The unexpected reason to attend a writers’ conference

If you’ve caught my Facebook posts, you know that my time at the Oregon Christian Writers 2018 Summer Coaching Conference was AMAZING. I won’t repeat myself here (make sure you check it out), but there was a critical surprise. You might even call it a serious plot twist. What was it?

Community.

I went to the conference by myself, for myself. I don’t mean that to sound rude, but let’s face it: many writers are introverts. We thrive on clicking away at our keyboards, delving into research, weaving the stories from our minds onto the digital page.

When I planned out my conference attendance, I gauged it in relation to how it will help me improve my writing and my writing career. The idea of putting myself out into a crowd of strangers was rather terrifying. And striking up conversations? Oh, no.

Then something happened. I was minding my own business, trying to blend in with the tan curtain room divider, and another member approached me.

“So this is your first year?” she asked.

“Yes, it is,” I answered, thinking I must look really clueless. “How did you know?”

“The gold star on your nametag. All the first-timers have one.”

Oh. So smart and savvy for the organization to highlight the newbies who are trying to lay low. No covert introvert operations will be taking place on the grounds now.

“What do you write?”

And thus began my induction into the conference. I was embraced by the writing community, from those who are nationally recognized to those who, like me, are still hammering out their first full manuscript. I met a 23-year-old from Alabama who had driven across the United States with her grandmother to be there. (Yeah, I can think of all kinds of stories to spin off that road trip.) I met women from Montana, California, and states in-between.

Over the course of four days, my author world grew. Each writer with his or her own journey. Triumphs. Fails. Encouragement. We were able to ask questions, share experiences, and tap into collective creativity.

Robin Jones Gunn shared with us 1 Corinthians 16:9. Paraphrased, the door of opportunity is wide open, although many oppose. Each writer has an opportunity for success, and, together, we can overcome the opposition and obstacles we face.

Robin Jones Gunn shares her keynote speech.

We laughed together. We cried together. We laughed so hard we cried together. And when the time came to check out, to say goodbye, I knew I was leaving changed.

Does your business, hobby, or work keep you in isolation? Perhaps it’s time you put a gold star on your nametag and let someone know who you are. I now see the value in attending not only for myself but for the fellowship it brings into my life. I’m back to writing, but I look forward to growing the friendships and seeing these writers again at the next conference.

With the ever-entertaining James L. Rubart and Susan May Warren

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