WELS Women Writers Conference

APRIL 24-25, 2020

WELS Women’s Ministry is excited to partner with Northwestern Publishing House to host the WELS Women Writers Conference, April 24-25, 2020 in Waukesha, Wis. This is your opportunity to explore the world of writing and publishing with ample time to network and meet other writers.


  • Encourage beginning and experienced women writers in the vocation of writing
  • Facilitate networking among writers for idea sharing, collaborative writing opportunities, mentoring, prayer and spiritual support
  • Provide practical help and resources for writing improvement


  • You’ve thought about writing and need a kickstart
  • You’re a writer who wants to improve her craft
  • You’re wondering how to go about publishing your work
  • You’d like to connect with your audience and build a following for your writing
  • You’re exploring how God can use your writing talents to serve him
  • You want to meet other women writers for fellowship and encouragement

Connect with WELS Women Writers in our Facebook Group.

Conference information

Writing Resource Fair

Visit with editors, illustrators, and other published authors who want to network with you and share their work. Staff from Northwestern Publishing House, Forward in Christ, and other WELS publications will also be on hand to discuss writing opportunities.

Know someone who would like to host a table and display work in our Resource Fair? For information on reserving a table, contact Susan Fink at sfink54220@gmail.com.

Peer Review Writing Exchange

Conference attendees will be invited to bring a sample of writing for peer review. This optional session is a great opportunity to receive feedback on your work, plus help out peers by reviewing their work. After registering for the conference, you’ll receive an invitation to participate. Then you’ll be placed in a small group and given instructions for the review process.

Conference Schedule

4:00 pm      Registration and Networking / Visit the Resource Fair

7:00 pm     Keynote: Confidence in Your CallingLinda Buxa

8:15 pm       Fellowship / Meet your peer group & exchange writing samples

9:00 pm      Good night! (Take time to read writing samples from your peer group exchange.)

7:30 am       Breakfast / Resource Fair

8:30 am     Morning DevotionNaomi Schmidt

8:45 am     Presentation: Finding Your Fit as a WriterAmber Albee Swenson

9:30 am       Break

9:45 am      Panel Discussion: How Do I Publish? Let Me Count the Ways!

Panelists: Jes Woller, Val Bodden, Amber Swenson. Moderator: Angie Molkentin

11:00 am     Breakout 1

12:00 pm     Lunch / Peer groups meet for writing feedback / Resource Fair

1:15 pm        Breakout 2

2:15 pm        Break

2:30 pm      Panel Discussion: Marketing – What Worked for My Work

Panelists: Mary Schmal, Val Bodden, Reji Laberje. Moderator: Angie Molkentin

3:45 pm        Breakout 3

4:45 pm        Closing Comments and Prayer

Getting to the Conference


Trinity Lutheran Church
1052 White Rock Ave.
Waukesha, WI 53186


For convenient entry to the conference area, park in the lower lot off Baxter Street behind the church and school. Enter the door marked, “Welcome to the WELS Women Writers Conference.”


Online registration will be available soon. Once registered, you will receive email updates concerning the conference schedule and activities.

$75.00 per attendee includes all conference sessions and activities, Friday night refreshments, Saturday morning breakfast, and Saturday lunch.
Vendor partners may reserve a table in the Resource Fair for $25.00. Click here for more information (link to Resource Fair info).

April 5, 2020

Email us at womensministry@wels.net.


Featured Presentations

Confidence in Your Calling
Linda Buxa

Writing is what you do, but it is not who you are. Your identity as a child of God gives you confidence to live out your calling as a writer. Linda kicks off our conference with a keynote grounded in God’s Word and peppered with examples from her own journey as a writer.

Finding Your Fit as a Writer
Amber Albee Swenson

Do you have an insatiable desire to write and don’t quite know how to get started in a meaningful way? Could your writing be used to serve others and advance God’s kingdom? No matter what brought you to this conference, God can use you! With honest feedback and a willingness to grow, you can find your spot in the writing world. Take it from someone whose career is a winding path: God will put any willing heart to work. Are you ready to find your fit?

PANEL DISCUSSION: How Do I Publish? Let Me Count the Ways!
Jess Woller, Valerie Bodden, Amber Albee Swenson
Moderator: Angie Molkentin

The process of publishing has changed dramatically in the last decade. Writers can publish traditionally, independently, and anywhere in between. There are many choices: Print or electronic? Retail sale or direct sale? What do I do myself and what can a publisher do for me? Our panel’s experiences will open your eyes to the must-haves, the best practices, and the many options available to writers today.

PANEL DISCUSSION: Marketing – What Worked for My Work
Mary Schmal, Valerie Bodden, Reji Laberje
Moderator: Angie Molkentin

Writing, publishing, and marketing all work together for a successful project. From initial publicity materials to ongoing promotion, our panel will share the creative planning and tactical ideas that helped them connect with audiences and ultimately sell their work.

Breakout Sessions

Choose 3

Writing Memoirs
Linda Jane Niedfeldt

Perhaps you have always wanted to expound on your amazing life’s story for future generations, and perhaps you are wondering if anyone would want to read it. In this session, we’ll discuss how to write a memoir that avoids the boring details and tells one captivating story at a time, set in a moment or a day, surrounded by the world at that time. We’ll start by writing big to make it small, and we’ll tell the truth, nothing but the truth . . . just not the whole truth. You’ll leave with a plan for writing a memoir that speaks volumes without the bulk.

Straight to the Heart: Writing Authentic Emotion in Fiction
Valerie Bodden

Plot is great. Characters are essential. But there’s one secret to writing a story that will stick with readers long after they’ve read the last word: emotion. In this hands-on workshop, we’ll discuss how to employ narrative distance and voice for emotional impact, when to show an emotion and when to—gasp—tell it, and how to leave readers laughing, crying, and feeling your book long after they’re done reading. Although this workshop will emphasize fiction writing, the techniques discussed apply to memoir, nonfiction, and other types of writing as well. Come ready to get to the heart of your writing and create an authentic emotional experience for your readers.

Engaging a Community of Readers
Amanda Rose

Writers do not have readers unless they market their content. Some advisors may tell you to invest in the latest social media trend or flashy graphic design, yet readers value a relationship with content creators most of all. Amanda Rose will share the Holy Hen House team’s experience building a non-profit ministry and active community online. If you are hesitant about marketing or engaging with others, take heart! When our message points to God’s glory it takes eyes off ourselves and leads us to share with freedom and joy! Amanda will talk about her own insecurities, the power of prayer, aligning work with God’s will, speaking authentically, listening to readers, and how JESUS brings us together!

Next Level Marketing
Reji Laberje

In today’s world, marketing your work starts even before your manuscript is complete. Drawing on her years of professional success, Reji will describe the elements of an author’s business plan and help you think about the team you need for developing and marketing your work. She’ll share the timelines, tools, and thought processes savvy writers use to connect with their audiences and build a following for their work. If you are writing for the purpose of selling your work to an engaged audience, this session is for you!

Devotional Writing as Your Ministry
Katy Goede, Linda Buxa, Katie Martin
Moderator: Amber Swenson

Just like our readers, devotions come in all shapes and styles. No matter what the end product looks like, there are some proven methods for making the true substance – God’s Word – reign over style and form. Hear from a panel of accomplished devotion writers, each with a unique approach to the task and a love for the Word they are privileged to share.

Faithful to the Word: Writing Bible Studies and Devotions
Pastor Randy Hunter

Participants in this session will assess key aspects of writing devotions and Bible studies and discuss how to incorporate them into writing. Pastor Hunter will combine best practices for teaching adults with sound Lutheran theology so that learners grow in faith and are equipped for Christian service through your writing.

Writing for WELS Publications
Julie Wietzke, Nicole Balza, Laurie F. Gauger

Meet the managing editor of Forward in Christ, the managing editor of Parent Conversations, and the campus writer/editor at Martin Luther College. Julie, Nicole, and Laurie will share expertise from their combined 50+ years of experience working for synod publications. Hear their tips on telling your own story or the stories of others. Learn editing dos and don’ts. Get their inside advice on submitting your work to Forward in Christ and other publications. Bring your questions—this dynamic panel is eager to dialogue with you!

Reaching Beyond Your Congregation: Publishing Your Bible Study
DeLyn Wagenknecht, Naomi Schmidt, Ray Schumacher

Women’s Bible study groups provide a unique opportunity for women to grow in the Word as they enjoy fellowship with sisters in Christ. As these groups grow in number and in size, Bible study leaders face the challenge of finding studies that are Christ-centered, biblically sound, and relevant to the needs and interests of women today. If you’ve ever considered writing your own Bible studies, or if you’ve written studies and you’re wondering if they would benefit Bible study groups in other congregations, this session is for you. The panel will discuss the process of creating a study and the possibility of publishing it for the benefit of others.

Presenter Biographies

Linda Buxa

Linda Buxa can’t seem to hold a full-time job. Instead, she has two part-time jobs in communications, is a regular blogger and contributing writer for Time of Grace Ministry, and does freelance writing and editing in her spare time. Linda is the author of Dig In! Family Devotions to Feed Your Faith, Parenting by Prayer, and Made for Friendship. She and her husband, Greg, have three children—one in college and two in high school. They also have one black lab, who-knows-how-many cats, and 18 chickens.

Amber Albee Swenson

Amber Albee Swenson authored and self-published four books while blogging under “Bible Moms.” From 2015 to 2017 she blogged for Holy Hen House, then for Time of Grace beginning in 2017. She has written two mini-books for Time of Grace and was project manager and contributor to NPH‘s first women’s Bible study. In 2019 she left her comfort zone again and started a podcast for Time of Grace titled “Little Things.” Her four children (19, 17, 14, 12) are her greatest joy and the reason she stays on her knees while her hilarious and heroic (but imperfect) husband keeps her on her toes.

Jes Woller

Jes Woller is an adventure seeker, storyteller, world traveler, and believer in the beauty of catharsis. She has seen a lot of the world, but it’s Milwaukee she calls home, where she lives with her husband and four young children. Her most incredible and impactful experience yet? It’s giving birth! Motherhood is a wild and exhausting ride, and she never has and never will be tasked with more important work. Jes is the author of a children’s book, Miraculous Debut, which was published in 2019.

Valerie Bodden

Valerie Bodden has three great loves: Jesus, her family, and books. And chocolate (okay, four great loves). She writes emotion-filled Christian fiction that weaves real-life problems, real-life people, and real-life faith. She is also the author of more than 300 children’s nonfiction books and helps other authors perfect their stories with her editorial services. With experience in both traditional and self-publishing, she loves to talk writing, marketing, grammar (yes, really), and everything in between. She is living her happily ever after in Wisconsin with her high-school-sweetheart-turned-husband and their four children.

Mary Schmal

Mary Schmal has taught in WELS schools for 40 years, the past 18 years as an English teacher at Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee, WI. She also has served as a writer at Northwestern Publishing House for the ChristLight Religion Curriculum. Mary’s writing courses have sent her to various schools and conferences around the country training teachers to teach creative writing. Her current project is writing the Children of the Light historical fiction series for readers age 12 to adult. She is married to her husband Dan, who is also a retired WELS teacher and administrator.

Reji Laberje

Reji Laberje recently retired after more than two decades in writing, editing, layout, publishing, co-authoring, teaching, marketing, and author consulting. Over her career, Reji earned 11 personal #1 bestsellers out of nearly 60 publications, led another 70 authors to their #1 bestsellers, and managed more than 80 projects with independent and traditional authors and publishers. Many of her resources can be found at www.bucketlisttobookshelf.com. While she still speaks, teaches, and creates in professional writing communities, Reji is enjoying service and pastimes with loved ones in Wisconsin and through travels.

Linda Jane Niedfeldt

Linda Jane “Janie” Niedfeldt is a small-town gal who attended Lutheran and public schools, including Dr. Martin Luther College. After college, marriage, and four children, she dabbled at teaching but focused on writing: first two children’s historical fiction books, then dozens of Sunday morning newspaper feel-good stories, topped off by a few national magazine articles. She and husband Tom started a travel business in 1995, and Janie took her small-town life perspective to more than 75 countries. Now in retirement, she’s added two children’s novels and a memoir, The Psalms in My Backpack, to her portfolio.

Amanda Rose

Amanda Rose loves being a missionary wherever God plants her. She is co-founder of Holy Hen House, a ministry for women in all seasons. Amanda is married to her high school sweetheart and supports his ministry to two churches in Kingston, WI. Moving more than ten times (including internationally!) has given Amanda a curiosity for adventure and missions. She is a stay-at-home mom of four (10, 7, 5, and 2) and enjoys homeschooling while learning herself. With a master’s degree in music composition, Amanda writes songs and occasionally tours with The Lutheran Ceili Orchestra.

Katy Goede

Katy Goede is co-founder of Chosen Gen Discipleship Ministry, whose mission is to encourage and equip Christian parents to pass their faith to their kids through discipleship. A large aspect of this ministry is creating Bible study resources for families. Katy also spent years blogging for Holy Hen House and creating teen Bible studies for churches. Katy and her husband, Justin, have five kids and live in Germantown, WI. In her free time, Katy enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, camping, playing violin and cello.

Katie Martin

Katie Martin lives in Jefferson, Wisconsin with her husband, Josh. Their four children ages 20, 18, 13 and 5 have required them to make Target runs for diapers and dorm room supplies on the same day. She has followed her pastor husband to Minnesota, Texas and Germany where she lived for nine years until 2016. Katie teaches 1st and 2nd grade at St. John’s Lutheran in Jefferson and attempts freelance writing on the side. She has written for Forward in Christ, and Parents’ Crosslink and published her first book, Cherished Gifts in 2013. Her passions are helping families grow in Christ, writing and traveling the world.

Pastor Randy Hunter

Pastor Randy Hunter is lead pastor of St. Andrew in Middleton, WI, which sends daily devotions to all members based on the week’s sermon text, requiring Pastor Hunter to write five devotions each week. He has served as author and editor for the His Word/My Life series of NPH Bible studies, Chairman of WELS Adult Discipleship, and author/founder of Inter-Act Bible Studies in Forward in Christ magazine. He is currently the author and teacher of WELS Marriage Enrichment and founder of graceformarriage.com.

Julie Wietzke

Julie Wietzke has served as managing editor of Forward in Christ magazine since 2006. Since she began working at WELS Communication Services in 1995, she has written hundreds (thousands?) of articles for the synod. Her favorite part of the job: getting to talk to WELS members around the world about their faith and then being able to share their stories with Forward in Christ readers. She also enjoys turning a flicker of an idea into an article or a series in the magazine and finding the right authors to tell the story.

Nicole Balza

Nicole Balza finds the greatest thrill as a writer to be . . . editing the work of other writers. Helping an author take her writing to the next level is a thrill. Preserving an author’s voice but improving her final product is a balancing act, but it’s one Nicole relishes. Nicole began working for WELS Communication Services full time in 1999 and has continued that work part time since 2006. Writing, editing, serving as the host of a bi-weekly news magazine—there’s plenty of variety and never time to be bored. Plus, she has a front-row seat to the synod’s neatest ministry stories. She and her husband, Rob, live in Germantown, Wisconsin, with their three children.

Laurie F. Gauger

Laurie F. Gauger has written and published hymns, devotions, religious curriculum materials, and hundreds of magazine articles. She has worked as an English and music teacher at Shoreland Lutheran High School and a curriculum writer/editor at Northwestern Publishing House. She currently serves as campus writer/editor at Martin Luther College, producing two magazines, several newsletters, and various other publications. Her hymns can be found at Verses for the King (lauriegauger.com) and Selah Hymnary (selahhymnary.com). She wants more writing friends, so please friend her on Facebook (Laurie Frances Gauger-Hested) or reach out to her at laurie@lauriegauger.com.

DeLyn Wagenknecht

DeLyn Wagenknecht is an author, teacher, and reader. She earned her MA in English Literature from the University of Central Florida and then married a pastor. They raised two children, two foster children, and various pets in Southern California. She and her husband have recently moved back to her hometown in Florida. Over the years, DeLyn has written everything from devotions to technical manuals, has worked as an editor of everything from fiction to doctoral dissertations, and has taught in environments as varied as preschool and prison. She is the author of Sweet the Moments: Reflections for Women on Everyday Things, available from NPH.

Naomi Schmidt

Naomi Schmidt is a life-time student of the Word who loves connecting women with Scripture to help them apply Christ-centered truths with meaning and relevance. She teaches Bible study and writes devotions, prayers and Advent by Candlelight services. She enjoys encouraging women as she speaks at events and conferences, and she serves on the WELS Women’s Ministry Executive Board. Naomi recently published a personal and group Bible study, Ruth – Living in God’s Unfailing Faithfulness, available from NPH. Naomi and her husband have been blessed with 8 grandchildren who continue to fill their hearts with incredible joy!

Ray Schumacher

Ray Schumacher has served as curriculum and Bible study editor at Northwestern Publishing House. He continues his editorial role with NPH and also serves as an associate Pastor at Trinity Lutheran Church in Waukesha, WI.


Contact WELS Women’s Ministry for more information.