The Stress and Joy of Attending a Writers' Conference

by Sally Matheny

We've all experienced times, when one thing after another seems to pelt us with discouragement. 

Sometimes, when it rains, it pours.

Two days before I attended the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference I found myself overwhelmed. If it weren’t for the non-refundable deposit, I would have surely backed out. 

It all started with an umbrella.

Two days before the conference, my umbrella flipped its lid during a rainstorm and never recovered. I kept forgetting to pick up a new one. Then I heard they were calling for rain during the week of the conference.

The night before my departure, I begged my husband to pick one up on his way home from work. 

My directions were explicit. It needed to be a one-push-button, compact umbrella. He even called me from the parking lot asking what a push-button umbrella looked like. He assured me he knew what I meant. 

Somewhere between his car, and the aisle with his favorite little blueberry muffins, he forgot all about the umbrella.

When the muffins arrived home, without an umbrella, I dashed to the little store down the street. I grabbed one of the one-push-button umbrellas near the checkout and dashed back home to finish packing.
I should have tested the umbrella at the store. That umbrella weighed less than the six dollars I paid for it. One slight breeze would result in another soggy disaster. I threw it in the back of the van and prayed for sunshine.

There were several misadventures during the week:

·         My room had a broken air conditioner (God quickly sent a repairman).

·         The microwave beeped erratically at all times of the night (I pulled the plug).

·         I became disoriented on campus on numerous occasions (God sent me a new friend to guide me each time).

·         I was locked inside my room, on the third floor, due to a faulty lock (I got out. How I got out is a miraculous story I’ll save for later!)

These things kept me laughing and made for good conversation at meal times.  However, not everything was humorous.

 Early in the week, I was overwhelmed with some writing work I had brought with me. Deadlines looming, I was second guessing every word I wrote.

Then self-doubt began to pour through my clouded thinking.

I tried to pray often when writing but occasionally I allowed Satan to drop a negative thought in my head.
"Who are you to do this?”


Day Three at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

Wow! Three days of packing in writing workshops and making wonderful new friends at the BRMCWC is wonderfully exhausting!

This bumbling new conferee made a little progress today. I only got lost two times today. Actually, my directional limitations are a blessing. People tend to befriend lost puppies.

Making new friends is the highlight of my conference experience. Most of them I only recall their first names but I have plenty of business cards to help me reconnect later.


Todd Starnes, Yvonne Lehman
Today, I did make it to the correct workshop led by Todd Starnes of FOX News. Between what I learned in his class and the class led by agents, Blythe Daniels and Jessica Kirkland, I plan to implement a few changes to my blog and facebook accounts soon. Apparently, I need all you dear friends to interact with me on my Sally Matheny Writer page, so more details about that later.


There is so much to learn about the business of writing. Now, when I read a book to my son, I say, “Let’s see who poured their life into this book.” 
Edie Melson & Sally Matheny

This week, I’ve met many people who are pouring their lives into learning the craft. Some are early in their journey. Others have been traveling the writing road for some time. Tonight at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference writers set aside the laptops and notepads to acknowledge the rigorous, long march of a few writers. We celebrated their successes with an awards banquet. 

Want to see more photos? Zip over to my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Sally-Matheny-Encourager-Writer-Speaker/330720517002724?fref=ts


Day Two at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

Making Great Friends at BRMCWC
Day two at the conference sent me in all directions. Again, I became lost. I wonder if someone could invent a room locater? I could type in my current location, Holly E, and my desired location, Mountain Laurel #2. My lovely device would then systematically take me where I’d like to go. Then, that sweet, older man who works here wouldn’t feel so bad for me. After asking him for directions several times today, he insisted he take me to the building in his golf cart. I was totally embarrassed but I enjoyed chatting with him about his family. The staff here is exceptional.

Todd Starnes (FOX News) at BRMCWC
Embarrassment was the highlight of my day! The class schedule is printed in size 2 font and I forgot my glasses in my room. I thought I would try Todd Starnes (of FOX News) class on blogging. After the nice man in the red shirt drove me to the front door, I bumbled in a few minutes late. I hastily found the room number and quietly slid in the door. Apparently, not quiet enough as all seven of the punctual ones turned to see who came in late. I smiled weakly and mouthed the word, "sorry."

Celebrating with a new friend who just got a nod of
interest from agent, Blythe Daniel!
It didn’t take me two minutes to figure I had made a mistake. I had looked at the wrong day on the schedule. Mr. Starnes was talking about how to prepare for TV and radio interviews once your book is published. Have you all read my book? Yeah, well, there's a reason for that. (I write for magazines)

Then, horror of horrors, Todd Starnes begins going around the room asking people their areas of expertise. The answers began, “lawyer…lawyer…doctor…" What have I done? How do I get out of here?

Mr. Starnes must have a sixth sense. Or perhaps he noticed my jaw on the floor. He asked every person except me.
Nonetheless, I had an answer ready to verbalize as professionally as possible.
“My area of expertise is an extensive study of cerebral disorientation.”
An eternity of a minute later, a photographer came in to take a few photos. Before the door could shut behind her, I made my quick getaway.

Author and BRMCWC co-director, Edie Melson
Oh, and if some photo pops up somewhere about published authors at BRMCWC, just overlook that lady with the red sweater and matching face in the back row.
(There have been many great things happening during my time here as well. I promise to share those soon.)



Day One at Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference

Alton Gansky drawing names for prizes. 
I'm doing a little something different this week. This is my first time attending the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers' Conference in Asheville, North Carolina. So, this week, I'm posting about my perception of the conference as a new attendee.

The conference is held at the Ridgecrest Center which is on hilly terrain. I didn't arrive early enough yesterday to get one of the prime parking spots so I'm getting in lots of much-needed exercise!

The staff here is fantastic. There are people all over campus eager to help. Somehow I keep getting lost and can't find my way to different buildings. Yes, I have a map. But unless it sports a "You are Here" circle, I can't figure out where I am! Thankfully, I'm staying in the same building where the meals are served.

The workshops have been great. Some of the awesome classes I had today:
"4 Characteristics of Best-Selling Children's Books" by agent Sally Apokedak,

"Start Making Money Now" by author Michelle Medlock Adams
"Write From Your Life" by actor Torry Martin, who was also our keynote speaker tonight.

I have been gleaning from editors and agents all day. Writers can set up 15-minute appointments with them throughout the conference. These are golden opportunities for writers. Even if you do not have a project to pitch, you will always gain helpful and encouraging insights.

Today I met with one editor and one social media expert. The time was well spent. Tomorrow, I plan to meet with an agent and another editor.

Another great thing is conferees are allowed to sit at the tables with all these agents, editors, and published authors during meal times. Sometimes the conversation is business, but also we hear their personal life experiences. It helps reduce stress during interviews later when they've just shared helpful hints at the dinner table on how to bathe cats, or kids, or whatever.

Keynote speaker, Torry Martin, was terrific tonight. If you ever have a chance to hear him speak or watch him on YouTube, do it. He generously shares his knowledge as well as his heart for the Lord.

One of the most awesome things about this conference is the Christian atmosphere. While we're all unique (or as Torry puts it "uniquely weird!"), we all have a heart for Christ. It is amazing to see how God brings people together. No meeting is by chance.

I've met lots of new people today. I haven't met anyone I didn't like. In fact, I think I met a woman today who will be my friend for a lifetime.


Mother’s Day Gifts: Beauty is in the Eye of the Gift-Giver

by Sally Matheny
Best Mother's Day Gift Ever
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers and to all those who mentor others with a mothering kind of love. 

I hope you are honored in some way today. Perhaps with a card or an extra special hug. 

Maybe you'll receive a gift. If little ones come bearing gifts, then I’m sure you’re well aware that beauty is in the eye of the gift-giver.

When I was four years old, my daddy took me to the store to pick out a gift for my mama. Never before had I been able to choose a present all by myself. I walked up and down the aisles, determined to discover the best gift ever.

My older sister was a thoughtful kind of kid—well behaved, smart, and orderly. She soon chose a pair of soft, bedroom slippers to give Mama.

I, on the other hand, was a rambunctious, tangled-hair, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of kid. I had no idea what to get, but it had to be something fun, and colorful—something WONDERFUL! 

Several things caught my eye, but I kept going back to a ceramic bank. Perched on top of a horse was a Napoleon-looking soldier. The whole thing had a cartoonish look to it but my favorite thing was the hot pink in the uniform he was wearing.

I just knew my mother would love this bank. Daddy gently asked if I was sure that was what I wanted to give her. He even made a few other gift suggestions. Excitedly, I assured him the bank was the perfect gift.

On Mother’s Day, my mother opened my sister’s gift. Of course, she was delighted with the bedroom slippers. She said they were just what she needed and gave my sister a hug.

Then, she opened my gift. Did she like it?

You should have seen her eyes light up! Her smile told me she loved it as much as I did. I was thrilled I had found such an awesome gift.

Now, as an adult, my perception of the bank varies greatly from my four-year-old viewpoint.

My mother isn’t a pack-rat so I’m not sure why she has kept that bank for over forty years. Perhaps it's because of its unusualness.

My mother and sister
As a child, I liked that she held onto my gift over the years. 

As an adult, I treasure that little bank for other reasons. It reminds me of the tender, unconditional love my mother has always given me. That quirky, little bank captures the essence of her unwavering encouragement over the years.
Now, that I have kids of my own, I’ve received some “interesting” gifts as well.

However, the gifts are not near as precious as the children.

Their beauty is forever in the eye of a mother.
Happy Mother's Day, Mama. I love you. Thanks for loving me.


Carrying Around Injected Lies Since Childhood

by Sally Matheny

Courtesy of Dreamstime Photos
We hear lies every day from all avenues of media. As adults, we try to research, seek wisdom, and discern the lies from the truth. Sometimes, children aren’t as fortunate. Even some adults still carry around lies they were injected with during childhood.

I remember when I was about ten years old, our fifth grade class received boxes of beautiful books. We were told the class would be divided into small groups. Each group would have their own book to read through together during the year. 

We’d never had “reading groups” before, but we thought it sounded like fun. My friends and I were excited to see which of the pretty books we would get. We thought the book titled “Diversity” had a pretty cover and “Serendipity” looked cool, too.

Tina, Kim, and I had been best friends since kindergarten. We liked doing everything together. It never occurred to us we could be separated.
The students took a reading placement test. Apparently, the attractive books varied in reading difficulty. The next afternoon, the teacher called out each book title followed by the names of who was in each group.
Smiles and squeals darted across the room as the names were called for the “Diversity” group. Several of my friends’ names were called including Kim’s. After a few other names were announced, soggy butterflies filled my stomach.
I whispered to Tina, “How many people can be in each group?” She answered with a half-smile and shrug of her shoulders. The teacher called another name— Tina’s. Tina and Kim celebrated. Surely, my name would be next.

It was not.
Stunned by the sudden isolation, I barely heard my name called for the “Galaxies” group. Other names were called, but I did not hear them.

The Diversity reading group was asked to move to an area at the front of the room. I watched in agony as all my closest friends excitedly walked past me.

Satan's lies inject us with fears and doubts.
Courtesy of Dreamstime Photos
That was the day Satan injected me with a lie. I began to believe I was not smart or good enough.
The lie circulated in my system for so many years, I believed it to be true. 

Was it my teacher’s fault? No. The Department of Education’s? Maybe. Satan’s? Absolutely.
So, what lie have you believed most of your life?

“You’re ugly.”

“You’ll never amount to anything.”
“You’re just average.”

"There's nothing special about you."
“No one will ever love you.”

I hope you know now they are all lies.
I remember going to my teacher after school that day. With tears in my eyes, I asked her if there was any way I could be in the Diversity group. She explained about the placement test but assured me if I worked hard, I would catch up to them.
I was determined to join them in the Diversity group. I did work hard but reading groups in the schools, back then, weren’t really geared for self-pacing. There was never an opportunity to advance and join the same group as my friends.

My compassionate teacher always gave me hope and inspired me to keep at it. She never did anything to make me feel inferior. She and my parents encouraged me to do my best and not to worry about anything else.
With God's help we can break the chain of lies
 we believe about ourselves.
(Courtesy of Dreamstime Photos)
I worked hard, but somehow I still locked into the lie that I was substandard. It would be years before I allowed God to break that chain.
The fact is my friends were academically smarter. They scored higher on achievement tests and didn’t seem to struggle with some of the subjects I did. But that's okay. God had different talents and strengths in mind for me.

And He has a superb plan for each of you. He created each of us to be unique. How amazing is that?
The problem is, we slow down the progression of that wonderful plan when we mire up in Satan's lies. 

But God's powerful. Nothing is impossible with him. If we will let go of the lies, God will work amazing wonders! He can transform our weaknesses into His power tools! He can convert our self-imposed hindrances into catapults to reach others for His kingdom.

Are you hanging onto a lie from long ago? Hit the eject button, and prepare to be amazed at what the Truth can do!