It was a creative writing assignment - something along the lines of the adventures of a piece of chalkboard chalk who came to life and roamed the halls of the school - and my teacher was so impressed that she had me read my story out loud for the class. Two decades have passed since that moment, but I can quite easily recall the warmth that covered my face and the way my fingers trembled, how my words tumbled out in a jumbly rush, how I was so eager for my classmates to hear the story I created and so desperate to be done and seated again so everyone would stop looking at me and the blush would fade from my face.
That was my first real external encouragement, but I can't remember a single day in my life when I needed internal confirmation of that compulsion I have to create something with words. It wasn't until I was a teenager that I finally realized that not everyone put themselves to sleep at night by making up stories. I'd been weaving intricate sagas that busied my mind with character development and story arcs long before I knew the technical name for either of those foundations of story. Even still as an adult, on the rare, rare occasion when sleep doesn't come easily, I find comfort composing the odd story here and there, though I have long since acknowledged that a fiction writer I am not. There's an easy consolation in that kind of creation, something that is as effortless as breathing in those sloppy, silly, comforting works never to be told outside of myself.
But then there is the other kind. The kind of writing that my co-writer Laura and I took great risk in sharing with you earlier this year when we revealed our plans to move our humble writing project from the quiet privacy of our own discussions to the big, intimidating, exhilarating hope of publication. From the time we began seeking the advice and counsel of those who understand how the world of publishing works, one piece of advice has surfaced time and time again: get yourselves to some writing conferences.
As regular SortaCrunchy readers know, Laura and I are each in the little-ones-at-home season of life. Leaving home for a day is pretty monumental. Leaving them for a weekend would be huge. I've never been away from my Aliza Joy overnight, and the only time I've been apart from Dacey were the two nights I spent in the hospital when AJ was born. Being the primary, consistent presence in my daughters' lives is crucial to me, and there are so very few reasons I would consider being away for them for a few days.
The wealth of information, teaching, and resources being offered at Proverbs 31 Ministries' She Speaks Conference would be well-worth leaving home for a few days to be able to attend.
For eight years, Proverbs 31 Ministries has been reaching out to women involved in some aspect of ministry through She Speaks, which derives its name from "the truth of Proverbs 31:26, 'She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.'" The conference offers sessions and speakers on topics relevant to speakers, writers, women's ministry leaders, teens, and - beginning this year - bloggers.
Laura and I haven't talked about this publicly, but a few weeks ago, we were offered some gracious and extremely helpful advice from literary agent Rachelle Gardner. In encouraging us in the path we will take with getting this book written and published, Rachelle encouraged Laura and I to both pursue speaking opportunities and magazine article publication as a way of expanding and building upon the platform we have worked to create here at SortaCrunchy. We are so grateful for her direction, but admittedly feel vastly unqualified to know how to do either of those things. She Speaks offers sessions for writers on how to write "Proposals that Wow" led by Christian publishing powerhouse Mary DeMuth, and Glynnis Whitwer will be teaching "Magazine Writing 101: Honing Your Writing Skills." Lysa TerKeurst herself is teaching a session called "How to Write a Book."
I'm a point in this journey where my passion for our message and my aching desire to minister to new moms won't be enough to get our book published. My tool bag is stocked with the basics, but if I'm going to be serious about doing this thing, I have to be willing to invest in some power tools. I am confident the She Speaks Conference is the best next step I can take.
I'm publishing this tonight as my entry in Lysa's scholarship contest for bloggers. I completely realize I am getting this in under the wire, but it's not from lack of interest. You'll recall that I mentioned how badly I want to attend She Speaks this year back in February. I've debated with myself on whether or not to enter this contest. I want to attend more than anything, but, in keeping with my surrender theme for this year, I've been unsure of how to approach funding for this possibility. We don't have the $1000 it will cost for conference fees and airfare just sitting around, unearmarked and bored. From the moment I read about She Speaks, I've tried to remain yielded up to God - praying that whatever His will is in this matter would be my will, too. Finally, today I decided that this may be an avenue through which He will provide the means for me to go. And if it's not, that's okay, too.
At the very least, I've gotten to share with you all about this amazing conference. Maybe you'll make plans to attend this year or the next. God has clearly gifted the Proverbs 31 team with a passion and a vision for ministering to women who are in the trenches of ministry, and I am more than happy to play a small role in helping them spread the word about She Speaks 09.
(For the purposes of this contest, comments are open.)