Thursday, February 24, 2011

Writer's Conferences: From the Inside

First of all, let me apologize to anyone who’s ever organized a conference for writers. Even though, after each conference I’ve attended, I’ve tried to express my thanks for all your hard work, I now realize the appreciation I offered was inadequate.

I should have sent chocolate. Loads of it.

In early February, Christian writers from all over the U.S., Canada, and several other countries gathered in Denver for the Guild’s Writing for the Soul conference.
They came to be challenged and encouraged through speakers, classes, and clinics designed to hone their skills.

(Pictured: Keynote speaker Liz Curtis Higgs.)

This was my first Writing for the Soul conference and my first at all where I served as other than a conferee or newspaper reporter. The average writer who attends a conference likely has no idea of the behind-the-scenes actions that keep the conference running smoothly—from weeks (even months) before the event and continuing for weeks afterward.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Most conference organizers aren’t in it for the appreciation—or the chocolate. And certainly that’s not our motivation at the Guild. But as someone who’s now helped organize a conference, let me share a bit about why I do it—and why I can’t wait to do it again:

“I received confirmation that my writing has value and the inspiration, encouragement, contacts, and advice I needed to go forward.” —Norma

“I left with a greater sense of my mission and increased clarity in the processes.” —Anonymous

“I appreciated the eagerness of the editors, publishers, and workshop teachers to impart their ‘secrets.’ I also came away with lasting friendshipssomething I did not anticipate.” —Judy

“The keynote speakers spoke to an empty place in my soul. I’m going home revived and encouraged.” —Anonymous
(Pictured: Charisma House editor Jevon Bolden with conferee.)

“This conference was instrumental in me fully embracing my God-given gift as an author—for His name and fame.” —Donna

“I received direction for what I believe God is calling me to move forward with now.” —Anonymous

“I came to the conference tired, discouraged, and emotionally drained. I had lost my passion for writing. I am leaving the conference refreshed, renewed, and rejuvenated. I have found my passion again and am excited about writing.” —Chris

I could go on. These are actual quotes from people who attended our conference this year. I’m sure organizers of other conferences receive similar comments on their evaluation forms.

This is why we do it. This is what makes the hours of planning and labor worth every minute. In what other job could I have a share in making this kind of impact? In what other ministry could God’s Holy Spirit touch so many through me and the others I work with?

And when I think about how these invigorated writers will touch others eternally with their writing, I thank God that He allows me to come alongside where He’s already working and pitch in.

To all my coworkers and friends who get to organize writers conferences:

“This is the reason I kneel in the presence of the Father from whom all the family in heaven and on earth receives its name. I’m asking God to give you a gift from the wealth of His glory. I pray that He would give you inner strength and power through His Spirit. Then Christ will live in you through faith.

“I also pray that love may be the ground into which you sink your roots and on which you have your foundation”
(Ephesians 3:14-17, God’s Word translation).

And that is way better than chocolate.

Michael Ehret is the Editor-in-Chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild. He has written for newspapers and other print and online outlets. He edited several nonfiction books, was the senior editor for a faith-based financial services and insurance organization, and is the ezine editor for American Christian Fiction Writers.


Jevon Oakman Bolden said...

Love this, Michael! The conference was so well organized. I actually mentioned to some people about how you had so much grace and eagerness to answer every question and see to it that everyone's needs were met--personally. I have a friend who is an event coordinator. I've assisted her on a few. She has that same joy and grace that you display. It is indeed a unique gift. Thank you so much for all you did to make it awesome!

Marcia said...

A big AMEN from someone who has been on the organizing end of a writers' conference for over ten years. It's exhausting, frustrating, and stressful but oh, the benefits are huge!
:)Marcia Laycock (Inscribe Christian Writers' Fellowship)

Michael Ehret said...

Jevon and Marcia,

Thanks for your kind words.