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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Writing Conference Connections

When you help organize a writing conference, you sometimes wonder whether the conference connected with those who attended—whether they picked up on the vibe you were trying to create, or not.

Occasionally you receive feedback from a conferee—or you observe a moment during conference—that eases your mind and makes you know the effort was worth it.

With the Writing for the Soul conference, one of the things we strive to create each year is a sense of community among those who attend. So, it was a joy to see that lived out—particularly between the finalists in our Operation First Novel contest.

Group dynamics
In January, we notified the five finalists—Kimberley Gardner Graham, Jim Hamlett, Clarice James, Peter Leavell, and Terrie Todd—that one of them would see his or her book published by Worthy Publishing, our co-sponsor in the contest, and receive $20,000.

What happened next was special.

The finalists formed a support group for each other and I was lucky enough to be included in their email group (which is still going strong, by the way). Some of what they shared was pure silliness (limericks, anyone?), but they also went deeper. They began to pray for each other—and for the conference.

Leavell (right), the eventual winner, said it best: “One prayer surfaced, ‘Please, Lord, let the book the world needs win. Not our wills, but Yours.’ We all rallied around that thought. Of course we each wanted to win, but God was more important.”

Singing solo
But that was just one group of five who clicked, right? Not so fast. Another conferee, Cecilia Accetta, submitted a blog post for the Guild’s blog (read her full post). In it, she wrote about the welcome from Jerry B. Jenkins that was included in our conference notebook: “Welcome to the 2012 Writing for the Soul Conference! It’s good to have you here.”

After sharing some conference highlights, Accetta (right) concluded her blog: “By far, the best thing was knowing that everyone there gets you. I felt at home—like I was sitting at a dining table with friends. Jerry Jenkins may have said in his letter that it was good to have me there, but the truth is it was good for me to be there.”

What about you?
That’s good to hear as a conference organizer. Heck, that’s good to hear as a writer/editor and as a person involved in the publishing industry.

And it makes me eagerly anticipate (yes, already!) our 2013 Writing for the Soul conference—so I can enjoy the stories that come out of it. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying a new playground. He also plays with words as the editor-in-chief of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and as a contributor here on Novel Rocket. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.


  1. I'm one of the "five plus one" from the Christian Writer's Guild's OFN contest. Michael is right. We're still going strong--Michael included! Presently, I'm reading finalist Jim Hamlett's book MOE, and I've got finalist Terrie Todd's book THE SILVER SUITCASE on deck. I'm making edits to my novel PARTY OF ONE and will send it to them, and they will return the favor. Peter Leavell, the winner, is keeping us in the loop on his publishing experience. The limmerick was specially created for Kimberley Gardner Graham. Unfortnunately, I was unable to attend the conference this year, but because of what I've heard from those who did, I've started saving for next year!

  2. Well said, Michael. I confirm with Clarice that the bond between the five finalists does continue. We regularly communicate, encourage, pass on helpful information, and stay in tune with Peter's journey through publication. And we occasionally slide into silliness. :)

    If any readers here are considering attending, I can vouch for the first-class conference operation run by Michael Ehret and the Christian Writers Guild. And I encourage you to enter your work in their contest. I believe it to be one of the best opportunities for upcoming talent. (Please note, if Worthy Publishing is the awarding house, they are--at present--looking for stand-alone books, not works that are part of a series. You should bear that in mind when deciding what to enter. And they are particularly interested in historical fiction. Go for it! To make it to the final five is a thrill in itself.) Kudos to Michael and his staff, and to Worthy Publishing for supporting this effort.

  3. Thanks Clarice and Jim for the kind words! But, let me clarify, I am a part of the fine staff at The Christian Writers Guild--I do not have a staff. We all work together under the guidance of our Director, Janice Mitchell, and with invaluable oversight by Jerry Jenkins.

    Also, Operation First Novel is open to all Guild members and is not limited to only historical novels. Last year's winner, The Search Committee by Tim Owens, was not a historical.

    What we're looking for, and what Worthy is looking for, is your best writing.


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