2024 Learning Labs

Start your conference learning experience
with an in-depth two-hour Learning Lab!
Wednesday 2:30-4:30 Eastern (ET)


You have NINE to choose from,
but remember, you have until December 31, 2024,
to view the replays at no additional cost!


LL 1— A Working Writer

Twila Belk

The Gotta Tell Somebody Gal & The Writer’s Champion
Gotta Tell Somebody, Inc.
Author, Editor, Speaker 


Twila Belk is a writer, speaker, encourager, editor, and champion for writers. She has authored eight books (including the bestselling Raindrops from Heaven and The Power to Be) and contributed to many others, as well as written numerous articles and promotional materials. 

Since 2007, she has worked closely with veteran author Cecil Murphey as his executive assistant, which has provided her with a wide range of industry knowledge, connections, and experience. Twila is also a former bookstore owner and writers conference director. She has had the pleasure of teaching and speaking at dozens of conferences across the nation and enjoys brainstorming and working with aspiring writers. 

Few authors make a living from writing books alone. The rest of us who want to be working writers need to diversify. In this lab, we’ll discuss potential streams of income, the importance of connections, business practices, and self-care for working writers. We’ll also include plenty of tips and ideas.


LL 2 —Book Proposals Publishers Love

Karen Neumair

Chief Operating Officer and Senior Literary Agent
Credo Communications


Karen Neumair is a Senior Literary Agent and the Chief Operating Officer of Credo Communications where she assists authors with their book proposals and connects them with potential publishers. Since 2009, she has worked alongside nonfiction authors who write about Christian living and spiritual growth, as well as topics geared toward women and families. In 2017, she expanded her representation to also include picture and board books. You can visit her on Facebook.

Are you ready to pursue a traditional publisher? This lab will help aspiring authors of nonfiction, fiction, and children’s books to put together the perfect presentation for their project and give them a sneak peek at proposals that sell.


LL 3 — Honest Fiction that Honors the Father

Terry Brennan

Award-winning Author


A Pulitzer Prize is one of the many awards Terry Brennan accumulated during his twenty-two-year newspaper career. The Pottstown (PA) Mercury won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for a two-year series of editorials published while Brennan was the newspaper’s editor.

In 1996 Brennan transitioned into the nonprofit sector, spending twelve years as VP Operations for The Bowery Mission and six years as Chief Administrative Officer for Care for the Homeless, NYC nonprofits that serve homeless people.

Terry began writing fiction in 2005. His first novel, The Sacred Cipher, was released by Kregel Publications in July, 2009. Responding to many reader requests, Brennan wrote a sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, which was released by Kregel in June, 2013, and what became the Jerusalem Prophecies series was concluded with The Aleppo Code in October, 2015. The Aleppo Code won ACFW’s 2016 Carol Award as the best mystery/suspense novel of the year.

Brennan’s second fiction series, the Empires of Armageddon, was released in its entirety by Kregel Publications in 2020: Ishmael Covenant on February 18, Persian Betrayal on July 28 and the concluding novel, Ottoman Dominion, on November 17.

Terry and his wife, Andrea, live in western Connecticut.


Lately, many of the novels offered in the Christian market, both Indies and those from traditional publishers, have overstepped the edges of content that many Christians find objectionable. The new normal includes sexually charged scenes and language that not only mimics cursing but would never have been found in a Christian book a few years ago.

So … how do we write “honest” characters . . . scenes that ring true to today’s readers . . . tackle “gritty” subject matter . . . without incorporating situations and language that weaken our witness and tarnish the faith we are commanded to share? How can we get real and remain pure in heart?

This interactive Learning Lab will dive into this timely and controversial topic by appraising what Christian publishers are saying about their current standards, reviewing examples of both honest and over-the-edge Christian fiction and exploring a revolutionary element of character and plot development that—if adopted by more authors—would dramatically reverse these current trends . . . and could very well change the way you approach your writing.


LL 4—Indie Formatting & Covers

Ken Raney

President, Raney Day Press and
Raney Day Creative LLC


Ken is president of Raney Day Press and Raney Day Creative LLC, a producer of illustration and graphic design. Raney is the author/illustrator of two children’s picture books and has over forty years of experience in graphic design, illustration, advertising, and marketing. He and his wife, novelist Deborah Raney, make their home in Missouri. Find out more at www.kenraney.com.

Practical and user-friendly info even for non-techies. Ken will address formatting the interior of your book and designing professional looking book covers (including a segment on AI). He will also provide accessible online resources for writers such as templates, themes, stock photographs, fonts, and photo-manipulation programs.


LL 5 — Legacy Writing 

Robin Grunder

Author, Ghostwriter
Executive Editor, Legacy Press Books

Robin is an experienced journalist, author, and highly sought-after ghostwriter. She is currently the executive editor of Legacy Press Books. Robin partners with authors to help them see their publishing dreams come true through publishing and coaching. She is a regular speaker on the topic of legacy writing, memoir, and self-publishing your life-story at writers’ conferences around the country.

Some of her writing credits include pieces in Chicken Soup for the Soul, regional and national parenting publications, regional newspapers, and several ghostwritten books. Most recently, Robin has published Memoir in the Margins of Psalms, Journaling Your Life-Story in the Margins of God’s Story.

Robin and her husband Brian have a blended family of seven adult children and two grandchildren. They make their home in eastern Iowa. 

What is legacy writing and why should you be doing it? Writing your stories of faith and family history enable you to leave a spiritual legacy for the future generations of your family. In addition to preserving the stories of the past, legacy writing helps you to live better in the present and can impact the future. Robin will talk about how to get started and stay motivated in your life-story project. She will discuss the differences between autobiography and memoir, answer questions about what to write, when to write, where and how to write, how to overcome obstacles to legacy writing, and alternative ways to preserve your stories of faith and family history for the future generations of your family.  


LL 6 —Marketing for Writers and Speakers

Karen Porter

Co-owner, Bold Vision Books
International Retreat and Seminar Speaker
Speaking and Writing Coach, Author

Karen is an international retreat and seminar speaker and a successful businesswoman. She is the author of ten books including her newest release, Make Your Heart a Manger. She is a frequent guest on regional and national radio and TV programs and also contributes to national magazines.

For more than thirty years Karen served as Vice President of International Marketing of a major food company in Texas. Today she and her husband, George, own Bold Vision Books, a Christian publishing company.

Karen is a coach of communicators in both writing and speaking and serves on numerous boards of national ministries.

Karen says her marriage to George is her greatest achievement, but she’d love to talk to you about her five grandchildren! In her spare time, Karen continues her life-long quest to find the perfect purse. Karen is a people person, plain and simple, and you will love to laugh with her and maybe even cry a little as she shares her joys and struggles.

Marketing techniques and methods have changed drastically with the emergence of the Internet. The information and advice you’ve read might already be out of date. Marketing expert Karen Porter will help you define your personal style and brand. From tag lines and mission statements to web presence in blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, you will learn how to market your message, your speaking ministry, and your book. Karen will help you build a toolbox of practical, useful, doable methods. You will leave this learning lab with a personal plan.

LL 7 — Ten P’s to Your Writing Success

Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott

Award-winning Author, Editor, Speaker
Founder/CEO  AuthorizeMe Literary Firm
Company website/blog: www.LifeThatMatters.net


From obscurity in Compton, California, to commanding main stages teaching others how to write their books and understand the Bible, Dr. Sharon Norris Elliott encourages us to “Live significantly!” This inspiring message has driven Dr. Sharon to become an award-winning author, editor, agent, engaging speaker, and licensed minister. She is the author of sixteen books, and associated with several prestigious organizations such as AWSA, ACE, SCBWI, and HSBN.tv. Sharon is also co-director of the West Coast Christian Writers Conference and the founder/CEO of the successful AuthorizeMe® Consulting, Coaching & Editing Firm, and Literary Agency. 

There’s more involved with being an author than getting a book published. What does it really take to be a successful author? Attend this learning lab and get the lowdown. Not only will you gain a wealth of knowledge about what really goes on in the business from an industry insider, but you’ll leave knowing what people to surround yourself with, how to brand yourself, and how to develop your personal mission statement and tagline. In addition, you’ll start thinking through your publishing plan for the future and much more. 

LL 8 — Unlocking the Mystery of Keywords

Rhonda Robinson

Parenting Content Producer
Focus on the Family

Rhonda is the Parenting Content Producer for Focus on the Family. For more than two decades, Rhonda has written commentary and analysis on the social, political, and parenting issues affecting the family. Her publishing credits began in the late 90s spanning over a decade of newspaper and magazine columns before moving to new media publications. Since 2015, she has trained and led writers to create SEO rich content, drive traffic, through search engine listing and social media strategies. 

There is no magic, only power, in unlocking the mystery of keywords. Whether you are writing the description of your book for Amazon, your back cover copy, blog posts, or online articles, keywords are how your readers find you. Understanding the algorithms of search engines and what they are searching for will allow you to be found when your readers don’t yet know your name.

In this learning lab you will learn how to use keywords effectively. As a bonus, you will learn how to discover the felt needs of your readers through the keywords they are using and utilize the terminology into your writing.


LL 9 — Why & How of Website Creation

Jonathan Shank
CEO, Celebration Web Design

Jonathan Shank, M.Div., the Senior Website & SEO Marketing Consultant and Managing Partner of Celebration Web Design, has passionately served non-profit organizations and Christ-focused authors since 2006. Jonathan has a diverse skill set in digital marketing, graphic design, management, and expertise in crafting purpose-driven websites using programming languages such as HTML5, SQL, PHP, ASP, C#, CSS, and JavaScript. Besides being a skilled programmer and designer, Jonathan also assists clients in building comprehensive branding and SEO packages to enhance their online presence.

Throughout his career, Jonathan has worked closely with clients to deliver stunning, user-centered author websites, helping them reach their audiences and market their books effectively. He has been instrumental in revolutionizing the web presence of hundreds of authors, ministries and non-profit organizations.

As the driving force behind Celebration Web Design, Jonathan is dedicated to creating handcrafted, custom websites tailored to each partner’s unique needs while nurturing strong relationships for successful outcomes.

Note from Marlene – I’ve never stopped thanking the Lord for leading me to Celebration Web Design around ten years ago. Jonathan and his father, Bruce, are not only gifted professionals, they are my Christian brothers and prayer partners. I can’t recommend them highly enough.


Join our interactive two-hour learning lab where we will guide you through essential website development strategies tailored for authors. This comprehensive, hands-on learning lab covers a wide range of crucial topics:

Content Strategy Development: Learn the fundamentals of search engine optimization (SEO) and how to discover the right keywords to target your audience and improve your website’s visibility. Delve into the value of a well-defined content strategy, covering topic ideation, content planning, and consistency in posting to keep visitors engaged and coming back for more.

Essential Content for Author Websites: Discover the key elements that every author website should include, such as an author bio, book information, contact details, and upcoming events.

Blog Writing Tips: Receive guidance on crafting engaging blog content that resonates with your audience and showcases your expertise as an author.

Basic Web Layout: Understand the importance of an organized, visually appealing, and mobile-responsive layout, and how to create a user-friendly design that enhances user experience on various devices.

Social Media Integration: Learn how to effectively connect your social media accounts with your website to promote increased engagement and grow your online presence.

Crafting Persuasive Calls-to-Action (CTAs): Learn how to create effective CTAs that encourage visitors to take desired actions, such as signing up for newsletters or purchasing books.

We'll also explore the various options for building a website, from do-it-yourself solutions and premade designs to hiring a custom designer. The learning lab will help you decide which choice is right for you. Through practical exercises, you’ll gain hands-on experience in discovering relevant keywords and refining your website messaging. By the end of this engaging learning lab, you'll be equipped with the knowledge and tools to create a compelling author website that captivates your target audience and supports your writing career.