This past weekend I was honored to be at the Wordsowers Christian Writer’s Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. I was unsure about attending at first, I’ve only ever been to one writer’s conference. The faculty lineup, course offerings, price point, and proximity were all driving factors for my decision to go. But the one thing that impacted me the most was the infectious buzz in the air.
It started at the top with conference hosts Kat Crawford, Jeanie Jacobson, and Pebbles Jacobo – “The ladies in red”. They were all so excited for the conference. Their enthusiasm and pure joy for every person at the conference was contagious. Kat came right up to me and gave me a big grandma hug and told me she was so happy for me to be there. I had never met her before, but I knew in that moment that she was excited for the dreams that God has placed in my heart.
I was truly honored.
Wordsowers is a small conference in the Great Plains of the Midwest – Omaha, Nebraska. During my five hour drive I caught up some Writing Excuses, and started listening to An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. I don’t do audio books very well, but after a few chapters, I’m going to need the ebook please and thank you.
Attending the conference with me was a friend who is local to Omaha – Ryan Long. I’m working on convincing him to join me at Realm Makers this year (You should do it!!) – I also immediately found the spec-writers of the conference, one who is already registered for RM, and the other two who are considering. I sorta became a Realm Makers evangelist…
The tipping point for me deciding to attend was that several of my tribe were on the faculty for the conference: Ronie Kendig was the keynote speaker, and Tosca Lee, Ben Wolf, and Charis Erlichman were all teaching workshops. I had great conversations with each of them about writing, career choices, life, and which Jimmy John’s sandwich is the best (find me on Facebook for my answer). Ronie’s keynote on being a gatekeeper to Christ was inspiring. She gave a Bible-grounded speech on keeping hope, being a light, and not giving in to inaction.
I took a workshop with Susan King from the Upper Room devotional magazine. I’ve sorta-kinda written devotional-ish musings before, and after hearing her talk, I’m going to give it a go. The Upper Room goes out to 3 million subscribers worldwide, and is free for active military. It can also be found in jails, hospitals, and dentists offices, and it is widely read by Christians and non-believers alike.
For my one-on-one session, I chose to talk with blogger Nancy Kay Grace. She had some great advice on how to handle you all – I’m still feeling new to this whole blogging thing.
Ben Wolf taught an informative class on Conflict and Val Kilmer. He used the analogy that conflict is the wind in our sails, pushing the story along. His advice to release the Kraken will definitely change up some pacing in my current WIP. Two thumbs up, Ben!
The whole conference body gathered back in to hear from Alex Marestaing. Alex has worked for Disney, and Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins. He proclaimed that we should be like children – full of passion, fire, and a willingness to take risks. We need to believe in magic, and listen to God’s whisper. When we hear Him, we find our own voice and only then can we shout God’s hope. It was an inspiring talk!
The conference rounded out for me learning about the Pixar Method from Charis Erlichman. Pixar is famous for a bunch of movies with deep heart, and they have this massive list of 22 rules of storytelling. Even though they break their own rules sometimes, they have a formula that forms the bones of your story:
Once upon a time there was a _. Every day they_. Until one day_. Because of that_. Because of that_. Until finally_.
Following her worksheet I came up with a story about a janitor on a space station, who just wanted to see a sunset. He found an un-watched shuttle and took it down to a planet. Only there was a storm. Then a giant monster, and the mechanic/stowaway has to save him. She’ll probably be his love interest. #freeshippingonaislethree
It was a short conference, and was over too soon. I’ll definitely have WCWC on my radar for next year. Have you ever been to a writer’s conference? If not, what’s stopping you? Invest in the dreams that God has given you! If you’ve been to a conference, what is something you learned at a workshop that changed your writing? For me, I’m definitely going to be amping up the conflict in my stories. #releasethekraken
Great report, Josh. I’m so glad you got to go.
Jeanie sends a hug. You’re something of a legend there.
Ah! Jeanie and I belong to a mutual admiration society.
I am a big believer in conferences. Maybe too big. I’ll be attending five of them in the next three months. Teaching at two, volunteering at two and learning at one. The fellowship, education, and professional opportunities of conferences can’t be beat.