I made it all the way to and from North Carolina–letting that big sigh out now.
Clifford, my 14-year-old van, got me there again. He did complain this time though. Started about 50 miles short of the Ridgecrest Conference Center and got progressively louder as we came back to Plano, Texas.
We’re both in the process of recovery. I’m napping. He’s in the shop getting new differential gears–teenagers are always looking for attention, especially after a difficult time.
This week was a true vacation for me, just like last year was. That clean air in those mountains will always be the refreshment this old farm boy needs. My eyes teared up again when I got back home, not from any emotional stimulation, but from the quality of the air. I’m trying to figure out how I can live in the mountains while still attending church here. I guess that’s just part of the curse I have to deal with.
There were over 400 people in attendance this year–a new record; more entrees in the contests, too. We were all one big happy family while there.
I entered four categories in the unpublished writers contest. I think my poem and picture book entries were too long. My article for the web didn’t place, either. But, the one I most wanted to do well did. My middle-grade manuscript placed third.
I’ve been working on that one for about five years now. I was told it needed to be longer than I had it originally. So, I wrote a totally new beginning. That’s what the judges saw. That’s also what an editor asked me to send him.
Oh yeah, I’m going to pursue that. This one will impact some lives for Jesus. You just wait and see.
There are three types of people to meet at a writing conference and I met them all this year.
First, there are those who’ve been published many times and are farther down this writer’s journey than I am. They’re the ones I sat under and soaked up what they had to teach. I attended DiAnn Mills class on Creating Compelling Characters in the morning each day. Then I went to Steven James course after lunch to unlearn what DiAnn told me because he has a unique way of creating his stories. It was actually the same thing only different. In other words, I learnt from both of them.
Then there are those in approximately the same stage as me. I met Karl–don’t-call-me-Kevin–Bacon at last year’s awards banquet. We met up and spent quite a bit of time together. He gave me a copy of his Christy-finalist book about a Civil War soldier. Karl got caught in the Zondervan buy-out before the second book in the series got picked up. God has bigger plans for that story though. That second book is now going to be the first of a trilogy following a teenager through the war. I do plan on setting time aside to read An Eye for Glory. Maybe that’s why Clifford’s in the hospital over this extended weekend.
The third type of attendee are those not quite as far down the road as me. I prayed before the conference that God would use me to encourage at least one person during this conference. I met Michael Lewis and his lovely wife, Kathy, at last year’s banquet, too. I think I gave Mike the boost he needed to start his own blog. He works with an organization that works with human trafficking in Virginia. There’s somebody who could use some prayer support. He’s got mine. How about joining me in that effort?
There seems to be at least one person at the conference I wish I had more time to get to know. This year we had a World War 2 veteran who was crazy enough to drive all the way to North Carolina from Texas. What was he thinking? A 97-year-old man should know better than that. I had the privilege of shaking his hand once, but it was right at the start of one of the big group sessions. Maybe next year the two of us can share a ride.
I was contemplating getting a Mary Denman headshot this year. Then, on the Friday before the conference, the last workday before I was to leave, something happened. I was just doing my job, minding my own business, when the unexpected took place. I had to unhook from one trailer to hook to another one. While I was cranking the big handle to lower the jack stand I noticed the flap over my cargo pocket was out of place. So, I casually reached over with my free hand and pushed it back in place.
That’s when I heard that all too familiar sound of a solid echo in my head. The impact of the steel handle landed just below my eyeglass frame on the bottom side of my cheek bone. I knew it would leave a mark. Some blood eventually escaped the scene of the crime.
In the clarity that comes from a fresh ringing in my ears I remember saying, “Okay, Lord, I’m taking this as my indication not to get a headshot this year. Although, Mary’s headshots are quite a bit less painful than Yours are.” He didn’t respond.
I did actually get some Mary Denman headshots at lunch on Thursday, but, not of me.
Thursday’s lunch is a very easy time to find a seat since most people have left. I joined some friends at Mary’s assigned table, not expecting her to necessarily show up. She did, camera in hand. Another conferee came over and showed her his portfolio of pictures. She was enthralled.
I recognized a prime opportunity for a picture so I made an off-handed comment. “I wish I could sneak your camera and take some pictures of you right now.”
To my amazement she grabbed her camera, turned it on and handed it to me. As she went back to drooling over the computer screen I tried to figure out how to operate a real camera. I finally snapped a few headshots OF Mary Denman WITH Mary Denman’s camera. How many past-conferees can make that claim?
So, you see, I did get some Mary Denman headshots after all. I kinda like God’s sense of humor. I still don’t appreciate His whacking me upside the head like that, though.
There’s a good chance I’ll make my annual pilgrimage back to the mountains next year. Hopefully I’ll be closer to being published by then.
It’s all in God’s timing.
Keep smiling. Wade