Jodie
I really need to get going on this, before I forget everything that happened, or I jumble it all up into one big memory!

Monday at Ridgecrest started early. I didn't fall asleep until after one, but I woke up at 6:15. Can y'all say, "Yay." Yuck. Got up, had me some God time, gave the day to Him, and headed to breakfast, where I ate with a lovely group of women (I also ate way too much bacon, but please, never set bacon out in front of me unless you want me to eat it. 'Nuff said.), then headed to the morning Group Meeting. Eva Marie Everson gave our first devotional, and she started with Psalm 37:4 (NIV), Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart." But, wait! Are you chasing the desire of GOD'S heart for you? Or are you chasing YOUR heart's desire for you? I won't duplicate all that she said here, but the ultimate story boiled down to the parable of the talents. Read it and note that the master referred to all of the money as his money. All that God gives us is HIS. It is not ours. Our writing? His. Our words? His. Our money? His. Everything? His.

Then Cec Murphy gave the keynote. WWHT: Who Would Have Thought? Ultimately, folks, we have no idea what God has planned for us. And one day, we'll look back and say, "Who would have thought?" The biggest take-away for me from this, his first of two keynotes, was the fact that God may use my books to change millions of people's lives. Or He may use it to change just one person's life: mine. Either way... WWHT? :-) There was more than that, but that will have to be another blog, or we'll be here all day talking about Cec Murphy's talk.

Went to the bookstore, where I only browsed (this time), then went to Angela Hunt's class, "The Sophisticated Novelist."

WOW! In just shy of an hour and a half, I had seven pages of notes. Seven. On everything from what a novel is to language to scenery to evaluating my story idea to what makes a novel a Christian novel to genre... And then she gave us HOMEWORK! Wonderful, wonderful class!

Had my crit meeting with Eva Marie Everson. YAY! Wonderful lady, if you ever get the chance to meet her. She walked me through my submission and gave me great advice and we chatted a bit, then it was off to lunch.

I ate with Donn Taylor and his wife. Such sweet people, and he has such a passion for poetry! I actually got to talk about the poets I read and loved in college, something I haven't gotten to do, well, since college! Yay!

Went up to Eva Marie's class. WOW! Pages and pages of notes on self-editing and critiquing, then critique groups. I had a great group of women! We learned so much from each other. I won't even try to put it all here, since this is already running long.

My meeting with Chip MacGregor was at 4:30. I showed up at 4:15. His 4:15 had failed to show up, so he sat down with me early. I'd asked him for help with proposals (since I've read so much that I'm getting lost now!) and he walked me through mine, showed me what was strong and what was weak and what to keep and what to change. Finally helped me understand things that were confusing me. I was taking notes on everything he said when my pen d-i-e-d. I reached into my bag to grab another one, it got away from me, and that pen flew threw the air and maybe missed his face by an inch.

He called for security. :-)

So, yeah, I threw a pen at Chip MacGregor. He'll probably remember me forever.

Or not.

Dinner and then off to the evening session, where Steven James spoke on the story of God. The Bible is a story, folks, and we reduce it to an "outline." We take out the passion and the violence and the love and the emotion and turn it into a cliche'. And, y'all would do well to remember the Steven James Ceiling Fan Principle: You do not have a story until something goes wrong. (If you want to know why it's called the Ceiling Fan Principle, you'll have to remind me to tell you later. I'm running long, here.) Ultimately, a Christian book will tell the truth about the world--including the evil in the world. (I read one of his books. Yep, there's some real, bone-shivering, evil.) We should not be afraid to talk about the pain or about the grace. And, folks, the man has a Master's in storytelling. If you've never heard him speak, make it a point to hear him speak. You'll be richer for it.

Headed off to my room and to sleep. Long days at Blue Ridge! Next up: Tuesday and the day Cec Murphy quit writing. (Thank heaven, that day didn't stick to him, huh?

JB
Jodie
I wanted to post this last week, but there is a certain "jumping off a cliff" that happens post-conference. I actually took a nap on Friday, the day after I got back from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. I never take naps. If I take a nap, it's a fifteen-minute power nap. For me to sleep two hours straight tells you a lot about how worn out I was! Saturday, my brain was two steps behind all day long, and yesterday was Sunday. (Did I mention that Friday was the last day of school, so now I have a little person with me 24/7? Make writing interesting...)

My goal was to blog about all of the little things about conferences for those who have yet to attend one (this was my first), but it turns out that time is a premium at an event like that. I knew that in theory. In practice, I had to learn by experience.

So, one day at a time...

Today we'll talk about Sunday.

I had a fabulous six-hour drive to Ridgecrest on Sunday. The last couple of hours was in the foothills and up the mountain. It might have been pretty if the rain hadn't been falling. Oh well... And, just so you all know, when they tell you on the Ridgecrest website that you can't use GPS to get there? Well, they're telling you the truth. GPS will get you almost there. After the almost, you're on your own. I'd forgotten my printed directions from their website, but by trial and error, I finally made it. Checked in, made my way to my room, unpacked a little, took a quick breather, then headed back down to the main lobby to see what I could see. Ridgecrest has awesome, creaky rocking chairs in the main lobby, so I plopped down with a bunch of other newbies and creaky-rocked for about half an hour with them before we took the newcomer's tour. Made two new friends--Suzanne and Sheila--on that tour. Made another new friend, Heather, right after. I love my new writer friends! We sat together at all of the group sessions and at the banquet and gushed to each other about our experiences. Nice.

We had our first dinner (and let me tell you, they feed you well at Ridgecrest. I never had a bad meal when I was there. WOW!). Blue Ridge is one of the conferences that allows you to sit with the faculty during lunch and dinner. God bless them. I wonder when they get a moment to themselves? That night, I sat at Terry Whalin's table. (Mostly because I'd just finished reading his book, Book Proposals That Sell and I had a couple of questions, which he was gracious enough to answer.

At our first group session, I spotted my dear online friend Diana, and we got to talk face to face for the first time. Yay! That was a great hug. (I had to give her two hugs: one for meeting her, and one because she's a double-finalist in the ACFW Genesis competition. Go, Diana!) Angela Hunt was the keynote at our first group session. She spoke on our life's calling (to love and obey God) and our tasks under that calling (writing, parenting, etc.). She also told about her first writing jobs. Great story that you should all hear someday if you possibly can. :-) All of the faculty got up and spent one minute each outlining their classes. I decided, based on those, to go to Angela Hunt's class, "The Sophisticated Novelist." (I wound up taking nearly 20 pages of notes in that class alone!)

We met the faculty and signed up for one-on-one appointments. I already had one with Eva Marie Everson, who did my paid critique (an awesome benefit of BRMCWC, by the way!) and I made one more with Chip MacGregor. I'd been wanting to meet him, because I know from his blog that he's a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy. I knew he'd answer the questions I had. (For those who want to know, he's a very nice, very funny guy. And yep, he's a really honest one, too. More on that tomorrow. It's a good thing.)

And then I went to my room and collapsed. Okay, not really. I was much too keyed up to sleep. My word! I'd just sat in a room with hundreds of other writers (some of whom I'd read their books!) and had made new friends. I was bouncing off of the walls. What I should have done was head down to the lobby to hang out with the groups that would gather there each night, but I was too brain dead from the drive to think about that. Instead, I had me some God time.

A big thing I wanted to give to Him was all of my time. I wanted each and every day to be filled with His divine appointments, to be filled with His purposes and His plans. I didn't want to do anything without Him, didn't want to hop onto my own agenda (which is easy to do, with agents and the like around). God had let me know early on that I was not to pitch at this conference, that I was to go and learn and observe and meet and see and take in, but not to pitch. There's a tough one. But I wouldn't change it, especially since I was able to learn and take it all in without the "pitch stress" hanging over my head. I think I'd have missed a lot if I had been walking around saying my elevator pitch over and over in my head. (And to my cousin, Nate... It really has nothing to do with an actual elevator...)

Sleep came after midnight sometime, and Monday came early, but we'll talk about that tomorrow. There is much to come in future posts, including how I threw a pen at Chip MacGregor and how I came to be the accidental stalker of Steven James.

JB