On a rainy Friday in Marshall, Texas I turned off US Highway 80. Heading north on Grove Street, I went under the railroad bridge. On the bridge was a sign with the words painted on it announcing “Welcome to ETBU Tiger Country.” Driving a one-hundred yards further north Scarborough Hall greeted me as I drove onto the East Texas Baptist University campus. There Christian writers from Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas gathered. Networking and learning are their goals.
I do not write exclusively for the Christian market. I do not consider myself an inspirational writer. I am a Believer in Jesus Christ who targets the secular market with short stories, books, and nonfiction that include Christian themes.
Here are my top takeaways from the East Texas Baptist Christian Writers Conference.
- Register early and follow the East Texas Christian Writers Conference on Facebook. Early sign-up saves you a few dollars. Read the workshop descriptions. You may not understand the small sessions and how the other events work, but this will give you an idea. Read everything. Attend the pre-conference workshop (cost $40 with advance registration, $50 late registration) “Make the Most of Your Conference Experience.” It will give you general information.
I believe the #ETCWC could use a FREE Friday afternoon orientation session for first time attendees. I am suggesting one that doesn’t require a pre-conference workshop fee, but is included in the cost for first time attendees. The session would be specific to that year and cover what is offered at the conference. It would orient you to where the meeting rooms are located. It would explain the schedule, breaks, and meals. It would give you an opportunity to meet other writers in your field. It would help team you up with a couple of writer buddies where you don’t feel isolated or alone at the conference. Some of the writer’s conventions have conference faculty make a presentation in the orientation class giving a two-minute pitch for each of their workshops. The Mount Hermon, Great Philadelphia and Colorado Christian Writers Conferences are great examples of assimilating new attendees. They work hard to make sure first timers don’t have an “all alone in a crowd” experience. They also give a discount for returning conference alumni. This encourages repeat attendance.
- Attend all the sessions. The scheduling of the workshops makes attending all sessions a challenge. The organizers fail to schedule transition time between the second and third morning workshop sessions on Saturday. I have spoken to a few people who just skip the 11:30 AM session because they don’t want to walk into a classroom after the workshop has started. The conference organizers should allow a break between the second and third sessions. It is a challenge to get from a class on the fourth floor in one building to one on the second floor in another building with the distance between the buildings, age of the participants and with classes that sometimes run long.
- Beware of the do’s and don’ts. The session leaders give you many checklists and rules. Remember that in writing is a creative pursuit. The rules are guidelines or suggestions. Don’t get paralyzed by rules. You don’t have to do what they say. Trust yourself.
Why not be one of the Christian writers from Texas and Arkansas who gathered for networking and learning? You too can make the drive to Marshall, Texas. You’ll feel the excitement I do when you turn off US Highway 80 and head north on Grove Street. When you see the railroad bridge with the words painted on it announcing “Welcome to ETBU Tiger Country” you will feel welcome. Your heart will run a little faster as you drive those last one-hundred yards further north and see Scarborough Hall greeting you. You’ll be ready to meet old friends, make a new one as you network and learn the business and craft of writing.