October 20, 2016

The Influence of a Writers’ Conference – Stepping Stones to Growth by Joylene M. Bailey

photo credit: oatsy40 <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/68089229@N06/6818869372">Stepping Stones</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a> 

The first writers’ conference I ever attended was one I helped organize, in a city that hadn’t seen a Christian writers’ conference in many years. I just wanted to be around other writers, other like-minded people.

I don’t know what I was expecting but I was really surprised to discover that the other writers there weren’t some famous high falutin’ authors. They didn’t look like Ernest Hemingway. They didn’t spout off long-winded, obtrusive commentaries.

They were ordinary people, just like me.

Nobody looked down his nose at me. Nobody whispered behind her hands, “What is she doing here?” When I said I was a writer they believed me, even when I didn’t believe it myself.

So, it was at a writers’ conference that I found the courage and the confidence to call myself a writer. Out loud.

It was at a writers’ conference that I found out that the way I write is OK.
The plenary speaker and author of many novels called himself an Intuitive Writer - someone who doesn’t know ahead of time what is going to come out of the end of his pen. He just writes whatever comes to him. He told us that partway through the writing of one of his novels, an important character decided to up and leave the story completely, and how he, the writer, was left wondering what to do. And I thought, “That’s how I write!  It must be ok.” It was a significant AHA! moment in my history.

Up to that point I had thought I was odd.

It was at a writers’ conference where I learned about and joined ICWF’s listserv, an email community of like-minded people who help and serve each other as we navigate the many facets of writing.

It was at a writers’ conference where I answered the call to write once a month for Inscribe Writers Online.

It was a writers’ conference where I entered my first writing contest, and won second place in my category.

It is at writers’ conferences that I get so inspired, so encouraged that I feel myself swelling from the inside out with confidence and absolute LOVE for putting words down on paper.

Over the years I have come to know and recognize other writers. From that day 9 years ago, when I walked into that first writers conference, to today, I find I am among friends there. I’m still not completely comfortable walking into a room full of other people, let alone writers – that’s probably the introvert in me - but it is so comforting to find friends there. People I’ve come to know over the years. Writers I admire – not just because of their writing, but also because of their character.

So have Writers’ Conferences influenced me? Absolutely! Each writing conference is another stepping stone in my growth as a writer. The impact on my confidence, my freedom to create, and on my sense of my calling has been invaluable. If you have never attended one I encourage you to take that first step, hop onto that first stepping-stone. You’ll never look back.

photo credit: Kristofer Williams <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/24710541@N08/5520512354">'Stepping Stones' - Talacre Lighthouse, Talacre Beach</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(license)</a> 

Joylene writes from her home in Edmonton where, currently, all the furniture is piled in the middle of the rooms so that the painters have room to paint.

October 18, 2016

Writing As A Gardener - Gloria Guest

I wasn’t able to attend this year’s Inscribe Writer’s Conference although I did attend for the first time two years ago and then again last year. In truth I haven’t really attended many conferences on writing throughout the year but if you include a few workshops here and there, a couple of writers groups etc., and a couple of sit ins as a reporter at the annual Moose Jaw Festival of Words (well worth attending) to hear an author or two read, than maybe I have something to add to this month’s topic on attending conferences etc.
Recently I saw something online that suggested writers are either an ‘architect’ or a ‘gardener’ when it comes to their work, the architect being one who steadily builds a framework for their story before they begin with beginning, ending, plot and characters all neatly worked out if not on paper than in their head. The gardener as a writer is less about following each step and more about scattering seeds amongst the soil, weeding out the plants (ideas) that don’t thrive and watering those that do. Often this type of writer doesn’t know where the story will end up exactly but still with care and discipline can end up with a great final product.
I tend towards being a gardener in my approach to writer and in fact, life. Although I admire greatly the architects and wish that I was one, whenever I have tried to change my approach to my writing, as per writing classes often suggest, my writing ends up stilted and just not ‘me.’ I do believe though that there is a lot to learn from both types of writing; both architect and gardener and writer’s conferences and other writerly functions can be great places to get both; to glean from the ideas of others. However I’ve noticed that even my approach to these meetings tends more towards gardening meaning I don’t tend to show up based on the structure of the conference, which speakers are going to be there, how many workshops or which ones. Instead I arrive with more of a desire to see what unexpected directions this conference or workshop might take me; some nugget of truth that I’ve overlooked that I can take home and water and nourish into better writing. And usually I do receive something from each one; perhaps a word of wisdom from a speaker that feels just right for me, or other times I’ve had blue pencil sessions with an author who spoke directly into my writing with suggestions of improvement or even just encouragement. Other times, it’s simply been something someone said over coffee or something someone read from their own writing that resonated with my own style and gave me new insight into myself.
Gardening though it can sound whimsical and fun is in actually a lot of hard work; albeit with much love. Planting the seeds is actually the easy part for a creative mind but then comes the tending and weeding which in real life gardening and in my writing is a weak spot for me. Often my weeds overtake me and they just seem too big to deal with. I abandon my garden in neglect. Conferences, writer’s groups and writers’ classes are a way for me to try to stay on track and I always find I do better as a writer if I am networking in at least one of these ways on a regular basis.
*You can find some of my gardenly (not a word but I kind of like it) and sometimes weedy type writing on my blog at gloriaguest@wordpress.com or follow my face book page at Gloria Lynn Guest. 

October 17, 2016

Local Connections by Rohadi

I've attended conferences before, but I can't recall one that was particularly memorable. They seem to be a great way to generate new ideas and maybe even spark new momentum/excitement. I remember a decade ago at a ‘Leadership Summit’, a fantastic resource that benefitted, ironically, my small business, yet was largely irrelevant for the intended application—church. I’ve been to numerous church planting conferences, but those have been more of chance to visit a new exciting city (although I still don’t know why I went to Dallas…), over listening to a particular speaker. Ultimately, the conference experience hasn't provided me with any source of significant insight. Maybe I’m attending the wrong ones….

One can certainly get caught up in the excitement of the conference fanfare. In particular, seeing how people with similar problems found wild success doing steps A, B, C. Inspiring, perhaps, but generally speaking the same people go to the same conferences to hear the same results over and over again. Application of the celebrated examples lacks. (After all it's easier to consume new ideas and hear about them vicariously, it's quite another to do something about your new idea.)

Conferences can turn into the 'junk food' of your field: awesome when you consume the first bites, but lack substance and impact over the long haul. Turns out it takes a lot of work and unique circumstance to go from zero to hero and we tire at the thought before we even get started.

But there's something that can't be consumed in tactics or strategies, and perhaps is the single reasons why you should ever attend a conference to begin with--developing new relationships.

Developing new connections with like minded people that will last beyond the 2-4 day conference affair is not only critical, but provides the greatest potential for lasting impact. Not only are relationships key to making the conference experience a win, sometimes we don't have to venture far from home to find what we're looking for.

We usually attend a gathering to garner insight shared by ‘experts’ in the field. Assuming you live in a major city, you may be surprised to find, hidden amongst 1+million people, are local experts.

For example, as I venture further into the realm of church planting and leading change in a post-Christian world, the re-emphasis of the local expert is proving invaluable to development. It’s not necessary to seek out the American guru on a subject that requires unique insight to specific context. It’s far more insightful and beneficial to be collaborators building new ideas tailored to your city or neighborhood with local leaders who can offer insight and complement your weaknesses (and vice versa).

Chances are you can find someone nearby to share ideas, expertise, and praxis, which is what the very best conference experience could ever hope to offer.


Catch Rohadi at his blog on church, community, and culture. Check out his recent adult colouring book: Soul Coats.

October 15, 2016

Authentically United - Tracy Krauss

If asked to sum up this year's fall conference in one word, I would have to say 'Authenticity'. Although the planning committee did not consciously choose this theme, it seemed to permeate many aspects of the event.

'Tools for Authors' panel: Jane Wheeler, Linda Hall, Rik Hall, Janice Dick, Tracy Krauss moderating
Keynote speaker Linda Hall lead us through her journey as a writer, along the way offering bits of 'Sage Advice', as she called it. The broad takeaway was this: it's okay to switch genres, try something new, step outside your comfort zone, and even go against the grain... as long as this is something you, as an individual writer, feel you are supposed to do. This is exactly what Linda did - more than once! Were there risks? Yes, but that's 'authenticity' in a nutshell - following your own writerly path without worrying about what others will think or whether 'success' will follow. Finding happiness and joy in what you are writing is more important than success.

Carolyne Aarsen and yours truly
Carolyne Aarsen, keynote for the pre-conference VIP day, had a very similar message, although her writer's path was completely different. She started out as a journalist, but had a love of writing romance. Since making the switch and signing with Harlequin 'Love Inspired', she has been an extremely prolific author, unapologetically writing what she loves to write. That's authenticity!

There are many more examples from the variety of workshops offered but one stands out for me, and that was a workshop given by Dayna Mazzuca called 'Reach Your Reader'. Hers was a fascinating workshop that categorized different types of readers into five main groups: the Scholar; the Social Connector; the Change Agent; the Adventurer; and the Mystic.  (It reminded me a bit of the 'five love languages' in that everyone connects to what they read in a different way.) The real 'light bulb' moment for me came when I realized that understanding what kind of reader I am will probably impact the type pf writer I am, which in turn means I should be much more focused on what type of reader I am targeting.

There were so many great takeaways from this year's conference, but I found it interesting that almost every workshop I attended or participated in had something to do with being true to oneself. In many ways, this mirrors our organization. We have so many talented and inspiring people with such a variety of backgrounds and stories to share.  It's one of the best things about conference - getting to know one another a little bit better and celebrating our diversity while also recognizing the unity in Christ that holds us together.
Tracy Krauss writes from her home in northern BC. Visit her website http://tracykrauss.com 
-fiction on the edge without crossing the line-

October 13, 2016

What is Politically Correct? By T. L. Wiens

It’s that time of year of ghosts and goblins. If I’m being honest, my idea of a “Happy Halloween” is no Halloween at all.
How come no one questions the whole commercialized money making monster that Halloween has become? Why is it okay to wish someone a “Happy Halloween” but “Merry Christmas” is wrong?
It bothers me. The same crowd that  unashamedly celebrates Halloween is a big part of the group that complains about my saying “Merry Christmas.”  Not that I want people to stop their Halloween celebrations. I just want the same respect I give them to be given in return. It begs the question, who is the real intolerant entity in this equation?
I don’t believe there is such a thing as being politically correct. You’ll offend someone no matter what you do. If we respect each other in our differences, we can all enjoy our holiday traditions.
You may be able to tell that political correctness isn’t a big concern of mine. I decided long ago to write as the Holy Spirit leads and let Him prepare the hearts of the readers.