WRITE: Quad-Cities Christian Writers’ Conference–My Favorite Things
My blog followers may recall that I had the recent honor of teaching at my first writers’ conference. Twila Belk founded the Quad-Cities Writers’ Conference in Eldridge, Iowa a few years ago with the encouragement of author and writers’ benefactor Cecil Murphey.
The QCCWC was a weekend to remember in many ways. We kicked off the conference with a stunning faculty rendition of “My Favorite Things,” parodied for publishing by Twila’s sweet assistant, wonderwoman Gail Smith. Here, I offer a less poetic version:
#10. FANTASTIC FOOD: I heard this comment repeated often by students and faculty alike. Delicious homemade soup and desserts, a full salad bar, snacks—both healthy and not-so-healthy options abounded.
#9. GREAT GIVEAWAYS: Conference sponsors allowed Twila to share multiple copies of both fiction and nonfiction books (not to mention the ubiquitous Christian Romance T-shirts and mugs) at every general session.
#8. APPROPRIATE ATTENDANCE: As with many conferences, registrations were down this year. The venue, although reasonably sized, held a few hundred–not thousands. Smaller numbers helped produce a warm, intimate experience.
#7. REMARKABLE RESOURCES: Twila asked faculty members to submit recommended resource lists and offered many of their choices in the conference bookstore. Faculty members and conferees also sold and signed their books. My ghostwriter status doesn’t allow me to market much of my work, but in this atmosphere, I could and did.
#6. MARVELOUS MP3s: The conference registration fee included an MP3 of every speaker and seminar. This avoided dilemmas (“How can I choose between so many wonderful sessions?”) and allowed the blessings of professional instruction to extend beyond the weekend.
#5. CONCENTRATION on CRAFT: Per Cecil Murphey’s recommendation, no agents or editors attended in an official (manuscript-reviewing) capacity. This freed conference participants to focus on improving their writing without the pressure of competition or self-promotion. They also had the opportunity to submit manuscripts ahead of time and, for a reasonable fee, receive a full critique and half-hour appointment with the critiquing faculty member.
#4. SUPERB SPEAKERS: Each of the three keynoters (Cynthia Ruchti, Jim Pence, and Jim Rubart) shared messages that inspired and encouraged writers from beginning to professional levels. I’m in awe of their hearts, their talents, and their desire to help others grow and improve.
#3. TERRIFIC TEACHERS: QCCWC may not be the biggest conference around, but the faculty was top-notch. In what other small conference could you learn story techniques from veteran mentor Frank Ball or marketing strategies from longtime pro (and breakout novelist) Jim Rubart? Conference participants also had opportunities to interact with faculty members at mealtimes, in personal appointments, and beyond. I was blessed to count myself the least of these among this group of top professionals.
#2. SWEET SPIRIT: I’ve sometimes sensed a “published and proud of it” attitude among writers, but this conference was diva- (and divo-) free. Encouraging words and attitudes abounded, a credit to Twila and her ever-so-supportive staff.
#1. HOLY HUSH: Gail Smith’s three-word description of the conference was “God showed up.” I agree. His presence wove a divine thread throughout the weekend that delighted us all. You had to be there to experience it. Writers and writer wannabes out there—I pray that in 2011, you will!