We work so hard on this conference. Not just Mark Hancock and me, but also our conference director, Sarah Bulls, and our conference social director, Taryn Souders. For months before the conference begins, we meet on Thursdays at Panera to work on the details. To iron out the issues. We plot. We plan. We laugh. A lot.
In the weeks immediately preceding, the laughter increases. The work intensifies. Sleep decreases.
And then, it’s game day! We arrive early, unload bins of equipment, set up rooms, look over the landscape of things. The faculty trickles in. Conferees are not far behind. The noise in the main lobby becomes a cacophony of “HELLO”s and “OHMYGOODNESS”es. Some folks have not seen others in a year. Sometimes more.
Praise and worship draws those present into the presence of God and invites God’s Holy Spirit into our midst. We sing. We clap. We raise our hands. Laughter echoes from the podium to those sitting in audience and back to the podium. “Go to your classes!” and “Go to your workshops!”
Then, of course, there is the food. I pretty much enjoy any meal I didn’t have to cook and I don’t have to clean up after.
And then … the faculty trickles away, heading back to their homes. The conferees follow. The last song is sung. The final “go forth and write” is expressed. Rooms are packed up. Boxes and bins are hauled into the cars of the four staff members. “We’re getting a storage unit” I say.
And we will …
I think I’m going to cry. In fact, I know it. Maybe not right then … I still need to decide what to do with the extra conferee handbooks and … what is this? Does anyone know what this is? Who it belongs to???
Christian writers conferences are an elation that can only be experienced personally. Rejoicing together. Praying for one another. Even when we receive a “negative word” (such as “this does not fit our editorial needs at this time”), we come away energized and ready to write! So happy to experience a protective arm from the rest of the world as we hone our craft. As we share and sing and … just … talk to one another.
And then it is over. Finished. Until next year, we say. Figuring that 365 days are not really that long in the grand scheme of things.
The final door is closed, the tailgate of my Jeep is shut tight, and I drive home. I roll down the long driveway … unload the cargo … and finally snuggle on the sofa with my pups and my husband nearby.
And then I start to cry …
(All photos by Christina Mack of Christina Mack Photography)