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The Dumbest Thing I Ever Did at a Writers’ Conference

By Cynthia Ruchti

If this were survey results, and I’d polled hundreds of past conference attendees to ask their answer to the question, “What’s the dumbest thing you ever did at a writer’s conference?” your answer might show up on the list (If you’re a first time attendee, take heart!):
Song of Silence
• Brought two suitcases. I’d packed underwear in neither of them.
• Forgot my name when an editor asked.
• Forgot what my book was about.
• Forgot my main character’s name.
• Forgot why I ever wanted to write.
• Didn’t realize until after the agent appointment that I had a nice fat dribble of French dressing on my shirt.
• Didn’t notice my name was spelled wrong on my business card until after I’d aggressively handed them to everyone I met.
• Lost my name badge. Twice.
• Spilled coffee on my dream agent’s shoes.
• Brought my laptop to take notes the efficient way. Neglected to bring my power cord, so it only lasted part of the first day.
• Missed an appointment because I hadn’t changed my watch to the right time zone.
• Missed an appointment because I left my one-sheet and my courage in my hotel room…on the 17th floor…with a slow elevator.
• Introduced myself to someone I’d met at a previous conference. And roomed with.
• Asked if the lady across the table from me was going to eat her dessert or just leave it. Turns out she was the keynote speaker.

I left out the really embarrassing oopsies I’ve heard over the years of conference attendance. Including my own. We’ve all had them–those moments when crawling under a table isn’t protection enough from our conference regret.

But perhaps the dumbest thing I ever did at a conference was assume my faux pas spelled doom to my career as a novelist. Some of the most cringe-worthy moments for me truly did take the path of ancient history, as logic would have told me if I were listening. The people in front of whom my faux pas happened are now friends or colleagues. They may or may not remember the moment. But even if they did, they’ve chalked it up to nerves or an honest mistake or “Isn’t it cute when she’s frazzled?”

One of the benefits of a conference for Christian writers is that grace wins every time. We can’t get out of debts owed, or erase the memory of coffee-soaked shoes, or count on grace to get us through the door if we don’t have our name badges :), but grace covers a multitude of conference dumbness.

Over the course of time, the embarrassing moments we thought eternal in nature may be far more easily forgotten than we could have imagined. Our “I’ll never live this down” story will be outdone by someone else’s.

So, if you’re heading for the ACFW conference in a few days:

Keep Calm
and
Let Grace Reign.

Cynthia Ruchti headshot 2016Cynthia Ruchti tells stories hemmed in hope through her award-winning novels, novellas, devotionals, nonfiction, and through speaking for women’s events. Her latest release is the novel Song of Silence. She’s attending the ACFW conference this year with her name spelled correctly on her business cards, a tube of stain remover, her laptop power cord, and a super-sized batch of grace. You can connect with her at cynthiaruchti.com or hemmedinhope.com.

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15 Responses to The Dumbest Thing I Ever Did at a Writers’ Conference

  1. Valuable info for first-timers and long-timers alike! Thank you, Cyn.

  2. Rick Barry says:

    No matter how hard we may try, we can never rise above the point of being flawed human beings. Maybe the Lord allows each of us one or two knuckle-head moments per year just to keep us humble? 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, Cynthia!

  3. Sarah Thomas says:

    A big deal author once politely asked me if I wrote fiction or non-fiction. I told her non-fiction, then had to correct myself. Oy.

  4. I asked Alan Arnold in the elevator if he was there for the conference. Nobody told me who he was until he got out of the elevator. But everyone knew except me. 🙂

  5. And then I spelled Allen Arnold’s name wrong on Cynthia Ruchti’s blog…

  6. Part of getting older is I finally realized mostly, people don’t remember the stupid stuff I’ve done and still cringe over.

    They’re too busy remembering the stupid stuff they’ve done and still cringe over.

  7. Mary Brown says:

    Thank you for “the list”, I am sure creative me can add a few to it at my first ACFW conference this year. Made me chuckle and relax a bit. I don’t normally wear heels even low ones and I keep having a vision of turning my ankle and falling on someone important. Perhaps I will only take flats with me this year.

  8. Can you see us all showing up in flats, bibs, wearing protective helmets, with our lips Duct-taped shut, and an interpreter friend spelling and pronouncing things for us?

    Actually…not a bad–

    No. We’ll just be real, forgiven, and blessed.

  9. Thank you, thank you. Good thoughts for attending a conference and great thoughts for living a life.

  10. Hahaha…thanks for the laugh! 🙂 I’ve done so many stupid things I’ve traumatized myself and blocked most of them. Looking forward to seeing everyone at ACFW!

  11. Roxanne says:

    Love it and so funny. I’m glad you’re human. I went to a conference in Palm Desert and neglected to pack undies and dress shoes. So, while my colleagues are lounging by the pool on break, I’m driving around town looking for cheap underwear. Such is life.

  12. Really love this, Cynthia. Grace for the win!! Hope to see you at ACFW. 🙂

  13. Margo Carmichae says:

    Very entertaining. Not quite at a conference, but while leaving one, I was walking across the tarmac at the windy Denver airport and my silk skirt blue straight up in the air. I only had one free hand to grab it, and Michelle Sutton grabbed the other side with her free hand while I yelled to everyone around us to quit laughing. Takeaway: Pleats add weight. Put them back in after laundering. Make sense? Just trust me!

  14. Thank you for sharing this much-needed reminder, Cynthia! How fortunate for all of us that, as you say, grace wins every time… Proof-positive that even the most embarrassing thing can transform into a bonding moment, as we recognize our humanness and experience the power of grace extended.

  15. Thank you, everyone for the comments. So glad the topic resonated with more than just me. 🙂