So you have this great idea for a spy novel. It spins around in your mind, shifty characters emerging, conflict sharpening, vivid action scenes drawing readers toward the denouement – but somehow, you just don't get around to putting the words on paper.

Or you've got a short story you know teens will love – but you've no idea what publisher might be interested in it, or how much information to include in your query letter.

Wouldn't you like some writer friends to help with that? Don't you wish you belonged to a critique group that could offer encouragement, help you to clean up your prose, conquer your insecurity, set reasonable deadlines and then meet them?

Catholic Writers Guild can help with that!

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The Catholic Writers Guild had its beginning in 2007, when 30 Catholic writers came together in an online forum to help each other with writing, marketing, and support. Two years later, the group organized the first Catholic Writers Conference Live in Somerset, New Jersey, as well as the first Catholic Writers Conference Online. Since then, the group has offered an annual live conference, an on-line conference (more recently, a video conference), and an annual writers' retreat.

Interest has remained high, as Catholic writers enjoy the opportunity to connect with other writers and publishers. As word of the organization has spread, its numbers have continued to increase; current president Joe Wetterling told the Register that there are about 465 members, including over 50 clergy and religious. “Our members,” Joe reported, “are writers, illustrators, teachers, editors, publishers – and just fans of great writing. And while we're mostly USA-based, we also have members in Canada, Mexico, Trinidad, UK, Germany, Hong Kong, and Australia.”

One member who has benefited from membership is freelance writer and editor Dennis McGeehan. McGeehan is author of The Diaries of Joseph and Mary and his articles have appeared in various magazines including The Word Among Us, Seton Homeschool Magazine, Devozine. His blog has been published on Zenit. McGeehan has attended two CWG live conferences, and he talked with the Register about how the conference has helped him. “Being in the same room with authors more experienced than I,” he said,

“...helped me to realize what I did not know about the craft and business of writing, Sometimes it was during a presentation; but at other times, it was catching a part of a conversation between people. “What's Goodreads?” “Who's taking submissions?”

Hearing others' struggles to write and publish also helped me to realize that my struggles were not unique, and that gave me hope to continue. And meeting the people in real life whom I knew only online was great!”

McGeehan has gotten several jobs as a freelance writer and editor through the Guild. More than that, though, he reports that the Catholic Writers Guild is unique in that it boosts not only your writing, but also your Catholic Faith. There is ample opportunity for Adoration, Confession, and Mass. All that, plus a world-class location, provides for a vacation to refresh both the body and the soul.

Guild member Carolyn Astfalk is a wife, mother of four young children, and a writer. She is author of the inspirational romances Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces and the coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours. She blogs at My Scribbler's Heart. Astfalk talked with the Register about how the Catholic Writers Guild has helped her work:

Once I started seriously writing fiction and searching for novels by Catholic authors with Catholic themes, I discovered the Catholic Writers Guild. Not long after I’d joined, there was a call for volunteers for the Seal of Approval Committee. By volunteering, I became acquainted with other writers and had an opportunity to read more of their work. In fact, it was through my work on that committee that I met then-president Ellen Hrkach, whose Full Quiver Publishing eventually published my debut novel.

By attending both the online and live conferences, I’ve met other authors and benefited from informative talks and workshops. The connections I’ve made and nurtured through the CWG Facebook group have provided practical and spiritual support for my writing. For years, I had searched for a critique partner or group to help me improve my writing. However, I hesitated to share my work with groups and individuals who wouldn’t “get” the moral and spiritual themes. I finally found a home in the CWG Fiction Critique Group, where I’ve been blessed to find a group of dependable authors who share the honest criticism, helping me to refine and polish my work.

Catholic writers can find both support and camaraderie in the CWG for every stage of their writing journey, from beginning writers to seasoned, multi-published authors.

On July 18-21, published authors and would-be writers will have the opportunity to meet and share their faith with editors, publishers, fellow writers, and bookstore owners from across the globe, when the Catholic Writers Guild holds its ninth annual live conference in Schaumburg, Illinois (near Chicago). At Schaumburg's Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center, the ninth annual Catholic Writers Conference LIVE will be held in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network's annual retailer trade show.

The theme of this year's conference is “The Catholic Imagination.” Among the prominent Catholic writers who will speak are keynote speaker Barbara Golder (The Lady Doc Murders), authors Amy Cattapan (Seven Riddles to Nowhere), Erin McCole Cupp (Unclaimed), Lisa Mladinich (True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life), Lisa Hendey (The Grace of YES), Ellen Gable Hrkach (Stealing Jenny), and many others.

The conference will give authors an opportunity to meet personally with publishing professionals and pitch their writing projects. Some participating publishers are Ignatius Press, Ave Maria Press, and Loyola Press. In addition, attendees have the opportunity to sign up for a fiction critique workshop with award-winning short fiction writer Arthur Powers (A Hero for the People), a non-fiction critique group with Nancy Ward (Sharing Your Faith Story) and attend writing seminars with novelists John Desjarlais (Specter) and Ann Margaret Lewis (Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes). Information for all these events can be found on the conference website.

CWG President Joe Wetterling explained,

“The Guild exemplifies the Catholic ‘both/and’ with writers from every part of the world, in every genre, and from every walk of life. We’re diverse in personality and style but united in our loyalty and love of the Catholic faith. The Catholic Writers Conference Live is a unique opportunity to come together in fellowship and sharpen each other toward our united mission: a rebirth of Catholic arts and letters.”

Registration for this year's conference is $75 ($45 for students). CWG Members receive a 10% discount. There's also a discounted registration combined with a CWG membership. To register or for more information, visit the Catholic Writers Guild website.