Wednesday, September 9, 2009


“Are you okay?” Someone shook me hard. I lay there, unable to speak, eyes welded closed.

“Are you okay” the voice came again, louder this time, more insistent. No answer. I felt the press of fingers to my pulse followed by a quick sweep of my mouth, clearing all obstructions. With a pinch of my nose, someone began to breathe life into me while a gentle hand compressed against my chest, finger on my heart …

Okay, just for the record—I did not choke on a piece of chicken at an American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference or ever have to be resuscitated in any way. Uh … that is … at least not physically. But emotionally and spiritually? Yep, I was a goner. Cried enough tears that I thought the housekeeping staff would think I was heisting their Kleenex. But something amazing happened to me at the very first ACFW conference I ever attended—I received CPR in a very unlikely manner, and I gotta tell ya, folks—it saved my life. So I thought since we are less than a week out from this year’s ACFW conference in Denver, it might behoove me to share about this life-saving experience I received when the Holy Spirit administered a heavy dose of truly miraculous CPR—Cry, Pray, Repent.

Oh, how I wish, wish WISH someone had told me what I’m about to tell you before I went to my very first writers conference in Houston, Texas in 2003. It was the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference, only back then, it was ACRW, American Christian Romance Writers. I went by myself without knowing a soul, which is a hard thing to do, as so many of you are aware. Up until that point, I had done everything I could to put me on the path to publication—took fiction-writing courses at the community college, attended small writing seminars and local RWA chapter meetings, queried publishers until I was blue in the face, and entered contests until I was in hock over binder clips.

I knew in my gut that the time had come for me to venture far from home and interface with other writers of my ilk. I mean how difficult could this be? Although by nature I am a recluse of sorts, I have the misfortune of having an outgoing personality, so the word “shy” just isn’t part of my vocabulary. So I smiled and mixed and mingled until my teeth ached and made a lot of acquaintances, but no real “friend” that I felt I could connect with. Everything felt surface to me, and it seemed like everybody I spoke to was either published, had an agent, a contract in the works or fulls being considered.

That night I cried on the phone to my husband, and I’m talking major sobbing! I told him I felt lonely and jealous and like publication would never happen for me. He comforted me and prayed with me and told me everything would all right.

But it wasn’t. The next day I would attend a seminar, then go up to my room and cry, clean my face and go back down to smile some more. That went on all day as the loneliness and jealousy seemed to grow, and that night my poor husband got another earful of long-distance weeping. God love him, he prayed for me and encouraged me and told me to put my hope in God. Yeah, right, I thought to myself at the time, and how is that going to change these waterworks? That night I cried myself to sleep, rivers of tears seeping into my pillow.

What happened next is nothing short of supernatural. The next morning, even before my eyelids peeled open, my brain was pelted with hope scriptures in rapid-fire succession:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:12-14

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. -
Romans 5:4-6

No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame. -
Psalm 25:2-4

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. -
Psalm 62:4-6

But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more. -
Psalm 71:13-15

Now, first of all, I wasn’t aware that I even knew that many hope scriptures. In fact, they shocked me so much, that my eyes popped open and I lunged for the Gideon Bible inside the nightstand drawer. I flipped it open to the first few pages where they list scriptures by subject and scanned the list for “Hope.” It wasn’t there, so I settled on the scripture for “Fear.” There were only two, mind you, and I quickly paged to the first one: Hebrews 13:5.

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Come again? What does fear or lack of hope have to do with covetousness and ingratitude? Give me a break, the Gideons have TONS of scriptures to choose from and they choose this???? I blinked several times … and then the Holy Spirit nailed my butt to the wall.

I had spent the last two days of this expensive conference doing NOTHING but coveting other writers’ success and complaining that it would never happen for me. My husband had forked over $800 bucks (airfare, hotel room, conference fee) so I could fly to Houston and instead of being grateful, I was utterly lonely and jealous. Talk about a one-two punch! I fell to my knees and sobbed again, only this time my tears were tears of repentance. I told God I was sorry for being such a brat, and I prayed for every woman that I had been jealous of, that God would bless the socks off of them. I asked Him to change my attitude and give me hope and help me not to be lonely the rest of the conference.

For the umpteenth time that weekend, I cleaned up my face, put on my name badge and squared my shoulders to go downstairs. The elevator opened, and I flashed a smile to the couple in the back and turned to face the door. The woman gently tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You’re from St. Louis? I live in Illinois, just twenty minutes across the river.”

I turned around and will NEVER forget the look of kindness and warmth in that woman’s eyes—like an angel sent from God. She was an ACFW author named Diana Brandmeyer (who, by the way, has a GREAT new book coming out with Barbour next January entitled Hearts on the Road, so check it out on her website at Anyway, she invited me to sit with her and her husband for breakfast. Trust me, conference food had never tasted so good!

Later that day, there was a contest for book giveaways. You simply had to write about someone who had positively affected you at the conference so far, and if the ACFW Master of Ceremonies (Brandilyn, of course!) picked your comments out of the hat, the person you wrote about won a free book. My eyes smarted with tears as I dashed a quick note about the kind woman in the elevator “whose eyes radiated love and warmth—Diana Brandmeyer.”

If you can believe it, out of over 350 women and like 2 men (grin), Brandilyn picked a handful of notes to read, and one of them was the note I had written about Diana, which referred to her “eyes full of love and warmth.” My heart jumped with excitement … until Brandilyn read my name instead of Diana’s. My heart froze when I realized I must have written my name down by mistake, thus winning a book for myself instead of Diana. Brandilyn called me up, and I was too embarrassed to tell her the truth, so I intended to return the book after the function was over. Imagine my shock when a few moments later, Brandilyn read another note about a woman “whose eyes radiated love and warmth,” only this one was the note I had written about Diana! Yes, you guessed it—two women who broke the yoke of loneliness off of each other in an elevator wrote almost exactly the same thing about the other. Go ahead, tell me that’s not a God thing!

That conference turned out to be a pivotal time in my career, not only because of the amazing friendship/critique partnership that Diana and I still share today, or even the very encouraging paid critique I received from author Tracey Bateman later on that day, but because of the invaluable lessons that the Holy Spirit taught me from the pages of a hotel-room Gideon Bible.

Yes, contests, writing classes and writers’ conferences are all important tools in traveling the road to publication. But the most important tools needed are spiritual—to keep your heart clean of jealousy by praying for those who incite it, to praise and thank God wherever you are in your journey instead of complaining, and to renew your mind with hopes scriptures instead of despair. Because the bottom line is, “hope never fails” … and neither does He.

So, I would love to hear your own conference CPR stories—I know you all have them (uh, especially Mary Connealy and Melanie Dickerson!), and there are a lot of first-time conference attendees that could use the encouragement. And for everyone that leaves a comment, I’ll toss your name in the hat for a chance to win a signed copy of your choice of one of the three books in The Daughters of Boston series. Good luck … and take a deep breath!


Walt M said...

Alright, the coffee's on (and good). I'm sipping my coffee, finished my yogurt, and have bagels ready to toast.

I'm not sure I have a CPR story. I've only been to one conference (last year's M&M) and I was one of eight guys. Also, as I live in the Atlanta area and I was staying at home, going to my room was not an option. Does that mean I'm doing something wrong?

Jody Hedlund said...

Thanks for sharing your conference experience, Julie. I'm sure we'll all have to battle the urge to compare ourselves, especially when there are 500 other writers! This is my first writer's conference, so I'm trying to remember that this is a wonderful opportunity to connect with friends as well as meet new people! I think the lasting relationships are the most important thing to take away from a conference!

Debby Giusti said...

Morning everyone! Thought I'd stop by early today. I brought blueberry muffins, melon, grapes and chocolate covered strawberries. Yum!

Julie, your story touched my heart. God is so good. And conferences can be lonely, especially when you don't have a roomie! That's why I treasure Darlene, my dear friend who usually attends RWA and ACFW with me. We pray each morning before we head out to our workshops, asking the Lord to use us that day. If we know of others who are struggling, we lift them up and ask God to bless them as well.

Prior to RWA, the Lord called me to cover the conference in prayer. A number of events occurred that were truly God-incidences.

Once again, he has called me to pray for this ACFW conference and for all who will attend. I know He will be working throughout the weekend, blessing new writers He has called forth.

Jesus said, "Fear not!" So be open, be ready, reach out to others and expect the unexpected. God does good work, and we're all His work in progress.

Diane said...

I am sitting here crying reading your post. Too awesome. The Holy Spirit's CPR is incomparible! :O)

Lisa Jordan said...

What a beautiful story, Julie. Thanks for sharing. I don't really have a similar CPR story, but last year, Susie Warren prayed over my friend and me before our agent & editor appointments. The peace of God washed over me and blessed those appointments. I think every attendee should use the prayer room at least once during the conference. What a delightful, intimate way to close those doors and find refreshment for a few minutes amongst the conference hustle.

Julie Lessman said...

GOOD MORNING!!!! And, WALT, you beat me to the punch and made coffee -- THANK YOU!! Forgive me, but somehow, I can't see you or any guy having a CPR story ... I mean, do you guys ever CRY about anything???? We gals definitely got the hormone overload, I think ... uh, especially moi. Sigh.

Since it's the week before conference, we all have TONS of errands to run, I'm sure, so I will be in and out today, popping in whenever I can, fueled by very strong cinnamon hazelnut coffee!!


Julie Lessman said...

JODY!!! You're going to be in Denver this year??? And it's your very FIRST conference??? Oh, girl, we just HAVE to meet!!! Rumor has it that some of the Seekers occasionally congregate in the atrium bar/restaurant area after 9:00 PM on some nights, so don't be a stranger, okay?

And, DEB, chocolate covered strawberries among other goodies??? Oh, YUM ... glad I got here before Ruthy ...

And I am SOOO excited to see you and Darlene again!! Thank you for your constant focus on prayer, Deb -- you are such an inspiration to me in that area, among many others.


Julie Lessman said...

DIANE, soooo sorry to make you cry so early in the morning, but so glad what the Holy Spirit did for me could touch you as well. YES, He IS truly beyond compare, and we are SOOO blessed to have Him in attendance at every ACFW Conference!

Thanks, LISA, and YES, ABSOLUTELY everyone should use the prayer room at least once!! Of course, if you're like me (and Deb and A LOT of gals/guys at ACFW!), you don't really need a particular room to break out into prayer ... hallways, bathrooms, lobby bars ... they all work pretty well when invoking the Almighty. The beauty of ACFW is that prayer is going on CONSTANTLY among this amazing group of Christian writers. It's unlike ANY secular conference you will ever attend.


Pepper Basham said...

Lovely story and so hopeful :-) Perspective changes a lot, doesn't it?...and a friendly face. Wow!

I won't be attending ACFW this year, but I hope to next year. This note was a reminder to me not to (biting lip as I write this) covet you all who get the great chance to go. God knows and His timing is right on. I can't wait to read about it through the Seekers posts.

I've only attended the BRMCWC in NC, but it was a fantastic experience because of the PEOPLE. I came home and told my husband (with tears in my eyes) what an amazing experience it was to talk with other people of like mind. Who loved Jesus and writing. It was like finding a family, of sorts.

The friendships displayed among the Seekers, the encouragement, has been a real blessing to me and continues to inspire me on this road to publication...or insanity (whichever happens first - actually weren't there quite a few authors who wrote while being a bit unstable) :-)

Anyway, thanks again Julie. I'm off to teach class

Jessica said...

Wow, what an amazing story! I know I read it before but it really struck home now, since I'm feeling jitters about the conference. I'm so thankful now that I "know" a whole bunch of bloggers.
My first conference I was very much along. God did bless me though, but having me stand in line to another pregnant lady who just happened to live right next door to our condo in the Keys. It immediately gave us something to talk about and she's such a sweet, friendly person that every time I saw her I felt more comfortable and not lonely.
Unfortunately she writes non-fiction so I only saw her at mealtimes and praise times. LOL So I was very lonely at the conference, even with all the kind people I met.
I hope this time I won't feel that way. :-)

And great advice about jealousy! If that booger tries to sneak up on me I've got the perfect weapons to kill him. LOL!!!

Thank you for sharing your story again. It's extremely encouraging. :-)

Jessica said...

Oh, I read Pepper's comment and completely agree!!!
I'd never met someone who wrote before and it really was like meeting people who got me, and who I got. It was amazing. :-)

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, PEPPER, how I WISH you were going this year, girl!! But there IS always next year, and I am looking forward to giving you that hug in person. And, yes, Christian conferences are just plain different than the secular ones, and understandably so. If our attitude is right (ahem, Julie), then God can use them to bless the socks off of us with like-minded people who as Jessica said, "get us."

JESSICA ... when you go to a conference alone, it's hard NOT to feel lonely at times, but I am saying a prayer RIGHT NOW for you that this will be your best conference ever! And save me a big hug, girl, 'cause I'm really looking forward to meeting you in person!


Nora St. Laurent said...

Reading your experience reminds me of a couple of things I love about your Julie. The way you are honest in the way you share your heart and your relationship with God.

I'm so glad that the Lord has brought you into my life.

Blessings to you in your writing adventures and at the up coming conference.

No need to enter me in the drawing. I've read and reviews all your books. It had been a delight!!


Finding Hope Through Fiction

Audra Harders said...

Oh my goodness, I've had a Julie Lessman experience! With Julie!

My first ACFW conference was 2004 in DENVER! The only reason I could attend was because I didn't have to pay airfare and fork over additional travel expenses since I lived here : )

I, too, attended not knowing a soul--well I knew Tina (known her for ever and ever and get the picture), but I didn't know she'd be there! I explored the conference by myself, but unlike Julie's experience of loneliness, I was approached from every angle. I happened to be finalist for the Genesis (then Noble Theme). Tons of well wishers made me feel comfortable

Especially Julie Lessman.

During the Faith, Hope and Love breakfast, I sat next to Julie. We talked and immediately, I knew I loved this woman. So loving, so giving.

And oh so PRAYFUL! She prayed for me all the rest of the day, and I had an amazing day. Every time I passed Julie throughout the day, she gave me a hug made me feel like I'd found a special friend.

I'd love to return the favor this conference. If ANY Seekerville follower feels lonely or frightened or even filled with busting out joy, come find me and I'd love to share your experience. Having attened conferences by myself, I know how difficult getting into the groove of comfort can be.

Come find me. Or any Seeker. You've got friends : )

JenniferB said...

That is very cool that you both wrote the same thing about each other and now you are going to be life long friends- God is awesome!

Julie Lessman said...

NORA!!! Oh, how I WISH you were going to be there, my friend, because it would be SO great to spend time with you again. Thank you for your kind words and especially for your precious friendship and prayer support -- I am SO glad the Lord has brought YOU into my life as well!

AUDRA!!! What a memory we share, my friend! Meeting you and praying with you that day was one of my most special moments at ACFW, and I am grateful God crossed our paths.

And I echo Audra's comment -- each of us Seekers knows what it's like to feel lonely at a conference (okay, well maybe not Ruthy, given all her kids, dogs, friends ...), but the rest of us do, so PLEASE "seek" us out, and we will love on you, encourage you and pray for you. Uh, and then we'll make you do the same for us, okay? :)

JENNIFER, thanks for stopping by and for your comment. Yes, God IS awesome ... and so many of you are not going to believe the blessings He has in store for you in Denver!


Melanie Dickerson said...

Ah-hem. Yeah, except my CPR story is more literal and physical than spiritual, Julie!

My first conference was 2005 in Nashville, and I was too anxious and stressed to sleep at night--because of course, my husband had just spent $600 to send me to a writers conference and I had to gain the interest of an editor, or at least an agent, before I could go back home!

So there I was, so nervous and full of anxiety I couldn't sleep. I took a sleeping pill on Friday night to help me sleep, since my roommates (who will remain anonymous) were taking them and they assured me they were OTC and perfectly safe. Well, not so safe for a person who can't even take Benadryl or drink caffeine without having a bad reaction! As it turned out, I fainted right there at the breakfast table the next morning, in front of almost 400 people, while the lovely and sophisticated Brandilyn Collins was trying to make announcements. Was wheeled out on a stretcher by paramedics, the whole bit. Made my new best friend spend the morning in her room crying because she was worried about me.

Of course, I was fine, but Mary Connealy, who was my mentor, nearly had a stroke thinking that ACFW would never let her mentor another person again. And they did actually discontinue that mentoring program soon after. Hmmm, I hope it had nothing to do with Mary. She's a wonderful mentor. No, really, she is.

That ended up costing me an extra $600 for the ambulance. Who knew your insurance makes you pay more when you get ambulanced--against my will, may I add, though I was in no condition to force the point--out of state. Darn.

But it was all my own fault. I just couldn't seem to turn the whole thing over to God. I'm STILL struggling with that. I've cried buckets of tears the last few weeks as the Holy Spirit works on washing away my will and my control and I try to surrender it all to God.

But it's painful. I wish I wasn't such a slow learner.

Diana said...

Julie, that day always brings such tears/joy to me. God certainly blessed me that day with your friendship. I was so terrified at the conference my husband had to peel my fingers from his after each meal, much like a kindergartner on the first day of school!

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

loved the story. our Lord is an absolutely amazing plot developer and orchestrator.

i haven't been to a conference before, so denver will be my first one! i'll keep these verses in the back of my mind and the front of my Bible.

can't wait to meet you and the other seekers next week. :)

Where Romance Meets Therapy

Holly said...

That was so cool how you both wrote the same thing about each other. I don't have any conference stories, although I certainly had a few meltdowns while writing my senior thesis project, at one point crying how I must be in the wrong major (creative writing).

I'd love to be entered in the drawing.


Tina M. Russo said...

Well one of my favorite whiner conference stories was RWA Orlanda years ago. I got off the escalator right into the atrium welcome party with my roomate. I was totally overwhelmed. She disappeared and I walked around the corner to the other elevator (in my very nice conference meet and greet dress) and got back on the elevator. Went to the room. Put on my jammies and ordered a hot fudge sundae to the room and watched cable. (No cable at home.)

I try to be less cowardly now. But it is work. A huge amount of work.

Tina M. Russo said...

Should read ORLANDO as in Orlando Bloom or Orlando Florida maybe.

Walt M said...


Do guys ever cry about anything? I won't say never. We do have our sulking time (as opposed to crying time), where men, as John Gray of "Mars-Venus" fame says, go into a cave because we're either ticked off or emotionally out-of-balance.

At my one and only conference, I did spend some time "in a cave."

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, MEL, I wince every time I hear about your awful experience (the ambulance, not being mentored by Mary). Soooo glad that is all behind you, girl, and only good things lie ahead. And, gosh, pass the bucket, sweetie, because the week before conference I ALWAYS find something to cry about, whether it's leaving the hair color on too long so even my husband doesn't recognize me (like right now as I sit here writing this as a deep, dark brunette) or worrying about those final revisions. We are women, hear us cry! And then see us buck up, move on and succeed! Can't wait to see you in Denver, girl!

DIANA!!!! My lifelong friend and ACFW savior in 2003 -- thank you SO much for stopping by and saying hello. Cannot WAIT to lay a big hug on you, girl.

JEANNIE!!!! Your first conference??? Oh, and I get you meet you too??? I am THRILLED, my friend, and a little giddy over all the wonderful online friends we are ALL going to connect with. See you next week!

HOLLY ... thesis, conference ... a meltdown is a meltdown, and we ALL have them, I guess. Thanks SO much for dropping by to leave a comment and good luck in the contest.


Julie Lessman said...

TINA ... oh, WOW, what a painful experience and one I SOOO relate to ... except I would stay there and smile while dying on the inside and THEN I'd go to my room to cry in a hot fudge sundae. Which just goes to show you're a lot smarter than me ...

WALT ... "cave time," eh? I like that -- very masculine and very relatable ... but I have one question: With or without a hot fudge sundae???


Debra E Marvin said...

This will be my first national conference. Life has been so crazy that I'm looking forward to it as a time of renewal, fellowship and fun. Thanks to my writing loops and my favorite blogs my biggest concern will be trying to remember who I know from where, when I see their names and faces! I have not put any pressure on myself.

Thanks for the reminder to go to the prayer room and ask for prayer before some of the bigger moments, like editor and agent appts.

Julie, your story was awesome. God is so good to us and I thank Him for the comforter He gave us who whispers those words of encouragement.

I can't wait to meet all my online acquaintances and turn them into friends!

May the God of peace take away all the jitters we find ourselves fighting. May those who aren't attending remember those of us who are in their prayers. Cover the conference with protection around our travels, our thoughts and our divine appointments! May all our tears be tears of joy!

Myra Johnson said...

Julie, your conference story moves me every time I read or hear it! Houston was my first ACRW conference, too, and how I wish we'd connected! I do think I remember talking with you at some point, though. Who knew back then where the writing life would take us--that we'd bond over the 2005 Golden Heart (with Tina & Janet), that all of us would unite with these great gals of Seekerville! God's grace is utterly amazing!

Okay, my "conference CPR" stories were told in detail on my blog after the 2007 ACFW conference. Rather than repeat them in a lengthy comment here, let me just provide the links for any brave soul who wants to spend the time reading them. That was DEFINITELY one of the deepest, most profound spiritual wake-up calls I can ever remember receiving.

Home from the ACFW Conference

ACFW Conference Take 2: The Power of Three

Hopefully I got these links right the first time. If not, I'll try again.

Walt M said...

White chocolate mocha or peppermint mocha...and a friend to talk with.

Gina Welborn said...

I've been sitting here racking my brain for a crazy, spiritual, or embarrassing conference story.




Maybe I haven't gone to enough conferences or gone to the right (or is that "wrong") ones. Hmm.

Oh well. I spent what little conference money I had this year going to RWA in DC. Gave Janet a hug. I think she was the only Seekerchicka I saw.

I'm heard so many wonderful things about ACFW that I'm looking forward to attending. Maybe next year.

Mary Connealy said...

ACFW has always been HUGE to me.
First conference 2004-I won the Genesis Contest with Petticoat Ranch (now the Noble Theme Contest) and came in third with Montana Rose
Second Conference 2005-I was given a contract in front of the whole crowd by Heartsong Presents
Third conference 2006 - I missed, daughter was a homecoming queen candidate. I didn't exactly like missing but there was simply no other choice.
Fourth conference 2007 - First chance to be part of an ACFW booksigning. Signing Petticoat Ranch and Golden Days. I had TWO books released by then.

Fifth Conference 2008 - My little Golden Days won the BOTY Contest for Best Short Historical. (tied with that show-off Cara Putman)
It's FINE, she's pretty good. LOL

Every year has been monumental to me.
Being social is not really my nature. I'm kind of a troubled loner. I was lucky to have a roommate the first two years or I'd probably have spent the entire conference in my room...writing. That's when I'm comfortable and happy. Including writing BLOG COMMENTS.
But this event is a pure blessing. I love ACFW

Mary Connealy said...

My gosh, Melanie, you KNOW they had a big picture of me on the Mentoring computer with a red circle around it and a slash across my face.

I'm laughing out loud, which is fairly embarrassing because people are watching me.

My upset was all for you. I LOST MY MENTEE (is that a word?).
I think being hauled out of the conference on a stretcher is the very definition of failure in the Mentor World.

Shannon Taylor Vannatter said...


Your experience sounds so much like my first ACFW conference, Nashville 2005. My husband and son were with me, so at least I had an actual shoulder to cry on, but I thought I was going nuts. Couldn't figure out why I felt so overwhelmed. I was completely out of place. Like you, everyone I talked to was published or about to be. I sat down at breakfast next to a lady named Jacquelyn Cook, well published of course. She was totally down to earth and I latched onto her, followed her around through the rest of the conference like a lost puppy. Haven't seen her since. She's probably afraid to come because of me.

The next year, Dallas, I decided I need a mentor. I arrived feeling prepared. My mentor had taught me what a one sheet, one page proposal, and pitch were. Feeling prepared was awesome. I also discovered the prayer room. I'd heard about it the year before, but was too shy to ask for directions. Every time I felt overwhelmed I scurried to the prayer room.

I attended in Dallas 2007 also, prepared and often in the prayer room. I didn't officially join ACFW until 2008. That's when I started connecting with other writers. I joined a critique group, so by the time conference rolled around, I knew three people and officially met two of them at conference. I'd also connected with some Arkansas authors through the ACFW local zone. For the first time, I had people. I'd always envied those groups of authors I saw going out to dinner. Last year, I had people to go to dinner with. Things have just gotten better since I found a mentor, the prayer room and friends. This year, I get to go to the Barbour reception as a published author. None of this would have happened if not for ACFW. I'm so glad God led me there.

Renee said...

What a great story! I had tears in my eyes!! I wish I could be there! I hope everyone has a wonderful time!

XOXO~ Renee

Tina Pinson said...

I've told this story before, but it's the best CPR story I have.

I went to the Nashville Conference and invited my sister to join me.

She was flying from Orlando, I was coming in from Grand Junction Colorado, on a direct flight through Denver. Leaving at 6.45 and arriving that afternoon in Nashville.

I got on the plane and was routed to Salt Lake, then to Minneapolis, then to Cincinnati.
I worried about my sister who had arrived in Nashville but couldn't get into the room because it was in my name.

I figured that was par for the course, that's how my life seemed to go as of late. I wondered why I'd ever decided to go to Nashville. I should have stayed home, saved my money. I was never going to get anywhere in writing. Heaven's I hadn't even placed in the Genesis, because I wasn't good enough and never would be.

Finally the next morning, 24 hours later, after being crushed between two tall men who took up all the space, I arrived in Nashville, exhausted and in near tears.

I expected to find my sister up in the room because we finally managed to get her the key.

When she came walking out of the dining room with Ruth, seems the seekers had taken her under their wing, and took care of her till I arrived then allowed us to tag along with them some.

That was a blessed shot of love and compassion, I won't likely forget anytime soon.

I made it through the conference, didn't manage to accomplish much that year, and reading your post this morning Julie, I can honestly put myself right where you were. Only I usually drug my husband to the conference so I could wail on his shoulder.

But I've spent alot of time wondering just what's so wrong with my writing and wishing people would just see, maybe to the minutest detail that I do have some what of a talent. Unfortunately, I too have guilty of the why not me, when I can write just as efficiently, if not better than a few of the writers out there.

You really shouldn't shame a person so Miss Lessman, LOL

But I thank you just the same. Perhaps I need to step back and take some stock in all that the Lord is doing for me and not whine so much how he blesses others.

I decided not to attend the conference this year, because I found myself pushing so hard to accomplish something I think I lost sight of my mind.

A part of me wants to be there badly because it is so close, but I know it's not my year to go. I will miss the opportunity to see you all.

Thanks for the CPR, Julie.

And everyone else, thanks for the encouragement and love. Have a wonderful time at the Conference.

Melanie Dickerson said...

No, I guess you WEREN'T worried, Mary, about them not letting you mentor again, because you certainly wouldn't have any desire to do so after having me for a mentee! LOL!

It was a very embarrassing experience, but it could have been much worse. At least nobody much knew who I was, and the people in charge kept it very quiet who it was that fainted. Bless them for that!

But I can relate to Julie's spiritual experience, too. Thanks, Julie, for being so open and transparent with your struggles. I think we can all relate. And I love how God woke you up with hope scriptures. I've had your hope scriptures printed out and several of them taped to my computer monitor for probably a year or two now.

Sheila Deeth said...

I only ever went to one conference, and it was in my home town - only way I could do it. And I guess, reading this, that I've alternated between hope and jealousy ever since, so thanks for those wonderful scriptures and for giving me some much-needed CPR. Wonderful story.

Mary Connealy said...

They did keep it quiet, Melanie. Brandilynn didn't say a name but she did say a beautiful prayer for you.

Much later, I think after breakfast, someone said, "That was Melanie Dickerson."


I said. I know Melanie! I'M HER MENTOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Whoever I said that too, officially FIRED ME and slapped me across the face with a pair of white gloves.

rebornbutterfly said...

Awesome, i'm totally entering for your book! I only have one more in need :)

Melanie Dickerson said...

You are SO funny, Mary. I love you to pieces, and I'm so thankful God gave you to me as my mentor. I would have been so much more clueless and overwhelmed than I was if it hadn't been for all your advice and help.

And now you can't get rid of me. The least I can do is provide you with entertaining stories about how you almost LOST YOUR MENTEE!

A. A. Stone said...

Julie--Awesome! Thanks for reminding all of us that if there's one thing not to be afraid of it's tears. Love the Scripture quotes! You remind me of me. Gee, wonder why? ;)

I'll admit right now that I'm going to be embarrassed to death every time I meet an author or editor but can't for the life of me think of the book they wrote/published. Oh well! Healthy doses of humility add jewels to our treasury, right?

As for gasping for breath--been there, done that. Thought I was dying. Just picture a bird dunked underwater with no hope of getting in the air again. That was me in China. But when the Holy Spirit began CPR, I flew to a high I hadn't experienced yet. I'll take a kiss from Him any day! ;)

Debby Giusti said...

Melanie! Honey, I didn't know you were the gal who collapsed at ACFW. I was praying for you!

Gina, I never saw you in DC. Pooh! My loss!

Anyone who needs a "group" to dine with on Friday, remember Tina and Audra will be in the hotel lobby at 6PM for a light rail trip into Denver! Should be fun!

Ashli said...


You care so much for other people and you are so open about things that you have learned. . .it's one of the many things I admire about you! Keep it up and have a WONDERFUL trip to Denver!!! (I'll be joining you next year!!! yay!!!)

Hugs, Ashli

~Ley said...

I haven't gone to my first conference yet; I'm a college student just now. But I have a great fear that my first one will be pretty much as you've described, except worse because I'm so shy! I'm glad to know you had a happy ending at any rate! It gives me hope. :)


Anita Mae Draper said...

Gee whiz, Julie, you had me bawlin' just reading about you bawlin'.

And now we know how you write Charity so well.

2008 was my first conf. I didn't know anyone. But I 'knew' their faces from Seekerville and the Steeple Hill boards. Here are my sharpest memories:

- having Kristine Pratt introduce herself as I sat all alone in the lobby Wed night

- meeting the authors at the Steeple Hill breakfast Thurs morning.

- crying with Squirrel

- hanging with Margaret, Danica, Squirrel and Ginny

- being hugged by strangers because they said it looked like I needed a hug

- being welcomed by you, Julie, and Janet and the other Seekers in the lounge and at meals

- have I mentioned bawlin' every time I saw Squirrel?

- having Margaret take me under her wing throughout the conf

- and finally, the awesome power of the Holy Spirit moving through the worship sessions.

This year... I'm bringing more tissues.

Julie Lessman said...

DEBRA ... I can't wait to meet all my online friends either, especially those wonderful people like you that we've all gotten to know through Seekerville. And smart girl -- you have the optimum attitude in looking forward to it as a time of renewal, fellowship and fun. I pray that it is that and more for ALL of us!

Oh, MYRA, your story ALWAYS gives me goose bumps, girl!!! A "divine connection," indeed ... which brought publication to you after sooooo many years of trusting God. His time parameters are not ours, that's for sure, but His faithfulness FAR EXCEEDS our hopes if we just don't quit. Can't wait to hug on you, my dear friend!!

WALT ... White chocolate mocha??? Uh ... I'll be your friend ... as long as we don't have to chat in a cave -- my hair's in enough trouble right now without the extra humidity.:)


Julie Lessman said...

GINA ... You've been racking your brain for a "crazy, spiritual, or embarrassing conference story"??? You???? I would think you'd have reams of them, kiddo ... at least "crazy" ones. :) You definitely need to come to ACFW next year so we can give you some embarrassing memories ... :)

So, MARY, being social is not really your nature, eh? You could of fooled me, sweetie, and EVERYBODY who knows and loves you! But I do like the fact that you are a "troubled loner." No wonder we get along so well ... :) And, yes, "mentee" is a word, which after the story Melanie told us about you being her mentor, is dangerously close to the word "mental," as in driven crazy ... :)

SHANNON ... I am SO thrilled that your conference experiences have gotten progressively better. They tend to do that, don't they? Last year was the absolute MOST FUN I ever had at an ACFW Conference, and I've been to about five, so it's encouraging for others to hear your story as well -- thank you!


Julie Lessman said...

SHANNON ... Ooops, I forgot to congratulate you on your Barbour release -- YEAH, GIRL!!!!

Oh, RENEE, honey ... how I wish you could be there too!! You are one of the people I want to meet the most, Steeler Girl, and I promise you, it WILL happen one of these days!

TINA ... Gosh, I wish you were coming this year, too, because I KNOW we could all lift your spirits and encourage you. So you need to plan (and save) for it next year, okay? And I would strongly encourage you to read Myra's comment where she lists the two links of her amazing CPR experience -- particularly the 2nd link (part 2) because Myra is NOW published after a really long and sometimes discouraging wait and cranking out books almost as fast as Mary Connealy!! :) Hang in there, sweetie ... blessings are just around the corner ...


Julie Lessman said...

MELANIE ... Gosh, I HAVE to be "open and transparent," girl -- I blow it so much that I'd rather point it out before somebody else does. I am glad those hope scriptures have come in handy and OH, I forgot to tell you -- I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your hair and your new picture!!

SHEILA ... Good girl -- at least you alternate between hope and jealousy. I have a tendancy to alternate between jealousy and self-pity. I like your combination much better ... :)

MARY SAID: Whoever I said that too, officially FIRED ME and slapped me across the face with a pair of white gloves." I'm bringing my white gloves, Mare, just in case you resort to the "troubled loner" routine ... :)


Julie Lessman said...

REBORNBUTTERFLY ... How the heck have you been, girl?? And sooo glad to see you're going after another book -- good luck, sweetie!

AYRIAN, yeah, that Holy Spirit CPR is the best, isn't it??? And, oh girl, I sooo relate about the embarrassment every time you meet an author and can't remember their name or their book. I actually have a little variation on that in that I feel AWFUL when I haven't read their book, which is really silly, I know. Guess I need a little H.S. CPR in that area too.

DEB ... Thanks SO much for mentioning the Friday night outing with Tina and Audra. Keith and I and lots of other Seekers and friends will be doing that outing as well. Just meet in the lobby at 6:00 PM like Deb said, and Tina and Audra are going to do a light-rail tour of Denver that will include dinner at various places of your choice. Be there or be square!!


Julie Lessman said...

ASHLI!!!! Oh, man, how I WISH you were going this year, but I am thrilled you are planning to go next year, at least. Thank you for your sweet comment, my friend. Right back at ya.

ASHLEY ... I'll tell you what, sweetie, "shy" doesn't matter when you are with the Seekers. And if and when you go to ACFW, all you have to do is let us know, and we will befriend you, okay?

ANITA MAE ... Sorry to have you "bawlin" over my "bawlin," but I guess "bawlin" over my conference problems is better than crying over your own, eh? And, girl, I gotta tell you that one of the highlights for me last year was getting to know YOU at breakfast! Can't wait to give you a great big hug in Denver!


Lily said...

I do look forward to attending the conference someday. Maybe, with a little luck, it will be next year.

Success does breed jealousy. Thank you for the reminder to be ever watchful for it. I can see where it would be easy to slip into the envy mode, surrounded by people who all have achieved the thing you want most.

Hopefully this post will come to mind when the day comes I do attend.

Tina Pinson said...

Thanks Julie, your words are really uplifting.

I wish I was coming this year.

Since it was in Denver I figured I should go. All I had to do was drive east and head across them thar hills and I'd be there.

I was all paid up, had my room, but things arose in the family, and at work and, and, and, I felt like my brain was going to explode.

Or my nerves were gonna fry.

I told my hubby I didn't know if I could handle trying to get ready for a conference too, but it was bugging me that I couldn't. So we discussed it and prayed about it and both decided it was probably best to back out and shoot for another year.

And I so wanted to meet everyone and go on that outing. But I'm not too forlorn about it, when I cancelled it felt like a ton lifted off me.

Connie Marquise said...

Hi, Julie: Well, throw my name in the hat for the contest, please. I'm a first-time attendee this year and am very nervous at this point. I've heard God will lead me. I know I must let go and let God. It's hard, oh so hard! Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one who's tears flow freely!

nvgrams [at] yahoo [dot] [com]

Julie Lessman said...

LILY ... You said "success does breed jealousy," and amen to that -- no matter WHERE you are in your so-called "success"! Which is why praying for those we envy is so imperative in our walk, to help keep our heart pure and release God's blessings. Not easy to do, but easier when we make it a habit ...

TINA ... trying to get ready for a conference is almost as much stress as going to one, in my opinion, so you and your hubby were very wise to pray about it. God's timing is EVERYTHING!! Here's to next year, eh?

CONNIE ... YES, God WILL lead you! And hopefully that means you'll consider the Friday outing with the Seekers. Of course, by Friday, you more than likely will have a friend or two to bring along ... I'm saying one for you RIGHT NOW, Connie, that God will fill you with peace throughout this week and next and heap blessings on you. You are going to have a blast!!


Anita Mae Draper said...

Julie, you got me thinking about last year's conf and I forgot to put my name in for your draw. Yes, you know I have read and reviewed all 3 of your books, but I usually give away extras either to the library or on my own blog(s).

So for the record, here's mine:

anitamaedraper [@] hotmail [dot] com

Thank you.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Julie, this is a wonderful, charming, delightfully poignant and marvelous retelling of that story. Your experience is reflective of so many newbies. It's so hard to put your heart, head and hunger for that contract out there like that. To be the first-timer.

God love you, you stuck to it big time, labored, loved and led by example. Who could ask for more?

Great job, woman.


Cheryl Wyatt said...

What a fantastic post this was and what a fantastic encourager you are. So many people wouldn't expect that conference tears are common and often normal had you not been so open and transparent here.

Every year I hear of people who stay sequestered with their tears and fears and lonliness and battle their regret in spending the money and time away from their families to come to conference.

But your post will give them hope that God has them there for a reason if they will just step out and trust.

I'm praying for a super sensitive spirit this year for God to highlight people who may look fine and composed on the outside but are pulsing with fear and loneliness on the inside.

Hugs my special God-honoring friend,


Julie Lessman said...

ANITA ... honey, I'll gladly put your name in the hat for a book -- after the incredible reviews you gave me, heck, I should send you a book a month, like the fruit-of-the-month club ... Thanks, sweetie!

Thanks, RUTHY, and both you and I will be sporting new dos (along with Melanie Dickerson) at this year's conference, but I think I like yours better ...

Hey, CHERYL, thank you, my friend, and you are SO right ... we need to pray for a "super sensitive spirit" to track down all those attendees who are hurting inside and encourage them. God, PLEASE direct our paths and PLEASE let every attendee feel Your love and encouragement.


Krista Phillips said...

Oh, what a GREAT post! THANKS Julie! Last year was my first conference, and it DID have it's ups and downs. Not because I was jealous (I was too new to be jealous!) but... it was more emotional than I thought it would be. Coupled with losing a friend's camera, getting a few frantic calls from my work and having to skip sessions to take care of them, not to mention frantic calls from my husband flipping out over gas shortages...

But even after all that, it's pitching that totally threw me for a loop. *gag* I thought I'd be totally cool with it this year, having one under my belt but SO NOT THE CASE! Darn-it, why can't they just like our ideas with out us having to tell about them? *grin*

Lori (sugarandgrits) said...

JULIE!!!! I thought I would never find you online again!!!! LOL I know, I've been really busy!

Y'all are making me want to come to Denver, just so I can meet everyone. It sounds like a LOT of fun ~ especially for me ~ since I'm definitely NOT a writer/author! *chuckling* I just love reading everything y'all write. :D

Please don't enter me in the contest ~ I have all 3 of Julie's books. THEY ARE ALL EXCELLENT!!!! I'm trying to wait PATIENTLY for Julie's next trilogy to be released, but it's REALLY hard!!!!

Good Luck to everyone ~ I hope y'all have a wonderful time!! :)

~ Lori

Cathy Shouse said...

What great stories of conference and how they can really make us feel.

I haven't made it to ACFW conference yet, but it's coming to my state next year, so I could be the one in need next year.

My first big conference was DC and when I looked at that gigantic room jammed with authors, my heart sunk to my knees. With all these writers, how could there be room for any more, my doubts told me.

I met Seekers Debbie G. and Missy and reconnected with Janet and that made me feel so much more at home. Plus, Shirley Jump took me under her wing.

Actually, I think a lot of what I learned at Seekerville is what got me to a conference at all. LOL

I'd love to win a book.

cathy underscore shouse at yahoo

Julie Lessman said...

KRISTA ... ooooo, what a rocky start to a conference last year!! Hope this year's goes a LOT smoother. And, honey, let's not even get started on "pitching"!!! DOUBLE YUCK!!!! But if you think of the editors/agents as just people like you, it does help. Here's to a truly successful pitch this year, Krista ... and I'm saying a prayer RIGHT NOW that you will have supernatural favor the minute you walk into your appt. God bless!

LORI!!!!!! Oh, honey, how I would LOVE to see your sweet face in Denver!!! Thank you for your encouraging comments and being SUCH an amazing support to me. I pray God blesses you as much as you always bless me.

CATHY ... Yeah, that RWA conference is a real knee-shaker, isn't it, with ALL THOSE PEOPLE???!!! But I am so glad you hooked up with some Seekers and that all worked out for you. Hope to see you at ACFW next year!


Patty Wysong said...

This had me in tears, Julie. With this morning's interruptions, it took me three attempts to get this read, but I didn't want to miss it--so that's three times the tears. sheesh. Thanks. Maybe. LoL

I'm planning on going to the conference next year--couldn't swing it this year--and to be honest, I'm relieved. The thought of attending the conference turns the butterflies in my stomach green with seasickness. Scary!

This is great CPR--just what the Doctor ordered. :) Thanks!

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, I came by yesterday and read but had not time to read comments and make my own.

Wonderful story! Thanks so much for sharing how God can work in our lives.

Kathleen L. said...

That was beautiful, Julie. Thank you for sharing that God experience. What an amazing affirmation--isn't He remarkable?
; )

Carrie Turansky said...

Oh, I just loved this post! Julie, you always make me smile!

I've been greeted and hugged and encouraged by so many friends in ACFW. I can't wait to see everyone next week....and I will be on the lookout for those first timers so I can give them a smile and an encouraging word. Time to pay it back and forward. : )

Julie Lessman said...

PATTY!!! So good to see you again, girl, and so sorry to make you cry ... NOT!:) I am really looking forward to meeting you in person next year, my friend.

Thanks, MISSY, and I can't imagine why you wouldn't have time to read the week before conference ... DUH! What a crazy time this is, eh? But it will ALL be worth it next week when we all get to see each other again.

KATHLEEN ... YES, God is TRULY remarkable!! Thank you for stopping by and you know, Kathleen, I just have to tell you how familiar you look to me. Have we ever met before???

CARRIE!!! Thanks, sweetie ... you always make me smile too -- really appreciate it when you stop by! And I love your new picture ... it is new, isn't it?


Kathleen L. said...

Julie, do you live in New York? I don't travel much, but I do frequent these great blogs. ; )

Pamela J said...

Hi Julie and all you other authors out there!!
Last year when I had the blessing to go to the ACFW conference and was allowed to roam the halls to meet established, new, and upcoming authors I felt like swooning (not only from fright at being shy) everytime I met yet another author and got to YIKES actually visit with them. I was in awe so much of that whole day at just seeing the people I thought so much of just by their accomplishments in writing I felt as though I might be floating for joy.
I hadn't thought about the feeling of AWE one can feel, how much MORE GRAND the time is with the Lord every time I know the time is at hand to embark on a special meeting with Him in His word.
After all, His IS a WRITER too and something GRAND we can all look forward to each day to get real, live, and self applying stories (which we can get those applications from you authors' books too) to live and grow in Him by. Now, how many of us need to CPR when just entering His presence? For sure, I do.
Julie, I don't need to win one of your books, I have them already and looking forward to more by you. Just wanted to drop in and say hi to everyone. GREAT story you shared on CPR. Thanks.
Pam Williams

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Wow, Julie, this really helped me with my anticipation over conference. I hate being the green-eyed monster, and without this wonderful reminder, he may have just caught me a week from now. But if he does try to catch me, now I'll be reminded of your experience and shew him away fast.

I've been to conferences before, but never ACFW and certainly not one this big. I'm so looking forward to meeting many of you there! If you see a shy lady hiding in the corner, that just might be me. I promise, I won't bite if you come say hi!

Julie Lessman said...

KATHLEEN ... New York? Nope, I'm just a Midwest girl, born and raised, but I absolutely LOVE New York!! Lucky you (and Ruthy!!).

PAM!!!!!!! Gosh, girl, it's been an age since I've seen your sweet name -- TOO LONG!!! Any chance you are going to be in Denver next week? If so, you BEST come to the Lift Restaurant/Bar after 9:00 PM for hugs or you are in DEEP trouble!! :)

EILEEN ... I am SO glad it helped you because that green-eyed monster is a killer, and neither of us wants to deal with that next week for sure! I will be on the lookout for you, girl, but among 500 plus people, we may not run into each other. So if we don't, please try to stop by the Lift Restaurant/Bar after 9:00 PM as some of the Seekers will be convening there most nights, and I would LOVE to meet you, okay?

Big hugs,