Long after you have unpacked your suitcase, sifted through hand-outs, or followed up with people who said, “Sure! I would love to read your manuscript,” you will discover one of the most important elements of attending a writers conference. Friendship.
No one gets you quite like another writer. I have met some of my favorite people on the planet at Christian writers conferences like WCCW.
One of those who I met early on in my writing journey was another new writer learning to navigate her way through publishing. She was none other than the effervescent Lisa Bogart, who now heads up the Hospitality team and is on the board of WCCW.
We were both in a class for speakers taught by the late and great Glenna Salsbury. Lisa had written a book on hospitality and I wrote for a small newspaper.
The following year, we met again and both took a workshop on writing for Guideposts with an eye on entering the contest that would pay for winners to travel to Rye, New York, and sit under the training of Guideposts’ editors. Lisa had entered previously and was determined to try again. I was newer to devotional writing and planned to do a ghost written piece. We had so much fun when we were together and came up with a crazy idea. Ok, so let’s be honest, we have had a lot of crazy ideas, but this was a crazier than usual.
“What if we both enter the Guideposts story contest and help each other with critique?” said Lisa.
“And when we both win, we can be roomies in Rye!” I chimed in. We both laughed at the idea but, it did plant a seed in our hearts and minds, so we both got to work on our stories.
I shared my story with Lisa and she passed hers along to me. We read, rewrote, and reworked them over and over again until it felt like they were as close to perfect as we could get.
Time to submit the mail-in entries drew close. Yep, that was back in the day when you also sent a SASE, which, for those who were born after the age of floppy disks, stands for Self Addressed Stamped Envelope.
Lisa had apprehensions. This was her second time to enter the contest that runs every other year. She knew that I had more experience in journalistic writing since I worked for the newspaper. Encouraging me might bump her from a winning slot. She called to ask if I had submitted my entry after my last round of edits. Knowing that if I won and she didn’t, she would be happy for me because that is what a true friend does.
I had a few struggles of my own. We were in the middle of a crisis and when Lisa reached out to see if I had sent it in, I let her know it was still on my desk.
“I don’t want to pay for a 42 cent stamp just so someone else can let me know I am a loser,” I said.
“Just SEND it!” she responded firmly before breaking into a giggle.
So I did.
About a month passed before I got a phone call from one of the Guideposts editors, Rick Hamlin.
I thought he was calling to see if I wanted to renew my yearly subscription. “No!” he responded. “I am letting you know you are one of the contest winners.”
I barely remember what he said next. As soon as I got off the phone I had one thought, I have to call Lisa! But, then it hit me. What if I won and she didn’t? She worked so hard. I didn’t want to break it to her.
Little did I know that while Rick was calling me, another editor was calling Lisa with the same exciting news. She was one of the Guideposts story winners too! The same thoughts ran through her mind about calling me.
I mean, REALLY! What are the chances that two friends who encouraged each other would both come out as contest winners? Slim to none. But that means there is still a slim chance, right?
We both did the rational thing that two “over-the-moon” excited writers would do in that situation. We called our friend, Kay, who was a third party mentor to both of us and told her the good news.
“You both won!” Kay exclaimed. ”For goodness sake, call each other!”
Before we knew it we were both carrying our suitcases to the second floor of the hotel where we were staying in Rye. It was a fairy tale moment and one that the editors said had never happened before.
Two friends winning together.
But, it was more than that, it was two writers who became friends at a Christian writers conference, just like WCCW. We had a crazy dream and encouraged each other forward.