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

Posted by on February 29, 2012 in Florida Christian Writers Conference, teachable, writers conference | 2 comments

“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 betteror 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 teach four workshops and facilitate one critique session. But I’ll come away having received much more than I gave. 
I’ve seen a teachable attitude carry other writers from from error-laden to polished and from unpublished to published. Best of all, a teachable attitude carries with it another essential quality: joy. 
As you head to your next writer’s conference, leave the pride and insecurity behind. Instead, make room in your suitcase for an extra-large bottle of teachability. Apply with abandon each day and watch as your writing makes a difference.

The next life your words change could be your own. 

How have you seen teachability make a difference at a conference or elsewhere? What’s on your must-have packing list?I’d love to find out!


  1. Great post, Marti. Wish I was going to be at the Florida Christian Writers Conference. I could teach you a few things. 🙂 Kidding.

    I’ve never been on the teaching side of a conference, so I’ve never noticed if people were hindered by being unteachable or helped by being teachable. I have noticed a few times when people have forgotten to pack humility, which is closely related to teachability.

  2. You could teach me a great deal, Sally. We would have loved to have you at the conference. I’m in the recovery zone now–always takes a day or two to decompress. But you are right about the humility. If we don’t pack it, God has ways of ensuring we receive it one way or another.

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