On the Wrong Mountain or Right Where God Wants Me?

It was two days before the conference and I was stuck on the side of a mountain. What was to be a three hour round trip hike with my family was getting scary. I knew I should’ve canceled the little gaunt. Why hadn’t I listened to the inner voice of reason that tried to talk some sense into me? There was editing to be done on my manuscript, packing to finish, a proposal that needed to be touched up.

My inner complaining halted as I glanced up to see one of the children take their last sip of water from a sport bottle.

“Don’t,” I cried. It was too late. I watched the last drop fall into my daughter’s open mouth. Four hours of rock climbing in the summer sun had drained us all, but the precious water must last no matter how thirsty we were. She moved forward with a sheepish look and an apology.

The peak seemed miles away still. My scuffed fingers and aching feet begged for a break, yet I knew there was no time to stop. We had to get to the top to reach the trail down. Tears threatened to dissolve me into a mess. All I could see was the rock cliff far out of my reach. How would we ever get there with the kids threatening to lay on the ground and not get up?

I squeezed through a rock crevice and the peak disappeared from sight. Climbing the face of a cliff, I pulled my niece up behind me. Some of my family was in front of me, some behind. There was the top again, only a smidge closer. I picked up momentum. Push forward. Keep moving. Focus on the trail in front of you and not the peak forever away.

God’s Word came to me. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. This was the reason I struggled up the mountain. This hike was symbolic of my walk with Him.

My stomach growled from hunger. My tongue begged for more water. Another rock outcropping then a path led to the edge of the mountain. I stood surrounded by eight kids, my husband, and sister. Just to our left was the elusive finish line.

“There it is. We can do this. Let’s go. Can’t you see it there?” I said. They all looked with doubt yet moved forward.

We climbed and pushed through the rocks, slid down fissures, and pulled each other over bulges in the mountain. Some fell behind again, and I pulled them forward.

At last, my feet landed on the peak. I stared. The beauty of God’s world so high on a mountain brought a different kind of tears. We’d made it. Through travail and pain, pushing over rocks I never thought I could climb, we’d arrived. But, what was bigger than the victory of this trip was the lesson I’d take back with me. God wanted me to see that my walk through becoming a writer may be wrought with unbelievably hard work and frustration like the long trail up Old Rag Mountain, but in the end He’d bring me to the top of the mountain he wanted me to climb, with the exact amount of sustenance I needed. And, I wouldn’t be alone.

 

Items You Won’t Think to Bring to a Writers’ Conference

As you all know according to my blog about Writers’ Conference series, I went to my first conference recently. Being new at it, I didn’t know for sure what should be brought along. The obvious things were packed. I even posted on the regional ACFW Facebook page to ask general questions. I got some great answers, and set to work preparing for my four day trip.

I’m one of those over preparers. You know, the ones that have the husband asking if the kitchen sink is tied to the roof of the van. I made my lists and checked it not twice but three times. There were enough clothes to last eight days instead of four. Extra shoes and flip-flops rested on the pocket of my suitcase. Notebooks and folders filled my laptop bag.

What I didn’t count on was the empty slate of a dorm. It was sixth grade camp all over again. I even had to climb over bed rails to get in my bed. There wasn’t even an old bar of soap to wash my hands with. You can imagine how upset I was that me, the one ready for anything in a moment’s notice, hadn’t considered there’d be no hand soap.

Later that day at dinner, I met some fabulous people and I realized I hadn’t considered bringing business cards. It was a loss of opportunity to network with other writers. While I passed their cards down the line at the table, I had nothing to give with my personal information. One more thing forgotten.

On the second day it poured. And I mean poured. Before I left, everything in my mind was a sunny picture of perfection. I hadn’t counted on rain: i.e. no umbrella. The cafeteria was on one end and the chapel and classrooms were on the other. I was ready to pull my hair out and weep like one of the best paid Jewish mourners there was. What was I to do with my laptop bag and my papers? What about my hair and outfit? I had three appointments that day. Yet another item never considered.

It’s the small things that get you in the end. I learned a lot in those four days. Conferences can be in all kinds of settings: hotels, camps, colleges. It could rain or be sunny, hot or cold. If you’re on your way to a conference, here’s a quick list of extra things to consider bringing:

  • Hand soap
  • Towels/hand towels/wash cloths
  • Umbrella
  • An extra pillow/blanket
  • Extra notebooks and folders to help organize papers
  • A rainproof bag for important papers
  • Comfortable shoes if you’ll be traversing a long walk throughout the day
  • A bag on wheels. You’d be surprised how many things you’ll want to carry along from workshop to workshop, and they can get very heavy.
  • Business cards
  • An extension cord in case you want to take notes with your laptop and there’s no close plug
  • A sweater for fluctuating temperatures
  • Your manuscript and proposal on a flash drive in case you need to print more copies  

Be over prepared. In the end you may not need everything, but you’ll be so glad you had these items on hand when the unknown happens.

Should You Research Agents Before a Conference?

My phone alarm sounded as I sat in a workshop at a conference. Time to head down to the main level for my appointment with an agent. My hands shook, palms sweating. I turned to my friend to give her the knowing look. Yes, the one that says, “I’m going to the slaughter house, a.k.a the appointment room. Pray for me.”

I was in a hurry. Two things had to happen before I ‘hovered’ near the agent’s table to wait my turn. First, I had to make sure my dress was straight and there was nothing in my teeth. Then, I needed to read over the quick cheat sheet I’d made on each agent I had an appointment with.

I only had three minutes left before I must be in the room. When I whipped out the paper, I glanced over it. Funny how my mind didn’t want to take in the bit of information. My nerves eroded that part of my brain. I read over the list twice. Still nothing solid stayed in my head. Shoving the paper back in my bag, I hurried to the line.

The agent’s previous appointment stood and gave me a hopeful smile before leaving. When I sat, questions raced through my mind. What genre do they deal with? What company are they working for? Where did they work in the past? What didn’t was the answers to all those questions. I froze. I couldn’t even remember my pitch I’d worked on tirelessly.

My voice caught in my throat before a shaky remark came out. “You work with Young Adult, mid-grade level, but I saw that you’re interested in some adult fiction?”

Her answer, “Actually, I work with non-fiction. But yes, I am looking for some adult fiction.”

That was it. I’d done it. Now she’d think I didn’t know a thing about her, which meant I didn’t care enough to research, which meant she didn’t care enough to give me a contract.

Don’t let this happen to you. All the research you’ve done has a good chance of fleeing from your mind the moment you stand face to face with the agents you dream of working with.

Our brain can do amazing things when we’re at ease. It’s the times we’re stressed, over tired, or very nervous that it poops out on us. When that fight or flight reaction kicks in, have the ground work so cemented in, you won’t have to think too hard to say the precise words you meant to say.

Here’s 3 things to remember:

  • Research: Check out the agent’s website, their agency’s website, and the bio page the conference puts on their site. Knowing the genres they work with is of utmost importance. 
  • Memorize: Break out your old school days thinking cap and memorize, memorize, memorize.
  • Plan: Keep a cheat sheet with you and check it before you meet the agent or editor in case you’re too nervous to remember all the things you need to know about them.

In the end, what agents will remember about you, other than your amazing pitch, is the time you invested in them.

Writer of Killer Romance and Encourager to Fellow Christians