The Conference that Almost Didn’t Happen

At last year’s Orange County Christian Writers’ Conference in Southern California, I was officially announced as the new director. I’d been arranging for faculty the past couple of years, and we had a good team of people doing everything else. I looked forward to taking a bit more of an active role in the planning. Little did I know …

In September, as I was putting the final touches on my list of faculty members I wanted to invite, I got the news that we’d lost our venue. The church that had hosted us the previous two years apparently decided to do some remodeling in the spring and could not accommodate us. I asked a few people to help me make phone calls to find a new location. After weeks of getting one “no” after another, I was sure we’d have to cancel. But we finally found an available venue (EV Free Church in Fullerton).

So in October, I contacted the person who’d taken care of our website, marketing, and registrations. I told her we desperately needed to get the website updated and the promotion going right away since we were behind schedule. She didn’t respond. After weeks of e-mails to her, I found out she’d decided she was too busy to help with the conference.

Again, I seriously considered canceling. Oh, I was familiar enough with WordPress that I could make the website updates. But I was way too busy to do that and set up the registrations and do all the marketing … and put together the program, the faculty, and the workshops … and keep up with my editing business. Especially with less than six months before the conference—one of those months being December.

But God started giving me ideas for how the conference could be run that would take less time to put together than our usual program. And it would cost less, which was important since, with less time to promote, we might have a much smaller turnout than usual.

In November, when we went to update the website, we discovered that it had been hacked and filled with viruses, and therefore shut down. We had to create an entirely new website from scratch. And the new one wasn’t set up in WordPress.

Again, I was really tempted to cancel. But I didn’t feel a peace about that. After all, God had provided the venue. And I really wanted to try out the ideas He’d given me for the new format.

I spent the next several weeks putting together the new program, contacting faculty members, creating the website, doing a search for volunteers. Oh … and celebrating Christmas with my family.

In January, everything seemed to be in place. The website was up and running. We had volunteers helping in several areas. We were getting the word out. But by mid-month, we had only one paid registration! Then I heard from someone who’d tried to register that the Buy Now buttons on the website weren’t working. Yikes! I went onto the website, and sure enough, only one of the eight payment buttons worked right. No wonder we only had one paid registration!

We’re now near the end of January. We still need a few more volunteers. And we’ve got some other details we need to take care of … in less than three months! But we have, in my opinion, an absolutely incredible program. All-day mentoring tracks on each day, Friday and Saturday (April 15-16): beginning, intermediate, and advanced fiction and nonfiction, plus a YA and a teen track. And a Resource Room where attendees can meet one-on-one with industry professionals, in prescheduled appointments or as walk-ins.

On Friday evening, attendees can meet with mentoring track leaders and industry professionals at our meet-and-greet in the Resource Room. Or just mingle and network and fellowship with one another.

And faculty? Wow! God has provided an amazing line-up. Top-notch writers teaching the mentoring tracks—including CBA and New York Times best-selling authors. And industry professionals from a variety of fields: writers, editors, speakers, blog specialists, magazine publishers, a literary agent, a publishing consultant, a typographer, a business planner, and a small-business CPA.

We even have four contests for paid registrants. You could win a six-month certificate for the Christian Manuscript Submissions service, publication in The Upper Room, a book contract with Elk Lake Publishing, or two hours of editing from a professional freelance editor (me).

It will still be a miracle if we get enough paid registrations to cover our costs! But you know what? God provided a venue. The program. The faculty. The volunteers (well, most of them). And all those things were miracles. So I’m excited to see what He does next. I don’t know how many attendees we’ll have. But I know the people who do attend will be the ones He wants to be there so He can bless them in this way. And that’s what really counts.

What miracle are you praying for? What miracles has God already performed for you? Focus on what He’s done in the past and draw strength from that to bolster your faith that He will provide your every need. And when He does, give Him the glory!