. That's why I always advise blooming writers to keep their "nine to five" job.

Mom of 3: Do many religious markets want poetry?

Eileen: Yes, there are more than I once thought. I have right here a few online Web addresses you could check out in order to find poetry markets. Here they are: www.firstpublish.com and www.emilyv.com.

Moderator: At what point should a writer give up on her writing career dream and pursue another line of work?

Eileen: Never, unless she really believes it's not what she's supposed to do with her life. I like to run ideas past my husband and other people I consider wiser than myself and who have more common sense. If they guide me in a certain direction, I'll take it. I've gone in too many wrong directions. What a waste of time.

Moderator: Every writer dreams of quitting their "9-to-5" job and writing full-time. What about it?

Eileen: I know. I hear that a lot from new writers, but I can't, in good conscience, advise anyone to give up everything in order to write. Very few writers can make a living from writing.

Mom of 3: I know of at least five very successful writers who started out as secretaries, filing assistants, and message runners for another writer.

Eileen: Some writers have also started out by doing book reviews and writing interviews for their local newspaper and even getting singing or instrumental gigs, which are very creative things to do. It can stimulate your writing side and keep you going.

AnneKelly: Do you have another job besides writing?

Eileen: Yes, I teach adults how to write for children's markets. I work for ICL.

Moderator: Some writers recommend reading your work aloud before submitting. What do you think?

Eileen: Definitely do that. Also read it aloud to someone else in addition to yourself. By reading your work aloud your ear can hear what your eye might have missed. This can not only be errors, but also the wrong tone or wordiness or a plot that seems to get lost.

Moderator: Should writers always have someone else read their work before they submit it? Isn't that the editor's job to read and critique it?

Eileen: I like to have someone else read my work before I send it off. Usually I ask my husband, but I've also asked my dad who used to be a reporter and worked as an ad manager. You can ask just about anybody who has a good grasp of English and a sense of story.

SaraJ: Won't the editor read it and tell me what needs to be changed?

Eileen: Editors are awfully busy these days, and think about if you were an editor and every day you faced a huge stack of manuscripts writers had sent you unsolicited and you first read a manuscript that has lots of typos and other errors. And then you read a manuscript that doesn't have more than one error per page, and you know you won't have to spend a lot of time fixing it up, so you choose to publish the second manuscript.

SaraJ: I didn't mean the errors so much as plot problems and things like that.

Eileen: Those too. Editors these days expect you to do your homework by studying what they've already published recently and by studying their guidelines and by practicing and practicing and practicing.

Moderator: How can writers overcome writer's block? And do you ever have it?

Eileen: Sure. Sometimes I call it fatigue. It can take different forms. I overcome it by getting outside, spending time with friends, going to a good movie, reading a good book, relaxing with my husband. You can also overcome writer's block by spending some time browsing in the library or in a bookstore--even an online bookstore. Keep your pencil and paper ready because those ideas will start to flow and soon you won't remember you ever had writer's block.

Moderator: Eileen, you talked about your early rejections. How do/did you handle them?

Eileen: I must admit I hate rejections. I handle them by telling myself that tomorrow I won't feel so bad. I also handle them by sending the manuscript off as soon as possible to the next publisher. You can make a list of suitable publishers before you send your manuscript to the first one, and then if the manuscript comes back to you, you can get it right out into the mail the same day or the next. That keeps the hope alive in your heart.

Moderator: You've had one electronic book published. Do you recommend writers submit to online electronic publishers?

Eileen: Yes, I recommend that you try electronic publications. But there is one caution I would give you. Check carefully the publisher's guidelines to see if they require any upfront money or future money from their writers in order to publisher those writers. You want to avoid "subsidy" and "vanity" publishers. Those types of credentials don't mean much--if anything--to other publishers who are not subsidy or vanity. One electronic publisher that I recommend who doesn't charge writers anything, is Hard Shell Word Factory. They published my Christian romance, which will soon be offered via paperback as well as electronic. They're going to do the same with my Padre Pio book for the youngest readers. You can find other names of e-publishers by going to your favorite search engine and typing in "electronic publishers," and you'll get all kinds of names of e-publishers.

SaraJ: I am kind of dense, but what exactly is an electronic book? Do you download it and read it on one of those palm computers?

Eileen: Yes, an e-book is one you can get through downloads off the publisher's site, or you can order it in CD form or on diskette. Then you can read it with what they call an e-book reader. Those gadgets are still being perfected.

AnneKelly: Regarding electronic publications, do they buy rights such as First Rights the same as regular publications?

Eileen: Usually, e-publishers will give you a contract for a year or two which will be renegotiated at the end of that period. And often the e-publisher allows you to sell the book in paperback form to another publisher AT THE SAME TIME as long as you haven't signed the paper publishing options already to the e-publisher. Another benefit to e-publishers is that they can offer higher royalties to writers because the publisher avoids the high cost of traditional printing and so can pass the savings along to the author.

AnneKelly: Is it less expensive for the consumer to buy a book in electronic form?

Eileen: Usually it is. For example, the electronic form of my Christian romance is about $3 or $4 dollars, and I don't know what they'll charge for the paperback version, but you probably already know the price of most paperback romances.

AnneKelly: How about electronic articles? Does the process work the same way?

Eileen: To tell the truth, I don't know. But I think Kristi might. Kristi?

Moderator: Well, it's rare that you have to buy any gadgets to read articles online. Most are listed on the site to read when you visit. I don't recall having to download any articles or buy a reading device for articles. I have only had to download books, as far as I can recall. If you write articles for an online site, like our own sites, you're usually paid for the article, just as you would be if you were writing for a print magazine, and it's copyrighted on the site--but hard to protect. In your contract for online articles I would recommend having a limited time that the site is allowed to have your article posted. Try not to let your articles be listed in archives or you can't resell them, unless you don't mind about that. Some electronic rights are still clear as mud as publishers try to form and re-form policies.

AnneKelly: But when you sell the articles, do you sell the rights as you do to a print publication?

Moderator: For me anyway,I buy one-time rights or reprint rights, and my articles are just "up" to read for l2 weeks, then pulled. You just have to be careful that people don't illegally take your articles and post them on their own sites. It pays to put your own name in the search engines from time to time and see what turns up. I know several authors who did this and found pirated material of theirs posted illegally.

Granny Jannie: You specify paperback. Does that mean no hard cover book is permitted while under contract with an e-publisher?

Eileen: Let me see. As far as I know, the paperback and hard cover rights would probably come under the same item in the contract.

Moderator: We assume you get paid for online book publishing. How does that work?

Eileen: Yes, I do. It works the same way as in traditional publishing. You get paid a certain percentage--with Hard Shell Word Factory it's 30%--every four months, or every six months, just like traditional publishers.

Moderator: Do they pay you electronically too?

Eileen: No. They send you a paper check.

wendymh: Do you recommend that you stay involved with only one or two markets to write for? (Since you build up professional knowledge and skill in writing for a certain market and you build upon it by staying in this market?)

Eileen: If a few specific publishers want to continue to publish your work, I'd do it, if it didn't keep me from growing as a writer. But at the same time, I'd try to go with a new publisher too in order to widen my experiences and build my credentials.

Moderator: What types of writing sell the best to Christian magazines?

Eileen: Nonfiction. I know that nonfiction doesn't seem to have the freedom of expression that fiction does, but nonfiction is needed a lot more than fiction, and if you're really hungry to get published, I'd go for nonfiction if I were you. Personally I prefer to write nonfiction. I always get to learn something in the process, about my topic and about myself. Go for the fillers too. They are in great demand by most periodicals. For example, a good market for you to try to write for is Christian Ed. Publishers. They need puzzles, mazes, quizzes, hidden pictures, humor, plays and take-home projects.

Moderator: Is a catchy title important? Does it have to be religious? How would you go about creating one?

Eileen: Yes, a catchy title is essential, but it doesn't have to be religious. In fact, it might appeal to the young reader more if it doesn't hit him on the head with a "message" that he's going to get if he reads the piece.

Moderator: If you were writing a story, what would you say is the most important ingredient?

Eileen: The conflict. If a story doesn't give the main character a high enough level of conflict to struggle with throughout the story, who will want to keep reading it? And remember that your reader is identifying with your main character, and so your reader will want that main character to solve the conflict and/or experience character growth by the end of the story. And in that way, the READER will also become the hero. Hooray.

Moderator: You've published in newspapers too. If someone wanted to get published by writing for their local newspaper, what would you recommend they write?

Eileen: Interviews of local celebrities. This might be hard to believe, but there aren't enough writers willing to write interviews of local people, and local editors need those types of articles. If you also offer the editor a photo or two, that increases your chances of a sale.

SaraJ: Did you ever interview someone and write an inspirational piece? I'd like to do that, maybe a profile. Who buys profiles like this, do you know?

Eileen: Oh yes. I write regularly for a regional newspaper in Central PA, and I've written a couple of interviews for them which I later sold to another publication.

Granny Jannie: Is it easy for a layman to get an interview with a local celebrity or hero?

Eileen: Sure. Just sound friendly and like you know what you're doing. Write out a list of question before you contact the celeb.

wendymh: Is it best to explore all areas/topics/genres of writing to find out what works best for you before settling on a niche?

Eileen: I wouldn't try them all, but I'd sure want to try a few that interested me. It would be sad and discouraging to stick yourself in a niche that you didn't really enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, chances are your readers won't enjoy your writing.

SaraJ: Is it harder breaking into print today than when you started writing?

Eileen: Boy, that's a good question. I think it's always been "tough," but there have been times in publishing history that have been easier for writers to get published, but this would pertain to specific genres. For example, in the children's book market, for many years it was almost impossible to get a children's book published, but in recent years, things have been opening up for writers of children's books. It's a great time to write and to send your work out to publishers. If you have the desire, you can succeed. I remember what Veda Boyd Jones once told me (and she's sold more than a dozen books), "It's not as much a matter of talent [meaning the writing and publishing of books] as it is a matter of just plain hard work." And I'm sure you can work hard. So I'm equally sure that you can succeed.

Moderator: Eileen, if you could begin your career all over again TODAY, would you do anything differently?

Eileen: Yes, I'd tell myself "I can do it" more often, and I'd trust God. I think I spent too much time telling myself I wasn't good enough to succeed. I think if we each tell ourselves that we can do it, by God's grace, then we'll succeed.

Moderator: Yes! I'm sorry to interrupt here, but we're out of time already. Thank you so much, Eileen, for coming to share tonight! It's been delightful for me personally, and very helpful to our viewers.

Eileen: You're welcome. I enjoyed each and every person who chatted.

Moderator: Do come back in two weeks to hear Helen Chappell discuss "Writing Mystery Fiction." Columnist, award-winning reporter, and writer of books, Helen Chappell is the creator of the critically acclaimed Sam and Hollis mysteries. She's published over thirty-five books, including Giving Up the Ghost (Dell) and A Frightened Ghost. Come hear Helen discuss how to create captivating heroes (and villains!), plot a mystery, plant clues, and much more! And now, good night, everyone!

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