Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On the Wrong Mountain or Right Where God Wants Me?

It was two days before the conference and I was stuck on the side of a mountain. What was to be a three hour round trip hike with my family was getting scary. I knew I should've canceled the little gaunt. Why hadn't I listened to the inner voice of reason that tried to talk some sense into me? There was editing to be done on my manuscript, packing to finish, a proposal that needed to be touched up.

My inner complaining halted as I glanced up to see one of the children take their last sip of water from a sport bottle.

"Don't," I cried. It was too late. I watched the last drop fall into my daughter's open mouth. Four hours of rock climbing in the summer sun had drained us all, but the precious water must last no matter how thirsty we were. She moved forward with a sheepish look and an apology.

The peak seemed miles away still. My scuffed fingers and aching feet begged for a break, yet I knew there was no time to stop. We had to get to the top to reach the trail down. Tears threatened to dissolve me into a mess. All I could see was the rock cliff far out of my reach. How would we ever get there with the kids threatening to lay on the ground and not get up?

I squeezed through a rock crevice and the peak disappeared from sight. Climbing the face of a cliff, I pulled my niece up behind me. Some of my family was in front of me, some behind. There was the top again, only a smidge closer. I picked up momentum. Push forward. Keep moving. Focus on the trail in front of you and not the peak forever away.

God's Word came to me. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. This was the reason I struggled up the mountain. This hike was symbolic of my walk with Him.

My stomach growled from hunger. My tongue begged for more water. Another rock outcropping then a path led to the edge of the mountain. I stood surrounded by eight kids, my husband, and sister. Just to our left was the elusive finish line.

"There it is. We can do this. Let's go. Can't you see it there?" I said. They all looked with doubt yet moved forward.

We climbed and pushed through the rocks, slid down fissures, and pulled each other over bulges in the mountain. Some fell behind again, and I pulled them forward.

At last, my feet landed on the peak. I stared. The beauty of God's world so high on a mountain brought a different kind of tears. We'd made it. Through travail and pain, pushing over rocks I never thought I could climb, we'd arrived. But, what was bigger than the victory of this trip was the lesson I'd take back with me. God wanted me to see that my walk through becoming a writer may be wrought with unbelievably hard work and frustration like the long trail up Old Rag Mountain, but in the end He'd bring me to the top of the mountain he wanted me to climb, with the exact amount of sustenance I needed. And, I wouldn't be alone.



 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Items You Won't Think to Bring to a Writers' Conference

As you all know according to my blog about Writers' Conference series, I went to my first conference recently. Being new at it, I didn't know for sure what should be brought along. The obvious things were packed. I even posted on the regional ACFW Facebook page to ask general questions. I got some great answers, and set to work preparing for my four day trip.

I'm one of those over preparers. You know, the ones that have the husband asking if the kitchen sink is tied to the roof of the van. I made my lists and checked it not twice but three times. There were enough clothes to last eight days instead of four. Extra shoes and flip-flops rested on the pocket of my suitcase. Notebooks and folders filled my laptop bag.

What I didn't count on was the empty slate of a dorm. It was sixth grade camp all over again. I even had to climb over bed rails to get in my bed. There wasn't even an old bar of soap to wash my hands with. You can imagine how upset I was that me, the one ready for anything in a moment's notice, hadn't considered there'd be no hand soap.

Later that day at dinner, I met some fabulous people and I realized I hadn't considered bringing business cards. It was a loss of opportunity to network with other writers. While I passed their cards down the line at the table, I had nothing to give with my personal information. One more thing forgotten.

On the second day it poured. And I mean poured. Before I left, everything in my mind was a sunny picture of perfection. I hadn't counted on rain: i.e. no umbrella. The cafeteria was on one end and the chapel and classrooms were on the other. I was ready to pull my hair out and weep like one of the best paid Jewish mourners there was. What was I to do with my laptop bag and my papers? What about my hair and outfit? I had three appointments that day. Yet another item never considered.

It's the small things that get you in the end. I learned a lot in those four days. Conferences can be in all kinds of settings: hotels, camps, colleges. It could rain or be sunny, hot or cold. If you're on your way to a conference, here's a quick list of extra things to consider bringing:

  • Hand soap
  • Towels/hand towels/wash cloths
  • Umbrella
  • An extra pillow/blanket
  • Extra notebooks and folders to help organize papers
  • A rainproof bag for important papers
  • Comfortable shoes if you'll be traversing a long walk throughout the day
  • A bag on wheels. You'd be surprised how many things you'll want to carry along from workshop to workshop, and they can get very heavy.
  • Business cards
  • An extension cord in case you want to take notes with your laptop and there's no close plug
  • A sweater for fluctuating temperatures
  • Your manuscript and proposal on a flash drive in case you need to print more copies  
Be over prepared. In the end you may not need everything, but you'll be so glad you had these items on hand when the unknown happens.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Should You Research Agents Before a Conference?

My phone alarm sounded as I sat in a workshop at a conference. Time to head down to the main level for my appointment with an agent. My hands shook, palms sweating. I turned to my friend to give her the knowing look. Yes, the one that says, "I'm going to the slaughter house, a.k.a the appointment room. Pray for me."

I was in a hurry. Two things had to happen before I 'hovered' near the agent's table to wait my turn. First, I had to make sure my dress was straight and there was nothing in my teeth. Then, I needed to read over the quick cheat sheet I'd made on each agent I had an appointment with.

I only had three minutes left before I must be in the room. When I whipped out the paper, I glanced over it. Funny how my mind didn't want to take in the bit of information. My nerves eroded that part of my brain. I read over the list twice. Still nothing solid stayed in my head. Shoving the paper back in my bag, I hurried to the line.

The agent's previous appointment stood and gave me a hopeful smile before leaving. When I sat, questions raced through my mind. What genre do they deal with? What company are they working for? Where did they work in the past? What didn't was the answers to all those questions. I froze. I couldn't even remember my pitch I'd worked on tirelessly.

My voice caught in my throat before a shaky remark came out. "You work with Young Adult, mid-grade level, but I saw that you're interested in some adult fiction?"

Her answer, "Actually, I work with non-fiction. But yes, I am looking for some adult fiction."

That was it. I'd done it. Now she'd think I didn't know a thing about her, which meant I didn't care enough to research, which meant she didn't care enough to give me a contract.

Don't let this happen to you. All the research you've done has a good chance of fleeing from your mind the moment you stand face to face with the agents you dream of working with.

Our brain can do amazing things when we're at ease. It's the times we're stressed, over tired, or very nervous that it poops out on us. When that fight or flight reaction kicks in, have the ground work so cemented in, you won't have to think too hard to say the precise words you meant to say.

Here's 3 things to remember:

  • Research: Check out the agent's website, their agency's website, and the bio page the conference puts on their site. Knowing the genres they work with is of utmost importance. 
  • Memorize: Break out your old school days thinking cap and memorize, memorize, memorize.
  • Plan: Keep a cheat sheet with you and check it before you meet the agent or editor in case you're too nervous to remember all the things you need to know about them.

In the end, what agents will remember about you, other than your amazing pitch, is the time you invested in them.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

REJECTION: WILL YOU CRUMBLE OR GROW?

Agents are amazing people. They hold our work, indeed it feels like our life, in their hands. With a few clicks on the keyboard, they can send us jumping out of our seats and leaping over buildings. Or they can set us at our deepest point of despair in the basement of our hearts. So many times I question my Savior. "Why God," I ask, "did you make them so? They are on a pedestal I can't reach. Will I ever be good enough in their eyes?"

As I sit in my chair, I hear the voice that speaks in its quietest form to my soul. "You do not write for them. They are only a tool I use to help you along. You write for me."

I shudder at the sound of the Spirit.

He continues. "Accept their rejection as a time to grow and learn."

"But they've discarded my work. So many hours, even years, I spent on it."

"Grow and learn."

My head shakes. "How can I? I've denied family and friends and time for this dream. And it has come to nothing."

"Trust me. I have a plan for you."

I want to say it's too hard, I can't go on.

"I will give you strength. I will guide you to the right one for you. Just keep writing. Keep working. You're doing it for me."

Tears wet my cheeks. I can't give up the purpose I am called to do. I must move forward. "Yes, Spirit. Help me to keep going. Encourage me."

"I will."

That day will come when we get the email or call, but only if we yield to the Spirit to grow and learn and improve. We must do this work of writing with all our might. Continue the work in season and out of season to be worthy of the call. And, we must remember we're doing this for our Savior.

Monday, August 12, 2013

CAN YOU SIT STILL AND WAIT?

This was the year. I was determined to go to a writers conference. And, if I was going to invest the money, I was going to be prepared. I perused every square inch of the website for the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference. It didn't take long for me to be overwhelmed by the amount of information and forms that needed to be filled out and reviewed. Who should I list on my appointment form for agents and editors? What classes should I take? What should my continuing session be? The list was sky-high.

It wasn't long before my priorities fell into place. Let me stress the 'me' in that. I was going to meet agents and editors. Isn't that the real reason everyone goes to these things? All the other stuff was just extra, or so I thought. I made my lists, researched agents and editors, picked out the perfect outfits.

What I didn't realize was God had a bigger purpose, a higher meaning for me to grasp in this trip of discovery and making connections. The first night wasn't about getting to those agents. The next morning didn't bring me any closer to a real editor. What did happen? God used some amazing speakers and Marlene Bagnull to speak to my heart about the real issues of today. At first I wondered what they had to do with writing. I was practically writhing in my seat waiting to get to the appointment room. But then I stopped and listened. What did God have for me in these seemingly unconnected meetings?

It hit me. He wanted me to stop my plans and listen, to sit still and wait for His purpose, HIS PLAN.

Surprised, I sat bewildered in my seat. Without waiting on the Lord, my plans were empty. I'd get nowhere. None of my work would matter. It was in that moment I tuned out the noise of many around me and got alone with my Savior.

This is where the silence of waiting began, and then the prayers to
our eternal Father.

So when you get to you conference. Sit still and listen for His voice. Let Him direct you that your plans will align with His.

As God's Word says in Jeremiah 29:11-12 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.


Friday, August 9, 2013

The Most Important Thing to Take to a Writers Conference

There's a long list of all the supplies, proposals, and papers to bring with you to a writers conference. With American Christian Fiction Writers' conference just around the corner, lots of writers are heading to meet agents and editors. The demand is high to nail your pitch and write the proposal of the century. But one thing you may not be thinking of is your promises from the year before. Did you tell a faculty member or an agent you'd work on a specific goal at your last conference? Well guess what? They remember these things. My search in the Bible produced Paul's statement in Corinthians:

II Cor. 8:10-11 And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a perfomance also out of that which ye have.


So have you started a new manuscript, worked on your social media, or promised to improve your self-editing skills then fallen prey to doubts or busyness of life? I'm guilty of it myself. When I wrote my first post this week, I looked back at the one I'd created before. Guess what? The last one was written a year ago to the day. Oops.

Let me encourage you to get back to work. There's only about five weeks until the ACFW Conference. Return to the previous year's goals so you're ready when you get to the conference to say, "This is what I've done..."

The most important thing you'll bring with you is tangible progress.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

8 Reasons Why Writers Should Attend Writers Conferences

I'd been writing and composing proposals and sending them off for months when everything came to a screaming halt. The agents wanted to see potential clients face to face. How was that going to happen? They said not to show up at their office. No stalking allowed. So what could I do? I needed a writers conference. It was the next step to get published. After searching the web, the cost of attending one blared across the screen. I gasped in shock, and my jaw dropped. Could I find the money? My husband exclaimed that my writing was more important than money. Didn't the agents' websites suggest how much more likely they were to take me seriously if I made the investment to go? I found the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference online, and squeezed my eyes closed as I hit the submit payment button.

God's leading was evident when I left for the conference. I met two amazing ladies the first day, and we stuck together through the conference. They were a great source of encouragement and companionship. The speakers were funny and engaging, and I knew I was where I was meant to be.

So you're asking yourself why I'm going on about this? I gained more than just contact with some great agents and publishers. This is what I got out of it:

  • Connecting with agents on a personal level
  • Meeting the most amazing people who are going through the same things you are in your writing career
  • Great workshops and writing clinics
  • Uplifting speakers who understand the difficult journey of a writer
  • Selling you published books in the book store
  • Advise from caring staff members
  • Hearing why God gave us this purpose we must fulfill
  • Encouragement
    So if you're wondering whether or not to go, take the plunge. You'll learn, grow, be strengthened in the Lord. For some of you, it'll be the answer to the question, "Should I keep writing or quit?" If this is God's plan for you, He'll provide the money.