Although a couple of weeks have passed since I attended the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference, I continue to recover from four packed, intense days. Arriving at the campus of Cairn University mid-afternoon on Wednesday, July 26, I felt adrift without a clue as to what to do or where to go. That feeling soon passed as helpers arrived from every direction.
When I didn’t think I could carry my briefcase another foot, a kind young lady came along and offered her assistance. Later, I discovered she was a missionary nurse on leave from Africa. Another young woman offered to drive me down the steep hill to the dormitory. She declared her car belonged to the Lord. I felt blessed.
Many attendees impressed me with their burning desires to “Write His Answer” (the conference theme), but three young women caught my attention from the beginning and made me smile. Jenny, a fiction writer from Nova Scotia, Elaine from the Philadelphia area who writes memoirs and Katy, a nonfiction writer from Hungary. What a delight to spend time with these young ladies and hear their desires to write their stories and influence others.
Each evening when I retired, my head overflowed with new ideas and inspiration from the workshops, continuing sessions, and assemblies. The one-on-one appointments and critique inspired me to put my newly discovered techniques to paper. It seemed overwhelming and even disappointing at times, especially during the agent/publishers panel when they suggested two years as a realistic timeframe to publish a book.
Though every session held my interest and imparted valuable information, some applied more directly to my current writing needs and made the greater impact.
In one of the first classes of the continuing session, “The Chase,” D.J. Williams allowed us a glimpse into his own life, shared with sincere tenderness and emotion. Though still young, he credits his travels and life experiences with launching his writing career. (D.J. Williams is the author of the Guardian Series.) When I asked which of his books he liked best, he replied, “The one I’m writing now.” His enthusiasm for writing inspired, while his plot techniques equipped.
One of my first workshops, led by Debbie Allen, an author/editor from Good Catch Publishing, dealt with using strong verbs. In addition to her most helpful suggestions, I appreciated her quiet spirit and kindness at meals and around campus. When not speaking at conferences, she helps churches publish testimony books as an evangelism tool to reach their communities.
My final workshop, “Go into ALL the World” was facilitated by John David Kudrick, also an author and editor. He addressed some of the tough issues and challenged us to “be true to the story within that wants to be told.” Sharing his own struggle, he asked us to consider the audience if we desire to reach the unchurched through our writing. This was a message I needed to hear in that my next book deals with difficult youth conflicts. I left the workshop with the confirmation to move forward accompanied by cautious prayer.
During the thirty-minute critique with Diana Flegal, I cringed at first glimpse of my edited chapter on her computer. But, a few minutes into the session, I recognized a quality editor. Not only did she provide information to improve my skills, but her encouragement gave me the boost I needed to continue writing.
The fifteen-minute appointments with other agents and editors seemed to verify Diana’s critique, as did the workshops. After each, I wondered where another bit of information might fit into my overloaded mind. A few workshops even followed me home in the form of CDs. Processing and applying might take some time, but my aging brain could use the exercise.
Many remarkable people contributed to the success of my first writer’s conference, from the workers in the cafeteria to the coordinator, Marlene Bagnull. My thanks to all who enhanced my experience as I ventured out into the literary world of writing.