“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” – Ernest Hemingway

Recently, in my unattainable quest to become a master, I attended the Florida Christian Writers Conference along with a few hundred aspiring writers. Are we now master wordsmiths? No! But did we learn? No doubt!

I’m thankful for fellow word crafters – the cream of the crop – who work tirelessly to make such conferences available, and now that I’ve returned home, I’m wading through copious pages of notes.

If you are a writer who has not yet attended such a conference, let me encourage you to do so. Search online, or contact a local group of writers, to find one nearby, but before you go, let me share some tips to keep in mind for your first (or next) conference experience. This is part one – the first seven tips in no particular order! Next week, I’ll share the rest of my tips!

Leave your introvert at home!
Many writers are introverts at heart – I know I am – so this is my favorite tip! An idea borrowed from author/agent Bob Hostetler (www.bobhostetler.com), my decision not to pack my introvert was a game changer. I was reminded of it at every juncture, whether eating meals with conferees or in one-on-one meetings with an editor, publisher, or agent who could impact my career. I chose to leave my introvert at home and let my extrovert shine.

Enlist prayer warriors!
I invited some friends (via a private Facebook group) to pray for me and it was perhaps the best thing I did in preparation for the trip. They prayed for my flight, my health in this flu-infested nation, the conference itself, and God’s presence. Their prayers that I could succinctly craft and confidently present that all-important ‘elevator pitch’ for each book proposal were answered! I shared the times once my one-on-one appointments were scheduled, and knew they were praying each time I was in that hot seat! One friend even prayed for me when awake in the middle of the night! I shared updates, and pictures. My ‘tribe’ lived the conference vicariously through me, sharing scriptures, prayers, and affirmations, then celebrating my ‘pinch me’ moments. God orchestrated my trip, but my friends covered me in prayer, and I was truly blessed.

Just smile!
That’s easy at most conferences, because everyone you meet is smiling. Usually. Enjoy yourself and make new friends. Get out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself – chances are you’ll gain a friend and make connections that last long after you return home. Take a selfie or two – it’s a great way to remember your new friends!

Sleep fast! Eat healthy! Live now!
The FCWC team planned activities at both ends of the day. For early risers, Susan Neal, founder of Scripture Yoga offered a Christ-centered alternative to secular yoga (www.christianyoga.com). Dr. Robert Gorini of the Rock Church in Daytona Beach (www.rockdaytona.com) brought devotional prayer and worship every day. Our keynote speaker was my Nebraska neighbor, Tosca Lee (www.toscalee.com), who offered great nuggets for any writer. The award ceremony was a celebration of accomplishments, and not-so-healthy desserts – yum! After Hours Workshops were suited for the night owls featuring presenters like Michelle Medlock Adams (www.michellemedlockadams.com), Cindy Sproles (www.cindysproles.com) and Blythe Daniel (www.theblythedanielagency.com). So, basically, all hours – from before sunrise to well after sunset – were packed with opportunities to live now. So, sleep fast at conferences, and catch up once you’re home!

Bring your iPad/laptop and cords (and pen and paper)!
I packed my iPad cord, but I didn’t THINK to bring my keyboard cord, and it’s different. The keyboard fizzled, as my fingers flew, so handwritten notes – the ‘old school’ routine – worked for the remainder of the conference. Plan B wasn’t a problem, as I love pen and paper (doesn’t every writer?)  but next time, I’ll remember ALL my chargers!

Stay hydrated!
This is very important when the routine is hectic and surroundings are new. I loaded up on water when I was in the cafeteria, but forgot throughout the day. I finally found a vending machine which gladly accepted dollar bills in exchange for a bottled water. However, I noticed that more seasoned conferees carried insulated water bottles and refilled them in the cafeteria at meal times.

Ask questions!
Whether you’re in a workshop, at lunch, or in a one-on-one appointment, ask questions! Learn from others. Stretch yourself and expand your thinking. Ask for the introvert sitting next to you who has the same question but is afraid to ask! I’ve never met a group as eager to share resources, techniques, and encouragement as writers, authors, agents, editors, and publishers. They happily invest in others.

Okay, y’all…sorry, I picked that phrase up at the conference, too…that’s all for now, but be sure you follow me so you can read the second part of this post in a couple days!

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