Friday and Saturday were a whirlwind of activity as I had an opportunity to attend my second Carolina Christian Writer’s Conference. I had a wonderful time, and my head is still spinning, processing all I learned.
Karissa Culbreath was the keynote speaker. Wow! She was both sweet and dynamic, accomplished yet relatable.
As with last year, there were four different workshops times over the two days, with about half a dozen workshops to choose from each time. Most times I wanted to attend two or three, so it was hard to narrow down the choices. I wish they all could have been recorded. Topics ranged from how to find (make) time to write, how to navigate social media, fears, grammar and editing, writing for children and youth, writing for various markets, aspects of nonfiction and fiction writing, mastering Amazon – and multitudes more.
There was an informative panel discussion Friday night, an opportunity to split into different genre groups with a few of the faculty members on hand to answer questions, a “lightening learning” session where we went in small groups from table to table to hear five minutes of each speaker’s best or favorite tips, and an opportunity to eat lunch with one of the speakers.
We also had an opportunity to send in an outline and ten pages of a manuscript ahead of time for a critique and then to have a fifteen minute meeting with the person who critiqued us. Last year the manuscript was given to one of the speakers, and we didn’t know who until we got a notice of our meeting time with them. This year we got to choose which person we wanted to look at our manuscripts. We were also able to sign up ahead of time for a fifteen minute meeting with another of the faculty members. I got both of the people I requested for each of those (last year the person I asked for had no slots available). Then Friday morning we had the opportunity to sign up for another fifteen minute meeting. That person ended up having a different role than what I had thought, so in a sense we didn’t really fit each other’s needs. Still, she gave me a piece of key, valuable advice that’s going to have a big impact on how I shape my book, and I enjoyed the conversation.
Last year, some of you may remember, I’d had no plans to attend a conference, and I had never even heard of this one. When I did hear about it from an online friend, it was only 2-3 weeks before the conference. Since it was in the city where we used to live, that sparked more of an interest and a possibility to go since it was in a familiar place. But it was so soon, and we had my mother-in-law’s care, and I had not traveled alone nor attended anything like a conference in eons, etc., etc. But God worked it all out. I had a manuscript I’d started, but it was really in no shape to be seen. But it was all I had, so I pulled it out of mothballs with no time to shape it up and sent it in. The critique last year was pretty devastating, with not one positive note, leaving me thinking perhaps writing was just a pipe dream. But the critique was good in pointing out some glaring mistakes I was (obviously) unaware of, making me now acutely aware of them. And the rest of the conference encouraged me that all was not lost yet. Last year I also missed all of Saturday mornings events due to being sick in my hotel room.
This year, I started off feeling sick before I ever left. I ended up missing the very first explanatory session, but was able to attend the rest of it. Last year my nerves were taut with the newness of everything, being in circumstances I was unused to with a lot of strangers. It wasn’t until the last few hours then that I just relaxed and enjoyed the rest of it. This year, though nerves did flare up, I was more at ease and relaxed through the whole conference. I enjoyed a lot of good conversations with fellow conferees.
Last year, since the conference came up so suddenly, I just kind of went with the flow and had no idea what to ask. This year, after a year of more intense focus on my writing and reading writing blogs in the meantime, I came with two pages of typed questions. 🙂 I didn’t get all of them answered – I wished my fifteen minute sessions could have been thirty – and I added several more questions after the conference was over.
My critique session was as different as night and day than last year. Part of that was the different personalities of the critiquers. The lady I had last year was not unkind, but she was just more of a matter-of-fact personality. The lady I had this year was very sweet and encouraging. She did have some corrections and valuable editorial notes, but the whole tone of the critique was more uplifting. I was so thankful and encouraged for the growth God led me through since last year, and the hard critique last year was definitely one of His tools.
One new aspect of this year’s conference was contests. We had an opportunity to submit writing in any of several categories. If I remember correctly, I think we could enter as many times as we wanted, but there was a $20 fee for each entry which was then used to provide scholarships for people who needed financial help to attend. The fee was for a good purpose, but also served to limit how many entrees most of us could submit. As it happened, I won first place in the Devotional category.
And! EABooks sponsored a contest in which we could submit entries on the theme “Blessings in Disguise,” and they would choose 20-25 to be included in their book compilation. That would not only give us exposure and an opportunity to get our message out, but being actually published would increase our writing credentials. My entry was one of those chosen for the book.
(Special thanks to my new friend Tori for taking and sending me the last photo!)
Besides just being excited about winning anything, I am so encouraged. Though I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, the positive critique and conversations and the contests all help me know growth has occurred and I’m heading in the right direction.
Last year I shared some of my takeaways from last year’s writer’s conference. Those were all reinforced. It will probably take me several days to process everything from this conference. But I would encourage you to attend a conference if you have any desire to write, especially for publication. You can get some of the information from blogs and books on writing. But the ability to ask questions, talk with people inbetween workshops, have lunch with a writer or editor, listen in on some of the more informal sessions like the genre groups and “lightning learning,” and especially the fifteen-minute meetings with the faculty are experiences you can’t get anywhere else.
For me as a first- and even a second-timer, it helped that the conference was small. It wasn’t quite so overwhelming that way. Many areas have one or two-day writer’s conferences. There’s a really big Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference not too far from me that I may try to make it so some day. But it’s five days, and therefore more expensive. And if my head is about to explode after two days, I don’t know what it would do with five. But there are also that many more writers, editors, and publishers to hear from and opportunities to interact and ask questions.
Now – back to regular life, laundry, and more writing.
(Sharing also with Literary Musing Monday)