What I Learned at the Writers’ Conference

Inspired by online writing friend Sarah Rexford, who would serve on the faculty, I registered for last month’s Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference in Norton Shores, Michigan. Part of the appeal was a chance to visit my niece and her husband in nearby Grand Rapids.

A conference can feel like a high-stakes, high-pressure event. Writers stress over questions like Will any agents even look at me? What if I meet with an editor, but then flub my pitch? Is my writing career over before it even starts?

But I wasn’t a bit worried about any of these issues. In fact, I felt as relaxed as Garfield the cat. Sipping chamomile tea. After eating half a lasagna.

Overconfident? Nope. It’s only because my purpose in attending wasn’t to pitch a book. Specifically, I had nothing ready to pitch. I went only to listen and learn, improve my skills, talk with other writers about writing and faith, maybe make a few new friends… and, of course, get my first-ever look at Lake Michigan.


The conference experience gave me all that and more. Fabulous meals, engaging speakers and teachers, kindred spirits, prayer partners–it could hardly have been much better. I even made some encouraging connections–totally unexpected.

So yes, I learned a lot, but I won’t bore you with lecture content. If you’re a writer, you probably know most of it, and if you aren’t, why would you care? No, I’d rather share some surprising facts and pearls of wisdom that anyone might enjoy.

1) On the second day of the conference, I headed for my room in the lodge with my hands full. How to unlock my door?? I’d stuck my key card in the clear pocket with my name badge. I leaned the pocket up to the key reader, and–voila!–the door unlocked. I burbled about my amazing discovery to a younger attendee. He nodded patiently and said, “Well… yeah.” (Tell me I’m not the only one who didn’t know this.)

2) It’s actually possible to visit a conference / retreat center situated beside the third largest lake in the United States… and be unable to FIND THE LAKE on foot.
In my defense, I didn’t know the “Residents Only” sign was meant for unauthorized cars, not pedestrians. As you can see, I finally got there.

3) Sometimes a quote will inspire you AND make you think about the information you take in. How complete is my perception of any given group?

4) After you finish your fries, it’s best not to put your glass salad plate on top of your lunch plate.

You will end up looking at what appears to be a crime scene.

With cheese.

These are just a few of my discoveries. But I’d better stop for now. I have homework to do, editing tips to apply, people to get in touch with…

Thanks for reading,


About Jan C. Johnson

Welcome! If you like food, reading, laughing over life's little disasters, and maybe thinking about the bigger things of life, you have come to the right place. Besides blogging, I write humorous fiction, though real life tends to leave fictional humor in the shade. But I'm not a total goofball. No, really. I'm also working on a biography project. I live in North Texas with my husband, Brent. We enjoy bicycling, Mexican food, and traveling to visit our kids and grandkids.
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8 Responses to What I Learned at the Writers’ Conference

  1. undebtedly says:

    Ah! The lake! You get to see the lake! And I’m still here far, far away from it…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by! Once I finally managed to locate the lake, I thought of you. The conference center has a really nice beach area, with little boats and stuff. It was kind of chilly, so I touched no water… only got some sand in my shoes.


  2. I was a witness to your crime scene! Love, love, love conferences!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Anonymous says:

    What a great conference, bet you could not wait to get home all fired up. What a great place and topped off with a visit with Leah and Darrell. Look forward to finding out more about conference.
    Love you both. Mom


  4. Karen Ingle says:

    It was great to meet you there, Jan. I can’t wait to see where your writing journey takes you!


  5. Pingback: A New Chapter | Joywriting: Everybody Has a Story

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