Writer’s Conferences: The first step on your writing journey

January 22, 2008 

I sold my first article over grits and bacon at the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I arrived early for breakfast and claimed my spot at Jesse Florea's table. As an editor at Focus on the Family, Jesse was sure to see that my article, Catch Your Child in the Act…of Being Good, was a perfect match for Focus' parenting newsletters. I was the first one at his table that morning and claimed two places-one for him and one for me. My heart pounded as I watched Jesse enter the dining room and head for his spot.

Within minutes, the table full of eager writers attacked him with questions regarding guidelines, submissions, and editorial needs. And even though I felt sorry for Jesse, I added my own din to the I-want-to-be-a-writer clamor. He stopped, took the proffered article from my hand, and read. He smiled. I thought I was going to throw up.

"This sounds like something we could use," he announced.

"It does?"

"Yeah. Send it to me when you get back home."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah, I'm serious," he answered. "Your writing's good. And I know just where this would fit."

"You do?" (Can't you just hear the confidence oozing from my voice?)

He reached in his pocket and handed me his card. "Here's the address. I look forward to getting your article."

And with that, he was off. Just walked away, backpack slung over his shoulder, breakfast tray in hand. Totally unaware that he had at that very moment been part of a miracle: After 63 rejections, I had finally sold an article.

Instead of throwing up, I cried.

Of course, I know now that the article hadn't really sold at that moment. There was still much to do to seal the relationship. But on that day, over grits and bacon, Jesse Florea said I was a good writer and that he would like to use what I had written. Wow.

I've gone on to write many articles for Focus on the Family publications, as well as articles, books, and scripts for many other publications. So you can see why I'm a firm believer in writer's conferences. I mean, where else can you find such a varied collection of writing classes to choose from? Where else can you mingle with editors, agents, and publishers? Where else can you meet other writers who understand your pain? When I look back, I realize I was introduced to most of my writer-friends and contacts in this industry by attending writer's conferences.

But here’s Lesson #1: Don’t expect that your first attendance will necessarily assure publication. My Focus on the Family acceptance experience took place during my second year at Blue Ridge, after attending several other conferences. By that time, I had taken many writing classes and read a library of books on writing.

Lesson #2: There is much to learn about the craft of writing. It’s a process. You have to be willing to put in your hard work, time, and money. There are no shortcuts.

Be sure to check out my article, Making the Most of Writer’s Conferences and then begin your search for the right conference for you. I’ll be teaching at several conferences this year and would love to see you there:

I’ve also taught at and/or recommend these conferences:

You can also find a list of conferences at Shaw Guides.

So if you’re serious about writing, you’ll be serious about attending a conference. Maybe you’re like me and you feel like you can’t afford a conference. I didn’t feel like I could either, at first. So instead of gifts, I asked my family to give me money for my birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day. They did and I went. After the first year or two, I started looking at writers conferences as my “education” in my career choice. In the same way that I had to pay for my education in nursing before I became an RN, I needed to pay for my education in writing before I became a writer. (See Lesson #2: There are no shortcuts.)

So start saving your pennies now and before you know it, you could be sitting at the table, eating your grits . . . and making the writing connection that could change your life!

And a quick reminder that I still have a free book for the first person from each state listed below who will agree to help spread the word about Seeing Through the Lies: Unmasking the Myths Women Believe. If you know someone who lives in one of the states, please feel free to forward the offer to them.

Arizona, Connecticut, DC, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin

And don’t forget to sign up for an email reminder each time a new Tuesday blog entry is posted on the Christian Writer’s Den. I’d hate for us to miss our time together! Thank you for passing along The Christian Writer's Den to your writer and reader friends. The more we have, the more we can learn from each other!

And lastly, here’s our verse for the week. I hope you’ll meditate on it and hear the message God has for you.

Do not be afraid, keep on speaking, do not be silent. Acts 18:9

I pray God’s blessing on the work of your hands and your hearts,





Posted in categories: Writer's Conferences | Writing Instruction

  • Vonda Skelton

    Hi Claire! Thank you for your encouragement. It's getting a little easier each time I do it. Now, to start trying to figure out how to do the newsletter. Ugh! I'm looking forward to sharing the information, but not looking forward to learning another system. I'm afraid my brain's going to go on strike one of these days–and perhaps sooner than I think!Hope you have a great, productive week!Vonda 

  • You are doing a perfect job of utilizing your blog, Vonda: giving the reader valuable content and encouragement. I look forward to Tuesdays! Thanks! (and Oh yea – see you at a conference!)