When Dreams & Reality Collide

I love going to writers’ conferences. I mean, I really, really love going to writers’ conferences. As in, if I didn’t have a family to think of and money or days off from work were of no concern, I would go to every writers’ conference I could find.

But that’s not how real life plays out.

I was blessed to attend the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference in ’09 and have been thinking and praying for a while about whether to try and go to another ‘big’ conference in 2010. My dream conference is the one hosted by American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), but it’s in Sept. each year and always seems to overlap with our kids’ fall break from school. That’s when we always go on vacation since the summer is so short, which means the ACFW conference is basically out of my reach for a while. I’m just thankful we can buy recordings afterwards!

I’ve enjoyed Blue Ridge very much both times I went, but the timing’s not great. It’s the next-to-last week of school, when tons of things are going on. As much as I love the conference, I always feel guilty for missing things with the kids. And since this is our son’s last year before middle school (ack!), it’s a biggie. I don’t want to miss anything, so Blue Ridge is out for ’10.

I’ve heard great things about several other conferences, but — again — they conflict with family/school/work things. And as much as I love writing, I don’t want to put it above my family.

The only Christian writers’ conference I know of that falls into the ‘bigger’ category and doesn’t clash with family things is the Florida CWC in late February/early March. I went to it a few years ago and was blown away by the teaching, the friends I made, the validation I received, and the closeness with God. I treasure every memory from those days. I don’t expect every conference there to be like that, but have been praying about it and was seriously considering going again. But two big reality factors kept surfacing.

Finances: Money is always a huge factor for any conference, especially when I have to fly because that adds big $$$ for the flight, airport parking, a shuttle ride to the conference center, etc., etc. Up until now I’ve always used money from my freelance business to pay for conferences. But that’s not really an option at the moment and I hate to spend money from the ‘family pot’ just on myself when the whole family could go on a vacation for the same amount or less. So finances are a bigger obstacle than usual.

My manuscript: Since I’m writing fiction now, my manuscript must be finished and in good shape before I can shop it to anyone. My goal was to have it finished and going through edits by the time I went to a conference. That way, I would have something substantial to offer when I talked with editors or agents. But the manuscript is moving slower than I’d hoped/expected won’t be anywhere near that stage by the time the Florida conference rolls around. So although I could still meet with editors/agents and get their feedback, I wouldn’t be in the position of ‘serious contender’ yet.

The decision: This is where dreams and reality collide. I’m going to hold off on attending a big conference in 2010 (unless God happens to dump the opportunity in my lap 🙂 ). My local writers group will host a conference in the summer, which will be great. I’m going to order session recordings from ACFW and Florida, which will be big helps. I’m going to set money aside throughout the year so the fees won’t be a bit hit to our budget. And I’m going to write, edit, write, and edit — and then write and edit some more. By the time I go to a conference in 2011 I’ll have a completed manuscript and another one in the works, which will help show editors and agents that I’m serious about writing and can get the job done.

Of course, any (and all) of these things could change. Everything happens in God’s timeframe and on His terms. I’m learning to offer every detail of my writing to Him every day and trust that He’ll work it out. As much as the conference junkie in me hates to think of not going to a big conference in 2010, the rest of me has a real peace about it. I believe it’s the right decision for now — and if this year stands as any indication, 2011 will be here in a flash. I’d better get busy.

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