At the end of October, I attended my first Writer’s Conference—The Indiana Faith and Writing Conference at Anderson University. I’m so glad I went.
I’ll be honest and say I was a bit nervous beforehand. I wasn’t sure what to expect. As silly as it may sound, I still find myself hesitating before readily saying, “I am a writer.”
Somehow the idea of walking into a room filled with other writers felt intimidating. A bit like junior-high school and wondering if anyone will want to sit with you at lunch. Fortunately, my mom attended the conference with me so the experience wasn’t as nerve wracking as it might have been if I was by myself. As for the worry about the “scary” writer crowd? Nonexistent. Smiling, friendly faces greeted both of us as we found our seats for the opening session.
While I enjoyed the workshops, for me the best part of the conference was the plenary sessions. The writers and poets that spoke inspired and challenged me. Addie Zierman, the author of When We Were on Fire and the more recent book Night Driving, gave the first plenary address. I read her first book and appreciated her honesty about her complicated relationship with her faith. On Friday evening, Susanna Childress poet and professor of English at Hope College spoke. Speaking in a slow, southern drawl, I found myself captivated by her storytelling as she explored what it means to abide in the midst of mystery.
Bright and early on Saturday morning, Frank X. Walker, a former poet laureate for the state of Kentucky shared poems from several of his collections. His poems, told from the perspective of real, historical figures, combine the beauty of poetic language with compelling characters.
The final plenary address was given by Alex Marestaing, a writer of young adult fiction. He challenged us to have a strong voice as writers. The writing life can be discouraging and fraught with self doubt. Yet, there are moments when “God walks in the room” and you realize that you must continue to write no matter if the words ever leave the pages of your journal or Google Drive. His talk was the perfect conclusion to a wonderful weekend.
Even though it has been several months since I attended the conference, I still find myself recalling the talks, the workshops, and the conversations with fellow writers. This is why attending a writer’s conference is such a valuable experience. Whether you call yourself a writer or not (no one checks your credentials at the door, btw), hanging out with others who love words and well-crafted story adds a richness to everyday life. These are people who care about writing and want to learn how to improve. These are people who have experienced the highs and lows of the writing life and have insights and thoughts to share with others. These are people who love the good, the true, and the beautiful. These are the kind of people I want to hang out with.