I have to confess I had a moment of hesitation as I stood across the road from the conference venue, watching people go in. It felt slightly surreal to be attending something billed as a Christian Writers’ Day- even a year ago this is not something I’d have imagined myself doing!
I knew that several of the others attending were published authors and I hoped I would fit in. There was also some anxiety about entering a room full of complete strangers, but I had travelled 400 miles to be there, so I uttered a quick prayer, plucked up my courage, and crossed the street.
Inside, I registered and then looked around. Everyone seemed to be talking in little groups and I wasn’t sure where to start. I noticed a bookstall and was slightly intimidated by the huge selection when I realised that all of them had been brought by their authors, who were attending the conference!
Coffee was being served at the other side of the room, so I headed in that direction and was relieved to get into conversation with someone who was also “just a blogger” and who reassured me that she had been to one of these days before and that everyone was very welcoming.
As I chatted to more people throughout the day, I certainly found that to be the case. People were at different stages in their writing journeys but there was recognition that we were all in it together, and the atmosphere was one of support and encouragement rather than of competition. After a brief conversation with one of the more experienced writers she began encouraging me that I should write a book and explaining how she thought I should go about it. She had never read any of my writing so had no idea if it was any good, but I loved that her default position was to encourage me.
The content of the sessions was excellent. One was about “Telling God’s Story.” It looked at how we tell stories that reflect God’s story and how fiction writing can reflect Christian theology and a Christian worldview and point the reader to a deeper narrative.
“We instinctively know that a story needs darkness, but that the darkness can be beaten.”
The second session was on “Telling Our Stories”- looking at how we share our testimonies of God’s work in our lives in a way that is glorifying to him. I shared some of my takeaways from this session in a previous post, but I was also very struck by the statement that “As you write, you discover your voice.” That has definitely been the case for me over the last couple of years, and it is an ongoing process.
We were given space to think about the message we feel called to share. What is the topic we feel we have to write about, that burns inside us?
I feel that has become clearer for me over the last month as I’ve written my Kintsugi series. In the past when I have written for Write 31 Days, I have finished the month drained. I have enjoyed the challenge and been pleased to have completed it, but I have also felt out of words and ready for a break.
I don’t feel like that at all this year. 31 Days is a big challenge and I’m tired but I’m also energised. I still feel I have more to say on the topic and that I want to keep writing about it!
After some discussion about sharing our stories we were given a theme, and ten minutes to write a story. Then we had to pair up and share it with someone else. I was praising God for Five Minute Friday at that moment as it meant this was actually something I felt relatively comfortable with!
I had gone to the conference thinking of myself as the beginner, there to learn from others but without much to offer in return. To my surprise I discovered that I did have something to offer, because although there were several published authors, I found that I had more knowledge about blogging than quite a few of the others.
People began asking questions and I found myself telling them about Five Minute Friday and Write 31 Days, explaining how link-ups worked, how you could get more people to view your blog, and how you can monetise your blog (I don’t, but I know a bit about how you could). One lady even asked me what a blog was, which is a surprisingly difficult question to answer coherently when you’re put on the spot!
At other points I was definitely the one who was learning. During lunch time I found myself part of a conversation where a group of fiction writers were discussing the challenges of naming characters. I had nothing to contribute to this and I’m not even a fiction writer, but it was fascinating to listen and to soak in their wisdom.
A final highlight was having the chance to talk briefly to Emma Scrivener, one of the speakers. Her book, “A New Name,” which recounts her testimony of healing from anorexia, helped me massively in supporting a friend through the same struggle, so it was wonderful to have the opportunity not only to hear her speak, but also to thank her in person.
All in all, my first experience of attending a writing conference was a very positive one. I learned a lot, and I discovered that there is just something wonderful about being in a room with lots of other writers. Until now, all of my writing connections have been online and I’m so grateful for each one of those contacts, but there is also something special about face to face conversation, and it was lovely to find this group where we could talk about writing, learn from one another, and share encouragement.
If you get the chance to be part of a gathering of other writers where you are, I’d highly recommend it!
This post is taking the place of my usual monthly reflections post for October. Other reflections from October will be included in the post at the end of November.