Sunday, September 23, 2012

Conference Update


It is Sunday morning, and today the conference ends. At least, the Dallas part of it does. But I know the conference goes on in the heart of each attendee, because we take this experience home with us, incorporating it into our lives, our writing, and our stories.

Last night's banquet and awards ceremony was, as always, first-class. I knew several finalists in different categories, but unfortunately, none of them went across stage to receive the award. But the cool thing is they were recognized for their talent, their commitment to the craft, and their perseverance to pursue the higher calling. They are all winners.

If I had to summarize this evening in one word, it would be "gracious". I sat at the dinner table with Shelly who was awarded her first contract by Barbour Publishing on Thursday evening. I remember Shelly from previous conferences. When I first met her, she had eight children and a husband at home. She told me she began writing about 30 years ago and put that dream on hold while she had a family. She picked the stories up again about 10 years ago. Now she has "5 or 6" children at home -- her children, and it probably depends on the day of the week how many the number is. She still prepares the meals in advance her family will eat while she is at conference, which I recall was one of the conditions of her coming to conference.

Seems to me that many stories I heard from writers this conference was that their "overnight" success took 10 years. That gives me a lot of comfort, since I am in my tenth year of writing seriously, of learning the craft, of submitting and getting rejected. Perhaps, like a good wine, writers need to be aged, the craft needs to be honed like an ax on a grindstone, the desire needs to be tested like precious metal in a fire.

I was asked by one editor why I think it has taken me ten years to get to this point, and I said it was because the Lord knew what I needed. Ten years ago, although I was a believer, success would likely have caused me to fly off on my own. I think it comes down to pride, at least for me. And while I still struggle with that, I do believe the battles I've been through and the victories the Lord has prepared for me have tempered the pride to the point where, while I won't be perfect, at least I'll be manageable.

For every writer out there, I know you've all envisioned walking across the stage at an awards ceremony and giving an acceptance speech. So I want you to share what you would say if your name was called as the winner. Here's mine:
"Stories are all about experiences. So thank you to everyone who rejected me in any way, offended me on purpose, hurt me without compunction, loved me without reservation, gave their time without condition, and hugged me when I cried. Thank you, God, for the gift of writing. Thank you, Patrick, for believing in me and supporting me beyond what seemed reasonable to others, and thank you, Jesus, for yanking me back from myself and forcing me to agree with you that you knew what was best."

I'm sure there will be others I'll mention by name, like my wonderful agent Terrie Wolf, my critique group, ACFW.

After all, they give you two minutes, and I'm not planning on wasting any of it!


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