by Iola Goulton

Registration is now open for PENCON 2019, Christian Editor Network’s annual conference. Click here to register. PENCON promises to be a great event for Christian editors. But we can’t all attend conference. I’d love to, but I live in New Zealand and attending a conference in the United States costs almost as much as my daughter’s annual college tuition.

Does that mean I don’t get the opportunity to learn, to upskill? Not at all! Here are my top tips for upskilling myself without going to a conference:

Read Books

I specialize in fiction editing, so I read a lot of debut and new-to-me authors in my genre, and in other genres. Reading in my genre enables me to study genre trends, and means I can suggest comparable titles for clients to include in their proposals. Reading outside my genre often teaches me something new about writing craft.

For example, I’ve recently finished a general market romance where the author managed to make clear the hero was interested in the first-person narrator even though the narrator herself was oblivious. How did the author do that? Learning how will help me advise others on how to write subtext, romantic tension, and unreliable narrators.

I also read writing craft books, and I often quote masters of the craft such as James Scott Bell, Janice Hardy, Randy Ingermanson, Steven James, and Orson Scott Card in my editorial letters. Quoting experts gives authority to my advice, and provides clients with additional assistance in areas they find difficult.

Read Blog Posts

There are dozens—hundreds—of great writing blogs. Many are written by writers, but some specifically address editing. My favourite editing blogs are:

Online Training

The PEN Institute has a great suite of lecture packets and online courses. Online classes are conducted via email or in groups, and these offer feedback on exercises and a certificate of completion. Editors (and writers) can purchase the lecture packets at any time and work through at their own pace. I’ve taken almost all of their fiction classes and am currently working my way through Editing YA Fiction 101.

I’ve also taken several courses through Margie Lawson’s Lawson Writer’s Academy. Margie’s “Big Three” courses are also available as lecture packets—I’ve completed those, and Digging Deep into the EDITS System is next on my list.

PENCON is one of many conferences that sells audio recordings of the conference sessions. Full audio packs are available for the 2016, 2017, and 2018 conferences, or you can purchase individual sessions at

Will you be attending PENCON 2019? If not, how do you plan to upskill yourself in 2019?

Iola Goulton of Christian Editing Services is a New Zealand-based freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction. Iola holds a degree in marketing and has been editing since 2012. She is a member of The Christian PEN, and Romance Writers of New Zealand, and manages the Beyond the Borders zone of American Christian Fiction Writers. When she’s not working, Iola is usually reading, writing her next book review, or avoiding working on her first novel. Iola lives in the beautiful Bay of Plenty in New Zealand with her husband, two teenagers, and one cat. Website: or follow her on FacebookPinterest, Twitter.