A Novice at a Writers Conference

You barely know what you’re doing. Walking up to the front desk or table, you sign in. Newby WriterSomeone hands you a few things you’re too nervous to look at, including a name badge that you promptly drop.

You’ve just arrived at your first writers conference and you haven’t a clue what comes next.

Following the drone of voices, you find yourself in a room filled with excited people. Many of them smile at you and introduce themselves. Business cards exchange hands. This will happen often during the conference, so keep yours handy.

After whatever opening ceremonies your conference offers, the keynote speaker is introduced. He or she encourages and challenges you. Sometimes they make you laugh. Often, they share their horror stories about how they got their start. Bungling, novice writers, swimming against the current. Somehow making it through all the jumble. It’s hard, hard work! But it’s worth it. Every excruciating moment of it, they tell you.

And you believe it.

mourning-360500_1280After the keynote, there are classes. You’ve chosen several that looked promising. By the end of the day, your head may explode. What? Did you really think it would be easy? There is so much to this thing! You’d never even heard about deep POV, or showing versus telling.

And as the day draws to a close, you realize…you’ve been doing it all wrong. Now you’ll have to go home and get out your work-in-progress, examine it for all the problems you didn’t know you had. But maybe not tonight. Tonight you’re tired, and tomorrow is another day of conference. Like the true novice you are, you have scheduled interviews with an agent and an editor.

And now, you know the truth. You’re not ready.

So after a sleepless night, you return to the writers conference. A fluttering tummy accompanies you. You force a few sips of coffee down and check your phone forty-five times to make sure you’re not late for your interview.

a4b6d-interrogationThe agent sits across from you, waiting. You’re so nervous, you drop your one-sheet and stumble over your words. It’s not the perfect interview you’d envisioned when you signed up for this thing. In fact, it seems a bit like an interrogation. But somehow, you make it through.

She smiles sweetly as she lets you down easy. Your writing shows promise, but needs work.

The interview with the editor is easier, because now you know. Your work is not ready, so why not use these few minutes to get to know this editor? Ask questions. Find out what it will take to get where you want to go.

If they tell you to abandon your dreams–find another way to express yourself because you clearly don’t have what it takes to get published–ignore them. Because that’s what writers do. We ignore the naysayers and keep plodding on, learning and filling our heads with writer-ly things. We swallow our disappointments, pull ourselves up and start over. Over and over again.

10610671_10204984726037483_7958217533026572582_nBy the end of the conference, you realize how much you still need to learn. But you’re stuffed full of hope and encouragement. You’ve made friends and connections. You have a fistful of business cards so you can connect on Facebook and Twitter. You now know how to connect on Facebook and Twitter.

The writers conference can provide you with all that and more. It’s an investment in your future. Continuing education.

If you were playing a video game, you’ve just received a key that will get you to the next level.

There’s a writers conference out there calling your name. You may need to save some cash to go, but it’ll be worth every penny. I’m going to two this year. Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown, Kentucky (June 23-25), and the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Nashville, Tennessee (August 25-28).  I’ve linked them for you, so you can check them out.

Have you attended a conference recently, or in the past? What was your favorite part? My favorite memory is of a connection I made with a published writer who encouraged me to stick with it. Don’t give up. She made me feel that I had a purpose. I’m forever grateful.

If you were looking for news about our upcoming mission trip to Cuenca, Ecuador — I’ve delayed the post until Tuesday, June 28 so I can give you the most up-to-date news possible. There’s a lot happening! 🙂

Growing Connections

I first met Ralene Burke via the ACFW regional page on Facebook, but I think I’d seen her before. According to her article below, we were both in Denver at the 2009 ACFW conference. I can’t imagine being in the same room with Ralene and not noticing her. Her bright personality is hard to miss. After relocating to the Louisville area, she set a date for a meeting and several writers gathered. We’ve been meeting once a month, ever since that day, picking up more members as we go. Her fresh ideas keep us coming back for more. So of course, I had to ask Ralene to share her take on Connections for this month’s theme on my blog. I hope you enjoy the post!

Ralene: When your parents tell you that you can be anything when you grow up, that leaves a whole wide world of choices for the young mind. As a young woman, fresh out of high school, I was ready to tackle the world. Or so I thought. 

For several years, I stumbled about, trying to find my place. I floated from job to job. Sure, I excelled at whatever I put my mind to, but I wasn’t happy. Satisfaction eluded me. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing.

While I was working at a bank, I had a chance encounter that included my high school bus driver and my teller supervisor. The result was this brilliant (yeah, not so much) idea for a novel. So, in my free time, I started writing. Over the next few months, I continued to work on the story in bits and pieces. I was even brave enough to let a fellow bank employee read it. 

In February 2006, my husband returned home from deployment, and we moved to Texas. I went from working full time and going out with friends to being a stranger in a strange land: a stay-at-home mom with a newborn with no local friends. Aaaah!

But, the new freedom gave me more time to write. I really didn’t know much about writing or publishing, and I wanted to learn. So I joined Writing.Com (free basic account, which I later upgraded) and found a forum for YA novelists. This group became my source of growth and encouragement. I’m friends with many of them still today.

A year or so later, I joined American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and immediately got involved! I took the free courses and participated in the loops. When I was eligible, I even became one of the Zone Directors. In 2009, I went to my very first writing conference: ACFW in Denver, CO. I thought it would be awkward, not knowing anyone, but it turns out I knew more than I thought. Of course, my critique partner was there, but so were several members from my zone, whom I had communicated with and gotten to know online. 

It was about this time that I started getting into Facebook and blogging. Here was an opportunity to connect with even more writers. Even more homeschoolers. More people to encourage and support, and in whom to find the same. 

Today, as a writer and homeschooler, I find that my life can get rather hermit-esque. All too often, the day-to-day stress (and joys) of working from home while educating my kids can get to me. It’s nice to have found fellow writers who understand my journey. It’s a joy to know that I can reach out to other homeschoolers when I am ready to tear my hair out. And those rare few who write and homeschool? Well, they completely get me.

I’ve finally found my place. It took a few years, a few wrong turns, and a multitude of prayers, but I’ve made it. And God provided me with the support He knew I would need. 

About the Author:Whether Ralene Burke is wielding a writer’s pen, an editor’s sword, or a social media wand, she always has her head in a dreamer’s world. And she wants to make it SHINE! In her own writing, she spins fast-paced tales of fantasy worlds, angels and demons, and the broader calling of every human being. A place where the light pierces the darkness . . . You can find out more about her writing and editing services on her website: http://www.raleneburke.com