Writing Conference Reflections

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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.

Writing Conference Reflections

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46 thoughts on “Writing Conference Reflections

  1. I loved this! I went to a writer’s conference last month as well and I could relate to so much of what you were saying!
    “People were at different stages in their writing journeys but there was recognition that we were all in it together,” This was so true at my conference too! And the blessing of being with like-minded people who were not in competition with one another was such a gift!

    SO glad you had that time!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, I’m in awe! 400 miles! By yourself! What courage, what focus, what passion!

    I think it’s fair to say that’s a limb I’d never be brave enough to venture out on. My admiration for you simply grows, Lesley!

    And I do appreciate the lessons you’ve brought back to us. And yes, yes, you ARE a writer, friend …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Linda! It’s funny because the general perception of Americans here is that you think nothing of travelling huge distances! 🙂
      My journey was only 4 1/2 hours on the train so it actually wasn’t that hard!
      As always, thanks for your encouragement!

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  3. I’m so glad you were blessed by attending the conference, Lesley! I’m sure you inspired many others with your stories. I got to know you through linkups, so it’s a valuable use of my blogging time. Blessings to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. So glad to read more your experience, Lesley! Thanking the Lord for what you learned and for the joy of getting to meet with other writers for Him face-to-face. How cool that you got to meet the author whose book had been helpful to you, I bet she appreciated your conversation too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Lesley! I’m so proud of you! To enter such a big place, not knowing anyone and not sure you belong? That’s awesome! I love that you ended up helping others, even though you weren’t sure you could. God uses all of us!
    I think it’s really great to go to things like this (although I personally have never done it), because it helps you to understand that you do have a place in the writing world. Writing is such a solitary pursuit, it’s hard to find a writers group for constant support. We all start out at the beginning, and we all walk at different paces, but we all are on the same track. Trying to be authentic!
    Blessings,
    Ceil

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ceil! Yes, there is something so encouraging about connecting with others who are on the same journey, even though we are all at different stages. I don’t know if I’d have kept writing without the online connections I’ve made. I value them so much, but it was great to have some face-to-face connections to add to that.

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  6. Thank you for sharing these discoveries, Lesley. I’m so glad you had a positive and blessed experience. I LOVED your series on Kintsugi stories and could feel your passion for the subject matter, your empathy and compassion for the broken, and your longing desire for us to feel beautiful in God’s eyes. Thank you again. I have the link to them all saved for one of my hope and healing links at the end of the month. 🙂

    I went to one writing conference years ago. I was even more insecure then than I am now. But some things I will never forget. One woman who helped lead the conference was in line in front of me for lunch and she turned and said to me, “Never forget that YOU have something to offer here, too.” I was stunned and knew it was a God-thing. Also, an editor there greatly encouraged me. She read through my idea for a book and some of my articles. Then she told me, “Never let someone tell you you can’t write.” She also took time with me and said that sometimes we just need to write for ourselves to heal. (My pain was kind of raw then.) She said if we write out our story, it can be between God and us. Then we can further ask God if He wants us to write a book. This advice really impressed me. After the conference, God slowly taught me that His call for me to write did not necessarily mean I needed to write a book. It is more important that I seek His glory, not money or fame, in my writing. So I continued with my blog, and over the years it has changed as have my thoughts concerning writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Trudy! I’m so glad you were blessed by the Kintsugi series and that my passion for the topic came across!
      Thanks for sharing about your experiences at a writing conference too. I’m so glad you met people who encouraged you. You definitely have something to offer! I am always blessed by your writing and I love your attitude of seeking to glorify God first and foremost. Seeking God’s will about what and where we should be writing is so important. Love and hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What an amazing opportunity for you. I remember the first time I went to a conference and felt very much like you did. As soon as I saw someone familiar, I felt much better.

    The structure of the conference you went to sounds wonderful. Telling God’s story, telling our stories and then reflecting on your own message. God is opening up who you are as a writer and love seeing that reflected here in your space.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mary! I think many of us would feel the same entering a room full of strangers. For me there was no-one familiar, but everyone was very friendly.
      Yes, the structure of the conference and all the different sessions were really helpful. I still have lots to reflect on.

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  8. I’m so glad you pushed through your hesitations and were able to have such a good experience at the conference, Lesley. I love that you were able to see how you have your own areas of expertise that others can learn from, even while you were learning so much yourself. That has to be a nice confidence booster! Hugs, friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lesley, it sounds like it was an amazing conference and an empowering time for you. I have been to a few conferences and retreats, and the beautiful thing about many of them is that writers have a natural inclination to encourage each other. We are all at some point on the journey, and we all know at least some of the struggles fellow writers face. I love that they gave you time to consider what your message is. I think as writers discover their life theme/message, we can share with others with the passion you’ve described that came from writing your kintsugi series.

    And I’m so not surprised that you had opportunities to share the wisdom God has given you on your journey.

    I loved reading how your conference was!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jeanne! I have definitely found other writers to be really supportive and encouraging online so it was great to see that it was the same in person.
      And yes, the time to consider what our message is was really helpful. As it was a month ago now it was near the start of my Kintsugi series so recognising that passion helped keep me going throughout the month.
      I’m glad you’ve had similar encouragement at the conferences and retreats you have attended.

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  10. Sounds like a wonderful experience. There is something about meeting other writers and having that common connection, and then everyone talking about writing as if it a normal everyday topic. Interested to see your new writing endeavors and ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I know that took great courage to attend something knowing you’d know no one and to travel that distance to do it! Those are good takeaways you’ve shared. More than that, you’ve given encouragement to many of us to put our fears aside and step out in courage.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. What a brave and courageous step you took, Leslie! I’m so glad you mustered up the courage to go into the conference. Lord willing, one day you will be one of the authors with a book in the bookstall. Your neighbor over at coffee for your heart. Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I appreciate your telling this story. I had a similar experience after writing the 31Days. I felt energized. I wanted to write more. I am so pleased you found a real circle of writers. How funny that you are the expert on Christian blogging, it that arena. Yeah for you. As for my continued writing…….I decide to join National Novel Writing Month. Yup, gulp, I’m trying my hand at writing a mystery novel. This is completely over my head. You could peek at my blog and read the first two chapters.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Gabriele! I’m glad you found Write 31 Days energising too. NaNoWriMo sounds like a massive challenge- well done for taking that on! Look forward to having a read!

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  14. It is a brave thing to walk into one of these conferences alone, isn’t it?! Yay for you. So glad you got the “first” one out of the way, and enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing the takeaways of your day. Maybe one day you’ll be able to attend one Stateside and we can meet. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Lesley. 🙂 ((hug))

    Liked by 1 person

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