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Johnson City Library’s Writers Conference Shares Ins and Outs of Publishing World; Register by Feb. 21

Authors Donna Janell Bowman (left), Christina Soontornvat, and Sheryl Smith-Rodgers are the guest panelists at the Johnson City Library Writers Conference on Feb. 28. If you’re interesting in attending, the deadline to sign up is Feb. 21. Call the library, 401 N. Nugent Ave., at (830) 868-4469. Courtesy photos

JOHNSON CITY — Now that you’ve finished writing the next great American novel, it’s time to find a publisher. And that can be even more daunting than writing.

To make that process easier, the Johnson City Library is hosting its 11th annual Writers Conference from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28. The event features experts who can share with local authors the ins and outs of writing.

Registration for the conference is $45 and includes morning and afternoon sessions and lunch. Go to or call (830) 868-4469 to register or for more information. The deadline to sign up is Wednesday, Feb. 21. The library is located at 501 N. Nugent Ave.

“We’re proud to have had these conferences for 11 years,” Johnson City librarian Maggie Goodman said.

The three guest authors, each representing different genres, will lead discussions and give advice. They are:

Donna Janell Bowman, author of the picture book “Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness.” The book earned a Writer’s League of Texas Book Award and a Carter G. Woodson Award Honor from the National Council for the Social Studies. It was also named an American Literary Association Notable Book, a National Council of Teachers of English Orbis Pictus Recommended book, and a Junior Library Guild Selection, and has been included in the 2018-19 Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List.

During her afternoon session, Brown will present a visual timeline and break down the various stages of the publication journey, including apprenticeships, submissions, contracts, working with editors and artists, launching a book, and the financial realities and opportunities of authorship.

Christina Soontornvat wrote “The Changelings” (2016), which was named an ABC Best Book for Young Readers by the American Booksellers Association. Its sequel, “In A Dark Land,” was published in 2017. Her picture book, “The Ramble Shamble Children,” is scheduled for publication this year.

Soontornvat will tell attendees what an agent does, why authors should have one, how to locate a reputable agent, and how to format a query letter. She’ll also lead a question-and-answer session.

Sheryl Smith-Rodgers is the author of “Weekends Away: Camping and Cooking in Texas State Parks,” which was published in 1993 with a second edition in 1996. Her second book, “Texas Old-Time Restaurants and Cafes” was published in August 2000.

Locals might know her because of her articles in Texas Co-op Power Magazine.

“I’ve followed her as a writer for years,” Goodman said about Smith-Rodgers. “I thought (her magazine articles) were well-written. She writes about local environmental issues, and I find her work interesting.”

Smith-Rodgers will look at the first paragraphs of attendees’ works and give critiques and feedback. Why the first paragraph? Because it’s what grabs the attention of the reader and/or editor, making them want to read more.

Goodman said she chose two authors who write for young people — Bowman and Soontornvat — this year because she believes they can bring a different perspective to the conference.

“I was impressed with both,” she said. “They not only write, but they put themselves out there to visit with young people at schools. They also want to talk about current issues with kids.”

The Writers Conference has attracted talented individuals and experts willing to share insights into the publishing world, Goodman said.

“We’ve had excellent authors,” she said. “The authors and writers, they are an excellent group of people. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be a part of that.”

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