Books, Inspiration, Time for Art, Writing

Why Write?

Thoughts On Writing, Fear, and Time | Part 2

“Don’t you find it strange that we have these ideas we dream up? We write and create and go to conferences and critique groups. No one has asked us to write, but we do.”

I was at a conference a few years ago when I asked one of my friends and fellow writers my question about writing. The process and the idea of writing started to feel strange and surreal.  Why do I seem to find inspiration for new books all around? I jot down the ideas in my notebook, on receipts in my purse, or on the back of a bulletin in church. Some of these ideas stick with me and their little voice is strong. I feel this desire to put my thoughts and words and art together. I create little book dummies of how I see these books in my mind.

I have 12 on a spreadsheet facing me now. Three in book dummy form.

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Family, school, kids, and work pop in and demand some love and inspiration too. Shouldn’t I put my ideas aside and focus on what’s in front of me? And yet these little books speak to me. They compel me to take them to critique group and attend writer’s conferences.

The question I asked my friend about writing has stayed with me. It pops up when I doubt what I’m trying. It’s easier to listen to the voice that says, ‘focus on what’s in front of you’.

But what if all writers listened to a voice that told them to stop writing?

What if all artists listened to the voice of doubt or fear and stopped making art?

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The question remained: Why write?

And then I met Nikki Grimes. I was invited to hear her read from her book Words With Wings at the Upper Room Art Gallery. She is talented and gracious and humble. She talked with me afterword about her writing, her children’s books, and poetry, and new projects.

We took a walk with our host Robin Merrill from the Upper Room to see a piece of art in the making. We stood in front of a large log being hand cut into a canoe by a Seminole Indian from the tradition of generations before. A story in its own way, told and passed down.

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I asked Nikki the same thing I had asked my other friend, “Don’t you find it strange to write sometimes? To put these ideas and thoughts down on paper and publish them? No one has asked us to write what we write but we do it anyway.”

She answered me quickly,

“If I waited for permission, I would never write.”

Wow! I had never considered that I was waiting for permission.

As we looked at the canoe in raw form and Robin told us about the artwork, she showed us a pile of wood chips on the ground that had been cut from the log. Chunks and layers of shavings discarded for the canoe to takes its form. She gave us a little brown paper bag and told us to take some shavings and create our own piece of art from them.

Here is mine, a bird with Nikki’s winged words for me…

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I dont’ have an answer as to why I write, but it doesn’t have to be because someone asked me to.

I have a goal now for my little board books.

That’s what they are. No permission needed.

 

If you’re the curious sort, one who wonders about why we do the things we do, here’s an amazing book I found one evening at Barnes & Noble, Why We Write About Ourselves: Twenty memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and Others) in the Name of Literature.

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Happy reading, writing and creating! ~LAM

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Fear, Time for Art, Writing

Time Is Ticking

Thoughts on writing, fear, and time | Part 1

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I saw my friend and fellow writer, critiquer and encourager, Belinda at church. She told me she had sent her second query out to an agent. We attended the SCBWI Florida regional conference together this year. Since the conference she was the first to send out her work. And now she’s sent out her second query. Belinda two. Me zero. She’s on a mission. I’m still nervous to hit send.

Later that day I headed out to the beach for some time with my family. They were here for a visit and their lovely condo was right on the ocean. A week of beachfront lazy days together was in order. At least that’s what I envisioned for the group.

My husband had a different idea in mind. Somehow he and my son decided an hour jet ski rental would be great fun for the whole family. Aunt Heidi, the cousins, little sis, my husband and I, gliding across the surface of the ocean at reckless speeds.

I was terrified.

Listening to the safety rules and ocean regulations didn’t help calm my fears-

Don’t get too close to the swim markers, best to stay a hundred feet out since swimmers don’t pay attention and often go beyond the markers. Don’t pass the buoys. Don’t go over the reef. Stay 300 feet away from scuba divers and other boats. If you flip over, stay calm and try to turn the jet ski back over before it sinks. If you ride over too much seaweed you need to be able to hop off and reach your hand under the jet ski and pull the seaweed out of the intake.

Riding a jet ski is the opposite of relaxing at the beach.

My husband and son rode first. Next was our daughter. Then we switched drivers and my sister took her two girls. We still had time. She came in and Mike and I went out. Our guide steadied the jet ski for us while we were getting on.

“Hop on!” my husband says. I do, but completely nervous I try to hop on the back.

“No, you’re driving. Get up front,” he says.

“No, you drive. I’m not getting up front.”

“Yes. Yes, you are. Get up front!”

And then our guide chimes in, “Time is ticking!”

Whoa. Really? Who does he think he is? We’ve already paid for our time. I can take a few minutes here. If I want to waste part of our time being afraid, I can.

And then I realize just how stupid that thought is. Our ride is paid for. Just one hour. Time really is ticking and then the opportunity is gone.

What about life? Time ticks here too. We just don’t readily see it. I’m busy being afraid to hit send on a dream because I want my query to be just right. I don’t want to fail.

But time is ticking.

I hopped on the driver’s seat and adjusted to holding down the throttle. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t graceful. I hit a few waves. I screamed a bit. I drove the jet ski though. My husband and I ended up switching places somewhere out over the water. I got to see what fearless driving really looked like! It wasn’t so bad…

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And we all made it back to shore.

I’ve read about other artist’s journeys, I’ve listened to podcasts on fear and productivity. These were good, but not a kick in the pants kind of good that I needed. Who knew all I needed to do was drive a jet ski? The thing I fought against doing was the thing which taught me the greatest lesson. I’m thankful for the kid who steadied the jet ski and reminded me time is ticking.

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What fear is holding you back?

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Books, Children's Books, Writing

World Blog Book Tour

Thank you, Elizabeth Van Liere, for inviting me to participate in the World Blog Book Tour.

Elizabeth Van Liere is the author of Dare to Live: Devotions for Those Over the Hill, But Not Under It! Elizabeth’s articles, poems, children’s stories and devotions have appeared in periodicals for some sixty years. Dare to Live is her first book. Her second book, Laugh. I Dare You., will be out in 2015.

She is not only an inspiring author, she’s my Grandma. She has been an encouragement to me throughout my life to pursue art, photography, and now writing children’s books combining those elements I love so much. I am thankful God has blessed me with an amazing woman to look up to. I’m proud of the legacy she is leaving, for myself and others,  through her writing.

You can enter to win a copy of Dare to Live over at Good Reads up until September  25, 2014. If you aren’t over the hill yet this would make a great gift for a grandparent on Grandparents Day (Sunday, September 7, 2014).

 

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Now it’s my turn to answer a few questions about my writing process.

After I answer the questions you can follow other authors on World Blog Book Tour and see what they’re up to.

What am I working on?

I have a few little books swirling about my imagination. The one that has demanded the most attention is a little book about birds. I envision this as a little board book and e-book. I’ve written the words, now I’m busy trying to capture just the right photographs to go along with those words. I love this part!

My first four books for children are also board books. I See the Me God Made, I See the Creatures God Made, I See the Colors God Made, and I See the World God Made from Standard Publishing came out in 2008. These cute little books of photographs and scripture are out of print now, but my husband and I are exploring turning these into e-book form or app form. I love the printed book and I think it provides a valuable role in the cognitive development of children, but I also think digital media is a growing force in education. I’d love to explore this area more.

How does my writing differ from others of its genre? 

I think my writing is different from other little board books because I like to show what I see through writing and photography. I love art and I love story and those authors and illustrators who do that so well. I think my little books are more concept driven than story driven though. At least that’s where I’m at right now.

Why do I write what I do?

It started when my son was just a baby. I left the photo studio where I worked on commercial photography to become a stay at home mom. One of the first gifts I received was a Christmas book and a letter encouraging me to pray with my son read scripture aloud to him even though he couldn’t understand yet. I spent many days reading lots of different books to my cute little boy. I went to bed a night with silly rhymes floating through my head from all the different books we had read together. It made me think of that first gift and letter. I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if I could teach my little one all about the world and share little verses with him? It was an idea that became the begining of four little books about the wonders God has made.

My son jokes with me now about my book ideas, “Mom, is that another book for babies?”. I think he’d like me to write a grand adventure like his favorite, Treasure Island, but I’m not there yet.

I think the most incredible thing about infants is the fact the whole world has yet to be discovered. The whole world! What joy to be able to teach little ones about the world around them. As adults we’re in a hurry quite often, but you notice things when you have a baby. You share these wonders because they point you to them. They are explorers in a new land discovering beauty and wonder, a breeze, grass, a bird calling, airplanes overhead, beetles crawling on the ground, splashing water… It’s amazing to think about. Spending time with a little one forces you to slow down and notice things all over again.

How does my writing process work?

I’ll see something in nature or in the day-to-day with kiddos and a little idea starts. I write it down and kind of let it set. If the thought or idea doesn’t go away, I grab my sketchbook and write more. I’ll add a 16 page  spread of a book mock-up and place text so I can see the flow of the story. Because I’m a visual person I need to really see and feel the book in my hands my next step is to make a book dummy with text and photos. I write WAY too much for a board book and then I remember it’s a board book. A book for infants and toddlers. Then I cut out 75% of my text. This is terrifying at first and then it’s a relief. Something simple and beautiful shines through out of the excess. This is all amazing fun. The hard part comes in writing a book proposal and pitching the book to editors or agents at a writers conference. I’m still learning that part!

 

More authors on the tour:

Stop by to check out author and international speaker Karen Whiting. She is the author of several books, including Nature Girl: A Guide to Caring for God’s CreationThe One-Year My Princess Devotions, 2014 Christian Retailing Best Award, children’s nonfiction, and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front, Military Writers Society of America Gold Medal, faith category

I have several of Karen’s books and have had the joy of connecting with her at the Florida Christian Writers Conference over the years. She is a talented author and a great encouragement to me.

 

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Inspiration, Photography, Time for Art, Uncategorized, Writing

Cliché Photography

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I read someone’s post on Instagram which stated the biggest cliché  in photography are sunrise and sunset photos.

As a photographer I wondered about this statement.

I thought about all the photographs that have ever been taken. Photographs taken by masters of photography, like those of Ansel Adam’s photographs of the American wilderness or Clyde Butcher’s photographs capturing the beauty of the Florida Everglades.

I thought about all the photos snapped a millions of times by traveling tourists.

I thought about all the sunrise and sunset photos on Instagram.

Why do we continue to photograph when it’s all been done before?

Is it all cliché?

Cliché: something that is overly familiar or commonplace *Merriam-Webster Dictionary

No. I disagree.

But I believe this thought hinges purely on the perspective of the viewer.

I believe the sunrise and sunset, the flowers, the clouds, the oceans, and the mountains we continue to photograph are because of a deep response within us to the awe and beauty of God’s creation. Each time we see, we bear witness to these displays of beauty in nature. We are captivated.

“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”   ~Romans 1:20

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If we believe a sunrise or sunset is commonplace than maybe we have lost our vision or sense of wonder.

Walt Whitman wrote about wonder and beauty in the everyday and commonplace in his poem called Miracles

“Why, who makes much of a miracle?

As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,

Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan…

Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water…” ~Walt Whitman

 

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Shenanhoah National Forest

Annie Leibovitz, with her masterful career, has photographed notable people from rock stars to the Queen of England. And yet she has gone on to photograph for herself the places that capture the wonder in all of us. It seems her desire for some of these places (in part) started with a visit to Niagara Falls with her daughters. A photograph of Niagara Falls (not the celebrities she’s famously photographed) is on the cover of her book Pilgrimage.

Imagine your own trip to Niagara Falls. Imagine the feel of the cool mist spraying your face,  the sound of  the water rushing loud as you take in the power and beauty of the waterfall. Then you take out your camera to try and preserve some part of this majesty to carry back home. Someone walks up and says, “No photos allowed. It’s already been done. These falls have been photographed too many times, by too many people. They’ve been seen and visited since 1678. Niagara Falls has been written about and photographed by famous authors and photographers. Please put your camera away.”

We know its been done. All you would have to do is look to your right or left and you’d see hundreds of cameras all taking it in, recording memory.

But we come and we see and we feel and we capture these moments in our own photographs.

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I recently attended a seminar given by a National Geographic photographer. His career has spanned more than forty years. He’s traveled the world from America to Antarctica and there are still countries he would like to visit. The funny thing is, he qualified this with the fact that friends and colleagues in the field have been to these places he’d like to visit. Masters in their own specialty of photography, sometimes spending months photographing these places. He doesn’t want to go to these places to compete with their work, but to see and experience the place for himself. And when he goes he’ll still take his own photographs.

And wherever I might go, I’ll keep taking mine.

I’ve seen the sunrise and the sunset, but it makes me pause and I can’t help but take in the beauty of this world. It’s a gift. I stop and notice. My photographs are a response. A thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books, Children's Books, History, Picture Books, TBT, TBTPictureBooks, Thrift Shop, Writing

To Think I Found It In Goodwill

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My latest thrift store stop has to be one of my favorites. I spent the afternoon with a friend at Goodwill. We looked at pants and shirts and skirts and talked up and down the aisles. I found an amazing Christmas sweater vest with candy canes and sequins. I managed to leave it behind for a happy ugly-sweater-loving person.

I wandered to the back of the store to check out the children’s books. I found two little treasures amidst the stacks.

Can you spot one of them on my bookshelf?

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I didn’t even realize it when I first purchased the book, but the spine has no title information. This leads me to other questions about book publishing and earrly cover design–

When did publishers start paying attention to designing book spines? How were books displayed in stores in 1937? Were children’s books designed or displayed differently than other genres? I think this will have to be anothe post for another time.

On to the book and… Dr. Seuss!

And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street

My favorite find for the day! I realized it was an early edition when I read the back cover jacket flap.

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This author bio in the back is my favorite part of the whole book. Why? Because it tells the tale of the very beginning of the career of a man with a dream to draw and publish children’s books.

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Dr. Seuss hadn’t become a household name yet. This is the space where Mr. Geisel and The Vanguard Press are selling us Dr. Seuss:

“Dr. Seuss, whose pictures of strange humans and stranger animals have startled and delighted the American public on billboards and car cards, in magazines and books, is not, as has often been rumored, an armless artist who draws with his toes. He is a healthy and sane young man whose real name is Theodor Seuss Geisel, who grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts, was graduated from Dartmouth College in 1925 and decided to become a professor of English Literature…”

He didn’t become a professor after all. It was drawing pictures that had his heart.

“…he had been warned by experts that he could never learn to be an artist. Mr Geisel still believes that these warnings may have been correct, not withstanding Dr. Seuss’s success in drawing pictures, a success so great that it caused him to abandon all thoughts of an academic career.”

It’s hard to pick out my favorite part from Dr. Seuss’s author bio. It all tells a tale. I especially love the last paragraph listing his author credits. Did Mr. Geisel imagine at the time the success in front of him?

“Although Mr. Geisel has written numerous magazine articles, AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET was his first book. His second, THE 500 HATS OF BARTHOLOMEW CUBBINS, has proved as popular as it’s predecessor.”

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Here’s a fun audio clip (3 minutes or you can read the story) from NPR when they celebrated the 75th anniversary of And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street in 2012.

I’m so happy to have found this little piece of children’s book history.

What’s your favorite Dr. Seuss book?

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Books, Writing

FCWC 2013 Recap

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Four little days packed quite a punch! Here is my attempt to summarize my experience.

Thursday February 28 

  • 3:30am This is way too early for me, but I’m carpooling with three other amazing writers and it’s worth getting up at a crazy hour to chase dreams. I’m trying to make sure I have everything and sneak out the door to meet Natasha for our drive to Mary Susan’s house. My cute girl woke up, cried and asked me not to leave. That didn’t make for a great start. I gave her extra hugs and kisses and told her I’d be back before she knew it. The hardest part is leaving my three loves.
  • 4:20 am Natasha is waiting downstairs and we load up the car in the dark parking lot.
  • 4:45 am We arrived at Mary-Susan’s house to meet her and Elizabeth for our carpool north. Farewells to puppies, car loaded up, and we’re on the road. We’re all tired and the drive is pretty quiet for a car with four women.
  • 7:00 am Two hours on the road and the sun is finally up! Time for some coffee, tea, and conversation.

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  • 9:20 am We arrived at Lake Yale to check in to our rooms and register. We missed the session for first time conferees.
  • 10:15 am Opening session starts with worship. Mary Susan leans over laughing and whispers to me that it’s only 10 am. It seems impossible, but the day is just getting started.

Opening Session~

Theme: Inspire

Sally Stuart – Keynote speaker

She talked about sacrifices in our writing life. My favorite, we must sacrifice the Ordinary. We must look for un-reproducible experiences in our lives. Look for opportunities to learn or do something you’ve never done before, new routes, new destinations, new opportunities… Curiosity makes us good writers.

Blythe Daniel – Reading and Understanding Contracts

This is a class I think all authors should take. I need this one recorded so I can go over it again and again. “An author needs to know how to counter some of the language that protects the publisher with much of the burden on the author.”

Steven James – Keynote speaker Thursday night

How can I sum up the energy of Steven James?  Baby shark! Doot-Doot, Doot-Doot! Baby Shark! Doot-Doot, Doot-Doot! I guess you had to be there…

Friday March 1

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The rest of our conference days begins early with breakfast at 7:30 each morning. The coffee is free flowing and that helps! I’m thankful for the chance to take in all the beauty of the conference center at Lake Yale.

Marti Pieper – Author, Speaker

Our effectiveness comes when we are in close connection with God. Live an inspired life.

  • Getting ready for agent/editor appointments, “Mary Susan, do I have anything in my teeth?” “No. Do I?”  (not so inspired, but completely necessary)

Crystal Bowman – Author, Speaker

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My continuing class through the weekend was Writing For Children with author Crystal Bowman.

Crystal broke down her class into the many different formats of children’s books. We took time to study board books, Pre-school picture books, picture books, early readers, and writing for the inspirational market. Here is a tiny portion of my take aways from Crystal’s class: When we write for children we must remember that “Children live in the present.”

“The beauty of answering the call to write is that God will put those books into the hands of those who need them.” I think trusting that God will use our writing comes with what she said about what we must do when we write, “We write and then let it go and give it to God. We are missionaries through our writing.”

Alton Gansky – Author, Keynote speaker

“Your writing career is a joke from beginning to end! Before you get upset, let me explain…” This didn’t sound so bad when he explained to us the definition of the word joke and how it pertains to our writing life.

  • 12:00-1:00 pm Lunch, time for catching up with Mary Susan and sitting with writers, authors, editors, and agents. The banquet room was set with tables labeled with the editor’s, agent’s, or author’s names and you could choose where to sit. Although it seemed intimidating at first, the meals were casual and friendly. I never heard anyone selling or pitching ideas at the tables. It was really a great time to relax and enjoy the good southern cooking together.
  • 1:30-8:30 pm Three more classes, dinner, and a keynote address. I took a small break to get some fresh air and wander around with my camera.
  • Our Lovely South Florida Word Weavers Critique Group

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Saturday March 2

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From Crystal’s I Can Read, Otter and Owl series. My little girl loves this book! Thank you.

Dan Walsh – Author, Keynote speaker

Be faithful to serve the Lord in the little things

Sally Apokedak – Agent

I enjoyed her class Stop Boring Your Readers: Make Your Plodding Pros March, Skip, Trip, and Tumble

Write in a way that’s memorable. Look for ways to spin cliche´. Delight the reader.

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What a small world. My Grandma lives out west in Colorado and attends the Colorado Christian Writers Conference. I met my Grandma’s editor, Eddie here at FCWC. I have her book, Dare to Live: Devotions for Those Over the Hill, Not Under It! on my Kindle iPad app. The screen has a glare, but that’s her sweet book I’m holding. Check it out if you have time.

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That’s me getting cozy by a real fire place in Florida. It’s the little things!

Sunday March 3

The last day! Taking it all in till the last drop, every word of inspiration, teaching, and encouragement…

I love the Florida Christian Writers Conference and the opportunities it provides for seasoned writers or those just starting out on the journey. There is something for everyone. This is my fourth time attending. I’m grateful Billie Wilson started this conference 26 years ago. She was missed this year, but I’m thankful Eva Marie Everson and Mark Hancock have accepted the role of Directors of this conference and continue to inspire and equip writers for sharing God’s message. They did an amazing job!

Marti Pieper – Author, Speaker

Pass on what God has given to others who need encouragement.

Rachel Hauck – Author

Use the power of your pen, make a difference for someone else. When you pour out your words you are pouring out a fragrant offering to God.IMG_0165

Time for a couple more photos before it’s time to go! It’sbeen a great weekend!

My room-mate Mary Susan

Karen Whiting -author, friend, encourager

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Writing

Preparing For A Conference

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I’m getting ready to go to the Florida Christian Writers Conference at the end of the month.

I feel a little like I’m standing on the edge of the high dive, about to jump in from too high off the ground.

The funny part is, I’ve been to the conference before and it’s been fantastic. The classes, the editors, the authors, and everyone in attendance make the whole experience an exciting opportunity for learning and encouragement. This conference is the one I went to in 2004 when I had a fledgling idea for a book of scriptures and photos for babies. This is the same conference where I met my amazing editor in 2006 and she said, “Yes!” to my first four books.

So, why all the nerves this time around? I don’t think it matters how many time I’ve been to the conference, it’s sharing my projects and dreams with a bigger audience for the first time that does it. Those little projects equal big dreams. On those big dreams are even bigger expectations, adding to that standing-on-the-edge feeling.

Have you ever felt that way before?

Thankfully there is an amazing amount of encouragement and plain ol’ good, down-to-earth advice out there on getting ready for a conference. Like Mary Kole’s blog post, Getting the Most Out of a Conference and W. Terry Whalin’s great advice on the FCWC Faculty Blog, Four Keys to Your Conference Preparation

A much more central part of every writer’s conference is where individuals learn new aspects of publishing and take great strides of personal growth. Come with expectations and a willingness to learn and grow. With the right heart attitude, I’m convinced that you will not be disappointed but your expectations will actually be exceeded. -W. Terry Whalin

I love both of these posts and how they offered me a new perspective on my expectations for the conference, “Jump in! Have fun! Enjoy the experience!”  Why not?

I’ve done my part preparing; polished proposals, studied the publishers, editors, and agents who will be a part of the conference, and highlighted the courses I’d like to attend. I’ve set aside the expectations I’ve placed upon myself and taken Terry’s advice on praying for the experience. I’ve placed my dreams in God’s hands and I trust him.

Now I can take a breath and jump in! I’m ready for the adventure of it all!

How do you prepare for a conference? What resources have you found helpful in getting ready?