Mountain Valley Writers Conference – Speaker Highlight – William Thornton

The Mountain Valley Writers Conference will feature speakers and presentations that will help provide the tools to writers that are working in the industry or those writers that are seeking to build their own platform for writing success.

Speaker Highlight

William Thornton

William Thornton is the author of “Set Your Fields on Fire,” which won the 2015 Aspiring Author Contest with WestBow Press and the Parable Group. His comic Christian novel is distributed by HarperCollins. He is a native of Gadsden, Alabama and an award-winning reporter with the Alabama Media Group and He has been in journalism for 28 years, with his work appearing in The Birmingham News, The Huntsville Times, the (Mobile) Press-Register, The Tuscaloosa News and The Gadsden Times, along with national publications. His previous novels are “Brilliant Disguises” and “The Uncanny Valley.”
He lives in Southside, Alabama with his wife Donna and daughter Sophie.

He writes on classic and contemporary literature, music, movies and pop culture.

Here’s a link to the first chapter of “Set Your Fields on Fire.”

Here’s a link to the book on Amazon.

William will be joining the Mountain Valley Writers Conference as a session leader. He has been learning the ropes of self-promotion and will share all his secrets and special tips for how to market your book without losing all your friends.

Learning Self-Promotion (without Ending up Friendless): You’ve written a book! (or you want to write a book! Or maybe not?) You mean to change the world, one blessed word at a time! But yet, how will they know? You hear about social media, but you’re not at all sure about this whole thing. Does it involve words? Then again, you like the Interwebs, but how much is too much? How can I break the cycle of cat videos, political memes, and get them reading? And what about other media? Does anyone care? Make them!

More about the Speaker

Favorite book: It changes periodically, but always seems to swing back to “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Proves a great book doesn’t have to be long to be important, can be funny but serious, can be lyrical and still tell a story.

Favorite quote: E.L. Doctorow on writing: “It’s like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

One thing to know: It was working as a reporter that convinced Bill he could write a novel. A reporter on a beat can easily turn out two pages a day. Keep that pace up for three months, and you’ve got the first draft of a book.

Fun fact: Because Bill made (what he thought was) an innocuous comment about a 40-year-old movie, the actor William Shatner blocked him on Twitter.

Where to Connect with the Speaker

Website: Brilliant Disguises

Twitter: @billineastala

Facebook: william.thornton.56

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Mountain Valley Writers Conference – Speaker Spotlight – Natalie Cone

Writers Conference Speaker Highlight

Natalie Cone

Natalie Cone is the wife of a handyman, the mother of two boys, a nature enthusiast, and a professional writer from Birmingham, Alabama. If she’s not blogging about the mishaps of motherhood or pecking away at her first fiction novel, she can be found in a field of flowers at springtime.

Natalie is the winner of both the 2013 AND the 2015 SELTI Short Story Contests. Her ability to capture the heart of a location allows her to create strong tourism fiction that is more than just a story in a place.

She will be sharing her expertise on how to turn the focus of a location into an income at the 2017 Mountain Valley Writers Conference.

Tourism Fiction

    -All about SELTI
    -Why tourism fiction is challenging
    -Why tourism fiction is fun
    -Featuring an area’s highlights, both popular and lesser known
    -Writing authentically about an area you’ve never been
    -Creating authentic characters that will best allow the reader to experience the area through their eyes

More about the Speaker

My favorite book is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I was first introduced to the story through the film adaptation in 1993, also titled The Secret Garden. It sparked my obsession with skeleton keys and finding secret doors and hidden passages. It’s a story that marked my childhood and inspired the most magical pretend play with my little sister.
Favorite Quote: “Don’t fight it. Write it.” – Kris Cone (my husband). I repeat this in my head every time I am overthinking an aspect of my writing or am overwhelmed by my inner critic

Where to Connect with the Speaker



Twitter @nataliecone

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Mitzi Eaker at the Mountain Valley Writers Conference

Welcome to the Mountain Valley Writers Conference Speaker list for March 2017. This writing conference focuses on working writers and writers who want to work. Each speaker has been chosen because of a passion to help others find the way that will work for them.

Speaker Highlight

Mitzi Eaker

Mitzi Eaker is the Chief Creative Officer for Mitzi Jane Media. For the past 5 years, Mitzi has assisted organizations and businesses with marketing strategy, project management and digital media training. She has worked with a variety of clients from small businesses owners to community action groups to church ministries.

Mitzi’s passion is in helping women creatives and entrepreneurs create sustainable businesses through Mastermind groups, coaching and courses. These online tools give women the individual and group support they need to create and customize their business and marketing plans to fit their lifestyle and resources.

Mitzi’s 20 year background in ministry, publishing and digital marketing gives her a unique perspective and network that she brings to her clients and courses. However, her greatest accomplishment, success has yet to be determined, is her family, husband Shane and two boys Evan and Isaac.

She is the Author of Missions Moments: Foundational Messages and Activities for Children and Missions Moments 2: 52 Easy-to-Use Missional Messages and Activities for Today’s Family. Her family is currently working on a family road-trip and camping guide.

Mitzi will be joining the Mountain Valley Writers Conference as a workshop leader. Her session will help you develop a digital plan to move you forward in your writing success.

    Learn the 5 steps to creating a simple and successful marketing plan.
    Create and take home your customer persona for your target market.
    Clarify and define your brand image.

More about the Speaker

Favorite book: Redeeming Love, Francine Rivers – It beautifully and emotionally tells the story of forgiveness and grace.

Favorite quote: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” Antoine de SaintExupery, People can do so much more when the motivation comes from a vision from within that is encouraged and supported from others.

One thing you want people to know about you: I love helping women use their gifts and talents to provide for their families and fulfill their purpose.

Fun fact My favorite place in the world is on a ski boat soaring across beautiful Weiss Lake with the wind on my face and my family by my side. Heaven on earth.

Where to Connect with the Speaker


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Join Gary Gabelhouse at the Mountain Valley Writers Conference

Speaker Highlight

Gary Gabelhouse

Gary Gabelhouse is a former military contractor, Methodist pastor, and honorary Shingon Buddhist priest. He was a direct student of the Maharishi Mahesh yogi and was also personally initiated into Buddhist Tantric practice by the 14th Dalai Lama.

He has studied religious ceremony on six of the seven continents, is a member of the Explorer’s Club (nominated by Sir Edmund Hillary) and had an interest in Christian sanctification as it correlates to Eastern religions while in seminary.

The works that he has pinned include seven novels (the second novel is being adapted into a feature film – REBORN) and a graphic novel. He has also produced an audio book.

As the CEO of a marketing-consulting firm, he has been involved in the launches of many entertainment and media products including Fox TV Network, Play Station, and X-Box.

You can find out more about Gary, his writings, and his journeys by visiting

Gary will be leading a workshop on marketing. “Marketing 101 Primer” will help attendees lay out a marketing plan and help authors understand what they can expect and what is expected of them.

More about the Speaker

My favorite book is not a book but a series – Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien is simply a wizard, himself. He created, and continues to create, an entire world that is open to those who read his work.
A favorite quote is this: “The principal difference between an adventurer and a suicide is that the adventurer leaves himself a margin of escape (the narrower the margin the greater the adventure), a margin whose width and length may be determined by unknown factors but whose navigation is determined by the measure of the adventurer’s nerve and wits. It is exhilarating to live by one’s nerves or toward the summit of one’s wits.” – Tom Robbins, Another Roadside Attraction
Interesting Fact: Gary holds advanced Dan ranking in Goju Ryu Karate and Daitoryu. His pilgrimages to the Shingon Buddist monasteries of Koyasan, Japan, and his initiation into Tibetan Buddhis Tantric practice, keep him in touch with the esoteric practices he writes about.

Where to Connect with the Speaker


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Make Money Writing by Finding Your Writing Focus

The ways to make money writing can be as diverse as the people wanting to make money writing. Grant proposals require creative (and technical) writing skills. Corporations need words for their correspondence, press releases, and advertisements. Websites need content to create their sites and to maintain them.

These areas only scratch the surface for how you can make money writing. The only limits are your personal interests, your determination, and your imagination. If you can imagine an avenue for income production then there are ways to make that avenue begin working for you.

The presentations at the Mountain Valley Writers Conference are not just about how to write better, but are focused on finding paths to take your skills and your abilities and produce a living wage. It starts with a foundation of relationships and then provides the fuel for ingenuity and possibility.

You can IF you will!

What Can You Write to Build a Living Wage

    1. Start out making a list of things that you do or have done while employed at a job. Include the list of responsibilities in your job description and those that were expected of you even though they were not listed.

    2. Add to that list any topics that you learned through your education. This list should cover the on the job training you may have received, classes that you have taken (either for your diploma or as continuing education) or any specialty activities or events where you have experience.

    3. Now move on to those things that you enjoy doing in your spare time. You should include any hobbies or favorite activities that you did in your past. As long as it is legal and preferably moral then add it to your list.

    4. Include a list of special gifts or talents you may have or others may have expressed that they see in you. Include those things that people enjoy you doing for them – like cooking or that you do better than others – like organizing.

    5. The final addition to the list will be those things that you have always wanted to do but have not had the finances or opportunity. Be as specific as possible and do not limit your list to things that you can still do or expect to do. Let your imagination run free.

The list you have created probably covers a wide range of topics. Review the list for a moment. See if you can find any common topics or areas in these lists. The lists that intersect represent the areas where you have the strongest foundation. Other items on your list stand for the topics you could cover with a little extra research.

Review the list for a moment. See if you can find any common topics or areas in these lists. The lists that intersect represent the areas where you have the strongest foundation. Other items on your list stand for the topics you could cover with a little extra research.

The great thing about writing is that your next article or idea is often only as strong as your ability to research the topic. That means that although the lists you create represent some topics that you could already write about with some authority, there is no limit to what you could learn and then share.

Do you have your tickets yet?

The Mountain Valley Writers Conference will be an exclusive event to allow attendees the opportunity to engage other as well as the speakers and presenters. Get your tickets HERE!

Writing Conference Expectations

Mountain Valley Writers

The first time I attended a writing conference I fully expected to be tracked down and tackled by a publisher and forced to sign a gimongous contract because the publisher could not live without manuscript.

Although I learned amazing tips and met even more extraordinary people, I confess that my expectations were not met. I also confess that even though I have learned to set more appropriate (focused and specific) expectations when I am about to attend a conference – of any type – I still harbor that deep dream that I will be tackled by a publisher at one of these writing conferences.

We always need to keep dreaming!

A few years back I worked with a business coach as I prepared to invest in my biggest event to-date. He challenged me to write down why I was participating in the event, what I wanted to get out of the event, and how I would measure the return of my investment in the event.

Since that time, I have used the same questions to count the cost of every event that I attend. Even if the event is free, my time and my transportation are a cost. I have to determine if that investment will make a difference in my journey.

Preparing for the Mountain Valley Writers Conference

1. Why are you participating in the event? Something in your own journey on in some of the information that has been shared caught your eye. It made you want to learn more or know more. What is that something?

2. What do you want from the conference? #MVWC will be offering valuable information for those that are working at writing already and those that want to be working as writers. We will also be focused on building and growing relationships – because it is ALL about relationships. *link* No matter what is on the agenda, you have an expectation. What is your expectation for what you will walk away with when you leave the conference at the end of the weekend?

3. How will you measure the success of the event? You will have to make an investment – not just financially but in your time (and time is one of those resources you will not be able to grow more of) so you need to determine what elements you need to justify your investments.

Sitting down and getting these understandings in place before I attend a conference makes it easier for me to enjoy the conference. I know what elements I need to be pursuing to make the ends justify the means. I have a check list (or at least a guideline) of what I want to see in and from the experience.

Taking the time to judge the journey before pulling out into traffic can keep me moving forward and on target.

Are you ready for the Mountain Valley Writers Conference?

Click HERE to register now.

Growing Relationships at the Mountain Valley Writers Conference

It is ALL about relationships.

One of the priorities we had when planning the Mountain Valley Writers Conference focused on relationships. We wanted attendees and presenters to have time to meet and greet – not just passing each other in the hall on the way to the next session. It was important to plan the event so there would be time to engage.

This desire to foster engagement is one of the reasons we have limited the tickets. There will be one presenter for every 5 attendees.

Engagement is empowering!

In August, I had the chance to sit down with a group of authors for dinner after an author event. We shared ideas. We shared struggles. We offered support. And we had a great time together.

I walked away from that time feeling like I had accomplished more and connected more than I had at most of the conferences I had attended.

It gave me an idea. Why not dedicate a portion of the conference to this same kind of engagement.

We decided to try something new – or at least new to us since we had never attended conferences that offered this particular element. *note* The very first workshop I helped put on included this very element.

Table Talks

After dinner on Thursday and lunch on Friday we will engage in some table talk discussions. The speakers and presenters will answer questions at the table they are sitting and then they will all shift to another table. This will give ALL attendees an opportunity to meet the speakers and presenters and also provide ample time to connect with each other.

For those of you who are staying at the Lodge, there is a great place to sit and visit in the lounge just one level below the main ballroom.

Photo from the Lake Guntersville State Park website

The Mountain Valley Writers Conference is for working writers and writers that want to work – but it is first and foremost about relationships.

Have you gotten your ticket yet? Learn more about the conference here.

Click HERE to register now.

I’ll be looking for you – Kathryn

10 Minute Novelist – Katharine Grubb – at the Mountain Valley Writers Conference

Welcome to the Mountain Valley Writers Conference Speaker list for March 2017. This writers conference focuses on working writers and writers who want to work. Each speaker has been chosen because of a passion to help others find the way that will work for them.

Speaker Highlight

Katharine Grubb

Katharine Grubb is a homeschooling mother of five, a novelist, a baker of bread, a comedian wannabe, a former running coward, and the author of “Write a Novel in 10 Minutes a Day”. Besides pursuing her own fiction and nonfiction writing dreams, she also leads 10 Minute Novelist on Facebook – an international group for time-crunched writers that focuses on tips, encouragement, and community.

10 Minute Novelists
was named by Writer’s Digest as a Top 101 Sites for Writers.

Katharine blogs at She and her family live in Massachusetts. Her next book is “When the Timer Dings: Time Management Strategies for the 10 Minute Novelist”.

Katharine will be joining the Mountain Valley Writers Conference as a session leader. She will be sharing her thoughts on how she has built up her online following and how you can make social media work for you.

More about the Speaker

My favorite book is Pride And Prejudice by Jane Austen. I know it’s not an original choice, but it really is my favorite.
A favorite quote is this: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” Robert Frost.
I want people to know about me is that I’m pretty ordinary and I almost exclusively shop at thrift stores.
Random fun fact: I bake my own bread, five loaves at a time, at least once a week.

Where to Connect with the Speaker

Pinterest: @10minutenovelis
Twitter: @10minNovelist
Instagram: 10minutenovelists
Links: 10 Minute Novelists Facebook Group

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Tourism Fiction Offers a New Niche for Writers

Visit the SouthEastern Literary Initiative to learn more about tourism fiction and to partner to create your own SELTI contest

Tourism fiction uses the creative license of the fiction writer to help promote a location, region, or event. It tells a story that drives people to be interested in a setting so that through the story the write helps to boost the economy through an increase in tourism.

Tourism fiction combines the artistry of the writer with the community and gives a boost to both for the effort.

Elements of Tourism Fiction

The region, event or activity becomes a character in the book.

The descriptions in the story foster a desire for the reader to learn more about that character.

The stories include links, maps or other elements that can help direct readers to these “characters” or to the sites that inspired them.

Tips for Tourism Fiction

1. Bring the scene to life – best opportunity for show, don’t tell

The wind blew the soft sounds of the flute across the plain. The simple tune soothed my heart. From the distance, I noticed the warrior. He was dressed in his full regalia and I heard his chant join the breeze. As he drew closer, I could make out the words and was shocked that I recognized them.

“Shot through the heart, and you’re to blame. You give love a bad name.”

2. Limit the tourism aspect. Including too many locations or too many focuses can take the story from fiction into travel. The location should be more of a character than a scene. If you don’t need it to carry then story forward then consider using it at another time or just releasing it.

3. Give a link – include information to find the location in real life. You can embed the link into your PDF (it really is NOT as hard as it sounds) or just include a link at the end of your story that provides the reader with the option to discover more.

4. Connect with the community – let leaders and others in the area know that you are writing about the area. Send them copies of the stories, excerpts from the book and be sure to ask permission for including links.

Creating a Tourism Fiction Contest for Your Area

– Connect with others. The more groups, organizations or associations that are involved with the contest then the more everyone will benefit from the contest.

– Choose the focus. Tourism fiction contests work best if one location is the focus of that competition.

– Set the prizes. Writers want to know what will be the benefit of participating. Offer publicity opportunities, scholarships to writing conferences, awards or other enticements that will help to increase the number of participants.

– Announce the contest. People can only enter if they know there is a contest going on. Use the tools of the internet – Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media – and also traditional markets – newspaper, radio, and television.

– Schedule the award ceremony. The bigger the better. Combine the award with the event that was featured in the contest.

Tourism fiction can provide writers with a new avenue to share their words. It allows areas to reap the benefits of the tourism. Tourism fiction can be a great way for writers and the community to come together to help boost the economy.

Learn more about tourism fiction by visiting SELTI website. You can read some excerpts from novels and read the first winner of a tourism fiction short story contest.

Secrets for Building a Writing Career

Okay – so there is no secret to building a successful writing career. There are steps that you can take to help make success possible in your writing journey. But, in the end, you will have to invest the time and resources to build the writing career that you desire.

Top Secret Steps for Building a Writing Career

    1. You have to write. It may seem silly, but there are people out there that want to write one article or novel and make a million dollars or land a full-time gig. It might be possible, but it is highly unlikely. The more you write, the more you will master the art of words. The more you master the art, the more opportunities will open up for your journey to a writing career.

    2. Know your audience – Learn to understand your CORE audience – that center niche. Once you know the core then you can expand the reach out to other connected niches and even beyond.

    3. Show your writing. Give it to someone who will be honest about what you should do. Having a writing mentor online is great. There is a certain anonymity to the internet that makes honesty easier. Just keep in mind that you will never build a successful writing career with words locked up in a desk drawer. You have to be willing to bare it all – and not be injured by the hits that WILL come – if you want the chance at success.

    4. Believe in your work – have the confidence in the words you put down. I need to be willing to share my words because I know my words will impact lives of others. That confidence will push me past the fear of rejection.

    5. Go job hunting. Decide what you will and will not write and then find the jobs you are willing to do. Value your work, though. Think outside the normal boxes. Look for new publications in your community and then contact the editors to offer your services. Already have a pay scale in mind, but be willing to negotiate to some degree. The jobs are available, but you have to make finding the jobs part of your job plan.

    6. Stretch yourself. All the veteran writers that I have spoken with say that writing outside your genre is critical. If you write novels then submit some article ideas. I would expand that and recommend that you write outside your knowledge zone. If you write about family issues then write some animal articles. The internet provides you with the ability to research any subject. You may even want to find ways that you can blend the new materials into your original niche market so that you can develop two articles for the investment of one.

    7. Make it a business. Treat your writing like any other job. Set aside a certain number of hours to write and put in your hours. Make a schedule of what you need to do and when it needs to be done and then get it done ahead of time. If you want to be a serious writer – one that makes a living with words – then you have to take your writing seriously.

Becoming a professional (i.e. paid) writer is just like anything else out there. It takes time, effort, practice and patience. Find your niche in the industry and then go for it. Building a successful writing career happens one step at a time – but you have to start stepping to reach that goal.