Yes, the party’s over, but it was so much more than a party. The 2017 CLASS Writers Contreat was a time of learning, networking, practicing, growing, and most importantly worship.
As I reflect over those four days I realize how fast time can fly. We moved from worship to general session, from critique groups to workshops, fitting in lunch where learning and dialogue continued. Sometimes it seemed like a blur. At other times it was as if our clocks stood still as Karissa Culbreath led us into the presence of God.
I felt like the proverbial fly on the wall while listening to snippets of conversation, answering questions, and reminding participants of what was happening next and where. Yet, in those brief exchanges I recognized the anticipation in their voices and the excitement in their eyes. I understood just how much was happening within them.
Mentoring appointments with professional writers encouraged burgeoning new writers as well as some more seasoned writers who arrived discouraged and uncertain. However, the greatest encouragement was passed back and forth between the attendees. Finally, there was someone who understood. Others who lived the often-solitary life of the writer.
I loved sitting at the back of the room watching attendees frantically taking notes so as not to miss a single word the presenters had to share. Faculty members welcomed interaction with the audience, questions were answered, and ideas were exchanged.
We started each day with Worship Leader Aaron Zook leading us into God’s throne room with singing. He carefully selected familiar praise songs, while throwing in a few new tunes.
Karissa Culbreath, this year’s devotional leader, used poetry, children’s books and some great visual images, to provide several thought-provoking challenges. “Take off your mask and tell your story,” she told us. Another message shared this nugget, “There is glory in your story.” His glory. “We are an important piece in His puzzle.” And finally, she reminded us that we do not have to do everything. God doesn’t expect perfection. He desires obedience.
Time and time again we were told that our writing must open with a hook, followed by solid content, ending with the benefit to the reader.
Dr. Dennis Hensley shared his theory of the toxic triangle. Best-selling fiction writer, DiAnn Mills taught on advanced character development. Each character must have an authentic personality.
Contreat Director Linda Gilden delivered two sessions, one on writing magazine articles and the other on writing devotions. This was important since the contreat writing project for this year was a devotional book.
In her workshop, Gloria Penwell Holtzlander, encouraged the writers to develop a foundation of prayer, while local author, John Thurman taught on how to become a local expert.
Fiction writer Aaron Zook gave the attendees insight into researching your novel. Audra Grace Shelby shared how she incorporates personal experiences into her writing.
In the closing session, Karen Porter challenged the writers, “What will you do to reach the reader without the publisher’s help? You have to have a plan.”
I can’t help but feel as if God looked down upon us, smiled and said, “It is good.”
Now the party is over and everyone has returned home with lots of notes, new friends, good memories and hopefully new plans to pursue.
What does the future hold for those that God has given the dream of writing and publishing? Right now, only God knows. But based on what I saw and heard last week I think we have some great books to look forward to.