Yes, those trees are hundreds and hundreds of feet tall!!
Ahhh yes, after literally 6 years of hearing people talk about this FABULOUS conference, and in the Redwoods, no less, I finally arrived there on Friday, March 23rd.
And I arrived because of the very obvious blessing from God, because there is just no way we could afford that conference AND the airfare to get there.
(*Refresher, I won one of the First Timers Contest spots and was blessed both anonymously, and from someone we know, with the funds for the airfare.)
My last post left off with me finding (running up behind and screaming at ) my friend and room mate Shelli.
Since Thelma had already helped me get settled in and gave me a tour of the conference grounds, I helped Shelli do the same.
Other than the very minor blip of our window not opening, our room was lovely and just the right size. Once a very nice staffer showed us how to open the slightly stuck window, we could air out the room, which faced south and got toasty warm without using the heat.
Shelli and I got ourselves to the dining room, and then found a table. If I remember correctly, my friends and agency-mates Tara Johnson and Billie Jauss who were at our table as well. At that meal, we met Wendi Lee and Holly Varni, two ladies who would bless us, and many others, all weekend. Can I remember who else was at our table of 8? Nope. My apologies, ladies.
After lunch, we had the First Timers orientation. Can I remember any of it? Nope. But we all LOVED the sign for the table to welcome us to the dining room. Yes, we all took photos of it.
Shelli and I went back to our room and got our stuff for the Meet and Greet, where people line up to make appointments with agents and editors. I said a quick hello to quite a few people I knew, and then made an appointment to meet with an editor to whom I'd already sent samples of my writing. There were snacks and refreshments available, but since I was somewhat peopled out, I went back to our room. I may or may not have gotten a keg of Earl Grey at the coffee shop en route.
Back in our room, I relaxed and may have had some chocolate.
Yes, I'm somewhat annoyed at myself for not journaling every waking moment, but I knew I'd be taking furious notes all weekend, and with my arthritis, there was just no way I could write everything down.
Nope, not possible.
I know Shelli and I went to dinner, and I know we sat together, but the next thing I can recall is the first General Session, where Kathy Ide and several others opened the conference, the stunningly lovely worship led by A.J. DeGrasse, the epic comedic introduction by Andrea Coli, and then the brilliant teaching with Liz Curtis Higgs.
During that session, I laughed, and I sobbed.
It hard been a hard few months, so thank you Tara and Shelli, for being there in those moments with me.
At 9pm, our agency had their annual Mount Hermon Ice Cream Social and it was lovely to visit with those who were there from Books and Such Literary Management. Thankfully, Tara behaved.
Afterward, I'm sure there was chatting and laughing and general mayhem, but I went back to our room, and Shelli and I called it a night and hit the sack early.
Breakfast, and then the first part of a weekend long course, or "morning track" with Susan Meissner, focusing on fiction writing and the four pillars of writing a great novel. I LOVED this and took notes like a super-nerd. Just the first morning was 2.5 hours of brilliance!!
After lunch, I chilled alone to prepare for my meeting with my agent, Wendy Lawton, which went extremely well.
To have an agent in this business is a very big blessing, and I am fully aware of that. I am also aware that it is a privilege to sit down and speak with her, as many writers don't meet their agents in person for years, if at all. Thank the Lord for phones, texting, and Skype!
After dinner, and the evening session with Liz Higgs, I chatted with several friends, and crawled back to our room.
This was only Day Two and I was already feeling the strain of the last few months peel away.
One thing I knew for certain, was that the conference would have been entirely different without Shelli as a room mate. Having a great room mate is one thing, but sharing all these experiences with someone I'd been friends with for a few years made the conference just that much more rich.
Breakfast and another excellent session with Susan Meissner, then a truly special Palm Sunday Worship and Communion Service with everyone. Mount Hermon has a beautiful pipe organ, and a master organist, one Dave Talbot. Singing hymns with a ripper of an organ is a joy!
After lunch, I prepared for my meeting with an acquisitions editor from a publishing house that I dearly would LOVE to be with. Nope, no names, not yet.
But yes, this editor did ask for two manuscripts and proposals, which are now in the hands of my dear agent. Am I excited? Or course!!! Will I commence losing it and celebrating? Nope. Caution and patience are not easy, but certainly required in this gig.
That afternoon, or the next one, I may have chowed on some ice cream with Billie, Tara and Shelli.
That evening, after another cry/laugh/laugh/cry some more session with Liz Higgs, I was thoroughly blessed, along with many other fiction writers, and probably some non-fiction ones as well, to sit in on an open Question and Answer time with Francine Rivers.
Ahem...I was thrilled to have a few short conversations with her over the weekend, and I'll never forget? She exuded grace, kindness, and intelligence. A lesson for all of us to remember.
Liz, Francine, and Susan gave the same lesson: be gracious, be creative, be intelligent, be willing to give God the glory, and take joy in the ministry of writing. When they open a novel, people don't want a sermon, they want a great story.
Was I getting tired by this point? Oh my word, yes. But thank the Lord for creating adrenaline!!!
And I cannot forget to mention the blessing of meeting old friends in person. Oh my word!! So many!! No, I don't want to forget anyone, so I won't even try to remember everyone...but I do want to give a special shout out to Xochi Dixon, a friend for whom many of us pray, and who prays for many of us.
Next time...Monday, Tuesday, saying goodbye to all my old and new friends, and Shelli's Shuttle Miracle!