Insecure Writer Gets a Boost: Notes from the OC Christian Writers Conference 2012

“Resistance never sleeps. Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five. In other words, fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

The ankle strap on one of my high-heeled shoes broke on the way to the conference. I was already nervous as I headed into a new experience with unfamiliar people. Fortunately, I had a crappy, beat up pair of slip-on flats in the car that really did not work with my dress. I tried not to let this wardrobe malfunction get to me. “I don’t care about my shoes. This little setback doesn’t have any power unless I give it power. And hey! Thank God I have an extra pair of shoes handy.” I still felt self-conscious about my stupid shoes until well into the first session of the conference when my feet were well hidden beneath a tablecloth.

Early the next morning, after only five hours of sleep, I made it halfway to the conference before I realized I’d forgotten to put on deodorant. For one second, I considered not doing anything about it. I didn’t want to be late to the first session. But I’m going to be so nervous today, I thought frantically. I’m going to be meeting Rachelle Gardner! I can’t be nervous stinky sweaty in front of Rachelle Gardner! I found a Ralph’s grocery story and was so frantic, I had to ask an employee where to find the deodorant. I’d been standing five feet away from the display. I groaned when I saw the prices. Of all days, this was not the day to be frugal and experiment with deodorant. So I spent seven bucks for my usual brand.

I have to thank Steven Pressfield for his book, The War of Art. I knew these two seemingly insignificant incidences were Resistance picking a fight with me, trying to get me off my game and messing with my confidence. Get thee behind me, Satan. (Matthew 16:23)

Fully deodorized, I sat down and waited for the first session to begin. I started talking to a woman next to me. “What are you writing?” I’m not sure who asked whom first. This was the standard opening line all weekend—great for introverts and social butterflies alike. It helped us to practice our pitches with one another before our consultation sessions with agents, editors, and/or publishers. Francine Phillips and I discovered all kinds of things we had in common regarding our faith. She was extremely encouraging after I gave her my pitch. It was the boost I needed to talk with some semblance of clarity when I met with Rachelle Gardner several hours later. It also helped to undo some of the discouragement I’d been feeling after the previous night’s critique session. Thank you Francine!

Michelle Massarro, my fellow rogue critique group member from the night before, sat with me at Rachelle Gardner’s table for dinner that evening. Rachelle looked around the table and asked if anyone would like to talk about his or her project. Michelle and I had had our one-on-one meetings with her that day so we listened in. Rachelle was gracious, listened carefully and asked questions. She didn’t have time to eat much of her dinner.

After dinner, the award ceremony began with the Beverly Bush Smith Aspiring Writer Award. I took out my notepad to write down the names of the award recipients so I could look them up later.

My name was the first one called. I received an Honorable Mention. Oh. My. Goodness. Three other writers received an honorable mention and three received first, second, and third prizes. It was a total thrill to be part of this group. The award was based on the first five pages of my manuscript. I received a beautiful, silver foil embossed certificate. I’m going to frame it and look at it when my Inner Critic gets obnoxious.

The next awards were for the Fiction Writing Contest, sponsored by The Editorial Department. I had submitted my first 30 pages. My name was the second one called. I shared the second place honor with three other writers. Receiving an honorable mention in one contest was more than I had hoped. But to be noticed in another by a different set of judges? Michelle told me later that the look on my face was priceless. I was speechless with disbelief and joy.

Receiving the awards was… it was… Affirming. Inspiring. Encouraging. I’m grateful. And extremely motivated.

My fellow writers… Send your stuff out there with a prayer and see what comes back. Do it, even when you’re afraid! What do you have to lose? Even if it takes a bunch of submissions before your work gets noticed, keep on trying! All you can do is learn from it, get better, and maybe even reach the next level in your journey.

All posts from the OC Christian Writers Conference 2012: