Two weeks ago, I left for Indiana. I spent the first part of that time with my family which included two 15-mile bike rides with my parents. Traveling without my kids allowed me to explore my hometown on two wheels. We ended each day in their pool then enjoying dinners with lots of fresh produce. I could not eat too many tomatoes!
Highlights of the first few day were visiting with my 89-year old grandfather and trying on his flight jacket from WWII, watching my niece’s middle school volleyball game (they won), and getting my hair cut by a friend I’ve known since fifth grade. Also, I got together with a group of my high school girlfriends for dinner and visited with family friends at the church my family has belonged to since 1987.
The main reason for my trip happened later in the week. I attended the American Christian Fiction Writer’s (ACFW) Conference. I’m part of an 8-member critique group called The Scriblerians. Seven of us were to meet in Indianapolis for the first time.
The long weekend was filled with classes on various aspects of writing. I focused on craft courses to improve my writing and learned some great techniques. There were also agent and editor appointments and mine went well.
Robin Jones Gunn was the keynote speaker and Frank Peretti was given a lifetime achievement award.
I didn’t get to meet either although Frank Peretti walked right by me. I didn’t want to interrupt him although based on the Facebook pictures, he wouldn’t have minded. That’s the way everyone was at the conference. I didn’t see a single instance of ego from cocky newbies to editors, agents, and multi-published authors who were probably stalked on a regular basis.
I wasn’t completely shy. I introduced myself to several of my favorite authors, most of whom I’d already interacted with on e-mail, Facebook, or blogs. That’s what’s cool about ACFW, the members are super-friendly. It was like a giant summer camp except we were in a nice hotel and dressed in business casual attire. And formals. Sunday night was the Gala, and it was glitzy.
I’d been looking forward to the conference for a year. And it didn’t disappoint.
I found not only the big moments (and I had them!!) to be a blessing but little ones too.
First, I learned just how much the conference is bathed in prayer. There’s 40 days of prayer before the conference even starts and a dedicated prayer room. God was there!
I roomed with two of my critique partners and we got along great. Actually, our entire group got along so well together and grouped in twos, threes, fours. No matter what the combination was, I found myself enjoying their company. One of our Scriblerians lives in Indianapolis, so she took us away from the 700 attendees to a restaurant outside of downtown Indy. It was so nice being at a restaurant surrounded by “normies” (non-conference attendees).
My flight home was super early, so I arranged to split a cab another woman. We ended up splitting the cab 4 ways and conversation led to finding out a writing conference I want to attend may be logistically doable and the lady I originally planned to ride with solved a 60+ year old mystery for my grandfather. At the airport, I didn’t get charged for my overweight bag and I ended my trip on an earlier flight home.
And there were those God loves his little girl miracles. I ate fried chicken, Italian food, flourless chocolate cake & chocolate mousse, and still managed to lose two pounds. Still scratching my head on that one, but I think it had to do with moving around a lot more than my days at the computer.
The craziest thing that happened was meeting up with a piece of my past.
A fellow attendee caught my attention and I read his nametag which had his rather common first and last name and his location. I did some engineering math (OK just 1+1). Familiar name plus town where my alma mater is located. So I said to him, “You taught me FORTRAN77 back in the fall of 1991.” Yes, one of my college professors was a fellow attendee!
And the best thing was how God spoke to me.
As part of the keynote address, we were given prayer cards with phrases on them to pray over the conference. I’ve been listening to The Count of Monte Cristo as I work through the BBC’s 100 Best Novels list. It’s famous not for its first but last line. “Wait and hope”. Comforting words as I come out of a season of discouragement.
My prayer card said Joy and Peace with Romans 15:13. I grabbed my tablet and looked up the verse. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13 (ESV)
It was neither joy nor peace that struck me but the word “HOPE” as in the God of hope. I left the conference with “Wait and Hope”. My time is coming. I don’t know when, and I don’t know what “my time” will look like, but I am excited. All I can say from little events that happened at the conference is that is will be unexpected and beyond my imagination!
The by-products of hope are peace and joy. I left the conference with both.