I’m still basking in the glow of attending the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference in Nashville, Tennessee several weeks ago. The corporate worship, intense keynote speaker, fantastic teaching and quality time with my writer peeps felt like fuel for my creative jet pack–filling me up and then launching me back into real life, ready and inspired to write more and write well. The whole weekend was a balm for my soul.
There’s something uplifting about mingling and learning alongside people who share the same passion, isn’t there? The verse from Exodus chapter thirty-five that I posted above comes to mind. It’s fascinating how God equips each of us with unique gifts and talents, yet also guides each of us on a separate journey. No two roads toward publication look alike. Every author writes with his or her own style. Standing in a hotel ballroom, listening to almost six hundred of those voices praise the original Creator, is truly awe-inspiring.
On a more humorous note: I had to practice some serious self-control not to go all fan girl when Susan May Warren walked by. Lucky for her, we were in the restroom and I knew better than to squeal. Or grab her arm. That might’ve been awkward.
Seeing three of my writing critique partners in real life (as opposed to our weekly and sometimes daily interactions online) was a big highlight.
Left to right: Laura Hodges Poole, Angela K Couch, Janet W. Ferguson and me.
We ventured out into Nashville on Friday evening, walking several blocks until we found a restaurant that could accommodate a large group for dinner. This was our view while we ate a scrumptious meal at Puckett’s. I couldn’t believe I was walking right past the Ryman Auditorium, Country Music Hall of Fame and several other Nashville landmarks that are a huge part of the genre of music I’ve enjoyed my whole life. I kept reminding myself I wasn’t there to be a tourist. There would be other opportunities to come to Nashville, but this time, the conference needed to remain my primary focus.
On the way back to the hotel, we detoured for a few minutes to see what Broadway was all about. My goodness. That whole street was rockin’. Every bar and tavern had a band or a duo or a solo act performing on stage. They were all so talented. Even from our vantage point on the sidewalk outside, I was impressed by their abilities. That’s a lot of dream chasers trying to become the next big thing. I felt relieved that I wasn’t a songwriter or musician trying to catch a break there.
Apart from the conversations and the worship and fantastic meals, Allen Arnold’s teaching on the Two Creative Realms completely blew me away. It’s impossible to sum it all up here, but this journal and the message written on the first page will stay with me for years to come. Check this out: in the months leading up to the conference, he prayerfully considered what to write in each journal. Then he handed them out randomly to each person attending his session. Many other writers who also received journals during the class have shared on social media about the message they received. I’ve been encouraged to hear the different ways the messages have impacted their lives, too.
The notion of creating with God, pursuing our passions and using the gifts He has given us is such a life-giving message. It offers hope and encouragement in a profession with an abundance of solitude and self-doubt. As you can see, I appreciated the conference’s emphasis on caring for one’s soul and viewing the creative process as an adventure with our Creator, as opposed to working in solitude.
If you’d like to hear more about Allen’s teaching, I highly recommend his new release, The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love & Create, which is available here.
The conference concluded on Saturday evening with the Awards Gala. It included another delicious meal, everyone dressed in their finest, and the opportunity to celebrate the very best in Christian fiction.
The speeches were both humble and inspiring. My favorite was Jim Rubart, who won a Carol Award and the award for Mentor of the Year, talking about the frustration and disappointment of not winning a Carol Award when he was nominated a few years back. That night, he was one of the last people to leave the ballroom after the Gala was over. He said out loud, “What do I have to do to win one of these things?!”
Someone heard him and said, “That’s easy. Write a better book.”
So Jim took that advice home with him and wrote a better book. The Five Times I Met Myself has definitely had a great run. I was very encouraged by his efforts to persevere and improve his craft.
Your turn: whether you are a writer, a caregiver, an engineer, a stay-at-home mom… whatever you do, how do you rejuvenate your weary soul?
Please share your thoughts in the comments.
One commenter will be selected randomly and will receive a Kindle copy of ONE of this year’s Carol Award winning novels. The selected commenter may choose from one of the following titles:
The Five Times I Met Myself
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
The Art of Losing Yourself.
Contest closes at 11:59pm Eastern time on 9/24/16.
Stationery and knitting photo credit: Giulia Bertelli via Unsplash
All other photos: Heidi