It began a day early, on Thursday evening, with the monthly Mid-Valley Willamette Writers chapter meeting. Melissa Hart spoke about “literary citizenship.” It was revelatory. She spoke about the responsibility of writers to one another, and the benefit that we all get when we support each other. Too many writers see the business in cut-throat, zero-sum terms. But our successes don’t have to come at the cost of others failure. My book isn’t the only one that’s going to get read, and it benefits me to help other writers out who will then be more likely to help each other out in return.
Melissa’s talk covered a lot of great ideas, including …
- Word of mouth
- Book reviews
- Author interviews
- Social media
- Attending readings
- Joining a writers group
- Buying books (and writing them off as a business expense)
- Hosting a book launch
- Writing a book blurb
- Attending a writing conference
I did the last one, by sheer coincidence, the next day …
On Friday, I drove to Newberg for the 2014 Faith and Culture Writers Conference. The conference began Friday evening with an inspiring opening session at the Newberg Friends Church. The speakers included Tony Kriz, Sarah Thebarge, Phil Long, and Randy Woodley. In the large, crowded, and slighty too warm meeting hall, I felt like I was part of a community almost instantly. The scheduled speakers, workshop leaders, and conference planning team members were intermixed among the attendees instead of being “roped off” in a VIP section. This added to the sense that “we’re all in this together.”
The next day, Saturday, was the busiest day, filled with breakout sessions, pitches, mentoring appointments, and several more large group presentations. The sense of community prevailed throughout, and not just at the times we joined together in prayer. Words of encouragement were constantly offered, and I realized that I was witnessing a particularly Christian version of Hart’s literary citizenship in action.
It was a literary fellowship. a writerly expression of the Body of Christ, with eye, hand, and foot each acknowledging the other. Nowhere was there an “I don’t need you.” We held together and lifted each other up, and as we concluded the day with a beautiful, lyrical, and heartfelt prayer written and led by Sarah Bessey, I knew that we were all truly praying for each other.
Sunday was my day of rest, and I needed it after the time change. If there was one thing I would change for next year it would be this—move the conference to a weekend where we’re not moving clocks ahead an hour. That’s my one helpful suggestion.
But otherwise it was the perfect writerly weekend, an example of literary citizenship—or literary fellowship if you prefer—that will inspire me for months to come.
I’m writing about the conference—in one way or another—all week, and linking each post here as I write it. Thanks for reading!