Saturday, August 10, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday: The Catholic Writers Guild Conference Edition

I haven't linked up with the Quick Takers over at Jen Fulwiler's Conversion Diary since way back on June 28, so I thought it was about time to do a 7QTF post.  But I actually didn't have the time to put one together yesterday, because it was one of the busiest Fridays of my life--jam-packed with new experiences and truly life-changing for me.  No hyperbole there, I assure you. (In fact, the two days before it were pretty amazing, too.)  And it also included what should have been a five-hour car trip home, but with traffic and construction and you-name-it was more like an eight-hour drive.

My husband and I traveled down to Somerset, NJ, on Tuesday night, to attend the 2013 Catholic Writers Guild conference (which was held in conjunction with the Catholic Marketing Network conference).  We spent three days with incredible people who are devoting their lives--whether it's through writing, publishing or retailing--to spreading the Truth of the Catholic Faith.  I could write a book on how inspiring it was to spend so much time in the company of people who are using their talents for God's greater glory rather than their own--who use their unique gifts for the purpose of evangelization, knowing that they will probably never achieve the kind of worldly success by which most endeavors are measured here on earth.  I mean, every single presentation at the conference began with a prayer.  I plan to write a post all about the experience, but I'll need a good chunk of time to sit down and do the topic justice. So for Takes that are Quick, I'm going to give you mostly pictures today, while I digest everything that's in my head and heart right now about the conference and figure out a way to get my thoughts down on paper in a blog post.

First of all, I spent time in the company of some pretty important people when I was in NJ. 
Is that cardboard cut-out amazingly life-life, or WHAT?!  It stood in front of the Ignatius Press booth, and it was the first thing you saw when you walked in the door of the CMN showroom floor.

My husband had his brush with greatness as well.  If you're a pro-life Catholic, I think you'll recognize this face.
There was a chapel set up in one of the large event rooms of the Double Tree hotel where the convention was held, and every day included a group Rosary and a Mass.  On Thursday night, Fr. Frank Pavone was the main celebrant.  My husband has been donating to Fr. Pavone's Priests for Life ministry in our family's name for many, many years.  What an honor it was to meet him!

In my last post, I mentioned that I finally met author and CWG president Ellen Gable Hrkach, after months of carrying on an e-mail friendship.  I also connected with other writers with whom I've heretofore only corresponded on-line, such as successful Catholic author Michelle Buckman.  She is a lovely woman, and her novel Rachel's Contrition was the winner of last year's Catholic Arts & Letter Ward for fiction (CALA).  I was thrilled to do a book exchange with her, giving her a signed copy of Finding Grace for a signed copy of Rachel's Contrition. (I was going to make a joke there about who got the better end of the deal in  that exchange--but after the conference I realize that I've got to stop apologizing for my work and get fired up to promote it!)

I was also thrilled to be able to give a copy of Finding Grace to writer,blogger, and Catholic Writers Guild VP Jennifer Fitz, who kindly promised that if she didn't have time to read my book she would at least be willing to give it a little blog shout-out.  She had two young daughters with her at the conference, and I told her that in a couple of years, they would be just the target audience I was trying to reach with FG.

My husband and I met and were "adopted" by a lovely couple from Georgia, Gary and Nancy Garner.  We are about the same age as the oldest of the Garners' children, and they took us under their wing.  We went out to dinner with them on Thursday night and had the most wonderful time.  Gary is a master woodworker and carver who runs his own business called Images of the Cross.  He has also written an inspirational work of non-fiction titled Swept Up By the Spirit (which is available as a free download on Amazon from Aug. 9-11, if you want to check it out).

I didn't win the CALA award, as I've already told you.  But it was wild seeing my book displayed along with the titles of the other finalists, and to have a signing with some of them on Friday morning.
I mean, I sat next to Michelle Buckman and John Desjarlais (!!!  What in the world was I doing there with those two?), and we talked about the important role Catholic authors play in spreading the Truth of the Gospel, and how unimportant money, fame, or accolades are in comparison to that mission.  My arms are black and blue, I've pinched them so much lately.

Okay, best (or most unbelievable, anyway) for last everyone.

On Friday morning when I was at the CWG table for the signing (but really only signing books to give away to or do an exchange with some of my new author friends), an EWTN crew came by to interview the folks who were there at the CWG booth.  And that included the authors at the table...and that included...[gulp!]

Suddenly, with no time to prepare, no chance to think about what in the world I would say, I saw the interviewer talking to Michelle Buckman, who was two down from me on the left, and I realized that only John Desjarlais stood between me and that dreaded microphone.  I don't even like to have a video camera pointed at me during family events, and behind the man holding the mic was a TV camera man.  (Oh no, Oh no, Oh no.)  As Mr. Desjarlais was being interviewed, my arms and legs began to tingle, I felt light-headed, and spots started to form before my eyes.  I'd only felt this way once before that I could remember: I was a sixth-grader, standing nervously on the top row of a small set of bleachers that were set up on the stage for a Christmas concert, with all my classmates assembled there...and I'd had to exit the stage before singing a note.  "Dear God, please don't let me faint!" I prayed.  Then I said a quick Hail Mary, and somehow I got through my turn without passing out, stuttering, or standing there silent like a deer caught in headlights.  I can't really remember now exactly what the interviewer asked me or what I said in reply, but my husband assures me that I was looking him in the eye, smiling, and even using hand gestures, as if I was just as comfortable as you please.  He said he was so amazed (as he watched me conquer the urge to react the way I normally would in such a situation--which would be to shrink away and curl up into a fetal position!) that he asked himself, "Do I know that woman?"
I have no idea when this segment is supposed to air on EWTN.  And I'm not at all sure my little portion of the interviews will make the final cut (I tend to doubt it); but if it does, I'll be interested to hear what I said.  It was such an out-of-body experience for me that I'm still asking myself, "Did that really happen?"

Pray the Hail Mary, that's all I have to say.  Your Divine Mother is more than happy to help you, if you just remember to ask Her to!  The fact that I survived that interview is proof of the power of prayer.

Now head on over to Jen's, if you haven't already.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


  1. Laura
    Your whole week from beginning to end sounds incredible!!!! FANTASTIC!!!! and you fooled me with the Pop, I thought you were meeting him, giggle.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful time! :)

  3. Your recap is exciting, I can't imagine actually being there! Lovely picture of you and our Holy Father ;)

  4. Such a great post! I'm so happy that this weekend was such a success (sounds like in more ways than one). You must feel really great about reaching new heights with your book, and just in general. Very exciting!

    1. Truly, Kate, I don't know if much of anything will change...except I finally realize that I can try to promote my book without feeling embarrassed about it, because I really do think it could be a positive influence for some young readers in our increasingly God-less world. I've been so afraid that it seems like I'm trying to call too much attention to myself; but spending time with all of those like-minded writers, who really do see their writing as a sort of vocation (not a career that will lead to fame or riches), was a very inspiring experience for me! :)