Two Different Kinds of Writing Conferences

My wife and I have spent most of this past week at a Novelist Retreat at the Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, NC.

Ridgecrest is a beautiful place, situated in the mountains. It’s like home to me, and no wonder. I don’t know how often I used to go there with my parents when I was a child. And then I worked on summer staff from 1967-1972. It’s where I met my first wife.

I returned several times during the 1990s to play guitar or bass on the praise team for the International Mission Conference. And then during the mid-2000s I started attending the BRMCWC (Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference).

The Novelist Retreat is a relatively new event. Just five or six years old, it was started by romance novelist Yvonne Lehman (pictured above), who lives just a few miles from Ridgecrest in Black Mountain. Yvonne had been the founder and director of the Blue Ridge Conference until turning that over to suspense and speculative novelist Alton Gansky.

He also writes military thrillers and non-fiction books. Some of you read my post about 60 People Who Shaped the Church; that’s one of his books.

Both conferences are for Christian writers and wanna-be authors. The BRMCWC hosts as many as 400-500 people who write everything from poetry to novels to greeting cards.  The Novelist Retreat is limited to 50 participants, all of whom have written, are writing, or want to write a novel.

Both conferences allow participants to schedule fifteen-minute appointments with the faculty. The Retreat, however, doesn’t ordinarily have agents and acquisition editors, the two most important kinds of people to help get writers’ manuscripts into print. The BRMCWC does, which helps to explain its popularity.

Both conferences hold a number of helpful classes, taught by top-notch writing professionals. And both have  outstanding keynote speakers. Past BRMCWC speakers include Fox news commentator Todd Starnes, Maj. Jeff Struecker, who was a key person in the real action the movie Black Hawk Down was based on, and Cecil Murphey, who co-authored the amazing best seller, 90 Minutes in Heaven.




This year’s Retreat featured best-selling author Robert Whitlow.




And up-and-coming actor, comedian, and author Torry Martin. Torry will be appearing in a Hallmark movie sometime around Thanksgiving.



I recommend both conferences. Highly.

If you’re a writer who’s serious about doing his best, you’ll never stop learning. And you’ll always be striving to do better. A writer never “arrives.” The struggle to have the next book published and do everything possible to help it sell never ends.

Perhaps you’re not a Christian writer. And perhaps the Christian elements of the two conferences at Ridgecrest wouldn’t appeal to you.

I understand.

But you would do well to research other writing conferences. Perhaps you’ll find one somewhere in your general area, one that’s not terribly expensive. You can Google “writing conferences” or check Writers Digest magazine.

What do you think? Have you ever attended a writing conference? Do you see the value of going to one? How about leaving a comment?


Links you might be interested in:

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

Worship Time at the Writing Conference

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This past Sunday I told you about the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference (BRMCWC), which I just returned from . Not only was it a time of learning and inspiration, but a time of fellowship with other Christian authors.

Although Christian writers have certain things in common–their writing is clean and Christ-centered even when it’s not overtly Christian–one of the most amazing things is that they are not competitive to a serious extent. When one of them gets a book contract, everyone rejoices. When someone receives a rejection, everyone commiserates.

Ah, but I’m sliding away from my topic, and for that I make no apology.

At each big group meeting–seven times in all–we begin with a time of worship through music. Over the years we’ve been led by quite a variety of worship leaders: Promise, Testify, Janet Roller, and Rachel Hauck. Each person or group wonderful and unique.

But this year’s leaders were among my favorites. A husband-and-wife duo called “Russell and Kristi”–Russell and Kristi Johnson. They’re in their late thirties or early forties and vibrant in their music.

Russell plays keyboard–I learned he plays guitar, too, but didn’t do so at Ridgecrest–and both of them sing. Although they use some of their own original songs–very good ones–they also use other music, including familiar hymns. I loved the way they tied a particular theme between an old hymn and a contemporary song.

I didn’t talk to everyone at the conference, but the feedback I got was, “We want them again next year!” That’s how I felt.

But I bonded with Russell and Kristi in a way no one else had the chance to do. I asked if they had time for me to share a few of my original songs with them. That’s something I try to do with each year’s worship leaders, and I usually only have time to do one or two.

But Russell and Kristi were good, thoughtful listeners, and I just kept on going till I ran out of steam. More than once, I saw on Kristi’s face how much my songs had moved her, and that made it hard for me not to break down right then and there.

And they both had an idea–the same one. They thought a combination book and CD of some of my songs would be wonderful. While I’m not sure who would want something like that by an unknown like me, I really appreciated their idea. And who knows? Just because I feel uncertain about it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a God-idea.

I plan to send Russell and Kristi a CD of some of my songs. I’m not sure when I’ve ever received so much encouragement, especially from professional musicians.

Incidentally, one additional reason I’ll never forget them is that my daughter is Kristi–spelled exactly the same way.

Have you ever received such special encouragement that you’ve never forgotten it? How about sharing it with a comment?


I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.
Best regards,