Friday, June 22, 2012

The Writer's Plot Writing Conference

book open pages flying out.JPGThe Writer’s Plot Writing Conference
Don't have time for a 4-5 day conference? Can't afford to travel but still want to work on your craft?

The Writer's Plot Writing Conference presents:

The Story Continues...
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Furman University
3300 Poinsett Hwy, Greenville, SC 29613

Keynote Speaker:  Harold Underdown
Early Bird Special Price:  $80 until June 16th
Regular Price (after June 16th):  $100
Manuscript Critique:  $45 (first 10 pages)
Special Critique with Harold Underdown for rejected manuscript consultation:  $45 (first 10 pages)
Deadline for submission:  June 16th

Register online:
10% discount for TWP members for all prices

Presenters include:

Harold Underdown – consulting editor, former vice president & editorial director at ipicturebooks, former editorial director at Charlesbridge, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books

Edie Melsonsocial media marketing expert, author of best-selling ebook, Social Media Marketing for Writers and a devotional, Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle

Vonda Skeltonauthor of Seeing Through the Lies (for women), three Bitsy Burroughs Mysteries (for children), and numerous magazine articles for adults

Patricia Thomasauthor of 7 picture books, including “Stand Back,” said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” as well as numerous magazine articles and short stories

Pam Zollmanaward-winning author of 40 children’s books, hundreds of short stories and articles (for adults and children), and former editor at Highlights Magazine.

Alan Gratzaward-winning author of six children’s and YA books, short stories, magazine articles, plays, and several episodes of A&E’s City Confidential

Jessica AlexanderAssociate Editor for Peachtree Publishing

Katya JensenEditorial and Subrights Coordinator for Peachtree Publishing

Diana Flegal – Literary agent with Hartline Literary Agency

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Glimpses of Heaven

I doubt the streets of gold will be carpeted with sage, cream, and black swirly patterns on a rust background. There probably won't be straight-backed chairs in muted earth tones, elevators that make the stairs seem enticing, or quandaries about how to properly moderate the temperature to please both the pre- and post-menopausal crowd. Whatever meals are served will somehow unite delightful flavors with the very best nutrition...after all, God created it all, right?

These minor differences aside, I had the pleasure to get a tiny glimpse of heaven here on earth a couple of weeks ago when I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I've been walking on clouds ever since, and have only now come down from the clouds to share my view.

The first thing that struck me as utterly heavenly was the welcome upon our arrival. Friends, some of whom I'd never actually met face to face, greeted me from across the parking lot by name. We squealed in delight and dodged traffic to hug one another and share our joyful reunion.

Isn't that just like heaven?

Imagine running across the golden pavement to hug the neck of brothers and sisters in Christ we never met on this earth. The Apostle Paul. John Huss and John Calvin. William Wilberforce. Annie Armstrong.  Corrie Ten Boom. C.S. Lewis. John Bunyan. Amy Carmichael. Jim Elliot and Nate Saint. Helen Keller. Joni Earickson Tada. Billy Graham.

I was humbled and moved to find that not only other conferees knew me by name, but some of the faculty remembered me. Me? Greeted ME by name, with a hug, and 'so glad you were able to come this year!'

Another glimpse of heaven. 

Those heroes we've studied, read about, prayed for from across the world, and weeped over...they will greet us by name. 'So glad to see you!' 'So glad you're here!' As thrilling as it was to have Alton Gansky or Todd Starnes recognize me...imagine having Mother Teresa thank you for that mission trip you took to India. Imagine C.S. Lewis thanking you for the stories you wrote (inspired by his own work) or Billy Graham thanking you for preaching the Word.

All those whose names you know, and even those whose names you've never heard, will squeal with delight and run (fly? float? waft, perhaps?) to greet name!

They are that 'great cloud of witnesses' that surrounds us in Hebrews 12:1. 

Like the faculty at Blue Ridge who have reached the 'publication' milestone and are encouraging and cheering on those still reaching for that prize, so the heroes of our faith are calling out to us, praying for us, encouraging us to run the Christian race with perseverance and faith. 

And then there was the worship...a room filled with brothers and sisters in Christ whose only common ground was their love for Christ and a desire to share that love with others through the written word. There were believers from all over this country and ones who had lived in many parts of the world. Believers from different ethnic and racial backgrounds and believers from various denominations. When I closed my eyes and listened to the voices raised together singing songs of praise to our God, I could almost see His face smiling at the heavenly sound of hearts fully committed to Him.

Photo by Mary Freeman Denman

I was struck not only by the power of the Holy Spirit in that place, but by the fact that it seemed novel. After all, shouldn't that be what we experience each and every week when we gather with other believers? Believers that we know much better how to pray for, how to minister to, how to share the love of Christ with? Believers we've known for years and seen God at work in their lives?

I've spent some time reflecting on this experience and praying about why it was different. And what I could do about it.

A few differences - lessons to me and I hope to you - came to mind:

1) Preparation: I had prepared for this conference, both practically and prayerfully.

Although I usually have a quiet time and pray each morning - too often on Sunday mornings I sleep in and find myself rushing to find the children's shoes, search for a missing earring, or grab a bite to eat instead of spending time really preparing to worship. Taking the time to set out everyone's clothes for church, set the alarm with time for prayer, and recognize the importance of both physical and spiritual preparation will change your Sunday morning experience.

2) Expectation: I had come to this conference expecting God to show up and to experience his presence there in a powerful way.

It is far too easy to become complacent about our freedom to meet with other believers and worship God. We can easily take for granted the fact that the Holy Spirit is there with us each time we gather together.



He is convicting hearts of sin, comforting those suffering, encouraging others to stand firm, calling someone to ministry. Coming to worship with an expectation that God is going to do - this very day - something that only He can do will transform your church.

3) Submission: Through prayer, I had come to a place of laying my efforts on the altar and having peace with whatever God's will might be.

It is so easy for me to come to church with an agenda. I have great ideas for what the church should do about the service, the music, the budget - you name it. But until I have laid all my ideas on the altar before God and asked Him to give me instead His perspective, I'm not ready to worship. Worship isn't a time for pressing my agenda, it's a time for submitting to God's.

I'm so thankful for the glimpse of heaven I had at Blue Ridge, but I'm hungry for more. What if we could experience that same fellowship, communion, and worship each time we gather with other believers? What if we set aside all the petty differences that so easily divide us, and focused instead on the One that unites us? What if we prepared for Sunday morning (and every other gathering of believers) as if we expected God to do something miraculous among us? What if we submitted all our personal preferences, experience, and wisdom, and let God lead us into His presence?

We might all get a glimpse of Heaven.