My worst cases of writer’s block always happen right after attending a writers conference. Seems crazy right? It’s probably the result of information overload, exhaustion, and that burden I feel to write something great after receiving so much inspiration. Whatever the cause, I always end up staring at a blank screen.
This year, I got to share the experience of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference with my daughter Anna for the first time. This was my fifth time attending and she’s heard about it for years. Taking that first walk around the campus with her and watching her take in the beauty of the mountains was such a thrill for me (and her).
Writers go to conferences to meet literary agents, publishers, and authors. We go for all the wonderful workshops. We go for the amazing worship. We go because there are people there who understand our unique brand of crazy. It takes a little crazy to want to be a writer.
In years past, I felt like I was always striving. Always networking. Always trying to work my pitch into conversations. This year, I was in a comfortable place in my writing. My picture book, I Made the Earth, is being illustrated by an amazing artist. (More on that later). Proposals for my Girls of Hope Series are the in the hands of fourteen publishers. Some of the publishers were at the conference and I got a chance to answer any questions they had about the series before they study the proposal. I spent some time getting tips from authors on a Valentine’s Day picture book I wrote earlier this year.
I saw the hoards of people lining up to make an appointment with my agent and it felt great to not have to do that. Also, attending a conference with my agent was amazing. In addition to the helpful advice she gave me throughout the week, it was great to spend time with her since we usually email or meet virtually.
My favorite part of the conference was time with Anna. As a fourteen-year-old, you’d think she’d be shy with more seasoned writers, but she handled the week with so much grace and poise. I remember the first time I had a pitch meeting. I was so nervous, I’m not even sure what I said. Anna saw those meetings as simply an audition without singing. (And she’s an awesome auditioner). She went to the conference with a children’s chapter book called Brynn and Amir and the Magic Map. She had her elevator pitch down and created a beautiful one sheet to sell the book. She chose to take eight appointments! (Most people do two) She met with authors, publishers, and an agent and everyone loved her idea. And I don’t mean they wanted to keep the teenager writing so they encouraged her. I mean that the publishers want her to send them a proposal because they’re interested in possibly giving her a contract. My daughter hasn’t had her first day of high school yet, but she may be getting a book contract. It’s completely amazing.
During the awards, we were sitting with my dear friend who has been my roommate for the past two conferences. I whispered to her, “Do you think they’re humoring her because she’s fourteen?” A few minutes later, the announcer said, “In the category of children’s chapter books, the winner is…Brynn and Amir and the Magic Map by Anna Cook!” Heather whispered back, “Nope. They’re not humoring her.” And then we lost our minds cheering. The whole room erupted when they saw her stand up. You could hear people saying, “That’s the girl with the adorable magic map book,” and “It’s her! I think she’s only fourteen!” I wonder if Anna looked out over the crowd of 600 and understood what she’d just accomplished. It’s okay if she doesn’t understand because it’s her lack of fear that makes her great at all this. As adults, we often ask ourselves, “why me?” Why would I be the one to do this? Or write this? Am I qualified? She just writes and isn’t concerned with what will come of it and I think that’s the secret to her success. Also, she’s a great writer.
So, why did I write this?
1. I wanted to update my friends and readers on where I am in the writing journey.
2. I’m so proud of my daughter and I love having her on this journey with me.
3. I’m coming off of a mountain top experience (literally and figuratively) so if you see me walking around in a daze it’s because the transition back to regular life is shocking.
4. I hope you’ll join me in prayer. I want my middle grade series to find the right publisher so young girls can understand how much they are loved.
5. I want you to find your “writers conference”. I’m not sure what that is for you. But I want you to find a place or a group where you feel truly at home. Writers love conferences because people there understand them. Where can you go that you feel understood like that?
If you’re still with me, thank you. Thanks for supporting and encouraging me on this journey. It can be lonely, but readers like you are why we write.