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Why Meet with the Conference Chaplain?

Dear Friends, I’m writing about something close to my heart today. I guess that applies to many of my blogs, but I leave tomorrow for the Florida Christian Writers Conference. I don’t have far to travel this time, because the conference home is the beautiful Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center in Leesburg, Florida, which is probably half an hour from my home. This will be my fifth year attending the conference, fourth year on faculty, and third year serving as conference chaplain. What does a chaplain for this type of conference do? I can think of several important functions. These include monitoring the spiritual climate of the conference; forming and updating a team of intercessors to pray for faculty, staff, and conferees; and sharing devotionals and prayers as needed for the large-group meetings. But still another important aspect of the chaplain role is something in which I take great delight, and that’s meeting personally with conferees. In the past, I enjoyed having appointments primarily as the representative for Sisterhood magazine, which sadly ceased publication at the end of 2014. But I also met, and continue to meet, with conferees in my role as author, collaborative writer, and editor (in addition to my five years’ of work for Sisterhood, I have written eight nonfiction books, seven of them traditionally published; hundreds of articles and devotionals; and various projects for two nonprofits). I love using the lessons God’s taught me along my writing journey to assist and encourage others. And that’s what I do at the other conferences where I teach as well. This year, I want to place special emphasis on meeting with conferees in my role as FCWC chaplain. So why might you want to meet with me? Answers: Perhaps you need direction about with whom you should make appointments or which workshops to attend. Maybe you have a big (or small) decision to make based on conference feedback. I don’t know everything or everyone, but I do have some good industry and conference experience. I’ll be glad to answer questions or point you in the direction of a better resource here at the FCWC or elsewhere. Encouragement: Sometimes hearing the truth, even when spoken in love, can feel discouraging. I’ll be glad to listen, love, and (yes) pray with you. No matter how professional we are, we can all benefit from a healthy diet of encouraging words. And as my husband likes to say, “No one ever died from over-encouragement.” Prayer: I don’t make it a secret that I’m a knee in the body of Christ. It’s how He has gifted and equipped me. That doesn’t mean I have special prayer-power others don’t. But it does mean praying is my joy, my...

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WRITE: A Few of My Favorite Things—Reflections on the Florida Christian Writers Conference, Part II

  Last week, I shared some highlights of the Florida Christian Writers Conference held Feb. 26-March 2, 2014. Travel and lack of wi-fi kept me from posting the next installment before today. So here are a few more blessings (besides the fact that it’s held in my central Florida backyard) that make this conference one of my favorites:   Teen Track: led by the indomitable Bryan Davis, the teen writers get more hours per dollar than anyone else at the conference. They work from early morning until early morning (no, that’s not a typo) to offer teaching, critique, companionship, and what looks like lots of fun. Bryan always invites brave adults to join the group  as well.  Balance and Variety of continuing classes and workshops. The offerings change each year, but the quality of instructors, experience, and teaching remains excellent. Conferees have the opportunity to study one topic for extended periods via the continuing classes and also to get shorter bites of information via individual workshops.   Keynotes: Can you say fantastic? That’s the quality of the keynoters who address the FCWC each year. I loved hearing from a real-life screenwriter, Brent McCorkle, about his process as well as having the opportunity to view his product, the film Unconditional, with his added commentary afterwards. Ellie Kay was nothing short of amazing in her hard-hitting, biblical approach to the life of those who seek to make a difference through their words. And although snowstorms kept FOX News commentator and author Todd Starnes away, this year’s loss is next year’s gain.  Word Weavers Connection: After twenty-five years under the capable leadership of Director Billie Wilson, the FCWC is now owned by Word Weavers International, LLC. The influence of this organization, dedicated to helping writers improve their craft, gives the conference a special focus on critique along with discounts for its members. Evening critique groups led by Word Weavers mentors allowed interested conferees the opportunity to participate in peer critique sessions. An extra first-page critique session in which the first pages of anonymous works were shown on a screen and critiqued by a team of experts added additional value.   Extras: The FCWC is planned and executed by experienced, working industry professionals. As a result, the conference offers a number of meaningful bonuses for writers of any level. These include: a Meet-and-Greet reception at the start of the conference; the opportunity to purchase a flash drive containing folders (bios, class and workshop handouts, extra information) from each faculty member; keynote breakfasts that afforeded extra opportunities to hear from our keynoters; and a Saturday night Banquet/Awards Ceremony honoring those who submitted in a variety of categories.   In case you can’t tell, I enjoyed my time at...

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WRITE: The Introvert’s Guide to the Writers Conference

(Tomorrow, I’m headed to the Florida Christian Writers Conference, where I’ll teach, represent Sisterhood magazine, and serve as chaplain. This post originally appeared on their faculty blog, but I thought I’d repost it today in honor of the many introverts who will attend this or another writing conference now and in days to come.) It took me years to attend my first conference. And I do mean years. In fact, I’d already published three books with traditional publishers before I attended any writing-focused event. I didn’t intend to keep to myself. Not exactly. My career exploded from miniscule to much, and I was climbing a learning curve that seemed more like a mountain. I was far too busy. Or so I thought. And I may as well admit it: I’m the classic introvert. I love people, but I get my energy from my alone time. I prefer fewer, deeper relationships to a large number of shallow ones. My favorite writing time is late at night when the house is quiet. I can almost hear my spirit inhale as the ideas take shape. If I’ve just described you, welcome to our quiet club. I’d also like to welcome you to the conference world.  A conference offers us introverts the same benefits as other writers. But how can we maximize our time while minimizing the frustration and exhaustion that often accompany this type of public event? 1. Pre-select workshops and clinics.  You’ll feel more confident and comfortable without last-minute decisions. And this way, you can choose offerings that match your needs. At first, you may want to avoid interactive sessions. Give yourself permission to glean before you give. 2. Make a wise roommate choice or pay for a single. I learned this the hard way. A sweet-but-talkative roommate processed her days by telling me stories (and more stories–and more stories) each night. Another year, a more thoughtful choice allowed me to recharge in the quiet. 3. Take a break. Your conference fee doesn’t require you to attend every session. If you feel overloaded, skip a workshop and pay for the flash drive or CD. Plan your own free time if you need more than the general schedule allows. 4. Don’t try to process it all. Resolve to go through your notes later and content yourself with receiving even without full comprehension. Enjoy the sumptuous information buffet and ask God’s help to digest it afterward. 5. Treat your editor or agent appointment as a consultation, not a tryout. You attend a conference to hear from the experts. Instead of putting yourself in performance mode, consider your meeting a career consultation. Remember: the experts came to help you. 6. Take some risks. Speak to that author you’ve always admired. Attend the session that...

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WRITE: Top Ten Perks of the Florida Christian Writers Conference

  What do writers do? They write. On March 3, I returned home from teaching and serving as chaplain for the 2013 Florida Christian Writers Conference to a busy season of (you guessed it) writing. Now that I’ve finished two major assignments with several more ahead, I’m coming up to breathe long enough to share my Top Ten Perks of the Florida Christian Writers Conference. 10. Atmosphere:  One of our prayers going into this year’s FCWC was for its atmosphere. Conference founder Billie Wilson established a precious tradition of encouragement, worship, and gentle humor. This year, co-directors Eva Marie Everson and Mark Hancock carried that out in their own inimitable style. And the stylings of worship artist Rob Gorini of Nonparell fueled our artistic flames. 9. Scholarships: Author and friend to writers Cec Murphey donated scholarships to help writers of color attend this year’s event (thank you, Cec). And the conference itself gave nearly $15,000 worth of scholarship money to those who applied. Please remember this if you’d like to attend the conference but have concerns about the cost. 8. Contest and Awards Banquet: The 2013 FCWC writing contest had a fresh look. Writers submitted entries before the conference and were honored during a first-class awards banquet on the final evening.   7. Location, Location, Location: Central Florida in March seems like a warm breath of heaven for those from less temperate climates. And the Lake Yale Baptist Conference Center, with trees laden in Spanish moss and breathtaking views of the lake, makes for a matchless setting. 6. Bookstore and Photography: The easy-access conference bookstore offered many advantages including a flash drive of all workshop handouts. And the official conference photographer not only offered a CD of conference photos but also took headshots (a common author need) upon request. 5. Workshops and Continuing Classes: The conference offered nine continuing classes (including a fabulous workshop for teens) which met every morning, all taught by experienced professionals. In addition, conferees had their choice of sixty-plus workshops on topics ranging from social media to time management to finding your writing voice. 4. Keynotes and VIP Breakfasts: Industry experts Alton Gansky, Rachel Hauck, Steven James, Sally Stuart, and Dan Walsh shared their expertise through venues that included not only the traditional conference keynotes but VIP breakfasts each morning of the conference. 3. Expert Feedback: The FCWC provided ample opportunities for writers to meet with top agents, editors, and authors in fifteen-minute appointments or at more informal lunch and dinner meetings. For an extra fee, conferees also had the opportunity to submit their work for an advance critique by a faculty member of their choice. 2. Critique Groups: This unique element of the FCWC came about through...

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WRITE: Florida Christian Writer’s Conference–Celebrate the Awe

How do you describe that moment at the top of the roller coaster before it plunges down the first hill? A friend of mine uses the word awe, which he defines as “great joy and excitement mixed with tremendous fear.” Borrowing his definition, then, I can say I’m in awe of my role as chaplain for the 2013 Florida Christian Writers Conference. A chaplain ministers God’s truth. A chaplain gives care, comfort, and encouragement. And although I’ve done all of those things in various ministry opportunities (including writers’ conferences) through the years, I’ve never had this particular title at a conference. And sometimes, I allow the fear portion of my awe too much freedom.  What if the prayer letters I send prove ineffective? What if I say the wrong thing when I address the conference or speak to an individual? What if I miss out on opportunities because I’m too busy teaching workshops or meeting with those interested in writing for Sisterhood Magazine (some of my other responsibilities at the FCWC). Did you notice anything about those questions? They all center on me. And that’s the focus God’s shifting as I pray toward the conference. Those who are self-focused minister only to one person. So I’m asking God to help me turn my what-ifs into prayers that He’ll move through me both now and during the conference. After all, I can only live in awe if I step aside and watch Him work. I may not have a perfect understanding of my chaplain role, but He does. I may not know what to say or when to say it, but He promises wisdom to those who ask. And I’ll trust Him for the timing of appointments, planned and otherwise. God loves to use my weakness as a vehicle for His strength (2 Corinthians 12:9). Because I remember my days a confused first-time conference attendee, I can offer words of calm assurance. Because I long for God to use my writing to make a difference, I can pray for others who have the same hope and desire. And because I continue to slip, stumble, and start over again in my own writing journey, I can encourage others at all stages of theirs. I hope to see you at the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference (for more of my thoughts about why you should attend, go here). Come find me. I’ll be the one watching for His great work—and celebrating the awe.  Do you have questions about the conference? Feel free to ask by leaving a comment or emailing me. For more information, check out the conference website  and Faculty...

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WRITE: One Item You Must Bring to Any Writer’s Conference

“My bags are packed, I’m ready to go. . .” This lyric from a popular song of my childhood expresses my feelings today as I make final preparation to leave for the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. But I have a small problem: I’m not ready to go. Several hours of homeschool, thirty minutes or so of copying handouts, and at least one trip to the grocery store precede my departure. My bags are packed, but I’m not ready to go.  Not yet. This year, as thousands of conferees prepare to attend this or other writers conferences throughout the country, they’ll pack their bags. They’ll prepare book proposals. They’ll read up on how to impress an agent or editor. They’ll edit and re-edit, agonize and agitate. They’ll scrutinize the list of faculty in an effort to decide which classes to take and appointments to make. And they’ll pray (at least I hope they will). All this measured preparation, however, won’t do them any good if they fail to pack one essential item. As last year’s Florida conference began, I made a trip to Starbucks for one faculty member who couldn’t go more than a few hours without his chai tea latte. I picked up a toothbrush for an agent who forget hers.   But what’s the must-have item, the one thing every conferee should pack? Everyone can find it. All writers need it. But just as some travelers will leave behind their blow dryer or favorite pillow, many writers will neglect to pack one thing. Instead of this necessity, some writers carry with them a bundle of pride. Unwrapped, it prevents true listening and learning because it has its possessors convinced: the world awaits their words. No one says it better—or certainly not as well. Agents and editors will line up in gratitude for the privilege of representing and publishing them. And if this scenario doesn’t happen? Accusing fingers point at the publishing professionals, not the writers. Others leave pride behind and pack insecurity instead. “I’ll never get this,” they moan. “All the information overwhelms me.” Instead of taking notes or ordering CDs from conference workshops, they allow their own fear of failure to distract them. They avoid rejection, so they don’t dare make faculty appointments. And they return home without much of the knowledge and experience the conference offers. As I close my suitcase today, I’ll make sure not to leave out teachability. I have much to learn from my interactions with other writers, from speakers and workshop leaders, and from all who love to work with words. I’ll watch not only for what people are saying but for what God is showing me through the conference. Here in Florida, I’ll...

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