Guild helps put writers, agents and publishers together
The Catholic Writers Guild has for its ambitious goal nothing less than “the rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.” A volunteer-run association of Catholic writers and publishing professionals who pledge faithfulness to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, the CWG has about 500 members and has been hosting online writers’ conferences since 2008. Their 2016 Catholic Writers Conference Online will include live courses with instructors using a webinar format, similar to a Skype video conference, with slide presentations and screen-sharing. All classes will be recorded so that attendees can watch missed classes or download recordings for future reference.
I spoke with Catholic Writers Guild President Joe Wetterling and presenting authors Michelle Buckman and Jane Lebak about the role of the CWG’s conferences in the guild’s mission of building up the culture of Catholic arts and letters.
JF: What is the point of the online conference? How does it help you and help other writers?
Jane Lebak: “Writing is such a solitary activity that it helps us to make contact with one another through the online conference. We can teach one another the things we’ve gotten good at and learn from others’ expertise. Even a writer who’s only starting out can offer encouragement. Plus, because it’s online, the CWCO gives everyone a chance to participate as much as she feels comfortable doing and without a huge outlay of time, travel, or money.”
Michelle Buckman: “I love writing conferences for several reasons. First of all, I would never have broken into publication if I hadn’t attended conferences. I met my second, third, and fourth agents at conferences. I also met my publishers/editors at conferences. There is absolutely nothing (after writing a great book) that can help a writer’s career more than networking with writers, editors, and agents. Face-to-face contact always helps a manuscript leap out of the slush pile.
“Likewise, I love conferences because it gives me a chance to reach out and help others. I want other writers to learn, grow in technique and style, and succeed…I get the satisfaction of seeing new writers emerge. Pass it forward. That’s what life is about.”
JF: Where is Catholic literary culture right now?
Joe Wetterling: “Catholic culture, including literary culture, seems to need to be revived — or better yet, reborn — every so often. Like a human person, it begins small and grows. Over time, it starts to acclimate to the world. We are in the beginning, and if you’ve read Genesis, you know how that goes. The beginning is rough. There are missteps, personal failings, entire projects that go under the waves. But there is also family-building, victories, and most especially, abundant outpourings of grace.”
JF: How does the Catholic Writers Guild’s work in bringing writers together promote the revival of a Catholic literary culture?
Joe Wetterling: “St. Paul had to know how to use the Roman roads to his advantage. He also had to go and meet St. Peter. C. S. Lewis had to work out a way to use radio, the technology of his time, but he also had to go meet Tolkien and Williams. Our challenge is to get both right as well: the technology and the family, the online connections and the personal ones, that make a cultural revolution… revolve.”
Michelle Buckman: “During one of the first workshops I ever taught, I stumbled upon a writer whose writing was brilliant. Her words were lyrical, so much so that I created a follow-up writing retreat just to encourage this one writer. Even though she hadn’t finished her manuscript, I was so impressed with her skill that I attended a SC conference with her strictly to help her get the attention of a publishing house.
“I nabbed one agent on her way by and told her about this fantastic writer. She was immediately suspicious and wanted to know why I would go out of my way to help another writer I barely knew. I was as bewildered by her attitude as she was by mine. I told her that is the purpose of life–to help others in whatever way we can. She couldn’t comprehend that mindset. Nevertheless, I persisted and got the manuscript into the hands of editors at Random House and Simon & Schuster. Do unto others. And if you want to succeed, attend conferences.”
Joe Wetterling is the President of the Catholic Writers Guild. Novelists Michelle Buckman and Jane Lebak will be presenting at the 2016 Catholic Writers Conference Online. Authors Karina Fabian, Ann Lewis, and Ellen Gable Hrkach contributed additional information about the CWG and the online conference.
Jennifer Fitz is a freelance writer and the author of Classroom Management for Catechists from Liguori Publications. She is a past Vice President of the Catholic Writers Guild. Find her online at patheos.com/blogs/JenniferFitz and Facebook.com/groups/JenFitz.