Serene September Writer’s Get-away

Black woman writer at cafe
Woman writer at cafe

Do you love writing? Do you want to write a book? Joseph Epstein, essayist short story writer, and editor, said at the beginning of the new millennium that 81% of people want to write a book and that statistic likely still holds true! It’s time to write YOUR book!

I started a new, part-time job outside the home this year, so I’ve been extra busy and blogging hasn’t made the top of the to-do list.

But I decided this weekend to just sit down and blog, and wanted to share about my Serene September Writers’ Get-away I hosted and spoke at in fall 2018. Four Christian women writers attended, and it was so fun that we want to do it again this year!

Bethany House
Bethany House

The venue for this writers’ retreat was at the Bethany House in Butler, Missouri. It’s about an hour south of Kansas City, MO. This is a beautiful, fully-furnished house with three bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms in a quiet neighborhood, that has been completely remodeled inside and out.

It is a relaxing, quiet place to pray, refill, and be refreshed. The women and I love it!

Outside porch with rockers
Outside porch with rockers

You can sit outside in a big rocker on the wrap-around porch, make some popcorn and  enjoy a chick flick on TV in the living room, watch the birds with your coffee in the morning in the sunroom, or sleep in late in the master bedroom, queen bedroom, or upstairs bedroom decorated in a children’s theme, which is where I prefer to stay because it’s so cute and comfortable!

Living room to watch a good chick flick!
Living room to watch a good chick flick!

Master bedroom

Queen bedroom

Sunroom

The sunroom is my favorite room. I love sitting in there in the morning, drinking my coffee, journaling, and watching the birds. The sun comes streaming in through the windows.

coffee in Bethany House cup
coffee in Bethany House cup

 

Windchime in sunroom
Windchime in sunroom

 

Stenciling in sunroom
Stenciling in sunroom

It is so peaceful. I’ve stayed at the Bethany House several times overnight just to be alone, think about my life, and pray. The owner of Bethany House has pretty decor like this candle and angel below to set a tone of serenity and prayer for the house’s atmosphere.

candle and angel
candle and angel

I love buying gifts for people and bought the ladies attending a gift bag, each in different colors. I included goodies like a journal (to jumpstart their writing!), Sharpie ultra-fine, black pens, sticky notes, hand lotion, a little bag of tissues with sayings on them like “Seize this moment” and “Find your fearless,” chewing gum, and a Dove chocolate bar. They loved them.

Goodies for ladies’ gift bags
Facial mask, chapstick, and chocolates

My books in gift bags, How To Write Your Book Fast: Making Your Writing Dreams Come True, and 
Walking With God (a book on prayer)
Journal & Kleenex with encouraging captions

I used my book, How To Write Your Book Fast: Making Your Writing Dreams Come True, as the primary resource for this writers’ retreat.

How To Write Your Book Fast: Making Your Writing Dreams Come True
Cover art: Copyright 2016 Beth Jones

I used my daughter Leah’s violin music stand to set my teaching notes on and we used used the formal dining room as our classroom and to eat. Both worked perfectly!

Me teaching at writers’ retreat
Writers who attended the retreat at the dining room table, where I taught the retreat.
Here we are eating the salad lunch on Saturday.
Four women attended the retreat: Krista, Liz, Missy, and Simmie. Liz and Simmie are local author friends. I am friends with Krista and Missy on Facebook, and really enjoyed meeting them.
 I’m so glad they all came!


On Friday evening, I taught the first session of the retreat. Then we went out to eat supper at the local Mexican restaurant, El Charro–fun! When we came out of the restaurant, we saw a beautiful night sky!

Afterward, the ladies made popcorn and enjoyed the chocolates I’d brought them for the weekend, and stayed up watching chick flicks in the living room and talking. I think this set the right tone!

We enjoyed chips and salsa (my addiction!) and Mexican for supper the first night of the writers’ retreat at the local El Charro restaurant.


Beautiful night sky

The next morning, I fixed the ladies breakfast (scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, yogurt, coffee). They were free to sleep in as long as they wanted! 

Two of the ladies have a house full of kids, so they really needed this time of R & R!

The house has all the amenities of a nice hotel–including little shampoos and other toiletries and soft, white robes!

Breakfast on Saturday morning
Fresh fruit: Strawberries and blueberries
Simmie and I enjoyed fresh peaches!
The ladies at breakfast Saturday morning

One of the attendees, my friend Liz, generously brought bagels from Einstein Brothers in Overland Park, Kansas, as she and her friend Simmie drove together to the retreat. She bought a variety, but one unique kind is their bagel with red onion, tomatoes, capers, and cold-smoked Nova Lox salmon. Delicious!

Yummy bagels that Liz brought from Einstein Brothers


One of the attendees, Missy, and I talked prior to the retreat and I asked her to share a devotional on Saturday morning in the sunroom after breakfast. It was so good and she did a great job! 

Missy, one of the attendees, sharing the Saturday morning devotional

I had never met Missy in person or heard her speak before, but I am led by the Holy Spirit and my gut. Neither have ever led me wrong! 

I’m so glad that Missy shared! It was anointed by God!

Missy sharing the devotional in the sunroom and Simmie

I taught several hour-long sessions during the weekend retreat, but I also gave the ladies some needed free time to be alone to pray, think, write, or to talk with each other. On Friday and Saturday night I went home to sleep, since I live right here in town and that gave the ladies more privacy.

The beautiful ladies at the Serene September Writers’ Get-away:
Krista, Liz, Missy, and Simmie

The sessions included these topics: Why do you write, Getting Started, Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing, Writing Tips, and Resources that I use each time I write a book (I’ve written 17 and am about to write my next one. You can find out more about my books at my Amazon Author Page at http://www.amazon.com/author/bethmjones.

This retreat was intense with a lot of information for beginner writers, but we also took time out for FUN! That weekend was near my birthday (September 20) and Liz’s was that weekend (September 23) , so we decided to celebrate both of ours that weekend.

I brought cupcakes and Liz and I gave each other a gift. I loved the Paparazzi earrings and necklace that Liz got me! They have such cute jewelry for just $5! The ladies sang happy birthday, too!

My pretty floral gift bag from Liz
The pretty flower Paparazzi earrings that Liz got me

I felt led by God to also offer Holy Communion at the writers’ retreat. This may sound unusual, but I desire to put God first with everything I do. He is the one who has given us this gift of writing, and I feel it is important to dedicate the writing of our books, blogs, and everything we pen to Him, for Jesus’ glory.

Communion at writers’ retreat

I ended the retreat by answering any questions they had about writing. I encouraged them that I’d be first in line to buy their books!

One of the ladies, Missy, emailed me this after the retreat: “We leave for vacation in Angel Fire, NM for the next six days and I have plans to write and take photos for my book project (an inspirational “coffee table” type book about all that I have learned “In the Valley” of this year) while I am there!  I can’t wait to just start!”

Another lady who attended, my friend Liz, has written an exciting adventure novel and a devotional book on the Lord’s rest, both which she plans to publish soon. I’m so excited for her!

Before the retreat, I also prayed for God to give me a Scripture and a song for each lady there. We concluded the retreat by praying for one another. This was one of the most powerful parts of the retreat, where the ladies and I received prophetic words for each other. We were all ministered to and cried! God is so good!

Krista praying for Missy
Missy praying for Simmie

Krista praying for Simmie
Liz praying for Krista
Simmie praying for Liz
Liz sharing song with Missy from her phone
Anointing oil and candle from Israel, decorative mirror & hearts

I brought a few visual aids to the retreat for the teaching times, such as my Cinderella glass slippers (this is my signature speech) and the Curious George monkey that was a gift to me years ago when I attended renown speaker Florence Littauer’s CLASServices speaker/writer retreat. She said always be curious!

Curious George that Florence Littauer gave me and other speakers at CLASS retreat for speakers & writers. Always be curious!

For my birthday, my family gave me some fresh beautiful red roses and sunflowers, which are my favorite kinds of flowers. They made such a gorgeous centerpiece in the sunroom! 

The ladies loved looking at them all weekend!

Beautiful sunflowers and roses that was my birthday gift from my family. It made a great centerpiece in the sunroom!

If you’d like me to speak at your women’s conference, retreat, or event sharing my powerful testimony or about writing your book, I’d love to come encourage you and your friends. You can contact me here at my website.

One of the ladies at the retreat, Missy, gave this testimonial:

“Thank you for all of your planning and prayer and preparation for the amazing retreat this weekend. Your passion for encouraging women to find and follow God’s calling to WRITE is simply contagious. Your willingness to be transparent, genuine and compassionate toward each of us was a blessing. Every detail was covered, everything we could possibly have needed was provided for, and every question we had was answered. You went above and beyond to ensure that we were thoroughly blessed, carefree and able to remain focused on what God was speaking to our hearts this weekend. Saying “Thank you” doesn’t seem like enough!  I have buried this dream for long enough. Because of this weekend, I am moving forward with three projects immediately, and I came home with a list of up to 20 additional writing projects to work on in the future. How amazing is that!”

Liz shared her experience about this retreat: “Beth had a great writing retreat in a lovely retreat center. She paid attention to a lot of little details, which added to our experience and had some great teaching time which was helpful.  I personally needed more time to write. But I ran into some personal snags which kept me from writing. The rooms were great and the food was great, too! Loved it!”

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I got the proof!

I’m SO excited! Today I got the proof!

The proof print, physical book, that is…for my newest book on marriage, Stained Glass & Marriage: Reflections of Light & Hope by an Imperfect Wife. 

This is the 12th book I’ve written and this time I’m testing Create Space as the POD (print on demand) printer to self-publish my book. I wanted to make sure their books don’t have inferior quality to the company I’ve been using.

Stained Glass & Marriage book

So what’s the verdict?

The book’s glossy cover of the stained glass window is beautiful, just like I thought it would be. If you’re choosing between a matte finish and glossy, I’d encourage you to get the glossy. It looks and feels so much prettier and smoother. I love the cover!

However, some authors (or their readers) prefer the matte finish. There’s actually quite a bit of controversy over matte vs. glossy. Some people think glossy screams “self-published.”

buy my book

I disagree and I LOVE the glossy cover. It’s in your court; you decide what you and your readers like best. I’ve always lived by this maxim: IT’S YOUR BOOK. Why write and publish a book that you don’t even LIKE? 

man with caption

As far as the interior quality of the book (the pages, margins, text, pictures, etc.), I think the ink seems a little faded on the words in the text. It’s not as dark black as I’d like it to be. But it’s acceptable and it’s not going to stop me from using Create Space from now on.

The formatting inside the book is fine, which was one of my concerns. You want to make sure the formatting looks professional in both your print books and your eBooks.

If this is not your area of expertise (and it’s not mine), then I highly recommend you OUTSOURCE the formatting.

Keep in mind formatting for a print book is very different than for eBooks. Also, formatting for the Kindle is different than for the Nook at Barnes and Noble. You can find out more here.

When I was first starting as a writer, I didn’t have one of my books professionally formatted inside, and you can really tell a difference! (It didn’t look professional. I won’t tell you which book, though!)

Live and learn! Now I’m sure to hire professionals with each book I write and publish. I focus on my areas of strength and anointing from God: speaking and writing, and I outsource the rest!

woman on laptop

PUBLISHING TIP: Hire a professional formatter, editor, and graphic designer if you self-publish! You want your book to look as professional as possible.

A poorly written, formatted, designed eBook or book can get bad reviews and/or much less sales. 

Also as Christian believers, we want all we do to be done with excellence, because we are representatives of Christ.

I hired a formatter at Fiverr to format it specifically for print at Create Space, and a graphic designer at Fiverr to design the front cover, spine, and back cover specifically for Create Space. 

Some book snobs would sneer at me using Create Space and Fiverr. They compare Create Space to be the “Walmart” or “Dollar Store” of POD companies. But since this is saving my husband Ray hundreds of dollars, he’s not sneering at all.

Do I prefer to use my previous graphic designer, formatter, editor, and POD? YES! I love them and I want to use their wonderful, excellent services! But this time I’m going a different route…and this way will make a dream I’ve had for three years now come true.

dream big

If this printed book had looked absolutely horrible and unprofessional, I wouldn’t do it. You just have to make sure you have the right people helping you at Fiverr! Hire people with high ratings and reviews!

Research all you can about Create Space. Talk to your author friends who have used them before. Ask questions. Create Space also has great customer service. They were very helpful and fast when I emailed them.

I’m VERY excited about this, as now it will be more financially feasible for me to get all 12 of the books I’ve written in PRINT–physical copies of my books that I can HOLD in my hands (like a baby!) and sell on the back table when I speak!

Jesus at wedding picture

After I wrote this book on marriage, at Amazon I saw a stained glass picture of Jesus doing the miracle at the wedding in Cana, turning water into wine, and ordered it. It arrived today, when my marriage book arrived. I didn’t think that was a coincidence, but very significant–like a confirming sign, a little nod, from God about this book and His purposes for it. 

The picture is beautiful, although it’s much smaller than I thought it was. I believe it is a prophetic picture for my own marriage, that God is going to do a miracle of healing and restoration for us.

Stained Glass & Marriage cover

You can read the story about Ray’s and my very painful, almost 23-year marriage in the eBook for your Kindle at Amazon, Stained Glass & Marriage: Reflections of Light & Hope by an Imperfect Wife, by clicking here

I’m going to hang the picture in our dining room. Today I’ve been doing the happy dance because now I can pursue a dream I’ve had for three years: getting all 12 of my books in print, physical books. Yay!

I’m working on proofing the print book, finishing the process at Create Space this week, and then I will let you know when it’s available for sale. FacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The land of mastering

This week I’ve been attending Chandler Bolt’s online Self Publishing Success Summit, with 37 speakers on the topics of writing, marketing, and publishing your book. It has been excellent training, and I’m learning so much. I have only been able to catch a few of the replays, but the ones I’ve watched are so inspiring.

Some takeaways I’ve had with self-publishing your book/eBook on Kindle for Amazon (some of these I already knew):

  • Know your audience and what they really want-you can find this out by asking your subscribers in your ezine, through a survey, or by studying Facebook analytics;
  • Offer value, such as a permafree ebook or your reader lead (freebie at your website in exchange for their name and email address) and valuable content with your ezine;
  • Create a series on Amazon, because series do great and Amazon begins promoting them for you if the book does well;
  • What are your competitors offering on Amazon and at what price;
  • Make all you do align with your mission;
  • Have a specific, laid out marketing plan;
  • Get beta readers for reviews before your book launches (reviews and endorsements from influencers are great);
  • Think outside the box and offer something unique;
  • Create Facebook targeted ads (even $5 a day ads) to get the word out and to build your subscriber list;
  • Repurpose your content into videos, podcasts, webinars, teleseminars, self-study courses-think beyond the book (It’s a business, not a book!);
  • Make your larger eBook into smaller Kindle eBooks;
  • Love what you do;
  • and much more.

I believe that we should be life-long learners, learning something new every day. I personally find learning FUN. Some of the guests that Chandler has interviewed have included speakers/authors/entrepreneurs I already follow, such as Best Selling Author Jeff Goins, Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn (I don’t read her fiction books, but she has a lot of wisdom about being a successful author), and Entrepreneur on Fire podcaster John Lee Dumas.

Storm Tossed ecover Copyright 2015 Beth Jones www.BethJones.net
Storm Tossed ecover
Copyright 2015 Beth Jones www.BethJones.net

The summit is timely, as I just released my first ever fiction book, Storm Tossed, which became an Amazon Best Seller the first day in its category and sub-categories. I’ve been surprised and so encouraged to see 5-star and 4-star reviews about it. You can check it out for your Kindle at Amazon here.  The price right now is just $2.99.

Our daughter Leah and I are reading a great book right now called Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters by Jon Acuff. In today’s reading, Jon shares about starting out his public speaking career by speaking to only 12 people at a rehab center (not, as Jon says, the place someone typically aspires to speak at, to those who are in one of the worst seasons of their lives, and having to speak for free), and by joining finance whiz Dave Ramsey‘s team versus being on his own.

Why did he speak at the rehab center? Why does he want to learn from Dave Ramsey?

“Because I want to be led. I want to learn from a master. I want to admit time and time again, “I don’t know the best way to do this. Will you teach me?”

Jon encourages you and me: “Be led. Be taught. Remain a learner.”

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I desire for God to lead me in this exciting, and unpredictable and challenging, journey called life. I want Jesus and other smart, successful people to teach me what I need to know. I want to learn new things. 

What about you? What are you learning lately? Leave your comments below.

 

 

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