I love conferences. They’re better than Starbucks. But slightly more expensive. I’m blessed to be able to use the money I’ve made from writing to, as my husband says, support my conference habit.

Why do I love conferences? Let me count the ways.
  1. I don’t have to make my bed. Yes. That is number one.
  2. I don’t have to cook my meals. That would tie for number one, but I’m automatically outlining here.
  3. I get to see friends that are normally only one inch tall on my Facebook page.
  4. I get to cram my head full of craft ideas from the workshops.
  5. I get to meet editors that can further my career.
Number five is actually where I started with my first conference, CCWC. It was at the Colorado Christian Writers Conference in 2002 that I met then editors Jim and Tracie Peterson in the early bird clinic for romance fiction. I guess I was one of the those in the right place at the right time that year. They went around the room asking us what careers our characters had. When I mentioned dolphin trainer, they both perked up, and Jim said he wanted to speak with me. I had an appointment with him anyway for later in the day. Jim was the acquisitions editor for new authors at the time. Without even knowing if I could write, he said he wanted to see the full manuscript. How often does that happen? I found out in the years following that this is very rare. But my character’s career had never been done in a Barbour Heartsong Presents. I made them wait two years before turning it in. If you ask Jim today why I did that, he can mimic me to a T, she “wanted it to be perfect!”
Well, that story is far from perfect as I’ve learned a little more about the craft through subsequent conferences, but it was the best I had to offer at the time.
Something else wonderful happened at that conference. As if hearing an editor saying they want to see a full manuscript wasn’t enough, God, in His all loving grace gifted me with a competition win. I took first place in the unpublished prose contest. No, that wasn’t the wonderful thing, although it was terrific. When I walked back to my seat with my certificate clutched in my fingers, I heard God say, “What are we going to write next?” At that moment, He became my writing partner. I knew the years of dreaming, of sweating over a typewriter, of wondering when I would become a real writer had finally eclipsed.
Tracie Peterson had started a tradition at the annual ACFW conference that continues today, handing out contracts to new authors in the general assembly. So, in 2004, with the deafening applause of my peers, and huge smiles from my Writing Partner, I received the contract for Merely Players. That story is now available in the anthology Florida Weddings.
See why I like conferences?
I share this not to discourage those who haven’t had this life changing experience, but to let you know it can happen to you. Go to conferences, read books on the craft, take advantage of the free resources available on the Web, like my blog, Craft Cinema. I was in my mid-forties when I attended that first conference. Not young, not old, but exactly where God wanted me.
I pray you have a conference experience soon where you know beyond any doubt that God is ready to partner with you. There is no greater feeling.
Except maybe the part about not making your bed.
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Kathleen E. Kovach is the Rocky Mountain Zone Director for ACFW, leads a local critique group called JOY Writers, and is an award winning author with five books out and one on the way. http://www.KathleenEKovach.com
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