A Midsummer's Daydream Come True, my account of the FW conference
by Amy Michelle Wiley
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When I joined FaithWriters over two years ago, there was already a lot of talk about having a conference someday. Someday we’d all get to meet. Someday we’d get to take workshops from our own professionals. Someday, someday, someday.
One day I got tired of hearing someday and I said, “This day.”
I offered to help coordinate and Scott Lindsay said okay and Deb Porter jumped on board. Suddenly it was happening. It wasn’t just a dream anymore--it was becoming a reality. A year and more emails than you could count, plus a few bumps on the road later, here we were--FaithWriters Inaugural Writing Conference on August 11th, 2007: A Midsummer’s Dream Come True!!
On Thursday, August 9th, my family arrived at the Livonia, Michigan hotel. I was a bit antsy knowing there were FaithWriters in the building, but not getting to meet any just yet. It was around 1:00 the next day before we made connections with some of the FWers.
As is the case with many of the FWers on the message boards, some of my closest friends are FaithWriters who I’ve never met in person, and I consider all FWers a friend. I thought there would be a little adjustment needed in order to connect the online person with the flesh and blood person. I was wrong. There was an instant knowing, a complete comfort. Everyone was just themselves. It was as though we’d always been together, giving real hugs instead of cyber hugs.
Even those who are painfully shy or who were new or not yet FaithWriter members fit right in. Over and over I heard, “This isn’t a conference--it’s a family reunion.” Our guest speaker, Sally Stuart, who speaks at many, many conferences, noticed the wonderful atmosphere also. By the end of the conference, those who had only just discovered FW were acting as though they’d always been around. Many of us even had family members come along just to help out, and they were welcomed in as part of the family, also.
So many times throughout the weekend a concern or praise was mentioned and people would drop what they were doing and immediately gather to bring the matter to the Lord.
As people trickled in on Friday afternoon and evening, hugging and exclaiming filled the hotel. Someone told me that as people walked up, “I’d hear an ‘OH!’ and would know to jump out of the way for their incoming hugs, and then jump in for my own.”
Sometimes two people would hug and then one would say, “Now, which FWer are you?” Haha! Once I saw two young ladies about my age walking in the front door, so I hurried over. “Are you Dara and Caitlyn?” Of course, they were! Then I came in from helping Scott carry supplies in and heard an Aussie accent. “There’s Deb!” I screeched. She must have heard me, because she turned and rushed for a long, hard hug.
Getting to finally meet the founder of FaithWriters, Scott Lindsay, was exciting, also. Though I’d exchanged hundreds of emails with him, and even talked on the phone once, I still felt like he was the man behind the scenes that I really didn’t know. Scott is a wonderful man, and it’s easy to see where FaithWriters gets its heart--even right down to the fun teasing.
Friday night I’d asked a few people to help me set up the room. Pretty soon the whole room was full of unofficial volunteers jumping in to help out. The work got done in no time, and we moved over to the restaurant for dinner.
Just sitting at a table, surrounded by a whole room full of FaithWriters--of family--was so tremendous. I mingled, chatting and helping Scott with the administrative end of things.
For most of dinner I sat at a table with Rev. James Snyder, his wife, and a man named Dan Martin. On Thursday Dan got stuck on his novel and went online to check for a Christian writing group to see if that might help (he'd still love prayer for his book). Of course he found FW. He happened to wonder if they had a conference and checked the page. Lo and behold, there was not only a conference, but it was in his town. And it was the next day!
He signed up and was welcomed into the group. As we chatted, Rev. James asked me if the sessions would be recorded. I explained that we’d hoped to do that, but in the end had been unable to get it set up. Dan spoke up, “Would you like to have it recorded if you could?”
I eyed him curiously. “Of course! Why? Do you do recordings?”
Sure enough! Turns out he has all the equipment needed to video the whole thing, and all we had to get were some mini DVDs for it. Scott was thrilled and promised to refund Dan’s registration fee, since he was donating his time and equipment. Dan said, “Oh, you don’t need to do that. At least pray about it first.”
Scott smiled. “I don’t need to pray about that.”
David Ian happened to be standing nearby. He threw his hands heavenward and cried, “Thank you, Lord, for this blessing! Amen! There, we’ve prayed about it.” We all laughed.
By the end of the evening full of wonderful reunions and emotions, I was so tired I wasn’t much help as Scott and I tallied the dinner prices. By about the fourth time I had to start counting over because I couldn't manage to add $20 to $40, Mid took pity on me and offered to count the bills.
When we finally headed for the hotel and bed, I walked with Mid to her room and then went down the hall to my room. Only, it wasn’t there.
I looked around and decided that this hall was only even numbered rooms--mine was odd. It must be on the next hall over. I popped my head back in the room Mid and a few other ladies were sharing, and told them I guessed I was in the wrong hall, and I’d see them in the morning. Joanne crawled right out of bed and said, “Amy, come with me.” She marched down the hall in her pajamas, leading me the few feet to my room. “Now, go to bed!”
I’m infamous for getting lost and saying that I'm “directionally challenged” is an understatement, but I have to say, that one takes the cake. Thank God for Joanne! LOL!
Saturday went by way too fast. Especially since I spent the day running, hee hee. Shari said I was “pretty much just a blur.” I discovered that I could get about three sentences exchanged with any one person before someone else started calling for me. It grew to such a joke that a few times Scott would holler, “Amy! Amy! Amy!” just to tease me.
Right after the lunch break, we sang “Happy Birthday” to the many of us who have August birthdays. Then, in memory of those who couldn’t come, I did a dramatic reading of a poem Al Boyce had written as a joke about those left behind without even a writing challenge topic to work on.
In between introducing the speakers, I found myself just soaking in the love filling the room as we mingled or listened to the valuable information and encouragement the speakers gave. Occasionally I felt like shouting, “Stop! Slow down, Time! I’m not ready for the day to be over yet. I haven’t had enough hugs yet. Wait!” When David Ian poured out the heart of FaithWriters near the end of the day, tears were there, welling out of my heart that had been filled so full.
After the conference and most of the clean up had been done, Scott seized Deb and me. “We’ve gotta go find a tree.” You see, a few months ago I dreamed about the conference. In the dream, Deb and I went for a walk and Deb not only found a tree to climb, but then fell out of it!! As things of that sort seem to do, Deb and trees had quickly become a joke around the boards.
As Scott and I grabbed a few camera-owners in the crowd and dragged Deb to find a tree, she dug in her heels and protested that she most certainly never climbed trees. But she was a good sport and pretended nicely and we got a marvelous picture of her “climbing” a tree while I stood aghast below. Haha, that was a blast!
Quite late in the evening, a group decided to watch a video of a stage play about Esther that David wrote and directed and we crowded into one hotel room until nearly 2 AM. It was great hearing some behind the scenes tidbits from David. I sat near Shari and she and I whispered occasionally as though we’d always been in-person close friends rather than just cyber friends.
After the busy days Friday and Saturday, I took Sunday to just relax and hang out with those who were still at the hotel. It was lovely to just sit around and chat and laugh. Over half of the cast of the very first Peculiar People project, White Planet aka Secrets of the Ice, was there, so we played around with future ideas, relived past memories, and took some pictures. You can see all the pictures of the conference here: http://s186.photobucket.com/albums/x196/FW_Con_2007/
By Monday morning, only a few people remained. The feeling of loss began to set in, and excitement for next year’s conference ran high. Deb joined my parents and I as we went sightseeing. Then we three conference coordinators, Scott, Deb, and I, gathered to plan The Second FaithWriters’ Writing Conference, August 8th and 9th, 2008! We vowed to hold close and carefully cultivate the family feeling of this first special conference, and chose a motto for future conferences--Nurturing the Whole Writer.
See you next year in Tennessee!!
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This is really a nice account of the conference. Maybe you need to share this on a thread about the upcoming conference.
Amy, you need to give a warning on this - "Have a box of tissue paper near by when reading." Great report and thank you for giving it. Hopefully next year in Tennessee! God bless and keep writing.
Thanks for the insider's view, Amy! I hated missing out on the love, fellowship, and fun, but God Willing, I won't miss TN!
Good summary; thanks.
You made me 'homesick' Amy!! I'm soooo looking forward to next year!! Thanks for all the work you put into the conference--it was above and beyond all I'd hoped for!!! Hugs!!
Wonderful account Amy - You made me want to cry for not getting there as planned! All of you sound exactly as I envisioned you - I can't wait to get my real hugs from everyone! Thanks so much for a well done job!
I enjoyed this Amy. Even though I wasn't there, I felt like I was a mouse in the corner. Very well written, as always! Have a wonderful time in the land down under.
Wow! This made me sad I missed it. However I did get some laughs. Sounds like you all had a blast, I hope I can come next year!!
Thanks for chronicling the weekend. I had a great time meeting all of my cyber friends, who are now in-the-flesh, face to face friends. I, too, would love to help with next year's conference. I also wish my finances allowed me to be a 500 member, so I could participate more fully in the whole FaithWriters experience, but I guess I'll just have to let God handle that. :) I know God will continue to do great things as we trust in Him!
A great recap, Amy! So glad you pursued that initial vision TO THE END AND BEYOND!!!
LOL - great account - I still need to write down a lot of stuff.... Oh - I didn't say, "I think it was Shari who said that as people walked up, “I’d hear an ‘OH!’" but, I did the other quote. I do remember someone saying it, but can't remember who. More to come from me in other place....
OK Amy - you made me CRY! (oh, and you're welcome. I had forgotten I was in my pajamas LOL) It certainly was an amazing, wonderful, ideal time to remember. You, Scott and Deb are AMAZING blessings in so many ways.
WOW! Amy, thanks a bunch for giving me a taste of such a wonderful event. Next conference in TN next year? I think I can make it...lol, depending. ^_^ I think this is your best piece-I felt like I was there in the midst of the FW family reliving the conference as close as possible through your eyes. ^_^
Great account, Amy. I had no idea about Dan & the videotaping. Wow, isn't God grand? Your story is inspiring, especially for those who couldn't be there in person.
Such a great article, Amy! I felt as if I was right there again! ^_^ It did go by so fast...but every moment was amazing! Thanks again for everything you did to help make this happen and a HUGE thanks for writing this wonderful article. I look forward to the FW Conference next year in TN!
I had no idea about the whole Dan thing. What a wonderful testimony of God's goodness and blessing on this conference - and to use Dan like that...what a thrill for him! Even as a writer, no words can come close to describing the spirit in that hotel that weekend. I've never experienced anything like it. So looking forward to next year's conference and I am more than willing to help in any way I can. Thanks for everything you did, Amy, to make the conference the huge success it was. Hugs, Lynda
Interesting account,can't wait for next year, by His grace there will be many more writers at the next conference thanks for sharing this with us ,The Lord's name is truely to be blessed because he proved himself once again, WE PRAISE HIS HOLY NAME FOREVER! Do remain blessed
Amy, thanks for writing this piece and sharing the conference with those of us who did not attend.