Friday, March 22, 2013

The 3C Highway to Publication by Johnnie Alexander Donley

Johnnie Alexander Donley
Welcome to Fortifying Friday, the day we focus on personal journeys to publication and offer encouragement to those who have only begun traveling the road—and others who have reached one location and are moving on to the next. Today, author Johnnie Alexander Donley shares the 3Cs that helped her reach her destination. Enjoy!  ~ Dawn

The 3C Highway 
to Publication
by Johnnie Alexander Donley

Though I’ve lived over half my life in the Sunshine State, I was born and raised in the state of the 3C cities – Ohio. The early U.S. Highway 62 was known to Buckeye old-timers as 3C Highway because it ran from Cincinnati through Columbus to Cleveland.

My publication journey travels along a different 3C highway – conferences, critiquers, and contests.

Perhaps following this route will benefit you, too.


After I attended one major conference, an editor encouraged me to finish a manuscript. Another year, I met an agent who referred me to a colleague who sent me a contract.

Just a few weeks ago, I attended one day of the Florida Christian Writers Conference so I could chat with my agent and editor. Being able to talk to them face-to-face, catching up with writing friends, and the workshops made the trip worthwhile.

Conferences can be expensive, but the networking opportunities are priceless. You can take workshops from publishing professionals, meet editors and agents face-to-face, and share meals with amazing writers. If a multi-day conference is out of your price range, consider attending for just one day.


On my drive to my first major conference, I asked God to help me find a friend. He gave me four. These ladies became my first critiquers.

Later, I joined American Christian Fiction Writers and was placed in a critique group, now known as Imagine That! Writers. I couldn’t ask for more talented partners.

If you’re not in a critique group, ask God to lead you to the best people for you. Perhaps you’ll meet them at a conference, or you’ll find compatible writers in an online critique loop. You might find someone in a local writers organization. Pray without ceasing until God answers this prayer.


In the past few years, I’ve entered four contests with three different stories. I didn’t do very well in the first one. In another, two judges loved my entry, but the third did not. In 2011, I won the ACFW Genesis Historical Fiction Category, and last year I placed as a Bronze Medal Finalist in the My Book Therapy Frasier Contest.

Of course, it’s affirming to get high scores in a contest and gratifying to win.
But my primary reason for entering contests was for the judges’ feedback. A judge who points out weaknesses is worth the entry price.

A professionally-run contest is a great way to get feedback on your manuscript. If it’s among the high-scoring entries, it may be seen by agents and editors who volunteer as final round judges. And that’s almost like taking a shortcut!

It takes a few hours to drive the old 3C Highway through Ohio’s major cities.

A publishing journey, for most of us will take years. But by traveling our own 3C Highway, the trip may be a little easier, perhaps a little shorter, and absolutely a lot more fun as we attend conferences, participate in critique groups, and enter contests.

Join the Discussion: What has been the most positive 3C experience for you? What are your 3C goals and priorities?

Click to reach Amazon.
Author Johnnie Alexander Donley writes stories of suspense, intrigue, and romance set in World War II. Her debut novel, Where Treasure Hides, won the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis contest for Historical Fiction in 2011. A history enthusiast, Johnnie has also edited nonfiction manuscripts and textbooks. She is a founding member and current president of the ACFW Central Florida chapter. A longtime Florida resident, Johnnie treasures family memories, classic movies, road trips, stacks of books, and her papillon Rugby.

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  1. I have to agree that conferences are definitely the way to go. I've learned so much and made so many new friends through the ACFW, Blue Ridge Christian Writers and Christian Writers Guild conferences.

    Thanks for the info about critique groups and contests, too. I've been searching for a good critique group and really appreciate your advice to "pray without ceasing" about it.

    Thanks so much for this post, Johnnie!

    1. Hi, Angie. The Blue Ridge conference is on my wish list. I'd love to go thre. But the Florida conference is much closer, and of course ACFW is a priority. So many conferences! Saying a prayer you'll find that perfect critique group. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Last year, I attended my first conference in several years. It was well worth the money in the editor connections made, the fellowship, and the classes.

    In fact, I would highly recommend all three of your Cs.

    1. Sandra, it's great to hear you had such a positive conference experience. Thanks so much for sharing (and also recommending the 3Cs).

  3. Thanks for visiting Seriously Write, Johnnie! I'm with you on all three Cs.

    I've attended ACFW and Writer's Renewal conferences over the past eight years, and they've always provided valuable experiences. Not only have I learned a lot from the workshops, but the friendships made and the face-to-face time with agents and editors has been wonderful.

    I've been in a critique group for years, and my crit partners are amazing.

    Contests have also been helpful in that I've received both encouraging and constructive feedback from judges.

    1. Hi, Dawn! Thanks so much for inviting me to share my experiences. We'll have to get together next time we're both at ACFW.

  4. I've only attended the Blue Ridge, which was FABULOUS. This year I'm considering ACFW for some of the same reasons you mentioned. Thanks for visiting Seriously Write, Johnnie. Great post!

    1. Hi, Dora! Another Blue Ridge fan! I really have to plan for that conference. Also hoping to go to ACFW this year. Hope to see you if we both make it to Indianapolis. Thanks!

  5. Johnnie,
    Conferences and Critiquers are so important. I met four of my very best writing friends at the Florida Conference. For my reader, Johnnie Donley was one of them and we joined with others to become the Kindred Heart Writers. So proud of all of them. Good advice Johnnie. This year I am headed to Write to Publish.. Clella

    1. Clella, you're a sweetie and a blessing. Wish I was going to be at Write to Publish with you.

  6. Dawn, thank you and the Seriously Writes team for inviting me to share my experiences. God has taught me so much, and I'm thankful for all the gracious and encouraging and fun people who on this broad writing highway with me. May God bless each of us :)


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