Sometimes, things happen in life that leave you pinching yourself and shaking your head wondering 'Why me?'
Not, 'Why me?' in a bad way, but 'Why - out of anyone you could have picked - did it get to be me?'
That's how I felt as I arrived at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, last month. It was a conference I'd been following for a number of years but, as it's in the US (North Carolina to be exact) and I'm based in Sydney, Australia, I wasn't entirely sure how it could happen. But after applying unsuccessfully to be on faculty for a few years, I received an email last year inviting me to be on faculty for 2023, and not just that but to present a keynote talk! I was blown away, humbled and terribly excited.
The BRMCWC is one of the largest Christian writers conferences in the US. It runs for five days, four nights and includes workshops and seminars for writers of all genres and all stages. I was invited to present three workshops on writing for children and for my keynote, I spoke about the opportunity we are given to be ambassadors for Christ. I went without really knowing what to expect, and found myself richly blessed. I met writers determined to make a difference with their words, speakers whose example inspired me and new friends I hope to keep for years to come.
What impressed me most about this conference wasn't the depth and breadth of teaching content (although that was impressive). It wasn't the location (Ridgecrest Conference Centre was stunningly beautiful), the food (my first experience with US cafeteria style dining) or the friendly people (I think everyone just thought my accent was cute). I loved the way the conference was soaked in prayer and how our focus was continually turned to God and his priorities. I've been around writers, and been a writer, for long enough to know that sometimes this writing journey can get down right frustrating and seriously competitive. It was so refreshing to sit among writers who were keen to wrestle with their priorities and have conversations with other writers who were faithfully seeking where God might have them write.
For most of the conference we were shrouded in cloud, with the occasional misty rain. But on the very last morning the sun came out and a few of us, under the guidance of conference director Edie Melson, went up the mountain to see the sunrise.
And how gorgeous was it!
Writing and writers aside, this conference was a real blessing to my soul. Here are three reasons why I'd recommend it if you are considering attending:
1) For Christian writers, this conference is genuinely Christ focused. Yes, there are sessions on marketing, platform, pitching to agents etc. But the attitude presented first and foremost to to be open to what God might be doing. That is extremely encouraging.
2) The breadth of workshops, range of expertise on faculty and opportunities to connect with experts during appointments means writers can receive enormous amounts of input, advice and guidance.
3) Although the sheer number of attendees can feel overwhelming (this year there were close to 600 people at BRMCWC!), this also allows for many opportunities to connect with different writers, make new connections and be encouraged listening to each other's writing journeys. As with other writers conferences I've been to, it's often times the informal conversations that provide the most encouragement along the way!
I still don't entirely know why I was given the opportunity to be and speak at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference this year, but maybe I don't need to know. Whatever the reason, I know the conference was an incredible blessing and I'm so thankful to God (and to the BRMCWC team) for the chance to part of it.
The Penny Drops
In high school I used to write what I'd call 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. I still write these little pieces.
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