Conference Faculty

Rick Acker

Rick Acker

Hosting: Legal Landmines for Indie Contracts

Rick Acker writes novels during his commute to and from his “real job” as a Supervising Deputy Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. His unit prosecutes corporate fraud lawsuits of the type described in his #1 bestseller, WHEN THE DEVIL WHISTLES.
Rick has led investigations and lawsuits that made headlines in and out of California. Most recently, he and his team won a string record-breaking judgments and settlements against the Wall Street players who created the toxic mortgage securities that triggered the Great Recession.
When Rick isn’t writing or lawyering, you can usually find him with his wife, Anette, and their four children. They’ll be exploring in the hills east of San Francisco, watching a good movie together, or, of course, reading.

Tessa Afshar

Hosting: Weaving Spiritual Themes Into Your Novel

TESSA AFSHAR is an award-winning author of historical and biblical fiction. Her novel Land of Silence was voted by Library Journal as one of the top five Christian fiction titles of 2016 and was nominated for the 2016 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Inspirational Romance. Harvest of Gold won the prestigious 2014 Christy Award in the Historical Romance category. Her book Harvest of Rubies was a finalist for the 2013 ECPA Book Award in the fiction category. In 2011, after publishing her first novel, Pearl in the Sand, Tessa was named New Author of the Year in the Family Fiction-sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards.
Tessa was born in Iran and lived there for the first fourteen years of her life. She then moved to England, where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States. Her conversion to Christianity in her twenties changed the course of her life forever. Tessa holds an MDiv from Yale Divinity School, where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship. She served in churches for twenty years before becoming a full-time writer. Tessa speaks regularly at women’s events nationally, and has keynoted at the Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference. She has taught a coaching class at OCW and led numerous shorter courses for the ReNew writing retreat in New England. Tessa is a devoted wife and mediocre tomato grower. But that has not cured her from being exceptionally fond of chocolate.

Allen Arnold

Hosting: Your Story’s Sacred Circle | Sage Advice for Storytellers | Creativity from Chaos

ALLEN ARNOLD is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world’s largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.

Christy Barritt

Hosting: Better Together—Developing a Plotting Society

Christy Barritt is a Publishers Weekly best-selling author who writes both mystery and romantic suspense novels with an underlying messages of faith. Her books have won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Suspense
and Mystery, have been twice nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and have finaled for both the Carol Award and Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. Christy currently splits her time between the Virginia suburbs and Hatteras Island, North Carolina. She has more than fifty books published with over one million copies sold.

Pepper Basham

Hosting: I Need a Hero

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor with southern Appalachian flair. Both her historical and contemporary novels have garnered recognition in the Grace Awards, RT Awards, Inspys, and ACFW Carol Awards. Her most recent historical romance, My Heart Belongs in the Blue Ridge, showcases her Appalachian heritage and family history, as well as her love for humor and culture. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the mom of five great kids, a speech-language pathologist to about fifty more, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus.

Misty Beller

Hosting:Indie Publishing That Sells Books | Market a New Book Release | Bring Your Backlist to Life

MISTY M. BELLER writes romantic mountain stories, set on the 1800s frontier and woven with the truth of God’s love. She writes as both an indie author and for Bethany House Publishers, and is Managing Editor of Wild Heart Books, a traditional publisher specializing in Christian Historical Romance novels.

After over ten years working in professional project management and marketing, Misty uses her experience in the corporate world to develop best practices in her writing and book marketing efforts. It is her passion to help other authors on this journey.

Lynn Blackburn
Hosting: Tips and Techniques of Scrivener

Lynn Huggins Blackburn believes in the power of stories, especially those that remind us that true love exists, a gift from the Truest Love. She’s passionate about CrossFit, coffee, and chocolate (don’t make her choose) and experimenting with recipes that feed both body and soul. She lives in South Carolina with her true love, Brian, and their three children. Her first book, COVERT JUSTICE, won the 2016 Selah Award and the 2016 Carol Award! Her second book with Love Inspired Suspense, HIDDEN LEGACY, releases June 2017.

Hallee Bridgeman


With over half a million sales, Hallee Bridgeman is a best-selling Christian author who writes action-packed romantic suspense focusing on realistic characters who face real-world problems. Her work has been described as everything from refreshing to heart-stopping exciting and edgy. Hallee loves coffee, campy action movies, and regular date nights with her husband. Above all else, she loves God with all of her heart, soul, mind, and strength; has been redeemed by the blood of Christ; and relies on the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide her.

Connilyn Cossette
Hosting: Better Together—Developing a Plotting Society

Connilyn Cossette is the CBA-Bestselling author of the Out from Egypt Series and the Cities of Refuge Series from Bethany House Publishers. Her debut, Counted with the Stars, was a 2017 finalist in the Christy Awards, Christian Retailing Best Awards, and the Inspy Awards. There’s not much she enjoys more than digging into the rich, ancient world of the Bible, discovering new gems of grace that point to Jesus, and weaving them into an immersive fiction experience. She lives in North Carolina with her husband of twenty-one years and a son and daughter who fill her days with joy, laughter, and inspiration.

Nicole Deese
Hosting: Better Together—Developing a Plotting Society

Nicole Deese’s eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-Winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, from her best-selling Love in Lenox series, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and Inspy Awards. The first book in her upcoming series with Bethany House Publishers is set to release in May of 2020. When Nicole’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town, Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and her princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.

Rachelle Gardner

Hosting: How to Decide Between Traditional and Indie Publishing | From Query to Publication and Everything Between

Rachelle Gardner is an agent with Books & Such Literary Management. She’s been an agent since 2007, representing both fiction and nonfiction. In the publishing business since 1995, Rachelle previously worked for two publishing houses in positions encompassing marketing, sales, international rights, acquisitions and editorial. Rachelle represents an impressive list of more than 50 bestselling and award-winning authors.

Tammy Gray
Hosting: Better Together—Developing a Plotting Society

Tammy L. Gray lives in the Dallas area with her family, and they love all things Texas, even the erratic weather patterns. She writes modern Christian romance with true-to-life characters and culturally-relevant plot lines. She believes hope and healing can be found through high-quality fiction that inspires and provokes change. Her characters are real, relatable and deep, earning her a 2017 RITA award in the Romance with Religious and Spiritual Elements category. When not chasing after her three amazing kids, Tammy can be spotted with her head in a book. Writing has given her a platform to combine her passion with her ministry.

James Hannibal

Hosting: Inkling to Ink: Creative Structure

As a former stealth pilot, James R. Hannibal is no stranger to secrets and adventure. He has been shot at, locked up with surface to air missiles, and chased down a winding German road by an armed terrorist. He is a two-time Silver Falchion award-winner for his Section 13 mysteries for kids and a Thriller Award nominee for his Nick Baron covert ops series for adults. His first Christian thriller series, the Clandestine Service, releases Fall 2019 from Revell, starting with The Gryphon Heist. James is a rare multi-sense synesthete, meaning all of his senses intersect. He sees and feels sounds and smells and hears flashes of light. If he tells you the chocolate cake you offered smells blue and sticky, take it as a compliment.

Rachel Hauck

Hosting: Revelation of Jesus in Fiction

New York Times best-selling author, USA Today bestselling author. RITA nominee, Christy and Carol Award.

Angie Hunt

Hosting: Exercising the Left Brain | Right Brain Writing

Christy-Award winner Angela Hunt writes for readers who have learned to expect the unexpected. With over five million copies of her books sold worldwide, she is the best-selling author of more than 140 titles ranging from picture books (The Tale of Three Trees) to adult novels.

Now that her two children are grown, Angie and her youth-pastor husband live in Florida with Very Big Dogs (a direct result of watching Turner and Hooch and Sandlot too many times). This affinity for mastiffs has not been without its rewards—one of their dogs was featured on Live with Regis and Kelly as the second-largest canine in America. Their dog received this dubious honor after an all-expenses-paid trip to Manhattan for the dog and the Hunts, complete with VIP air travel and a stretch limo in which they toured New York City.

Afterward, the dog gave out pawtographs at the airport.

Angela admits to being fascinated by animals, medicine, unexplained phenomena, and “just about everything” except sports. Books, she says, have always shaped her life— in the fifth grade she learned how to flirt from reading Gone with the Wind.

When she’s not home writing, Angie often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writers’ conferences. And to talk about her dogs, of course.

Readers may visit her web site at .

Regina Jennings

Hosting: Elements of a Smile: Winning Readers With Humor

Award-winning author Regina Jennings has penned a dozen historical romances. A graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University with a degree in English and a minor in history, Regina has worked at the Mustang News along with time at the Oklahoma National Stockyards and various livestock shows. When not weighing pigs, she was busy homeschooling her kids and keeping up with her redneck family. Now, she spends her free time learning to play the banjo and traveling with her husband of twenty-six years. Highlights include working at a leper colony in India, sleeping on a trampoline for a week in Senegal, and getting an intense weapons search in a Mexican prison.

Liz Johnson
Hosting: From Press Releases to Pitches: Keys to Marketing Your Book to the Media

Liz Johnson spent ten years working in marketing and publicity in the Christian publishing industry. Now she works as a marketing manager for a Christian film studio. She is also the author of more than a dozen books including A Glitter of Gold, A Sparkle of Silver, The Red Door Inn—a Christy Award finalist—and two ACFW Carol Award finalists. She makes her home in Phoenix, Arizona, where she enjoys exploring local music, theater, and doting on her nieces and nephews. She writes stories of true love filled with heart, humor, and happily ever afters.

Tara Johnson

Hosting: Character Wounds

Tara Johnson is an author, speaker and passionate lover of stories. She enjoys traveling to churches, ladies retreats and prisons to share how God led her into freedom after spending years living shackled as a people-pleasing preacher’s kid.

Tara’s debut novel Engraved on the Heart (Tyndale) earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly, as well as numerous other accolades. She has articles published in Plain Truth Magazine and Live It Loud Magazine and has
been a featured guest on Voice of Truth radio, Enduring Word radio, television and podcasts. Tara is a member of ACFW and is represented by Janet Grant of Books & Such Literary Agency. She, her husband, and children
live in Arkansas.

Jessica Kirkland

Hosting: Film Development

Jessica Kirkland, a literary agent and entrepreneur, is the owner and primary agent with Kirkland Media Management, LLC., a Texas-based boutique agency that specializes in publishing & film contracts in the inspirational market. Jessica possesses a unique skill set as an agent, which includes a strong command of sales, marketing, and creative development. She loves discovering new talent and identifying stories that have the capacity to change the world. Her outside-the-box thinking and keen business sense have allowed her to excel in the publishing industry and emerge as a champion for traditional and hybrid authors. With her eye always on the big picture, Jessica represents fiction and non-fiction clients who continue to thrive in an ever-changing publishing environment.

Jessica graduated with honors from Sam Houston State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Marketing. She is a popular conference speaker where she teaches on publishing trends, marketing, blogging, and the writer’s journey. She has been an agent for over five years, and was named Agent of the Year in 2016 by American Christian Fiction Writers.

Steve Laube

Hosting: The Killer Book Proposal | Redeeming Rejection: Turning Pain into Pleasure

Steve Laube, president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency, is a 35 year veteran of the bookselling industry. He began his career in the bookselling arena and his store in Phoenix was named the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) store of the year in 1989. He then spent 11 years with Bethany House Publishers rising to the position of an editorial director. In 2002 he was named the AWSA Golden Scroll Editor of the Year. The next year he became a literary agent and in 2004 formed The Steve Laube Agency. In 2009 he was named the ACFW Agent of the Year. In 2013 he was inducted into the Grand Canyon University Hall-of-Fame by their College of Theology.

Amy Matayo

Hosting: Better Together—Developing a Plotting Society

Amy Matayo is a RITA Award nominated author of The Wedding Game, Love Gone Wild, Sway, In Tune with Love, A Painted Summer, The End of the World, The Thirteenth Chance, The Whys Have It, Christmas at Gate 18 and Lies We Tell Ourselves. She graduated with barely passing grades from John Brown University with a degree in Journalism. But don’t feel sorry for her—she’s super proud of that degree and all the ways she hasn’t put it to good use. She laughs often, cries easily, feels deeply, and loves hard. She lives in Arkansas with her husband and four kids and is working on her next novel.

DiAnn Mills

Hosting: Managing Your Street Team | Mastering the Art of Plotting

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She is a storyteller. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Mystery Writers of America, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Mountainside Marketing Conference with social media specialist Edie Melson.

She teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on: Facebook, Twitter, or any of the social media platforms listed at

Tamela Hancock Murray

Hosting: How To Keep Publishing in this Ever-Changing Industry | Don’t Think You Need an Agent? Think Again

Tamela Hancock Murray has been a literary agent since 2001. She is a bestselling author of over thirty novels, novellas, and nonfiction books, and won an RWA Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Although her current writing for publication is limited to the Agency blog, because of her experience, Tamela brings the perspective of a working writer to her role as a literary agent. She represents many top authors and continues to develop new talent. She earned her BA with honors in Journalism from Lynchburg College in Virginia. Today she enjoys living in Northern Virginia with her husband of over thirty years. They are the proud parents of two lovely adult daughters. She can often be found reading books.

Carrie Stuart Parks

Hosting: Writing Page-Turning Tension

Carrie Stuart Parks is an award-winning, internationally known forensic artist and is the largest instructor of forensic art in the world. Her best-selling novels in have garnered numerous awards including the Christy, Carol, and Inspys. As a professional fine artist, she has written and illustrated numerous non-fiction art books.

Robin Patchen
Hosting: Small Edits, Big Impact

Nominated for ACFW’s 2018 Editor of the Year, Robin Patchen is a multi-published award-winning author and freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction. As a general editor with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolina’s Smitten line, she has the privilege of working with exceptionally talented romance authors. She is one of the authors of “Five Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing,” an in-depth guide to self-editing. Patchen loves mentoring new authors and helping established authors polish their books.

Frank Peretti

Hosting: Sage Advice for Storytellers

Frank E. Peretti is a New York Times bestselling author who, to date, sold over fifteen million books.

He is best known for his novels This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. This Present Darkness was on the CBA’s bestselling list for over 150 consecutive weeks. His novel The Oath received the ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best fiction of 1996.

Allie Pleiter

Hosting: Dynamic Dialogue

An avid knitter, coffee junkie and firm believer that “pie makes everything better,” Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction working on as many as four novels at a time. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy bestselling author of over forty books, Allie spends her days writing, buying yarn, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie hails from Connecticut, moved to the midwest to attend Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing has produced a seventeen-year career with over 1.4 million books sold. In addition to writing, Allie maintains an active writing productivity coaching practice and speaks regularly on faith, the creative
process, women’s issues, and her very favorite topic—The Chunky Method of time management for writers. Visit her website at to learn more.

Cara Putman

Hosting: Cara Putman

As a preteen Cara Putman watched lawyers change legislative opinions at an important legislative hearing in Nebraska. At that time, she wondered if she became an attorney if people would give her words the same weight. An honors graduate of the University of Nebraska Lincoln, George Mason University School of Law and Krannert School of Management at Purdue University, Cara has turned her passion for words into award-winning stories that capture readers. Her legal experience makes its way into her stories where strong women confront real challenges.

An award-winning author of more than 25 books, Cara writes legal thrillers, WWII romances, and romantic suspense because she believes that no matter what happens hope is there, waiting for us to reach for it.

When she’s not writing, Cara is an over-educated attorney who lectures in law and communications at the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University and homeschools her children. She and her family live in Indiana, the land of seasons. You can read chapters for most of her books and connect with Cara at her website:

Susan May Warren

Hosting: From Frankenstein to Jamie Fraser: How to create characters who breathe | Bigger, Better, Bolder: Writing the Super Novel

Susan May Warren is the USA Today bestselling, Christy, Carol and RITA award–winning author of more than sixty novels whose compelling plots and unforgettable characters have won acclaim with readers and reviewers alike. In addition to her writing, Susan is a nationally acclaimed writing teacher and runs an academy for writers, Novel.Academy. For exciting updates on her new releases, previous books, and more, visit her website at

Karen Witemeyer

Hosting: Dodge the Darts: Protecting Your Soul from Satan’s Author Arsenal |
Elements of a Smile: Winning Readers with Humor

Karen Witemeyer is a bestselling, award-winning author and experienced speaker who has taught workshops at national conferences such as RWA and ACFW as well as at numerous regional events such as the Texas Writes Speaker
Series. Her books have been finalists for the RITA and Christy Awards and have won the ACFW Carol Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. Karen has also taught a
monthly ladies Bible study for her church for the past ten years.