I attended the Speak Up Conference in Grand Rapids Michigan the end of July. I tend to feel inadequate at these conferences because it seems that I’m surrounded by much more accomplished and experienced people. Some joined the Speaking Track, and some the Writer’s Track. I kept mostly to the Writer’s Track. We were told there was an “umbrella of grace” to attend seminars of our choice and make some changes if we felt led.
Attending the four-hour intensive book proposal clinic at the beginning of the conference, with Dave and Cindy Lambert, was very informative. I’m glad I did as much preparing as I did, so that it all made more sense when I was there. I met old and new friends there. That was a great kick-off. I also forced myself out of my comfort zone, to sit at different tables with as many new faces as possible at each meal during the conference. Because of that I made many contacts and new friends. I found out that I wasn’t the only one who came by themselves, and most are there to mingle and meet others. I was impressed that the “important” people sat at varying tables too, and were humble, caring and friendly.
So many choices of seminars and so little time…I found myself checking my handbook several times, saying little prayers asking God to lead me to just the right ones. A few times I changed my mind at the very last minute and it was just exactly what I needed. Some of the seminars I attended were, “Telling Your Hard Story,” “Mind Mapping,” “Prayer Strategies,” “Balancing Privacy and Personal Relationship When Writing About Real Life,” “YOU are your brand,” and “Finding Your Voice.” That doesn’t include the drama skits, the wonderful worship times with musician extraordinaire, Robin Rost, Publisher and Editors Q and A sessions, exceptional keynote and special speakers. There is so much in such a short period of time it’s mind-boggling.
A very useful hour for me was the 15 minute appointments you get to have with publishers, editors, and/or author mentors. I went to the “prayer corner” with a prayer leader, just beforehand. I had total confidence and calm. That was strange because I usually get very nervous in those types of sessions. Let’s give the Holy Spirit the credit here…there’s no other explanation except divine intervention. I knew my “pit crew” at home was praying for me. I had a clear and narrowed vision this year on my book, and it is taking form. Not that all the details are worked out, but now am on one course at a time. I sat down with three representatives from publishing houses and a caring and helpful author mentor. I presented my “one sheet,” which is a short bio, an “elevator pitch” about your book idea, a picture of yourself and contact information. I spoke to them, we asked each other questions, and they gave me advice. I didn’t get a contract yet, but that’s okay, because I realize I am not ready. I need to do a lot of work and learning before publishing. The more I learn the more I realize there is to learn. So why try to rush God? When He and I are ready, I’m sure we’ll both know about it.
In the meantime, I’ll work on my devotionals, manuscript, book proposal and blog. In one session, the speaker said, speak (or write) like someone’s life depends on it, because it probably does! Even if I had an audience of one, that would be worth it. We were also reminded that the Apostle Paul had a speaking and writing ministry. And look how far-reaching that has become!
It’s sometimes hard to go to Writer’s conferences. I imagine that everyone else knows each other, has written books, published in magazines, spoke in front of many audiences, or has millions of followers on blogs. Satan wants to tell me about all my inadequacies. God speaks in His still small voice about how much He loves me and has a calling chosen especially for me. Cindy Bultema reminded us in one of her messages, that fear and “shoulds” are bricks that hold us back. We need not compare to others, and we need to cheer each other on in successes. I left feeling I had many more friends, who are just people like me, saved by grace.
The Lord keeps leading me to conferences and urging me to write. I think, “Who, me Lord?” Susan Call gave me a small stone inscribed with Exodus 4 on it. It’s the story of Moses having a long conversation with God with all the excuses he had for not doing what God told him to. Finally, after quite an exchange, Moses pleads with God to send someone else. God is angry at Moses and says, “who gave man his mouth?….now go, I will help you speak, and I will tell you what to say.”
That says it all.
I’ve been to several writing conferences now, and they each have their own style and feel. I really enjoyed this one even more than in other years. It is so covered with prayer before and during the conference and the presence of the Holy Spirit is so evident. Consider going to Speak Up at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, July 7-9, 2016.
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