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Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Why Can’t I Go To A Conference?

By Michael Ehret

After a solid decade (almost) of regularly attending writer’s conferences, this year I’m not able to. Let me correct that: I’m probably able to, but the door to attend one has not opened for me this year.

My conference of choice, American Christian Fiction Writers, is even meeting within driving distance of my home and the keynoter is one of my favorite authors: Ted Dekker. But it’s not happening this year and I vacillate between being OK about it and being pretty ticked off, truth be known. Can you relate?

At last year’s conference, I got what I considered a pretty clear message from God about my writing. (See the details here and here.) “I’m inviting you into a new season of writing.”

Surely that would include attending my favorite writing conference? Seeing my favorite writing friends? Surely? Apparently not—and don’t call me Shirley.

Feel like this guy because you can't attend
a writer's conference?
Despite my efforts to pry that door open—or to find that ‘promised’ open window God provides when He closes a door (you know that’s not biblical, right?)—there’s no conference in my year.

Are you there too? Are you feeling left out? On the outside looking in? Not one of the cool kids? Bring your pocket-protector self over and have a seat. OK, you’ve got three minutes to cry and fuss and whine. I’m setting a timer. 3-2-1 Go!

Feeling better? No? Well, me either, but here are three things you can do if you’re not attending a writer’s conference:

1. Buy yourself a much-needed or long-desired writing resource.

One of my favorite
fiction craft books
One of my reasons for not being able to go this year is monetary. That may be a reason for you, too. And it’s a valid reason. Even though we’re writers, we still have responsibilities that we can’t just toss away. Am I right?

So, instead of buying a conference (easily upwards of $1,500 with registration, hotel, plane ticket, etc.), treat yourself to some resource you’ve been wanting and putting off. Maybe that’s a craft book. Maybe that’s a writing assist program like Grammarly or Scrivener. Maybe it’s a framed inspirational quote to display in your writing corner.

Just buy it. Feel guilty later if you must, but console yourself that (whatever it is) it’s far less than the cost of the conference you’re not going to.

2. Consider, oh, I don’t know, writing?

Wilma Rudolph, an American Olympic track and field sprinter who won three gold medals in 1960, once said: “Believe me, the reward is not so great without the struggle.”

You get that, right? The struggle is what makes the reward, when it comes, so sweet. So persevere in your writing. Take the time you’re not going to spend at your preferred writing conference, put your butt in your chair, and write.

Honor your gift and your calling—and, for your own sake, get lost in your fictional world. Bring life where there is no life. And if your sadness is overwhelming, choose to write the scenes where your hero and heroine face their Black Moments—and all seems lost.

All is not lost for them. You know it, as the creator, but they don’t. They are just living the day-to-day lives you, their creator, wrote for them … You’re getting the point right? You don’t need a hammer on the head, right?

3. If you can’t write, then pray for your writer friends who are attending conferences.

No, I’m not kidding. When you’re locked in a pity party, the best way to break free is to do something nice for someone else. So, if you can’t be there…then be there for your friends who are there.

Hold them up before the Lord. Pray for encouragement. Bravery. Their emotions. The editors and agents they’ll meet with.

Pray for the casual, unplanned for meetings around meal tables. The overwhelming feeling of the introvert writer who just can’t face another class or another “thank you, but this isn’t right for our house” appointment.

Be Aaron to their Moses.

If you do these three things, you’ll find the time goes much quicker, you’ll feel more productive, and you’ll be a blessing. And isn’t that better for everyone, including you?


Michael Ehret has accepted God's invitation and is a freelance editor at In addition, he's worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.


  1. Michael, I love you post. Especially the reference to the movie Airplane. God proved to me in 2014 He wanted me to write by sending me to four conferences within a year. Now I can't seem to get to one. I had to cancel two times. I am a member of Jerry's Guild, an online writers academy. I find professional teaching and guidance there. Thank you for your fun and insightful article. I pray you can get to the next conference.

  2. This will be my first ACFW conference since 2010, and it's a leap for me to get there. (If you dawdle in the land of the undecided long enough that you lose your window for a refund, is that God or your own wishy-washiness?)

    Anyway, I'm looking forward to connecting with a slew of online friends, including as many Novel Rocketers as I can find. I'm so sorry you won't be among them!

    1. Normandie, I'm so excited you're coming! It's been a long time since I've actually seen you!

  3. Cherrilynn,
    Glad you liked the post. I love that movie. It's nice when God makes His will known, isn't it? Is Jerry's Guild Jerry Jenkins' new endeavor? He's a great writing teacher.

    I'm sorry, too. But good things will come of me not being there. At the least we'll avoid spending $1500+ (but, there will be other benefits as well!)

  4. M.E. not at the conference? Arrrrrrgghhhhhhh!!!!! Will miss you. (But good post.)

  5. Jim,
    I know! Tough to let it go this year, but it will be OK. It will be OK. It will be OK. (Turns into a chant)

    "Ima gahna beeokay. Eets awlfur duhbehst."

  6. I can't believe I finally get to go and you won't be there! Great article, though. And of course, now you have to practice what you preach which is great because that means you'll pray for me! And you'll accomplish some writing... right? Right, Mike? Also, do let us know what you're treating yourself to in the purchasing department.

  7. Terrie,
    I did not realize you were going, but YES! I will pray for you. And another reader of the column gave me a little butt kick today, so I am going to try to write a little too. As to the resource...I'm thinking Scrivener. I have plenty of books I haven't read yet, so ...


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