Professional coffee drinker and multiple award-winning author, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing spirited romantic suspense stained with the shadows of history.
What to Expect at the Northwestern Christian Writers Conference
By Jaime Jo Wright on February 17, 2020
Terrified of going to a writers' conference? Can I just say “go”? It is so worth it. I stepped onto the campus of University of Northwestern – St. Paul three years ago for the first ever Northwestern Christian Writers Conference (NCWC). Beside me was my trusty sidekick Jocelyn Green, author for Bethany House Publishing, and in my hand was my calming-agent: a thermos filled with coffee. Really, to attend this conference you don’t even need the trusty sidekick (sorry, Jocelyn). Coffee, yes, because—well, it’s coffee—but you’ll find a trusty sidekick within moments of entering the Totino Fine Arts Center lobby.
Even if you’re an introvert, be assured someone will approach you kindly and cautiously. The side-smile always works. You know, the I want to talk to you, but I’m not sure if I should smile, which usually invites a nod of the head, a “Hey,” and then a “What do you write?” The rest is history. You have a sidekick.
With sidekick beside you and coffee in hand, you’ll go through the registration process, which is easier than entering church for a Sunday morning service. You may catch sight of an author checking in at one of the nearby tables, or if you’re like me, you’ll peer at them over the rim of your glasses and debate if you’re worthy enough to say “hello.” Trust me. You’re worthy. All the authors and faculty at NCWC are gracious, welcoming, humble, and—don’t be shocked—real people. I know. It’s hard to believe.
The keynote assemblies are fabulous. Worship time will bring you to your proverbial knees—if not your literal ones. The main speakers over the last few years have been epic. Robin Jones Gunn, Gary Thomas, Sheila Walsh, and Liz Curtis Higgs have all encouraged us, made us laugh, and for the keynotes alone this conference is worth attending.
Now don’t be too nervous when the keynotes end. On Friday night desserts and mingling are next, with people forming little pools of space around editors, literary agents, and authors. For Saturday, workshops are the order of the morning, and they’re also just as easy-going and friendly. With so many topics to choose from, you’re sure to find something that teaches you or helps you hone your skills, and, odds are, if your trusty sidekick attends a different workshop, you’ll meet a second sidekick who shares similar writing passions.
If you have a 1:1 appointment, you’ll journey to the Billy Graham Community Life Commons, where eager agents, editors, and mentors are waiting to chat with you. You’ll be nervous, but rest assured, they are kind and caring individuals. All of them are great to chat with and willing to assist you on your writing journey.
On your way back to the workshops, pop into the Pro Advice room next door, where you can quiz agents, authors, and publishing professionals on everything from favorite organizational tips to pet editing errors. Before you head out of the Billy, stop at the campus coffee shop downstairs, or browse through the stacks of freshly printed books in the bookstore.
Finally, the workshops have wrapped up, and it’s time for the moment you’ve probably been waiting for. Book signings. When I first met Tricia Goyer, I didn’t even realize I’d budged into a book signing line (because, hello, I was fangirling, not paying attention). But she was gracious. She welcomed me, and then I realized my faux pas and stepped aside to wait my turn. Everyone laughed. I wasn’t even embarrassed. And yes, I did get to chat with Tricia—when it was my turn.
When I finished my first weekend at the Northwestern Christian Writers Conference, I knew I wanted to return the following year, and the year after that. And I’ll be there this year. It’s a wonderful place to be refreshed, inspired, and challenged. Friendships are made. Connections are developed. Most of all, the environment is welcoming and reassuring.
While I hope to have my trusty side-kick Jocelyn with me again—because, let’s face it, I think she’s the bomb-diggety—even if I don’t, I’m looking forward to meeting new friends, meeting you, and walking the writing path together. Because if there’s one misnomer about writing, it’s that of a solitary journey. It doesn’t have to be. Not with conferences like NCWC waiting to connect you with a world of support.
See you this summer!
Did Jaime's words inspire you to look into attending this year's conference? Visit our registration page for more information!