All Writers Welcome at Upcoming Conference

I vividly recall that June day in 2011, standing outside the door of a building where a writing conference was being held, steeling myself for whatever, or more accurately whoever, was on the other side. I’d heard about the annual Cedar Falls Christian writer’s conference the previous year but doubted it was meant for someone like me. Though a Christian, my writing wasn’t targeted for Christian markets. Despite having a book released by a small publisher in 1996 and hundreds of published clips, I still didn’t think of myself as a “real” writer. Surely everyone in the room would have had multiple books published, likely by big Christian publishers. They’d be making a living off their writing, spending hours every day honing their craft. Conferences weren’t for people like me; a stay-at-home mom writing to maintain a semblance of creativity as I struggled to raise children and make ends meet.
It took every ounce of courage I had to walk through those doors into a room filled with people I was certain were more prolific than me. It had to be God’s providence that I sat next to a woman whose reply to my “What do you write” query was that she penned handwritten letters as a ministry. I relaxed. Maybe I did belong there. I would soon discover the surge of creative energy that happens in a room full of people interested in the same thing. I learned, and am still learning, about the publishing world from more experienced authors. Simply put, I found my tribe, netting mentors and friends in the writing community.
Nine years and some six published books later, I’m firmly entrenched on the other side of that door. Convinced we are all here to help each other fulfill our God-given potential, I’ve taught workshops at that same conference every year since, and at community colleges, libraries, and my workplace as Program Coordinator at a spirituality center. Inevitably, I hear that familiar lament “I’m not a real writer.”
“If you’re writing, you’re a writer,” I insist as I strive to encourage other wordsmiths to believe in themselves, half the battle in defeating writing angst. Learning the trade is important too.
Shalom Spirituality Center will be hosting a writer’s conference Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15. Twila Belk, also known as the “Gotta Tell Somebody Gal,” will be keynote speaker for the Faith Writers Writing Conference. Twila is the author of seven books and directed the Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference for eight years. Her newest book, The Power to Be: Be Still, Be Grateful, Be Strong, Be Courageous, is a 40-day devotional from Broadstreet Publishing. Twila Belk
Other presenters include fiction authors Shelly Beach and Patti Stockdale, nonfiction authors Mary Potter Kenyon and Linda McCann, UNI professor Doug Shaw, Loras professor Kevin Koch, and Dubuque poet Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff.
Attendees can choose from presentations on writing fiction, non-fiction, poetry, marketing and book proposals. Whether a seasoned or aspiring writer there will be workshops to choose from, along with inspirational messages and opportunities for networking with professionals in the writing industry. Follow the Faith Writers Facebook Page for updates.
The conference will be held at Shalom Spirituality Center, 1001 Davis Street, in Dubuque. The cost of the two-day conference is $100, which includes lunch both days. An overnight option that includes a room, lunch both days and Saturday morning breakfast is $150. Partial scholarships are available. Register & prepay by Monday, February 10. Call 563-582-3592 to register. Contact mkenyon@shalomretreats.org for more information or to apply for a scholarship.

A Different Kind of Sad; Not Quite Depressed

There are so many reasons why I’d prefer not to talk about what I’m feeling like, but one very good one why I need to. Someone is feeling the same way. This might help.

I don’t believe it was coincidence I picked up this book today. I believe it was an answer to my prayers. To learn more about Holley Gerth and her books, including Fiercehearted: Live Fully, Love Bravelycheck out her website at www.HolleyGerth.com

“Box-of-Socks” Happy

Christmas pencil

Merry Christmas morning. I’m enjoying a second cup of coffee as I reflect on holidays past and present, and those things, that usually aren’t things at all, that bring us joy. My family’s original Christmas Eve plans were thwarted by illness this year, and though we did manage to celebrate, it just isn’t the same without all my children present, because it is precisely those people that make holidays special. Cuddle time with grandson Tommy, who arrived safely with his mother from California, helped, but still didn’t make up for the missing family members.

CHristmas Eve with Tommy

While I usually savor year-end reflections on New Year’s Eve, a nearly-empty house this morning has me feeling pensive. Last-minute plans to move the Christmas Eve celebration to my home meant my children had a one-hour trip (or more) here last night, so we decided to delay the usual morning gift-giving until after our noon meal today.

Before my children arrived for festivities last night, a box arrived on my doorstep. It wasn’t a last-minute gift; reminiscent of the good old days when savvy couponing and refunding provided the bulk of our gifts, I’d managed to complete the majority of my shopping before Thanksgiving.

No, this box held 200 vintage advertising pencils. The thrill of excitement I felt upon opening that box would seem ridiculous to some.

pencils

Because you see, although the people I love are the most important things in my life, there are also material things that bring me joy.

Years ago, as the mother of several small children, I revealed to a friend my obsession with cute designed socks for my girls. While a lack of money prevented me from indulging in the habit, I did haunt the clearance shelves of Baby Gap and Gymboree for those socks. Not long after revealing my secret lust, a large box arrived in the mail from this woman. I vividly recall the moment I opened the flaps to reveal the contents; socks of all colors and patterns. There was initial amazement at the sheer number of socks; dozens of each size, from baby to teen, swiftly followed by a spark of wonder and joy at the bounty.

box-of-socks

I knew the particular happiness of a wedding day, the joy at the birth of each of my children. But I wasn’t familiar with this kind of happiness. I grew up in poverty and wasn’t much better off for most of my marriage. Up until that moment, I don’t think I’d known the kind of happiness that came from having a bounty of anything. There were certainly a lot of junky garage sale toys cluttering our living room and play area. Definitely a high volume of dirty laundry. But so much of a good thing?

That day I coined the phrase “box-of-socks happy.” I’ve felt it many times since; a friend gifts me with a garbage bag filled with vintage boxes of stationery, a library book sale nets a goldmine of good reads, or I discover a clearance shelf filled with my favorite type of pen. I felt it, and then craved it, collecting more stationery than I could ever use in my lifetime, more discounted postage from eBay, even though I already have postage stashed away.

I even know what it is to have “too many shoes,” a dilemma I never understood all those years as a stay-at-home mom when a single dress pair inhabited my closet and Dr Scholl sandals vs. tennis shoes signaled the change of seasons.

I felt it last Christmas when my children gifted me with a magic Christmas ball filled with cash designated for a trip, an experience, a tangible wonder that would fill my heart with memories.

It isn’t the vintage pencils that excite me so much as what I will be doing with them; handing them out at “Legacy of the Magic Pencil” workshops and programs I’m planning in conjunction with the release of my new book, Called to Be Creative, next September.

Public speaking also makes me “box-of-socks happy.” I never feel more alive than when I’m conducting a program or workshop on a topic I’m passionate about.

I also feel that same sense of excitement, of wonder, when I find the perfect gift for someone, and I’m feeling it this year as I wait, with bated breath, for my children to arrive and open their gifts. It’s the reason I’ve delayed this post by 24 hours. When my brother Bill of William’s Whittling and Woodworks created the above plaque, I knew I must have one for each of my daughters. It embodies the very topic of my upcoming book. I want each of my children to discover their purpose in life.

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Of course, once I knew what I was giving my girls, I had to shop my brother’s etsy store for the perfect gift for each of my sons, feeling that same sense of excitement and anticipation as I imagined their own moment of happiness as they unwrapped the one-of-a-kind work created by their uncle, an uncle who is living his passion through his woodworking.

What about you? What makes you box-of-socks happy?