we tell ourselves stories in order to live. . .

This, one of my 62 “favorite” Joan Didion quotes, is inked on my left arm – and I’ve written before about how important her work is to me. Her influence has been great in my life and work – and she is part of my conference story this weekend as well. ❤

Before I get there though, there is so much to share from an amazing weekend with my Cheryl, her family, and our Southern Christian Writer’s Conference community of wonderful people. I learned so much, branched out into new styles of writing I hadn’t considered before, and made some precious new friends.

Going in to conference, i am about a week post op – and, of course, I would be just puny as Hades on Friday morning. With conference starting at 1 PM, my amazing better half knew I was having a beast of time and took his lunch break early to come home mid-morning and make sure I was up and going because he knows how hard it is for me to get moving when I feel so rough and also how important it was to me to make it.

With his help, I did.

This year it was held at our home church where we were married – and the joint sessions as well as many of the workshops I attended were actually in the Heritage Sanctuary where our ceremony was held.

That was so dear to me. ❤

On Friday, the first workshop sessions I attended were on memoir writing and writing for Christian publications. I enjoyed them both and was able to take much from them.

We then heard Todd Gerald, author of Woodlawn, as our keynote speaker. He was funny and engaging and he also offered some great thoughts for this writer life.

After he spoke, we had a yummy taco salad dinner and I made some new friends who were covering conference for The Alabama Baptist.

One happy accidental bonus that has come from conference being both live and virtual due to in-person limits is that all of the sessions will be available to watch over the next month – so, in choosing one session, you knew you ultimately wouldn’t miss out on others you wanted to hear.

That said, Todd was offering a workshop after dinner, From Book to Film, which really isn’t my wheelhouse for the type of writing I do, but I had so enjoyed his keynote that I decided to sit in on it since I knew I would end up listening to all of them anyway. I am so glad I did because it was so interesting to hear about his book being made into the Woodlawn film and he also continued to offer some great writing tips.

After the last session, we wrapped up with small groups and came home for the evening.

I was so happy to see my precious family and planned to do some classwork that was due Saturday night. My body had other plans though and I just fell out.

I have to say – just because this post-op spoonie body was very fatigued – that Saturday morning was really terrible when I started to get going – and I mean terrible.

I hate to be to graphic – but I was actually vomiting. No, my mornings aren’t usually THAT rough – but my body has been through it, so, with serious fatigue from Friday, it REALLY did not want to go.

Thankfully, I was able to take nausea meds and pray and breathe and the Lord got me out the door and I felt much better once I was up and going.

always one of my verses in times of distress. ❤

When I made it to conference, my first session of the day was one I had really been looking forward to with Dr. Linda Holloway on writing children’s books and she was just outstanding.

Not only is her work excellent, she is also just the sweetest lady and I am so happy to have gotten to know her this weekend. She also gave us some great information about writing children’s books, which is one of my goals for this upcoming year.

The second session I attended was actually kind of by accident in that I planned to go to another – but the speaker had come into the Heritage Sanctuary where I was from listening to Linda and she was so delightful that I decided to stay for that reason.

I think this was a God thing too because her workshop was on creating fictional characters – and I do not write fiction ever, it’s just not my jam – but I did participate right along with the exercises and creating one there. It’s good to branch out sometimes and do new things and get out of our comfort zone.

We then had a super yummy lunch and a great keynote speaker, Ginger Rue.

Because I dug the experience of the fiction writing workshop, I then went to another session I was on the fence about to learn about writing documentary poetry and I just LOVED it. Kwoya Maples taught it – her award winning book of poetry is called Mend – if you want to check it out, I have it now and can’t wait to read it – and I learned so much. We were also treated to a reading of a few of her poems.

I can’t say enough about what an unexpected treasure that workshop was for me. I can’t wait to work with this genre more. ❤

That was our last workshop and then we had a great Q&A session before it was time to wrap up to go home.

During the closing session, awards were given in several categories for the year including book, short story, article, poetry, and blog post.

I could have been knocked over with a feather when my Cheryl announced that one of my posts was chosen for third place.

This is where Joan comes in. The post is my Blue Nights post about Joan and Quintana and me from last August.

the blue nights and the heavy things.

I still can’t believe it honestly.

It’s a total God thing to go from being unable to work and feeling like I wouldn’t be able to do anything to seeing my writing dreams come true with my book and my writing here and getting to go back to school too. I am so grateful and I pray He can use it to help someone – anyone – who needs to know they aren’t alone.

I am so grateful to y’all for reading here as well. ❤

I am truly blessed.

After the awards, two of Cheryl’s beautiful daughters, Delaney and Scout, sang the most amazing song to close us out.

It is Maverick City Music’s Million Little Miracles and I wish I could share their performance with y’all. Since I don’t have that recording though, I’m just going to leave this. Take a listen. It’s so so good. ❤

Be well, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other.

Grace and Blessings.

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