Friday, April 13, 2007

JC: Herein Lies Treasure

Ever attend a writers’ conference with an agenda?

Most people do. If you’re attending writers conferences for strictly social reasons, you need counseling. Writers are people who get excited debating whether premier or premiere is the correct spelling of the word. We’re a group of people who are at our best when we’re alone and playing with imaginary friends.

(If you’re looking for fun, try a children’s pastor’s conference. I speak from experience. Now there’s a group of people who know how to have a good time!)

As a thirty year veteran of writers conferences, I’ve learned a few things about them. One thing I’ve noticed is that my conference agenda keeps changing.

At first, I attended conferences for the workshops. At the time, that’s what I needed.
Information. Practical stuff like—don’t use pink paper for proposals and don’t dot your i’s with little hearts. And ways to approach a publisher repeatedly so that she doesn’t mistake you for a stalker. (Sorry Susan.) That sort of thing. It was enlightening, but I came away unpublished.

After a while the speakers started repeating themselves. I wasn’t learning anything new. Obviously, I needed a new agenda. So I began targeting conferences not based on what was being taught, but based on who would be there. Namely, which publishers.

Armed with proposals and a thirty-second pitch that would take Hallmark’s breath away, I forced myself to sign up for those fifteen-minute private conferences. I looked the beast in the eye (sorry Susan) and acted like I knew what I was talking about.

It worked. I got published, which meant I had to come up with a new agenda if I was going to continue attending writers conferences.

Several months ago I attended a conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hosted by Zondervan Publishers. It was by invitation only. Now, don’t get hung up on that part. It’s no more remarkable than a plant going from seed to bud to bloom. It’s the natural course of a writer. You’ll see.

I didn’t attend for the workshops. I didn’t go armed to pitch a proposal. My new agenda was to hunt treasure.

In any treasure hunt, it’s essential to know what you’re looking for so that you know when you’ve found it. It’s also essential to have a map. What kind of treasure hunt would it be without a map?

I found the map in II Corinthians 4:6-7: For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts…. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

The treasure? The light of God. The location? Walking jars of clay. Armed for adventure, I boarded the plane for Grand Rapids.

The hunt began in earnest with a handshake or a hug from each receptacle in which the treasure was reportedly buried. With each greeting, I reminded myself, “Herein lies treasure. All you have to do is look for it.”

To say I struck gold is an understatement.

Buried inside Angie Hunt, I found a heart sensitive enough to be moved by a prayer for an ailing pet; in Jim Bell, I found the unbridled enthusiasm of a little boy eager to share his toys with friends; in Randy Ingermanson, intellect with wit; in Robin Lee Hatcher, a wounded healer; in Terri Blackstock, a red-headed spiritual warrior with a Southern accent.

In Karen Ball, I found the rarest of breeds—expert editor and compassionate friend; in Davis Bunn, dressed up Christianity with a touch of class; in Tom Morrisey, the proverbial friend who is always there when you need him; in Don Brown, understated ability; in Clint Kelly, gentle persistence in the face of great obstacles; in Al Gansky, a friend who has seen you at your worst and doesn’t turn away; in Brandilyn Collins, a sparkling professional, both literally and figuratively; in Bill Myers, the heart of an artist with the soul of James Dean; and in Gilbert Morris, a smiling patriarch.

There were more. Sue Bower’s passion for fiction. Joyce Ondersma’s bottomless supply of graciousness…

I have to admit, of the three writers conference agendas I like this new one the most. While formerly I came home with knowledge or dreams of contracts, this time I came home with treasure.

As is often the case with riches, the more you have, the more you want. We’re a greedy lot. And so I may not wait until the next writers conference to go treasure hunting again.

I can’t begin to describe the thrill of looking someone in the eyes and thinking, “Herein lies treasure.” And this from a man who describes things for a living.

Jack Cavanaugh's latest releases are The Puritans, The Patriots, and The Colonists. Look him up at your favorite online bookstore.


At 10:06 AM, Blogger Vasthi said...

I'm going to join you in treasure hunting.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger jsb said...

I well remember my first writers conference. I was actually teaching something and went to meet other Christian writers on the faculty. It was here I met and was greatly encouraged by...Jack Cavanaugh. He gave me advice that had a real impact on my career. He's done that for a lot of folks. Thanks, dude.

I did, however, return the favor. For his American Family Portrait, which follows the Morgan family from The Puritans all the way to The Peacemakers, I handed him one great idea, free! A final family reunion with all the surviving Morgan family members--The Pacemakers.

Jack, have you written it yet?

At 2:23 PM, Blogger Jack Cavanaugh said...

LOL Actually, Jim....yes, I have. A 9th book in the Morgan series is written and will be released Spring, 2008. It's a contemporary suspense novel that uses the entire eight book series as back story. Sad to say, however, that the publishers rejected your proposed title, choosing The Guardians instead.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger Karen said...

Jack, what a wonderful post. The memories stirred as I read and blessed my heart yet again. I still remember the first time I met the Sandy Cove writers' conference. We sat on the couch during the evening session and talked and talked, and I knew I'd found a kindred spirit. Thanks so much for your constant encouragement. It's clear God has called you to write, friend. 'Cuz every time you do so, you touch hearts.

Hugs to you.

Karen B.


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