Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Conferences Across Borders: Amazing Awaits!

For this Canadian, writing conferences mean a border crossing, and often a flight once I get to the other side. But a couple of weeks ago I was blessed to attend the second annual Inland Northwest Christian Writers Conference in Spokane Valley, Washington, a 3-hour drive from home. The director, Jan Cline, is a wonderful woman who answered God's call to coordinate a conference, the likes of which she'd never done before 2011.

Jan Cline

An ACFW conference it is not, but the over all quality was already up from last year's excellent beginning, with two agents and a couple of publishing house representatives present.

Clint Kelly, communications specialist at Seattle Pacific University and author of many articles and a bunch of books, was keynote speaker. Along with his (flattened) rubber chicken, Gus, Clint provided lots of laughs as well as challenging us with the conference theme: Amazing Awaits. Isn't it interesting how humor can smooth the way for a challenging message?

Jim Rubart, author of several contemporary, slightly speculative novels and owner of a marketing firm, gave a workshop on ideas, while Angela Breidenbach talked about the pros and cons of both traditional and self publishing. Agent Blythe Daniel, veteran editor formerly of Thomas Nelson publishers, presented about building a platform before--or after--selling your work. Other workshop topics ranged from public speaking, social media basics, time management, devotional and article writing, self-editing, to building characters and more, from a variety of presenters.

A highlight for me took place immediately after the conference when several of us went out for Saturday night dinner. Angela invited John van Diest, who is a Christian publishing legend, to join us. What an honor to sit across the table from this man of God, who founded two American publishing houses (Multnomah and Vision Press) and now, well after the age at which most men retire, works two days a week as Associate Publisher for Tyndale.

Jim Rubart, Jessie Gunderson, Angela Breidenbach, John van Diest

John regaled us with stories about being one of ten Christian men from the USA and Canada who were invited to Russia during Mikhael Gorbachev's tenure. They were able to set up a stall at the Moscow Book Fair and give away 10,000 copies of the New Testament, translated into Russian from the original Greek, which had been donated by the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association). His tales of the desperate spiritual hunger evident in the individuals he spoke with there challenged me deeply.

The trials of attending, such as gauging my travel time for the border's open hours and driving through torrential downpours in the dark, fade in the light of the many blessings from attending this regional conference. Creating and renewing friendships made every kilometer--or mile--of the drive worthwhile, even without hearing John's exploits.

If you have the chance to attend even a small conference near your home, consider the many ways it might be worth it. Value isn't measured only in publishing contracts or developing new writing skills. The people alone are worth the effort.

Have you ever had an unexpected blessing from a small conference? Tell us!

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (NLV): Then the Lord answered me and said, “Write down the special dream on stone so that one may read it in a hurry. For it is not yet time for it to come true. The time is coming in a hurry, and it will come true. If you think it is slow in coming, wait for it. For it will happen for sure, and it will not wait."

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local food movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughter.

Her first published work, a novella, will be available in the collection Rainbow's End from Barbour Books in May 2012. Visit her website and blog to glimpse inside her world.


  1. So glad you had a good conference, Valerie. What I value about local conferences is the chance to build relationships with people I won't have to wait a year to see again. Of course, crossing state lines isn't quite the same as an international border!

  2. I'll see some of them a few times in the next year, I hope!

  3. What a wonderful experience, Valerie! Later this year I'm hoping to attend a conference interstate in Queensland. I managed to attend Writing For the Soul in Colorado Springs in '07, and learned so much, but the airfares are prohibitive from our part of the world.

  4. Valerie, thanks for sharing your conference experiences :) I had a lovely time at The Word Writers Fair in Brisbane, Australia last year. It's a small event compared to ACFW or RWA but I learned a lot and met many of my Aussie online writing friends in person for the first time.

  5. I'm a firm believer in conferences, large or small. My first experience was early in this century in Glorieta, NM. I was a rank novice, knowing very little about the Christian publishing landscape. Had to extract my foot from my mouth more than once on that one.

    I've been to both large, national conferences and small, regional ones. Each is worth the effort - for different reasons.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and your enthusiasm.

  6. Great, Val! Writers' conferences are so important. Glad to hear of this new one.