5 Reasons to Attend a Christian Writer’s Conference
Industry connections are a large part of a writing career. Recently, I attended the Advanced Writer and Speaker Association (AWSA) Refresh Retreat and the Christian Products Expo trade show. I would like to share what I learned and five reasons to attend a Christian writer’s conference.
If I had known more about the AWSA, Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA), and Christian Product Expo (CPE) when I registered, I would have felt unqualified to attend. When I registered for the AWSA conference, I went all out. I signed up for the Author/Retailer Personality Party, CPE book signing, AWSA prayer booth, as well as putting an ad in the Leading Hearts magazine. Who did I think I was? I am so thankful God pressed me to register for all of that before I did my research. The five days of worship, prayer, training, and fellowship were incredible from start to finish. In addition, God blessed me with Susan Neal as my roommate. Conversations with her changed my writing career development. I could not have asked for anything more.
Once I became a member of AWSA, I read the daily io.group messages. That is where I found that Susan Neal needed a roommate. I quickly responded that I would love to be that person. Again, I knew nothing about Susan or that she was the Director of Christian Indie Publishing Association (CIPA). As I read about her, I thought, wow she is a big deal, and I do not know if I am what she is expecting. What a divine appointment God arranged in having her as my roommate. As I told her, “You are one smart cookie!” She taught me so much during our time together. What a blessing.
Joining AWSA and CIPA are two of the best decisions I have made as a self-published author of Christian books and Bible studies. From time spent at the AWSA retreat, I learned the value of community. As an introvert, it is difficult for me to reach out, but God gave me courage and boldness to do so. From joining CIPA, I gained access to invaluable resources for Christian authors like me who are publishing our own work. I will use the CIPA resources repeatedly. Meeting others in person who we have communicated with through social media is encouraging. These are people you may have been in virtual trainings with. You know their name and face, but at a conference you really get to know them. They are all part of your community for encouragement and information. And you do not know how they positively influence your writing career.
One of the AWSA speakers, Erica Wiggenhorn, reminded me to stand firm and march boldly in my calling, even in those times of being stuck. She stated, “Stuck-ness is a setup for the takedown of your enemy. Faith flourishes when moving forward.” When we are stuck, do the next thing, whatever that may be.
I wish I could remember who made this statement: we are never too old for a new work. If I was there for no other reason than to hear this, it was worth it. Feeling too old to be acknowledged by others as a woman worth hearing or reading is something with which I have struggled. But no longer! The enemy will not win with that lie. If you are a woman who struggles with feeling less, than you need to know that is not from God. Do not allow the enemy to prevent you from connecting with other Christian writers and Christian publishers because you feel unqualified. Be bold. Be brave. The Holy Spirit will equip and enable you. “Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way.” Psalm 85:13 (ESV).
The speaker, Edie Melson, explained, We are to be a light in the dark. We are to be recognizable as authors by engaging online with more than clicking a like. Our brand is what people perceive of us. Promote others before ourselves. Do not be afraid to put others first.
When I heard that from Edie, it reminded me of Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV). “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.” This has always been a favorite verse of mine to pray when I feel envy or frustration. Lord, help me put their needs first. Edie gave practical guidelines and tips for social media. Such as, we are all in this together. Hope loves company and community.
From the branding session with Susanne Kuhn, I pictured a new logo from my name using a coffee cup. My last name is Grounds, but no one understands when I say it. I am constantly saying, “That’s Grounds like coffee, not Graham as in cracker.” Then people remember. So why not incorporate a coffee cup into my logo! Suzanne’s point is that we must be discoverable. Use something in your brand that identifies you.
Carol Kent trained on speaking. Her question to ponder was “What do I want my audience to do as a result of this message?” Your message should be measurable and achievable with take-home value.
Worship and Prayer
The worship time with Babbie Mason was uplifting and drew me closer to God. Tina Yeager led prayer instructing us to get in groups of two or three to pray for one another. God blessed me with Erica Wiggenhorn as a prayer partner. Her prayer over me was a Holy Spirit-led moment. She prayed for something that was exactly what I have been writing about—abiding in Christ. Through our prayer times, the Lord inspired me with a book idea and encouragement to continue what I started to bring it to completion.
The AWSA retreat concluded with the Personality Party Book Signings with over 100 Christian retailers. I am so glad I signed up for this because I met so many wonderful people—book retailers and publishers from all over the country. I discovered this event was about so much more than giving away my book. It was about the people. Making connections. Expressing the love of God through our book descriptions and giving encouragement to those who have struggled to keep their stores open this past year.
In addition, there were opportunities to meet with editors and agents to pitch your project. But when you made the appointment, do not be late. I was in a session that went over the time in the schedule, which put me late for my appointment. If you are late, you lose time with the editor or agent because they have other appointments following yours. That is a lesson I learned the hard way.
There is so much more that I could share, but every writer needs to experience the five aspects of attending a conference for themselves. Take the leap. Join these two associations (AWSA and CIPA) for access to a loving Christian community of like-minded people. You will then be notified about writing conferences. What a blessing it is to serve in a community of authors who glorify the Lord through their writing.
In summary, why attend a Christian writer’s conference?
- Worship and Prayer
Virginia Grounds is an author, Bible teacher, speaker, and former radio host who has a passion for God’s word. She has been writing Bible studies for at least 30 years and taught in one of the largest churches in America. Virginia served with her husband in full-time ministry for 20 years helping people in crisis which motivated her to write her encouraging messages of hope and inspiration in Rock Solid Trust, Trusting God When Life is Hard and Living Your Glory Story, a 6-week Bible Study. You can find Virginia at www.majesticinspirations.com and www.manuscriptprep.com.