Conferences in the Coronavirus Age
If you know me at all, you know how much I love Christian writers’ conferences. Like many writers, I tend to be a bit of an introvert. But put me in a room with a bunch of other writers, and my inner extrovert comes out to play! There’s nothing like being around kindred spirits, people who get you, who use the same lingo and understand the journey you’re on. And the opportunity to meet, learn from, connect, and network with multi-published authors, literary agents, and representatives from publishing houses … absolutely priceless!
Of course, as of a couple of weeks ago (Has it really been that short a time?), all group events had to be cancelled. People around the world are being advised—or ordered—to “shelter in place” … to stay in their homes unless they absolutely have to go out for “essential” work or to get groceries (whatever you can find) or to take care of medical needs. At least we can go on walks outside … as long as we stay six feet away from anyone else out there taking a walk.
So what’s a writers’ conference director to do in this crazy time? Let me tell you what’s happening with the two conferences I direct.
The “shelter in place” order in California was announced just two weeks before the Mount Hermon writers conference. We had no choice but to cancel. We sent out a quick email to this year’s registrants before the offices shut down. We put a notice on the website. There was no longer any way to communicate with all the people who had so been looking forward to what God had in store for them at this year’s conference.
Ah, but there was! We had set up a Facebook page for 2020 attendees. I let those people know that almost all of this year’s faculty had agreed to reschedule for next year, so we were simply rescheduling the 2020 conference for 2021. They could choose between getting a refund or applying this year’s payment to next year without having to pay next year’s prices.
Registrants on this Facebook page have been encouraging one another. Faculty members are offering writing tips. We watched Dave Talbott play the organ in the Mount Hermon sanctuary via Facebook Live. I shared a link to a sermon by our keynoter, Charles Martin. Very quickly the tone of sadness that permeated the group when the cancellation announcement was made became positive, upbeat, filled with excitement and enthusiasm about Mount Hermon 2021.
If you registered for this year’s Mount Hermon writers conference, but you haven’t joined in on the fun, go to the Facebook Page for 2020 Attendees and enjoy the special things we have lined up for this week, when we would have been together in the lovely redwoods.
If you didn’t register for the 2020 conference but would like to be informed about news for Mount Hermon Writers 2021, follow our Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference Facebook page. Or keep an eye on our website.
With a little more time to prepare for a July event, my team has decided to make this year’s SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference virtual. All of our faculty members have agreed to present their sessions remotely. We’re researching the best platforms to use. And we’re considering what we can offer registrants with a virtual conference that we wouldn’t be able to do with an in-person event.
This year will be different in some ways. But I’m getting excited about what God has in store for our conferees this year!
If you’re interested in the virtual SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference, visit our website. We’ll be posting new information there as it becomes available.
Like most things in life, it’s all about perspective. Yes, there’s lots of horrific stuff happening right now. Serious illness. Fast-climbing death rates. Economic crisis. Shortages of important supplies. Many people are jobless … and those who have “essential” jobs are risking their own health and that of the loved ones they come home to every day. It’d be really easy to give in to fear and panic. Or just become a couch potato and binge-watch TV, waiting for the world to make sense again.
Those of us who treasure Christ can look for God’s hand amid the storm. Romans 8:28 says he works all things—everything—into something good for those who love him and are “called according to his purpose.” I know he called me to direct these writers’ conferences. So I’m watching to see what he’s going to do, how he’s going to bless me and those around me. I’m keeping an eye out for divine “silver linings” behind the storm clouds.
God wasn’t caught off guard when the coronavirus hit. He had plans, long before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, for ways to bless his people in the midst of it. And to enable them to bless those in their lives who don’t yet know him.
Now, as never before, we need to keep our eyes on the Lord and ask him to fill us with his perfect peace, his love for others, and yes, even his joy. Then we can spread that peace, love, and joy to everyone around us. Even if we have to stay six feet apart when we’re doing it.