It’s been three weeks since I went to the Faith & Culture Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon. I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since, but with the NaPoWriMo challenge and other responsibilities I just didn’t have time.
But I’m glad I waited, because if I’d written this post two weeks ago I probably would have simply listed bullet points of what some of the speakers said. While that may be useful and interesting, because they said a lot of profound stuff, it wouldn’t get to the heart of what I learned. In the past few days, I’ve been pondering what I truly learned from my conference experience and that’s what I want to share today.
First, I learned to listen to God’s nudges to do something even if it makes no sense. He has a plan and blessings will ensue if I am obedient.
The first day of the conference I wasn’t sure which breakout session to attend during the first set of breakouts. I had tentatively decided ahead of time to attend one that I thought I should go to and that looked interesting. But that morning I felt a strong nudge to attend a session titled Christ-Centered Editing led by Leanne Sype. It seemed ridiculous to me because I know about editing. At work, I live and breathe editing, am familiar with style guides and grammar resources, and know the importance of having someone else edit your writing. But the nudge was strong so I went with it.
It didn’t take me long into the session to realize I was in the right place. Leanne was a wonderful presenter who talked not about the mechanics of editing, but rather about a number of books she had the privilege to edit. The titles of those books spoke to me. Her focus on Christ-centered big-picture editing of those books was spot on.
Leanne talked about not writing or editing to sound like someone else who is a great writer, but rather to find my own God-given voice. It requires surrender to Christ when I write, staying tuned to Christ so my nature voice will emerge in my writing. In my notes I wrote, “Organized, linear, logical is my voice.” Turns out this is what I needed to hear.
The real blessings from my obedience to that nudge came later. Blessing one was when, in a session by Bob Welch the next day, Leanne sat next to me and we had a wonderful conversation. I found out she was a delightful person with fears and insecurities, just like me.
Then, the following week when I received my score sheets for the essay contest, I discovered that she was one of my judges. She gave me awesome, encouraging feedback and a good score. She affirmed that my organized, linear, and logical way of writing resonated with someone and was an encouragement to trust God. Her feedback, coupled with the less-than-positive scores and feedback of the other two judges, reminded me that my writing, my voice, will not resonate with everyone. But God will take my writing where it will be an encouragement and those who flat-out don’t connect with my writing shouldn’t discourage me from writing what God wants me to say.
Second, I learned to listen to God’s nudges to do something even if I really don’t want to do it. When I registered for the conference, I signed up to meet with an editor from a mid-sized publishing house. I had a plan to pitch to him a daily devotional on being fearless. I began working on the book proposal, but I struggled with writer’s block.
God began nudging me to pitch a different book—my memoir. I did not want to write my memoir, at least not yet, and I told God so. The nudges continued and my conversation with God about the subject ended with “Fine, I’ll write a book proposal!” I sat down at my computer to work on that book proposal and the words fairly flew onto the page.
I was still conflicted because the publishing house I had the editor-appointment with doesn’t publish memoirs; they do a lot of devotionals and other types of books, but not memoirs. I decided I would just talk to the editor about the two projects and get his feedback, without expecting him to have any interest in either book. But as I prayed for direction, I felt uneasy about this plan. I knew the editor was at the conference with the hope of finding a new book idea that he could get behind, and I would be wasting his time just seeking advice.
The Tuesday before the conference, as I prayed, I felt a new nudge. “You could sign up for a second appointment with another editor or agent,” the Lord said. So that’s what I did. I signed up to meet with an agent, who I later learned specialized in memoirs.
The blessing came when the editor and the agent independently suggested that I combine the two proposals. The editor told me that daily devotionals are not selling that great these days, perhaps because there are so many on the market. However, a book about overcoming fear written in a memoir style would fit into a popular trend. Then he told me to email him a revised book proposal for a book along those lines. (There was more to his suggestion, but I don’t want to reveal too much about my current book idea just yet.)
If I had walked into the appointment with the agent with only the devotional proposal, I don’t think the current book idea or the editor’s offer to consider my book proposal would have happened. Because I was obedient to God’s nudge to write a proposal for my memoir even though I didn’t want to, I was blessed by this new direction and opportunity.
There is more that I learned at the conference, but this blog post is already long enough. Perhaps I’ll share more another day.