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Anita Mae Draper – Friends and Dreams

Ah, September – one of my favourite times of the year. Huh? Yes, I know it’s only July 2nd because we celebrated Canada Day yesterday and it’s just 2 days before the U.S. Fourth of July festivities. But, still… September is the premiere social event of the season. To this Canadian gal, anyway.

I’ve only been an ACFW member since 2007 and was thrilled to discover my first conference would be in Minneapolis – a simple 2 day drive from our prairie farm in southeast Saskatchewan. And, I was familiar with the area having lived several hours north of the twin cities for years, albeit across the border.

Many of you don’t know this, but I’m basically a very shy person and don’t like walking into a room filled with strangers. But, thanks to the internet, I was going to my first conference to meet eFriends.

Actually, it was Danica Favorite, as host of the eHarlequin Steeple Hill (SH) forum, and the Love Inspired authors and wannabes, who first introduced me to the ACFW. Margaret Daley, a regular on the SH boards, has such an affinity for the ACFW and ‘challenged’ people. She took me under her wing at that first conference and didn’t seem to mind me tagging along.

Another smart thing I did was hang out at Seekerville. I can’t even remember how I found it initially, but I believe Squirrel aka Cheryl Wyatt had something to do with it. What an amazing place to gather for friendship, eFood and craft knowledge. The Seekers extended a personal invitation for me to sit with them in the lounge each evening during conference. Me. To have people waving at me as I walked into that semi-dark lounge was a biggie. Some of my fondest memories of Minneapolis were conversations with that group.

Mind you, it was hard to concentrate on what they were saying when there was a guy in a kilt teaching a Scottish jig behind me. (Waving to Mr. Chip.)

Six hundred voices singing The Revelation Song moved me then and still, to this day. Enthralled with the song, I urged my teen daughter to learn it and teach it to our fifty-member country church congregation. Although she now attends Bible College, The Revelation Song is a staple at our worship services. Reverent. Inspiring. Awesome. Our little building shakes with our a cappella rendition of the final chorus. Thank you, Rachel and the conference worship team.

I always buy the conference workshop CDs. Transferred to my iPod, they provide many hours of craft instruction while I’m driving across the prairies. I need to drive an hour, dodging gophers all the way, just to reach McDonald’s. The drive isn’t as lonely when I hear familiar voices on my radio. If I’ve attended the workshop, the voice takes me back to being there. But, there are so many workshops, and the tapes enable me to hear the ones I’ve missed.

An added bonus to the conference CDs is that I’m not obligated to attend the actual workshop. Not that I don’t want to, but I can take the time to comfort a friend if needed, before or after an editor/agent appointment, and know I’m not missing out.

I encountered several ‘God thing’ moments while in Denver last year. The most public was the morning I was slated for a workshop but didn’t want to attend. Ludicrous, right? With a couple hours before my agent appointment and restless energy to expend, I wandered the near-empty lobby thinking about it. Where was I supposed to be?

It sounds inane, but that’s what was running through my mind. I remembered the Prayer Room and strode through the atrium with purpose. As I saw the sign and neared the door, however, my feet lagged. I suffered one of those visceral reactions—which I can never accurately describe—when you get all sweaty and feel squirmy and just know something isn’t right. I couldn’t go in. I wandered back to the lobby, feeling like I’d lost fifty pages of my work-in-progress due to a computer crash. I ended up at the conference registration desk and asked if the lovely lady-in-charge-whom-I-can’t-remember-her-name (LicwIcrhn) if she needed a volunteer. I’ll never forget the look on her face. Surprise? Shock? Let’s just say I wished I hadn’t spoken. I mean, the hallways were empty, everyone was in ‘class’, volunteers were working in the bookstore, and the 2 people at the registration desk could easily handle any latecomers. What was left to do? LlicwIcrhn (see above) gave me this look and said she had the perfect job for me. I said I’d take it. She spoke into her handheld radio and said she was sending a volunteer. Then, she directed me to the ballroom. As soon as I walked in, a lady at the back started waving her arms. Turns out 3 publishers sent about 1500 books for free distribution and it was decided by the higher-ups to tie a string around them – 2 to a pack. A Time consuming task. The two ladies in the process of the book-tying event were so thankful for my willing hands. Yup, a God thing. The workshop didn’t miss me. And, and I didn’t miss the workshop since I bought the conference CDs. In 2009, I drove through the open spaces of Montana and wild Wyoming to reach Denver. The prairie states captivated me and I wanted to stop and explore. However, the conference tugged me south. Forget shyness. I knew friends awaited. Sure, I agonized over the editor/agent appts, but friends awaited. Friends like my Inky sisters of the Inkwell Inspirations group blog who would meet for the first time. Photo: The Inkies Friends like prayer warriors, Julie Lessman and Cheryl Wyatt, who stop and pray with you whether you’re in a crowded bathroom or an empty hallway.

Friends like mentor, Margaret Daley who hold your hand over a glass of soda in a dark lounge and encourage you to write for the CBA vice ABA market.  Friends like critique partner, Gwen Stewart who use red ink to keep your writing honest, while filling your head with visions of book contracts and dreams. I’m flying to Indy this September. Will you be there?

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