Writing life

Trading Gideon for a Levite

I’ve long said that I’m a writing conference junkie. Big, small, or in between, there’s always something to learn and someone to meet. There are also many wonderful choices, and I like to keep up with what’s happening even if I can’t attend.

One that I’ve looked at for several years and have read many great things about is the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference. I decided early this year to just save my pennies so I could go to a big conference next year. That’s what I’ve been doing, but God apparently had another plan. I kept finding myself on the Philly Conference site again and again … and again. Then, through a series of events I can only attribute to God, I ended up applying for a scholarship. My essay/application was sent along with a letter from the director of my local writers group (East Metro Atlanta Christian Writers). I prayed it through, gave it to God, and knew that if He wanted me there He’d make a way.

On Tuesday I found out that He made a way. 🙂

I am completely humbled and amazed to be chosen for one of four scholarships given to members of local writers groups across the country. I’m so grateful to Marlene Bagnull for directing the conference and offering me this opportunity. I’m so indebted to the wonderful Cec Murphey, who is a mentor to our local group and is such an inspiration to and example for writers everywhere. His generosity makes it possible for writers like myself to attend many conferences each year. We love you, Cec!

Most of all, I’m overwhelmed by God’s work in my life and His attention to me. I’ve been in a real season of prayer over my writing during the past few months and seeking God’s direction. The Philly Conference offers the chance to meet with and learn from some people who aren’t always at conferences, and who could be real helps on my writing journey. I prayed that if God really wanted me to change directions that He would open the door for me to go to Philly and take those first steps. Now He’s done that, along with giving some other confirmations I hadn’t asked for.

So many times when I’ve tried to discern God’s direction, I fall back on what I call the Gideon approach — asking God to give me a sign one way or the other, like He did with Gideon’s fleece (the story’s in Judges 6 in the Bible). I think that’s OK sometimes, but know it’s not the way I always need to be.

A couple of weeks ago God reminded me of the Israelites when it was time to cross the Nile River into the Promised Land. He told the Levites carrying the Ark of the Covenant to step into the water and that the path would be made (check it out in Joshua 3). He didn’t do it while they were waiting safely on shore — He only parted the waters once they took those first steps in faith and trust. I think that’s what God wants for me, too — to step out in faith more often and then let Him handle the rest.

I believe that’s what He did with the blessing of this conference scholarship. He made the way for me, and He knows the reason why. Now I just have to keep writing, keep trusting Him, and wait to see what happens. What a joy!

Monday Musings, Scripture verses

Monday Musings: God’s Thoughts & Ours

Today’s verse is one of my favorites and one that always puts me in my place when I start thinking I know everything:

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)

‘Nuff said, don’t you think? Let’s ponder on this one this week and learn to really trust that God is in control and knows what’s best. It’s a lesson that I can always benefit from learning … again.

Writing life

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.