It was a sticky hot September day in Dallas, Texas, as I shuttled with other writers from DFW Airport to our conference headquarters in a hotel van. As we crawled through a mass of Lexus and Mercedes sedans, the fanciest SUVs Iâ€™d ever seen, two well-known authors chatted about their latest works in progress and compared notes about a recent book signing. Sweaty underarms made a mess of my new suit, and it wasnâ€™t just the horrendous heat and occasional hot flashes at work. Why had I spent the better part of my allotted expenses to devote three and a half days announcing to all these success story types that I was a nobody?
I checked in with a hotel clerk, a pit in my stomach remaining but the efficient air conditioning system solving the other problems. A brightly lit tiled corridor led me to the conference registration and packet pick-up area. Chatting woman marched by, ACFW nametags hung around their necks. Colorful ribbons fluttered like war commemorations from the plastic lanyards, announcing theyâ€™d engaged in the war to get published and had emerged victorious. And here I was, agentless, contractlessâ€”and already dispirited though the first meeting hadnâ€™t even started. Shoulders sagging, I stepped to the Information desk.
â€œWelcome to the conference!â€ A woman with smiling eyes reached across the counter and shook my hand. â€œWhatâ€™s your last name?â€
â€œLacy,â€ I mumbled.
â€œWhat a pretty name.â€ She continued chatting until the tension left my gut. She pointed me toward the prayer room, asked about MY writing, then narrowed her eyes and listened, as if I was describing complex literary fiction. Her encouraging nods and occasional word of praise were enough to remind me of my commitment to write for an Audience of One, of my goal to make a few new writing friends, of my intent to connect with one Christian editor.
If this is your first conference, I know how youâ€™re gonna feel when you recognize famous authors and donâ€™t believe thereâ€™s a single person who wants to talk to you. I encourage you to swallow down the sick feeling lodged in your throat and reach out. Set some attainable conference goals, then ask God to give you the opportunity to meet them. And if you arenâ€™t blessed to connect with an encourager right away (even though I think you will), remember that your value comes from being a child of the Living God, who by sending His son Christ Jesus to this earth, redeemed those who call on His name. And that is enough, my dear fellow writer. That is enough.