Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Writing Conference

The first-ever Western Anabaptist Writing Conference is over. We call it WAWC, pronounced "Walk."

It was held at the new Pioneer Christian Academy in Brownsville, which used to be the old Brownsville Elementary School. Everything looked a bit mid-renovation because the old carpets were ripped out but the new ones weren't coming until two days after WAWC.

But you know how it is--fifty years from now, the old-timers will tell stories of how makeshift it was the first year, but oh my, what a good time we had.

"First-ever" and "fifty years from now" imply that there will be more conferences. Many attendees thought this event should be repeated next year, but I think we should sleep for a week before we actually make that decision. 

Why was such a conference needed? you ask.

1. Anabaptist* writing and publishing are different from most other publishing, both Christian and secular. More collaborative, less competitive. More about excellence and humility than platform and promotion. And more about steady, long-term material than quick bestsellers.

2. Mennonite writing conferences in the East are a very long way from here, and writers in the West are a long way from each other.

3. Writing is a lonely process at the best of times. Meeting with other writers who "get" you can be a powerful boost and can re-start a neglected calling to write.

*An umbrella term that includes Mennonites, Old Order Amish, Brethren, Holdemans, Hutterites, Western Fellowship, Eastern, Pilgrim, Midwest Fellowship, New Order Amish, Beachy Amish, Conservative Conference Mennonites, Old Order Mennonites, German Baptists . . . you get the idea.

I did most of the planning. Paul supported me fully. Lots of people helped out.

Our daughter Amy took care of the book and resource tables. My friend Jane's family decorated with old books. Another friend, Shannon, took care of the registration table with her daughter Annika. Others made food, taught workshops, and cleaned.

Did you ever see such cute decorations?

Chris Miller, the principal of PCA and the husband of Paul's niece Stephie, was our keynote speaker and taught us about what we have to offer and the phrases that silence us.

Chris is an excellent motivator and storyteller.
Some of us were afraid he would either leap off the stage or knock over that arrangement.
He did neither.
Around 30 people attended, including Penny from British Columbia who was in the middle of moving and had lost her passport. "You need to go!" said her husband and son, and her 6-feet-2 son crawled around in a trailer full of boxes and found the passport.

Non-Anabaptists were welcome to attend, and a handful of them did, adding a fun flavor to the conversations.

I heard people say, "I don't know which workshop to take! I'd like to take them all!" Those words were music to my ears. Imagine! Too many good options!

Today, instead of a WAWC I took a WALK. Our son Ben took me to Finley Wildlife Reserve and we walked for 5 1/2 miles. I felt like it burned up all the residual stress from the last crazy weeks.

What would it take for WAWC to become a destination conference, I wonder, and for writers from Idaho, Washington, California, BC, Alberta, and other places to get their friends together and take a trip to Oregon in August, just for this? (With a few stops at Crater Lake and Mt. Hood besides, of course.)

Like the local non-Anabaptists, Mennonites from the East would be welcome to attend. But we would always try to focus on the unique needs of Anabaptist writers in the West.

As you can see, I'm already convincing myself to do another conference. If WAWC continues, many decisions arise about turning it over to a committee, forming an organization, bylaws, constitutions, and other confusing things.

For now, I'm resting, grateful, and ready to write.

Dolly did lots of baking and also cut and arranged fruit.
Hannah helped Dolly.

I taught about how to begin writing when you don't know what you're doing.

Some of Jane's crew. They put hours into making those beautiful folded-book

Penny from BC is in the middle, with Kathleen and Laura from Oregon.

Laura taught how to write another person's story.

Mary taught one class on self-editing and one on children's stories.

Paul shared about how he supports a writer in the family.
It was a small class but they had a fun discussion, he reported.

Quote of the Day:
". . . as I was driving down south on I-5, I probably said, "Wow" about twenty times.  I just so thoroughly enjoyed the seminar, I so thoroughly enjoyed the people I was around, I so thoroughly enjoyed learning in a Christian context where we sang hymns in four part harmony, and I just felt a wonderful humility, as you called it, because how can people be thinking about others and smiling and be happy in their work if they didn't have a sense of purpose that shined through, and that was of course, Christ."
--Bill Northrup


  1. Oh I want to come to that! Looks like such fun!

    1. Thanks! Hopefully it works out, someday.

  2. I love your analysis in point #1 about how writing is different for Anabaptists than for others. I've never seen this put into words before, and the clarification helps me understand what I'm wistful about in meeting with the Kansas Author's Club chapter that I'm part of. Good people are present in this group, and they've often been encouraging, but we're still on different pages in this writing journey (accidental pun there). Let us know dates as soon as the next event is planned. Maybe by some miracle that could be the occasion of a trip to Oregon--a first for me.

    1. Thanks for understanding my point. I love attending other writing conferences and events but, as you say, we are in some ways on very different pages. I especially thought of this at last summer's Oregon Christian Writers conference, where I spoke to a number of editors and agents. I was shocked to find that the actual quality of writing seemed to be of minimal importance to them, and their questions were all about your platform, your following, and your ability to generate publicity and more books. At the CLP conference in 2016, I didn't hear the word "platform" mentioned once.
      I felt like those were very telling differences.

  3. Yes it was worth it and I want to do it again. I heard good things. Others jealously looked on. I will help and support you as much as I can.

  4. I think this is a fabulous idea, and one day you shall be known as the mother of Anabaptist writing conferences. ;-)

  5. I am so happy for you that this worked out! We're just as isolated in the north as you in the west, so I totally Get why this was such a milestone. And I know how ecstatic and helium-filled I was when it actually worked for me to attend WAC this past spring!
    Yep, I'll consider attending a future WAWC... but not in August. Don't you people have beans/corn/cucs/peaches/blueberries/back to school?

  6. I was so excited when I heard about this, and immediately made plans for my husband and I (We are both writers) to attend. A romantic weekend! Well... the babysitting. But I still planned to come by myself. A solo adventure! (We live 8 hours away in Idaho.) All the way up until Monday of last week, when good friends from Ohio announced that they were making a visit. I echo Marlene, August?? We have overnight visitors four consecutive weekends this August. We have gardens in August. (Not that this particular reason would stop me.) Any other month of the year. But I shall come next year, August or no. Nothing will stop me. (Friends from Ohio exempted.)

  7. Yes! so glad you are making plans for next year...A friend and I want to come very badly. We tried this year but it was not to be. Anyway, glad it was a whopping success and we'll see you then. Shilah

  8. Dorcas, I am still living on the great memories of my trip. I especially like your point about Anabaptist writing, and I have several friends who want to come with me next time! Thank you, thank you again =)