I felt like a bit of a fraud when I signed up to attend the Faith & Culture Writers Conference last year. I had recently started blogging and openly confessed it was more for my coaching business than my love of writing. I knew I had to ‘get my name out there’ to grow my business so I started blogging. However, I was surprised by how quickly my love of writing grew! Blogging and tweeting connected me to a world of wonderful people. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to meet them in person. So I signed up for the conference with fairly low expectations and mainly to learn from others.
I was thrilled with my experience! The conference drew a unique, beautiful and gifted group of people together. It was clear by the ethos, speakers, and conversations taking place, that there was more going on here than just “networking” and “skill obtaining improving.” People were making deep connections with each other and the connections previously made on line were being lived out in the flesh. Writing is such a heart-felt enterprise that it makes sense people would be deeply moved when hearing speakers like Sarah Bessey and Deidra Riggs while sitting in the company of fellow writers.
In addition to the depth, it was downright fun. I read a tweet by Tamara Rice describing it as “One big awkward blind date” and another person was commenting on how we should write our twitter handles on our nametags because we are often more familiar with them. Although I laughed in every session, I also witnessed deep transformation.
For example, so many of the conversations I had while waiting for a session to start involved people telling me they came to hear Sarah Bessey. Now I am a Jesus Feminist, I read Sarah’s blog and appreciate her voice but I always found her words encouraging and similar to the way I’ve thought for a while. I met more women at this conference whose lives were deeply changed by Jesus Feminist (and Sarah’s blog). People were finding their voice for the first time because someone told them they mattered. Strangers welled up in tears as they talked about how writing had changed their life. I knew I would be back the next year and began to wonder about it.
As I continued to blog and coach (and coach bloggers), I grew in my understanding of how important the practice of writing and sharing your words means to people. Our passions, frustrations, encouragements and challenges all come out when we write. The more writers I coach the more this rings true.
Because writing is so vulnerable, our identity is put on the table.
What will people think of this writing? What does it say about me if I write this or that? I want to be successful. I don’t want to be one of “those” writers. The list goes on. Our identity is wrapped up in what we write, for good or bad. And when you put a bunch of writers together this only gets heightened.
But the Faith & Culture Writers Conference seemed to be taking strides to approach this differently. Instead of competition and comparison, there was a spirit of camaraderie and encouragement. It made me want to get more involved!
I sent an email to Cornelia Seigneur, the conference director, with some ideas about how I would love to further serve this creative crew. I was quick to tell her that I’m not a prolific writer or even that serious of a blogger. I don’t know anything about professional editing or finding an agent. But I know that there is so much more going on with these writers than their need to find an agent or publish a book.
I was not surprised when Cornelia (and Jody Collins, the conference Volunteer Coordinator) replied with confirmation of what I was thinking. They explained they were adding to their mentor options additional one-on-one support for conference attendees by way of “spiritual mentors.”
Deeply moved by how God is working on matters of the heart in writing, the Faith & Culture Writers Conference planners wanted to give attendees an opportunity to debrief, process, and perhaps pray with someone.
I was thrilled when they asked me if I would be willing to return as one of the spiritual mentors.
There will be an opportunity to meet privately with a spiritual mentor during the Saturday morning, April 11 session. The mentors will ask questions, listen well and give attendees an opportunity to process their experience at the conference and/or as writers in general. Often times this type of conversation is just what someone needs to get unstuck or find inspiration.
If this sounds helpful, please sign up for a spiritual mentor appointment when you sign in at the conference on April 10, 2015!
Jane Halton is one of our new Spiritual Mentors at the 2015 Faith & Culture Writers Conference. A certified coach, writer and speaker. She describes her coaching work as pastoral care meets your to-do list (or sometimes ‘blowing up evangelical baggage’). Using her coaching skills, an MDiv, wit and thought provoking questions she not only helps people figure out what really matters to them but also, what they’re going to do about it. Jane is a Canadian who got lost in California for half her life (there is sadly no good Mexican food in all of Canada). She lives with her husband Dane and their two young and extremely chatty boys in Vancouver, BC. She loves reading, swimming and officiates creative weddings as a side gig. Sign up for an appointment with her when you check in at the conference this year. For more info visit: janehalton.com, Twitter or Facebook.