Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Another Writing Milestone

Yesterday afternoon I returned home from a weekend of growth, both as a writer and as a person. I attended the 49th Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference for the very first time and I am proud to say it was an incredible experience.

The weeks leading up to the conference were filled with frantic preparations, melt-downs, long prayers, and lots of stress. This was the biggest thing I had every done by myself and I'm not gonna lie, I was down right terrified. I had avoided thinking about the conference for as long I could, so much so that I lost track of how many days I had until my departure. I packed a few days in advance when I finally realized it was upon me, my worry switch from the conference itself to the idea of leaving something at home.

Friday came. I dragged myself out of bed, got ready, said my goodbyes and set off on out 2 1/2 hour drive with my dad. As most dad's must, he gave a mini pep talk including one of his favovite questions, "What makes a trip successful?" I am very used to this question and answered without hesitation, "That I come back loving God more, loving my family more, and loving others more." The rest of the journey was spent easing my nerves with music (anything from outlaw country to The Greatest Showman Soundtrack). Once at Mount Hermon, we checked in, found my cabin, walked around, and then the hard part... saying goodbye. The lovely Judy Gordon Morrow met me in hospitality followed by my awesome new friend Maddie, the wonderful Deb Gruelle, the encouraging Robynne Elizabeth Miller, and sweet Cynthia Ruchti. They all immediately made me feel at home. At lunch I met my next dear friend Rachel. We attended the Meet and Greet with authors, agents, publishers, editors. The event I must admit, scared me to death and Rachel kept me from hightailing it out of there. A workshop took me across "campus". After dinner I went to the General Session with the inspirational Liz Curtis Higgs. I was so exhausted at this point that halfway through worship, I broke down crying. I missed home, my twin sister, the quiet safety of my room. I was anxious and I couldn't stop thinking "What am I doing here? I can't do this. I shouldn't be here." Liz Curtis Higgs was amazing and her words took my mind away from my own thoughts. That evening I retreated to my cabin and found my new roommate, Angela, curled on the couch. We bonded over tea and talked for hours until exhaustion overtook us. 

Saturday morning came way too fast. At breakfast I voluntarily drank coffee (which was probably not a good combo with my anxiety). Had a panic attack. Slipped a PR to the extraordinary prayer team and hurried on to class. Susan Meissner's Fiction Track was amazing. Later, a dear friend gave me her appointment slot with a publisher, which after some convincing, I agreed to take and met with Sandra Barela from Celebrate Lit. She was super nice and my nerves melted away as she spoke with me. Lunch passed and I picked up my two advanced manuscript submissions, although I did not open them for an hour because I was scared of what I would find inside. Ginny L. Yttrup's Life Experience Fiction workshop that afternoon was inspirational, heart felt, and filled with amazing information. I was privileged to be in Susan Meissner's breakout critique group with several other brilliant writers. It was my first experience in a critique group and I loved it. The evening consisted of another General Session with Liz Curtis Higgs and a Personality workshop by Andrea Coli, which was exhilarating.

Sunday we had a Palm Sunday service and later I attended a Writing Acoustically workshop by Cynthia Ruchti, which I absolutely loved! Another General Session led to a Q&A with Francine Rivers, which was inspiring, fun, and (in my opinion) too short because I could listen to her all day!

Monday at breakfast I met Miralee Ferrell, which was a complete God thing because I had been told to find her earlier in the weekend and had sat down at a random table, where she ended up sitting at that morning. She was kind, engaging, and a pleasure to talk with. The Fiction Track and other workshops flew by. Then the class I had waited all weekend for finally arrived: Janice Thompson's The Pandora's Box of Personalization Method. Powerful. Amazing. Inspiring. Another breakout critique session pumped me up to continue writing my next book. The rest of the evening was a blur. I managed to stay awake through the other classes, general session, and autograph party.

Tuesday was bittersweet. Breakfast. Closing Ceremony. Waiting for transportation. There were lots of goodbyes, hugs, and see you laters. My body did not slip into complete exhaustion until I was in the car, with the monotonous sound of road running beneath the car, my mom's and my casual conversation, and the blur of scenery outside the window. God worked in amazing ways. Mount Hermon is gorgeous and God-centered and the people were encouraging and welcoming. The trip was a success. I came home loving God more, loving my family more, and loving others more. I am excited for the conferences in the future and highly encourage fellow writers to attend in the years to come!