I’m guessing many of our readers are making their way back from ACFW National Conference today. I’m not one of them. I couldn’t go this year but was excited to see updates on Facebook and Twitter and to follow the live blog of the awards ceremony.

I imagine that advocating continuing education to those returning from national conference is preaching to the choir. After all, it’s one of the best writing conferences. Some of us might argue the best. You can’t NOT learn from the experience.

Well, maybe that isn’t true. Maybe one day you woke up a zombie, stumbled downstairs in search of yummy brains for breakfast, and through a series of mystifying events ended up in a conference room with only your tattered, moldy clothing as fortification for the day.

That happened to me this weekend.

Somehow wires crossed, the stars fell out of alignment, and I found myself with a birthday slumber party and a Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference planned for the same weekend.

Ten boys, ages six to ten, invaded my home on Friday night. In a display of sheer insanity, I spent all day Friday cleaning for the occasion. I’ll never do that again. I mean, really, only the village idiot tidies her hovel for the approaching Viking horde.

Aside from the noise and the mess, the party went well. My husband, the sainted Kory of Denmark, took over the party at 11 PM, knowing I had to wake up at 5 AM to drive to Denver for SCWBI. Unfortunately, a lightsaber battle broke out shortly after I’d gone to bed. My husband must’ve been quickly vanquished because the young warriors ended up in my bedroom, fiercely battling and oblivious to the maiden trying to sleep.

The maiden got out of bed and kicked them out. The battle raged on until 2 AM, when Kory the Long-Suffering resurrected and decreed that the army must make camp or DIE!

Shortly thereafter, the zombie maiden rose and walked among children’s book enthusiasts.

In all honesty, caffeine kept me vertical but didn’t do much for my learning receptors. I tried to listen to speakers, tried to apply their advice to my writing, tried to network and smile and form coherent sentences. But how could I absorb anything with the mushy head of cauliflower I had for a brain?

You’d be surprised. The good thing about cauliflower is that it has sponge-like properties. On the way home from Denver yesterday afternoon, Mom and I talked over our last session with children’s author Linda Arms White. I mentioned that I liked Linda’s concept of having a bank of words for her picture books. She only has around a thousand words in her bank and must decide how to spend those words wisely. She allows herself only two adverbs per story. In my mind, those adverbs equate to splurge purchases.

Mom said something to the effect of, “See, you did learn something.”

And she was right. Despite my limited brain function, lack of coordination, and occasional drooling, I did manage to absorb several good tidbits of information, and I’m glad I went. My point is, there’s no excuse for not benefiting from continuing education. You can always learn something new. Even if you are undead.

Evangeline Denmark co-authored The Dragon and The Turtle (Waterbrook Press, 2010) and The Dragon and the Turtle Go On Safari (Waterbrook Press, 2011). Evangeline also enjoys writing adult fiction and has perhaps allowed Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to go to her head.

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