A Conference Gem

Pegg Thomas is my guest today as I continue to post about the benefits of attending conferences.   I can so relate to her experience. Welcome Pegg.

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There’s nothing like a writers’ conference to open the new writer’s eyes. Wide open. In danger of plopping from their sockets. At least, that’s what happened to me.

 

Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference in Muskegon, Michigan, is where I got my start. Small numbers and an emphasis on getting published—that it’s in my home state was a plus—were what drew me to Maranatha. The first year, I waded through the week-long conference in an overwhelmed daze as all my preconceived notions of writing were ruthlessly torn apart. It took me the entire following year to digest everything I’d learned.

 

Convinced I was on the road to writing the next Great American Novel, I signed up for my second year at Maranatha. To my delight, Jerry Jenkins was Maranatha’s keynote speaker that year. Attendees were invited to send in the first page of their novels for a “Thick-Skinned Critique” session. Whoa! I couldn’t get my submission emailed off fast enough. How exciting to have Mr. Jenkins critique my first page.  This was the chance to strut my stuff and put my year-long learning to good use.

 

(I heard that sniggering.)

 

At some point, perhaps when I slowed down and read the fine print, I became aware that the “Thick-Skinned Critique” was to take place during the conference’s general session. In front of the whole conference body. Everyone. Every last one.

 

Confidence is a fickle companion.

 

By the time the conference arrived, I’d gone from strutting to, at best, a slouching shuffle into the conference room for the general session. The usual opening of worship music put a little stiff back into my spine. But once Mr. Jenkins pulled out the overhead projector. The one that lit up the huge screen swallowing the front of the room. The one upon which he laid an overlay with carefully typed words now emblazoned across the screen. My words.

 

The only saving grace was that my name did not appear anywhere on the overlay. The organizers, in their gentle wisdom, had deemed it best to expunge the writers’ names. Bless them.

 

Mr. Jenkins took a sadistically long time explaining how he did his “Thick-Skinned Critiques” while my words hung in front of every person there. Each moment corresponded with a half-inch glacier-like creep of my body toward the floor in front of my seat. What I mostly remember about this interminable wait was that if I concentrated on the tops of my shoes, the urge to relieve my stomach of its contents remained manageable. Barely.

 

And then he said these words, “I love this opening sentence.”

 

The glacier-like movement stopped. The rebellion of my breakfast stopped. My backbone coalesced to its solid form once again. All was right with my world. Better than right! It was write-right.

 

Mr. Jenkins withdrew another overlay which he placed on top of my carefully typed words. This overlay had red marks on it. That is to say, it may have been a graphic depiction of the blood patterns taken from a slasher murder scene.  That many red marks.

 

But I didn’t care. Jerry Jenkins had told me that he loved my opening sentence.  My confidence was back. I could do this thing called writing. I could.

And I did.

Bio:

Pegg Thomas lives on a hobby farm in Northern Michigan with Michael, her husband of *mumble* years. A life-long history geek, she writes “History with a Touch of Humor.” An avid reader and writer, she enjoys fiction stories threaded through historical events and around historical figures. Civil War and Colonial are her favorite eras. Pegg is a regular blogger at both QuidProQuills.com and ColonialQuills.com. When not working on her latest novel, Pegg can be found in her garden, in her kitchen, at her spinning wheel, tending her sheep, or on her trusty old horse, Trooper. See more at PeggThomas.com.

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Have you ever been in a critique group at a conference? What did you learn?