Colorado Christian Writers Conference Report 2015


First, a huge thanks to all who financially gave in order for me to go to the conference. Your money has been well spent, and I’m certain your crown will be enriched with much bling for having been so generous. What touched me more than your giving was that you gave cheerfully, and I am grateful. Thank you! Second, this blog has the potential to become lengthy, so please grab some peanut butter M&M’s and a cup of tea before you read further.

Let’s break it down into days:

Tuesday: I was scheduled for an early bird workshop Wednesday morning, and I thought it would be good up the night before to get settled, get my food prepped, etc. So we checked in, goofed around, prepped food, and perused the place in general. Elevation was a concern, but from the time we got there (around 5:00) to the time I went to bed, I was fine. Went to sleep a little nervous, anticipating the next day, but slept like a milk drunk baby.

Wednesday: Woke up sick like a booze drunk adult. Dizzy, extremely fatigued, sore throat, tight chest, fever, chills (clearly, I’ve never been drunk, but I assume it’s something like what I just described). I thought I was doomed and all the money everyone gave was going to be wasted. It was a horrible feeling physically, but more so emotionally. I loathed the thought of wasting the generosity of others. I rested and then forced myself to get out for some fresh air, thinking it would help clear my dizziness. It did, and I was able to attend the workshop. The rest of the day dragged on, and I still felt run over by a steam roller, but powered through. Shaun and I decided we would go see Avengers that evening, but by then, I had classic signs of altitude sickness in addition to everything else. Shortness of breath, heart pounding, unable to think, fatigue, and classic for me: numb hands. We decided it would be best to get down off the mountain and “come up for air”, so to speak.

Thursday: Woke up feeling fine!! Okay, not fine. But a thousand times better. I could think, my fever and chills were gone, and I had some energy. And good thing. When I checked in at the desk, I learned that the two most important appointments would take place that day. One with an agent from the Steve Laube Agency, and one with the senior editor of Harvest House Publishing. This news got my adrenaline pumping, which in turn helped rev up my energy (do they sell adrenaline in a bottle? ha!).

What happened in the appointments was not what I had anticipated. I was told I would need to “pitch” my book, meaning explain the felt need, primary and secondary audience, purpose, theme, etc. Neither the agent or the editor wanted that. They simply wanted to hear my story. So I winged it. I wasn’t prepared, but God provided the words and a quick explanation was given. The editor gave some good advice as to how/where to publish my genre. He was more than cordial, and when it became apparent that my book wouldn’t fit with what his company is publishing at this time, he went on to give me my full fifteen minutes – packed with advice and encouragement. I felt blessed to have met with him.

The agent, upon hearing my story, said she would like me to send her my book proposal. It was something she decided at the very end of our talk, and I admit I walked away wondering what her level of interest was. Sure, she asked me to send her the proposal, but do agents tell everyone they meet with to send their proposals? I know – what a newbie! When we went to dinner that night, I felt like crying. It was, after all, “cry day”, which is what they say day two is, when all the authors meet with agents and editors and cry because their manuscripts are rejected. But I didn’t feel like crying because of rejection. It was just an emotional, exhausting day.

While Shaun went through the food line, I went to find us a two-seater table, which was located toward the back of the cafeteria. On my way there, I passed the agent, who was talking with a well-known acquisitions editor. They were apparently discussing the editor’s recent book about Billy Graham. I smiled, walked past, and continued my search for a few seats. No way was I going to interrupt that conversation to say “howdy.” But a number of steps later, I hear, “Hey Brenda!” To my surprise, it was the agent. She stopped me to apologize if she cut our meeting short (which she didn’t!), to assure me my story touched her, and to make sure I send her the proposal. It was then that the second day definitely became “cry day.” All the stress of the day, and the fight to stay physically well suddenly seemed worth it.

Will anything come of sending her the proposal? Will she take my work to a publisher and say, “You’ve gotta see this”? I have no idea! All I know is that my next step is to send the proposal!

Friday: A few more appointment that didn’t add up to much. More workshops. More running from one end of the campus to the others. More of the clinic on non-fiction book proposals. General weariness. And some time spent with Ashlee, Jack, and Auggie Fynn, who all came up with me for the day since Shaun had to get some things done at the farmhouse. My family refuses to let me go into high elevation without a babysitter, in case I do what we call the “cod fish.”

*insert flopping fish gasping for air here

And yes, I know fish don’t breathe air.

Saturday: The main event of this day was finishing up the non-fiction book proposal clinic. The instructor was a lady by the name of Cindy Lambert. If you ever meet Cindy, you will know why the clinic was such an amazing experience. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone as kind, gracious, and yet corrective and instructive as Cindy. I left the class wanting her to be my editor, writing coach, and maybe even my sister. If I ever have another opportunity to take a class from her, I will. I don’t care if it’s on underwater basket weaving. I’m taking it. Her ability to teach without making you feel like a numskull is a gift, and I can’t express how blessed and benefitted I am to have taken her clinic.

So, one story about the clinic before I go: Thursday and Friday’s portion of the clinic were days I mostly took in information. Cindy spoke. We critiqued a few of the class’s proposals. On Friday, I also had an appointment with an agent who will remain unnamed. I don’t know what her agenda was, but I’m fairly certain it wasn’t the same as mine. And that’s fine. But I walked away a bit wounded. I didn’t cry. :) But some things she said stirred me, and I wondered for the first time if I should change my genre. I’ve been writing a memoir, and it was suggested that I write to a younger audience, and to change my genre. The thing is, between all the meetings, classes, and workshops you take, you can walk away with a million different pieces of advice, some of which conflict. You have to decide what pieces you will take, which pieces you will chuck. I have no problem chucking the advice to write for a different audience than what I’ve been writing to in this book. I don’t believe that’s what God wants. But what she said about changing my memoir to Christian living wouldn’t leave my mind. I wanted it to. No matter how hard I tried, it stayed with me like glue on a shoe.

So … I took to mulling this over and tightly hugging the stuffing out of my precious dream of writing a memoir (how I love STORY!), but peace evaded me. The last clinic class was Saturday at 2:15, and I remember walking out the door saying to myself, Maybe I should just concede and switch my genre. Then I slammed the door and pouted all the way down the hall on the way to class!

I’m kidding a little bit.

Class started and we were critiquing my classmate’s proposal. She’s writing a memoir, and she writes beautifully. I’m certain she will be published. Her story is real and horrifying and yet she is able to tell it eloquently, in a way that ebbs and flows like seawater. In this critique, Cindy begins to clarify what memoir is and does. Memoir is story, and so is Christian living (to an extent), but memoir never breaks story. Memoir also leaves interpretation to the reader. I knew all of this, but I couldn’t have put it into words like Cindy did. And when I heard it out loud, I knew I had my answer. I AM a story teller. But in this particular book, I am not able to leave interpretation up to the reader. I have to break story. So I knew at that moment that I would switch genres. And you guessed it – another cry. I asked a few clarifying questions and made a few statements, then I looked at Cindy and said, “I think I need to change my genre.” And in her gentle, sweet way, she smiled and said, “I think you do, too. Because you have an agenda, and you’re not going to be able to state that agenda unless you break story.”

The funny thing about all of this? Cindy and I were due to meet at 9:00 that morning, one on one, but the meeting place was misunderstood, so we had to postpone until after class. In that morning meeting, she was planning to tell me I should switch genres. But I was still raw from that rough appointment with the agent who will still remain unnamed, and I know I wouldn’t have taken Cindy’s added advice to change genres well. My heart and mind just weren’t ready for it yet. I needed to hear the explanation between memoir and Christian living first. I needed what Cindy called an aha! moment before I was willing to change.

My mission hasn’t changed. But the method to my mission has. Ironically, I feel more comfortable with writing the book now. Because of my love for story, I made the mistake of thinking that what I love is how I should exclusively write (at least in book form). But as Cindy got to know me, she felt confirmed in her suspicion that I am a teacher. Yes, I’m a story teller. And story telling is certainly a large portion of writing Christian living. But I need that window to break story and cut loose with some good teaching. Someday, I will write a memoir. But not with this story. And not until I’m able to allow the reader his or her own interpretation. To me, that will mean the memoir will have to be a fun story. One that isn’t trying to get through some tough, theological questions due to some dark, difficult days in my life.

Well. That’s the high points of the conference. I have no idea where God will lead, but my plan is to just be faithful in what He’s given me to do next. There’s much revamping I need to do to the proposal, and I need to have three sample chapters completely finished to send with the proposal. Yes, I have the chapters written, but since I’m changing my genre (oh, and my title!), there’s a lot of revamping to do. I hear 90 days is the most time you’d want to let pass before sending a proposal on to an agent who’s requested to see it at a conference. So – let the writing and editing commence.

Thank you again to all who contributed, whether by prayer or by finances. I don’t need anymore of your moola, but I will always need your prayers.


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