Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Post-Conference Encouragement

Now that we're all back home and wondering what to do with what we learned at conference, please remember, it's not all about what you learned. Some of your benefit from attending KCWC this year will come from the people you met.

Follow up by writing notes to faculty, committee members, and other writers you came in contact with. Some of the people you met this year might be your link to getting your work published.

Remember Carlton Hughes, the master of ceremonies? He shares his KCWC "success" story below. Read every word. It is a wonderful story.

Simple Little Encouragements

by Carlton W. Hughes

Coming in to the 2006 Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, I knew very little about the keynote speaker, Sandra Aldrich. I was new to Christian writing and new to KCWC, as it was only my second year at the event.

Imagine my surprise when Sandra opened her first keynote address with the words “I’m proud to be a Kentucky woman from Harlan County.”

I scanned the room and realized I was the only attendee from Harlan County—maybe the only one from Southeastern Kentucky, period. During the first break I gathered up the courage to introduce myself to Sandra, telling her that I now live in her beloved mountain county. She was gracious and talked to me quite a while, and, throughout the day, we chatted during the breaks. I even won a prize drawing and was selected to eat lunch with her. The next morning at the hotel, Sandra wanted to meet my family.

God birthed a special friendship that weekend at KCWC. Sandra and I went on to become “email buddies,” with her constant encouragement and her trademark “hugs across the miles” closings. I soon learned that encouragement is written into Sandra’s DNA; she not only prays for my writing but for my family and their concerns as well. I remember a particularly rough morning when I had decided to quit, to give up writing altogether. I checked my email, and, sure enough, there was a message from Sandra with the encouragement I needed to keep going. We have even exchanged Christmas cards and reading material through snail mail.

In Summer 2007, shortly after my third KCWC, Sandra sent me an email about a book that two of her colleagues from the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild were compiling. They were looking for essays about the power of our words, and Sandra STRONGLY encouraged me to submit something, even though I only had about a week or so until the deadline and had no idea about what to write.

I prayed, and the Lord brought a story to mind. I wrote it, polished it, and sent it off right before the deadline. Imagine my excitement when I got the notification a few weeks later that my essay had been accepted for publication in the Honor Books/David C. Cook release Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change a Life.

The book was released in April 2008, and it has been a thrill ride ever since. I still can’t believe that this “country boy” from Eastern Kentucky is in a book alongside Jerry Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Truett Cathy, and so many other notable writers; there is no doubt that God used KCWC and Sandra Aldrich to make it happen.

I have learned that we don’t need to attend a conference like KCWC expecting to be published on the spot (as I thought my first year!). We need to come expecting God to place people in our lives to encourage us along this writing journey. I can’t count the special friendships that God has given me through KCWC. Even the presenters/editors who have “made it” and have been published several times over are nice, down-to-earth people who truly want to help others.

The next time you get discouraged in your writing, remember that God can do the impossible, in His will and in His time. He might even use a wonderful little Christian Writers conference in Elizabethtown, Kentucky to make it happen.

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