Breathe Conference Keynote with Terry Whalin

Last Friday evening, my wife graciously encouraged me to attend the Breathe Writers’ Conference Keynote Address with my writing pal, Bob Evenhouse. She did this even though it meant that I wasn’t around to help with putting the girls down, finishing the housework, or taking the dog for a walk. That shows two things in itself: I am loved by a wonderful woman, and she believes in my writing dreams.

Oh, so tasty!

And so, Bob and I met at my house and went on a man-date. We hit up Wendy’s for dinner, where we were given some lovely coupons by an even lovelier little, old lady. After dinner, we made our way over to the church where the Breathe Conference was being held.

One really nice thing about having been to Breathe before is that I recognize so many of the attendees. It wasn’t a full minute after I had walked in before I was greeted warmly by someone I knew. After a few minutes of chit-chat, Bob and I found our seats in the auditorium and waited.

Our friend, Andrew Rogers, got up and introduced the evening’s speakers. Before Terry Whalin spoke, we were blessed to hear Alison Hodgson, member of the Writer’s Guild and speaker extraordinaire. Alison meant to speak on how the publishing process is like a courtship, where each contact is like a date and we endlessly primp ourselves and our manuscripts in order to be loveable by that special publishing house. But she ended up speaking more about how our lives and our writings don’t always go according to our plans. She spoke about the fire that consumed her home. She spoke about the opportunities that are borne out of hardships. She spoke eloquently about poignant matters in a funny way. It was quite a thing.

After Alison’s opening, Andrew popped back up to introduce Terry Whalin. As I mentioned previously, Terry has written and published a number of books and has held many positions within the industry. Now, he is an acquisitions editor for Morgan James Publishing. His talk was an encouragement for writers to “never give up”, and his points were practical and thought-inspiring. Included below are the points that I found it helpful to jot down.

  • Figure out your goal. What is your plan to get there?
  • What is blocking you from achieving your goals?
  • Take control of the things that distract you.
  • Overcome the Catch-22 of publishing (only published writers get published) by starting small. Write for magazines.
  • Seek out apprenticeships and critique groups to hone your craft.
  • Read. Read your genre. Know your readers. Make sure that reading is part of your plan.
  • Join an organization of the type in which you write. (e.g. Fiction writers should join a Fiction Writing Professionals organization)
  • Build your platform. Work at it consistently. For a free e-book on how to do this, visit
  • Engage your marketplace by blogging, etc.

These don’t cover everything he said, just the bits that I thought to jot down. And while many of these may seem obvious, they probably should. These are the tactics that have worked for many successful writers.

And above all else, Terry said, never give up. The forward for his book Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams is from Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Time and again, Terry mentioned how Mark Victor Hansen was rejected by publisher after publisher for a total of 140 rejections before finding one who would publish his book. And the publisher that did take a chance on Hansen has sold millions of copies of his books. As for how Terry got the forward from Hansen, it was eerily reminiscent of how I got into Honors College at WMU. He wrote it himself and then had Hansen look it over and sign off on it. Terry said that the key to getting endorsements like that is by asking. I agree.

And after the keynote speech, I got to mingle with my fellow writers. It was like walking into the cafeteria in high school and every table is saving a spot for you and the jock table is nowhere to be seen. I even set up a meeting with an agent to discuss some of my projects and talked to a published author about submitting a chapter for one of their upcoming books. It was a really good time.

If you are a writer, or if you are afraid to call yourself a writer, or if you are thinking about becoming afraid to call yourself a writer, the Breathe Conference is a great place to mix and learn. I’m already looking forward to next year.


One response to “Breathe Conference Keynote with Terry Whalin

  1. Josh – Nice summary. I’m glad you and Bob had a romantic man-date. You two would make terribly ugly babies together. Please don’t breed.

    Besides that, I still can’t believe that the Chicken Soup for the Soul book was rejected 140 times! That’s crazy! It’s totally amazing! Honestly. Think about it for a minute. Hansen must just have unwavering resolve. After 100 or so rejections don’t you think his friends and family probably started telling him to do something else? I wonder how many people told him to self-publish, or to quit? I wonder if anyone ever said, “maybe this stuff is better as a magazine article.” It’s just crazy to think about. 140 times. Wow! And look at the success he’s had since!

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