Monday, March 12, 2018

How Investigative Reporting Can Enhance Your Conference Experience

By Lori Hatcher

I was trained in journalism at the illustrious Airport High School in West Columbia, South Carolina. In 10th grade Newspaper 101 class, I learned the key to investigative reporting: Ask questions. Specifically, Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? 

Although my journalism knowledge has grown since those early days, these questions continue to serve me well. They can serve you well too, if you use them at the next writers’ conference you attend.

For several days, you’ll have the opportunity to interact with fellow Christian writers. What a joy! And if you’re introverted, like most of us, what a fright! With rare exception, we’d much rather “speak” through our fingers in the solitude of our offices than through our mouths in a crowded classroom or dining room. Yet by meeting and getting to know your fellow writers and instructors, you can tap into a force more powerful than the cappuccino machine outside the Cove dining room.

Christian writing friends can give you a dynamic support network. They cheer you on when you’re discouraged, hold you accountable when you’re slack, and help you promote when the day comes to launch your project. They can connect you with resources and people you’d never meet otherwise and help you brainstorm when you get stuck. A knowledgeable sounding board when you’re struggling with POV, storyboarding, or endnotes, fellow writers can offer information to unknot the tightest writing snarl.
So, how do you break the ice and step into the sometimes-chilly waters of conversation? You engage in a bit of covert investigative journalism and start asking questions.

“Hi, my name is Lori Hatcher.”
  •       What genre do you write?
  •       Who have you met already?
  •       When did you begin writing?
  •       Where are you from?
  •       Why did you choose this conference?
  •       How did you hear about the conference?

These simple questions are guaranteed to launch a lively enough conversation that you might not have to speak again until you think of something stunningly brilliant. If the conversation stalls, turn to the person on the other side of you at the dinner table or in class and start over.

As I’ve networked with fellow instructors and conferees over the years, I’ve found kindred writing spirits who have become some of my dearest friends. I’ve met men and women who have graciously helped me fulfill my writing goals, and I’ve connected with up-and-coming writers whom I’ve been able to help reach the next level in their writing journey.

All because of six simple questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?

In the weeks leading up to the next conference, I encourage you to practice them on your family and friends. Then, at your next conference, sidle up to a friendly face, ask a few questions, and go where the conversation leads.

What tips can you add? We would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of Lori Hatcher,, Stuart Miles, and kraifreedom.) 


Lori Hatcher is the editor of Reach Out, Columbia magazine and the author of the 2016 Christian Small Publisher Book of the year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A blogger, writing instructor, and inspirational speaker, her goal is to help women connect with God in the craziness of life You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time . Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@LoriHatcher2), or Pinterest (Hungry for God).


  1. These questions work well for setting goals too
    Where are you now?
    What do you want to accomplish?
    When do you want to do this?
    How will you know when you've reached this goal?
    Why do you want to do this?
    Who will be your support team?

    1. That's awesome, Cindy. Thanks so much for sharing it with our readers. :)


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