I had the honor to be a 2018 Christy Award finalist for my February Love Inspired book "Her Secret Daughter". The book is a beautiful story of a mother's sacrificial love... and how the darkest times of our lives can be turned to brightness with faith, hope and love... and sacrifice.
The Evangelical Christian Publisher's Association has coupled an afternoon-long writing conference called "The Art of Writing" with their detailed handling of The Christy Award and The Christy Award Gala. Here is a link to their initial press announcement in 2017.
There are multiple writer's conferences throughout the year. Regional conferences, national conferences, romance conferences and Christian conferences. The goal of a writers' conference is to teach, inspire, share, network.... it's multi-faceted. And no conference can be all things to all people. Authors need to weigh return on investment when they lay out the costs of attending a conference. That's one of the first pluses about this abbreviated conference. The ECPA offered the afternoon sessions and the gala for $69.00/each. If you signed up for both, the bundled price was $99.00 Now if you're flying in and staying at a hotel or air B&B, you're adding costs. Those have to be looked at. But if you can drive in and share a hotel room, you can literally be part of this conference for a few hundred dollars. Including food and Starbucks coffee.
The sessions and Gala are all at Lipscomb University in Nashville. Parking is free. You're shuttled into the heart of the university. Your buildings are to your right, left and in front of you. Nothing about this was difficult. (this is not true of a lot of conferences) Added to that, Nashville has become a hub of publishing, second only to New York City now. For additional networking possibilities, the writers conference is scheduled to follow ECPA's "Publishing University" (PubU) where publishers are gathered for a day-and-a-half affair to help expand their markets and understanding of publishing trends.
Food and Starbucks are adjacent to your areas.
Food is plentiful and lots of inexpensive choices in Nashville areas.
Hotels are expensive there, but if you're sharing a room, that one night at the hotel just became $100 instead of $200.... Or if you share with three or four folks, then you've reduced that cost again!
Here's the rundown on The Art of Writing Conference sessions: (This is the part you should pay attention too, although the gala was AMAZING and fun.... but work first. Fun after!)
1. First session was amazingly informative hour-long talk by Donald Miller, CEO of "Storybrand". I learned more in this one hour of information than I have in dozens of marketing classes over the years. You know me. (If you don't know me, then you should know me because I'm not easily impressed.) I'm a Yankee and we Yankees tend toward skepticism. When Don explained his thoughts on simplification, it made perfect sense. And his timing was spot on. We also received a hardcover copy of his bestselling book "Building Your Story Brand", courtesy of Harper Collins.
3. Sarah Arthur, author of over a dozen books on the intersection of faith and fiction in story. Sarah came to us two weeks out of chemo after a summertime diagnosis of breast cancer. To say she was inspiring is like a crazy understatement.
4. Author panel on writing, publishing, indie publishing, choices, opportunities, faith. This panel had a slightly uncomfortable NYT bestselling author Charles Martin (who did an amazing speech that evening... I realized he's not real comfortable with on-the-spot questions but seemed quite comfortable offering his prepared remarks and that's okay!), Joanne Bischoff, Carla Laureano, Jerry Jenkins and moderator Beth Adams (who is an executive editor with Howard Books but also a co-author with me on the Mysteries of Martha's Vineyard series out of Guideposts).
Fun thirty-minute break in the middle allowed us to browse cool stuff in the lobby, including our own Carrie, Beth's and Annie's "Just Read" tour tables... light refreshments included fruity water, bottled water, soda, coffee and bags of Cracker Jacks. It would be wrong of me to pretend I don't love Cracker Jacks, which meant I was amazingly happy. :)
Following the four-session conference, there was a light reception in one hall while finalists had a private reception in another hall where they could mingle and meet past Christy winners, presenters, industry professionals, publishers, etc. Both receptions were great hug-giving photo-op opportunities... and made folks smile. An office was turned into a cloak room for the day, so that day clothes could be swapped for evening clothes in a nearby ladies room... And how fun was that, all of us getting ready together? Laughing? Helping? The best!
Then this was all followed by the most elegant gala I've attended in my writing career, including THREE forks...
You know it's fancy when three forks are involved! :) A most delicious dinner... not rushed... the banquet staff had the tables set so that each course moved quickly and calmly.... and then a two hour gracious and pretty flawless presentation of awards with funny or warm or philosophical vignettes separating the award presentations.
In ten hours, from noon registration pick up to the gala's close shortly before ten o'clock, the day was absolutely marvelous... for $99.
I was so glad to see packed rooms. Meet publishers. Meet editors. The kindness of everyone was notable.
What I would do differently: Just one thing and it's on a personal note:
I was in the Opry Mills Mall and saw a beautiful holiday skirt and top on a mannequin and bought it... because I'm wearing that to next year's gala! That means I'm not hinging my trip on a Christy final... I'm already planning to be there and enjoy Nashville and ECPA hospitality again!
I loved my evening dress, but it was a little understated for the formality and this way I got one on sale (HAPPY!) and timeless. Because who knows how many of these fun events we might get to attend in our lives?
The timing of this one works well for me because farm season is over... life is calming down... and I love getting together with other industry professionals and aspiring authors. My time here in Seekerville has made that such an important part of my joy of writing... and it's so much fun to meet the people beyond the tiny Google pics! :)
To sum up, this was a great experience. I didn't come home with the beautiful award, that's true. This time! :)
But I came home with good business savvy, some great ideas and new friendships... and also an incredibly good impression of Stan Jantz and the ECPA. Stan is the CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and just a downright nice man. And Cindy Carter, the Gala organizer, is amazing.
Beth Jamison of Jamison Editing went with me. We took a day and tooled around Belle Meade (after we got in from the airport), The Hermitage (Andrew Jackson's home), The Gaylord Opryland Hotel (stunningly beautiful!). There is a ton to see and do in Nashville... we drove through Music Row and saw Vanderbilt University (gorgeous!) but limited ourselves to three stops... because hopefully we'll be there again next year.
And our car rental was crazy fun for us farm women... because the car we were renting came back damaged so Avis gave us a Nissan Titan V-8 crew cab 4 x 4 to tool around Nashville... and we love driving pick-up trucks, so this flashy monster was great fun!
Feel free to ask questions... and there are cheaper hotels in the Nashville area. A lot of them... so if you don't mind driving, you can book rooms a little farther from Lipscomb University and save some money that way, too.
I've got two copies of my Christy finaling book "Her Secret Daughter" to give away today...
and two copies of my duo with Linda Goodnight "A Cowboy Christmas"...
Leave a comment below and I'll tuck your name in the candy dish... usually I'm using the cat dish for drawings, but with the holidays approaching, I think a candy dish is more festive. :) #holidayfun
ruthloganherne.com, friend her on facebook as Ruth Logan Herne and/or follow her on Twitter! She loves to chat with readers... and writers... and pretty much anyone who'll listen!