Writing Conference Connections

When you help organize a writing conference, you sometimes wonder whether the conference connected with those who attended—whether they picked up on the vibe you were trying to create, or not.

Occasionally you receive feedback from a conferee—or you observe a moment during conference—that eases your mind and makes you know the effort was worth it.

With the Writing for the Soul conference, one of the things we strive to create each year is a sense of community among those who attend. So, it was a joy to see that lived out—particularly between the finalists in our Operation First Novel contest.

Group dynamics
In January, we notified the five finalists—Kimberley Gardner Graham, Jim Hamlett, Clarice James, Peter Leavell, and Terrie Todd—that one of them would see his or her book published by Worthy Publishing, our co-sponsor in the contest, and receive $20,000.

What happened next was special.

The finalists formed a support group for each other and I was lucky enough to be included in their email group (which is still going strong, by the way). Some of what they shared was pure silliness (limericks, anyone?), but they also went deeper. They began to pray for each other—and for the conference.

Leavell (right), the eventual winner, said it best: “One prayer surfaced, ‘Please, Lord, let the book the world needs win. Not our wills, but Yours.’ We all rallied around that thought. Of course we each wanted to win, but God was more important.”

Singing solo
But that was just one group of five who clicked, right? Not so fast. Another conferee, Cecilia Accetta, submitted a blog post for the Guild’s blog (read her full post). In it, she wrote about the welcome from Jerry B. Jenkins that was included in our conference notebook: “Welcome to the 2012 Writing for the Soul Conference! It’s good to have you here.”

After sharing some conference highlights, Accetta (right) concluded her blog: “By far, the best thing was knowing that everyone there gets you. I felt at home—like I was sitting at a dining table with friends. Jerry Jenkins may have said in his letter that it was good to have me there, but the truth is it was good for me to be there.”

What about you?
That’s good to hear as a conference organizer. Heck, that’s good to hear as a writer/editor and as a person involved in the publishing industry.

And it makes me eagerly anticipate (yes, already!) our 2013 Writing for the Soul conference—so I can enjoy the stories that come out of it. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Michael Ehret loves to play with words and as editor of the ACFW Journal, he is enjoying a new playground. He also plays with words as the editor-in-chief of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and as a contributor here on Novel Rocket. He has edited several nonfiction books, played with words as a corporate communicator, and reported for The Indianapolis Star.