Jodie Bailey is here just in time to tell us about the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.
Okay, I admit it. If I had the funds, I would be a conference junky. It’s likely that “conference season” would find me all over this country at every single workshop I could soak up. There’s just something about the air at a good conference, something that gives you a shot of oxygen and gets you excited and pushes you through on those days when it feels like writing is the hardest job in the world.
The first conference I ever attended was the 2009 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. And I went right by my little lonesome self, making the drive from west-central Georgia to the North Carolina mountains with only God and my iPod for company. The drive itself was amazing, but God started working on me right about the time I hit the NC border.
See, one of the reasons I was going to Blue Ridge was to meet Chip MacGregor, and that scared the fool out of me. I wanted to query him, but first I wanted to meet him. Why waste both of our time querying if I couldn’t even talk to him? From his blog, I knew he pulled no punches, and I knew I needed that. As I was driving and praying and singing, God suddenly said, “Don’t pitch.”
Do WHAT? I just paid all of this money and am driving all of this way NOT to pitch to anybody? Surely, God’s lost His mind, right?
But the further I drove the more I knew, He wanted me to keep my mouth shut. He wanted me to lay aside ever expectation I had and go in there ready for anything, not focused on a goal, just to let Him have all of the control.
So, I did. And I had an amazing week. There was no pressure, no stressing about a sit-down with anybody. There was total freedom to be me, to speak when I wanted, to observe as much as I felt the need… See, I had never sat in a room full of writers before. After the very first hour, I called my husband and yelled, “I have found my people!” There’s something about learning you are not crazy, that other people get dragged out of bed in the middle of the night because their characters won’t pipe down. There are other people who stare at a computer screen all day and talk to imaginary voices. I was in heaven. I met people who were instantly my friends, simply because we “got” each other without even speaking. It was amazing!
And it wasn’t just the people. That conference center is a total retreat. You’re up in the mountains in these beautiful rooms with no TV. And it’s quiet. (They do an Autumn in the Mountains retreat that I want to do, by the way…) It was a beautiful recharge, a stepping out of everything and into the writing life, fully immersed. Talk about charging your batteries!
I did get to sit down at an appointment with Chip at that conference, but I asked questions. I never pitched. My heart was about learning and not about selling. It felt good to have someone who knew what they were doing walk me through the good and bad of my proposal and my premise, to point out what worked and what needed help. (I did manage to throw a pen at his head by accident. Trust me, that could ONLY happen to me…) Many months later, I did land at MacGregor Literary with Sandra Bishop who, like Chip, pulls no punches when it comes to telling me what works and what doesn’t. God knew exactly what He was doing.
If you’re going to your first conference, go with God’s leading. I honestly think one of the best things to do is to just go and be. Enjoy being with people who are just as “alien” as you are. That was the best thing I got out of Blue Ridge, being with “my people.” Oh, the classes knocked my head around they were so awesome, but the people won my heart and are the reason I’ll go back.
Jodie Bailey is an avid reader, a life-long writer, and an aspiring beach bum. She is a stubborn child who resisted God’s calling for two decades until He hit her over the head with a Beth Moore Bible Study book, and she finally figured out He wanted her to be a writer. When not tapping away at the keyboard, she watches NCIS reruns, eats too many chocolate chip cookies, wishes she were at the beach, roughhouses with her daughter, and follows her Army husband around the country. Jodie’s debut novel, Freefall, will be released by Steeple Hill LIS in November 2012