They had me at Coca Cola.
The sweet people who administer the BRMCWC Facebook group told us if we drink Coke, we’d better bring some or buy it in town. I thought, I like these people; they take care of the details. Hey, when you want a Coke, you want a Coke. As it turns out, I fell into the sweet tea and southern accents. I drank my Coke on the ride home.
It was my first time attending the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference (Now you know why we say BRMCWC — it rolls off the tongue, don’t you think?). I had been to the Jerry Jenkins’ Writing for the Soul Conference twice, and at that time I was nowhere near ready. But going to them laid a foundation for me; I knew what to expect.
So, rolling south on I-77 through the grey jeans fog at Fancy Gap, the other travelers and I tried to find the holes that are always in those jeans — except the holes we needed were to open to clear skies and visibility. Visibility is a good thing on the side of a mountain. And I want to know if fog is fancy, too.
Ugh, two and a half years beyond my sweet husband being called home to heaven, this was my first solo “drive myself somewhere” trip. I carried a hefty supply of CDs to pass the time; this Christian conservative woman is a rock-n-roll girl at heart. Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, the Allman Brothers and a full mix of Classical and Blues and yes, Christian artists kept me good company as I drove through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and on into North Carolina. I’m sure my husband would have been rocking right along with me, proud of the way I was following God’s will for my life.
As a new writer, taking the plunge and throwing myself into the upcoming fray of seasoned editors, publishers, agents was for me and I am sure for the other newbie writers like sitting on the dunking machine with a pitcher who never misses. I thought, I’m going to get wet for sure, right along with my neophyte friends.
Pulling up to the entry gate at Lifeway’s Ridgecrest Conference Center, the anxies (anxieties) came on strong. But God provided that place at that time just for me and my 500 new friends. 500 Christians at a Christian owned and run conference center—it was a slice of heaven. I stood in my room and looked out expecting at least a partial view of the green mountain we rested on. What I thought was fog was what a local told me was in fact a cloud. Seriously, Lord, you placed us in a visible metaphor. Wow! “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,…” (Hebrews 12;1 NKJV)
The Lord provided so many affirmations throughout the conference — through His Word, His people, and by showing me and my new friend, Jeannie (enter the Georgia accent) the tailing moments of a rainbow. We had just left our daily meetings and were thrilled that the daily rain abated long enough for us to go umbrella-less and to see what I call a “God-wink.”
First Day Jitters
As I sat in the first group session, a worship service erupted and the people around me became friends — brothers and sisters linked by our common goal to bring glory to God through what he gives us to write. Jitters. What jitters?
After the first session, we had the chance to sign up for two fifteen-minute appointments with agents/editors/publishers. I was one of the last people to leave the auditorium. Oh, THESE jitters. Okay, Lord, I’m last, here. How on earth am I going to get an appointment with the people You’ve chosen for me? (We always lay the blame on Him when we are faithless, don’t we?) I walked into the appointment room and there, bigger than life was the number one agent I had on my list. He greeted me with, “I’m full,” (insert dejection) “but Tessa works with me and you can make an appointment with her.” I signed my name in the last available slot.
Whoa, Lord, I’m feelin good.
I soon found Mr. Intimidation, the agent that, unknown to him, made me nrrrvous. I chose my first agent because he is good and he seems so affable—this agent I chose because of what his notes said he was looking for and because he, too, is well-respected. I was able to add my name in one of the two remaining time slots.
Whoa, Lord; I guess You want me to see these people.
More jitters came when I had ten minutes to sit (or pace) while waiting to sit across from an intimidating agent to pitch the book you’ve squeezed out of your very soul. For sure he was going to take that pitchfork and throw my book idea away with the chaff. I prayed and I looked around at the other writers who were preparing for their meetings.
Hmm, we are in this together. As nervous as we are, that’s how excited the agents/editors/publishers are to see us succeed.
My prayer changed from one that was all about me to one that sought God’s favor on all of us. I calmed, thought about my pitch one more time, and at both appointments, sat across from Christian professionals who were kind and supportive. Both appointments were positive and gave me a probable avenue toward publication of my book. Excited? You bet.
The workshops and practicums were like condensed college courses; I thought my head was going to explode. Each evening, I sat and contemplated what I had learned that day. Life is partly about learning, and the leaders and teachers at the BRMCWC opened the storehouses of their knowledge to us. They held nothing back because, well, they are Christians who long to serve God by sharing His favor with others.
As I soaked up what those sponges of writing excellence wrung out, it hit me. I don’t think anyone but me felt the initial explosion. It wasn’t gas, but it was internal 🙃 — in fact, it was Eternal. I’d insert an exclamation point after that, but golly, I hear I must use them sparingly! The monumental had come to me through what the good Lord showed me at the conference through His people — I am a writer, and I’m forever changed.
Next Up: Friends, Facebook, and Follow-Ups.