Monday, May 29, 2017

Writers Conferences Are Like a Box of Chocolates

By Andrea Merrell

Expectations. We all have them—some realistic and achievable, others not so much.

Merriam-Webster online defines expect this way: to await, suppose, or think; to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of; to consider probable or certain; to consider reasonable, due, or necessary; to consider bound in duty or obligated.

That’s a whole lot of wishing and hoping.

I just returned from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC) in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina. With over 500 people in attendance, it was a privilege and honor to be part of the faculty. Teaching classes and interacting with conferees at appointments, meals, and free time gave me the opportunity to observe attitudes in action. For many of these conferees—especially first-timers—expectations ran the gamut from “God’s about to make me a super star” to “what in the world am I doing here?”

When attending my first conference as a newbie, I was clueless. My friend and roomie (also a newbie) and I had no idea what to do before we arrived, while we were there, and even after we left, but we knew we were supposed to be there. Armed with faux courage, we were both convinced we would come home with an agent, a contract, and a bunch of “attagirls … you are an amazing writer and just what we’ve been looking for.”

Sad to say, that’s not exactly what happened. Actually, that’s not anything close to what happened. Speaking for myself, I wasn’t ready.

They say you don’t know what you don’t know. An acute awareness of how much I didn’t know (and needed to learn) came home with me, packed securely in my luggage—along with a fistful of business cards, bookmarks, handouts, class notes, and an abundance of wise advice. Overwhelming? Yes, but as I applied myself and attended this same conference (along with others) year after year, God’s plan for my life unfolded. Looking back over the past ten years, I can clearly see His hand in every aspect of my writing career—even in the dreaded rejection letters. Every step became part of the learning process as God opened the right doors and closed the wrong ones, taught me to keep my eyes on Him instead of others, and prepared me for the wonderful journey He had prepared for me. The key factor was—and is—trust.

This past week, I had the pleasure of speaking with so many precious individuals who have words burning in their heart that need to be written. Some were confident, while others were shy and hesitant. A few were confused and frustrated because they didn’t know what to expect, who to talk with, and which classes to attend. My advice to them was simple: “Put away your expectations and allow God to do what He wants to do. Believe for divine appointments, divine connections, and divine favor. Take one step at a time, and make the most of every opportunity that comes your way. You are not here by accident, but by design.”

God’s plans are almost always bigger than our own, and He will bless us in the most unusual and unexpected ways. I’ve learned that at a conference, the person I meet in the hallway who needs a hug and a word of encouragement might be the very reason God has me there.

Attending conferences is essential to our writing journey. But success is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, we all long for an agent, a contract, and an attagirl (or attaboy). But let’s not neglect the process of learning the basics and honing our craft. Becoming a good writer is a process, not an event.

Most importantly, don't forget to step outside your comfort zone and meet people. Forging friendships is how you build your network. I'm very thankful for lessons learned over the years and the many opportunities that have come my way, but some of the greatest gifts are all the incredible people I’ve met and the life-long friendships that have been created.

So, what about you? If you’re not getting the desired results, maybe it’s time to change your expectations. To quote Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates.” We could say the same thing about a conference. You never know what you’re going to “get,” but when you’re trusting in God, you can be sure it will be a blessing and another step in the right direction.

Has God blessed you in ways you least expected? We would love for you to share with us and our readers.

(Photos courtesy of Castillo Dominici.)



  1. Well, this is the second blog post I've read about expectations today. I wonder if God is trying to tell me something.

    1. Hmmm ... Remember what I shared at writers' group about God getting my attention (being set free)? I believe my friend Josh is the one who said, "God can be relentless." Thanks for stopping by and for sharing. Blessings! :)

  2. Great post Andrea. I've only been to 2 writers conferences, but I remember going to the first one like it was yesterday. So much to learn and so overwhelming. I came away knowing that I had a long way to go, but also came away with a game plan. Part of that game plan was submitting my devotions to As they started being published, I received an email from Yvonne Lehman wanting me to submit one of them for publication in her Spoken Moments book. I was blown away. Never did I imagine God to show up like that and so soon after the conference. He has continued to open doors on my writing journey. I am humbled and blessed each time. :-)

    1. What a great testimony, Sheryl. God always has a plan for us. Thanks for sharing. :)


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