By Bruce Stambaugh
I love being with other writers. They inspire me, challenge me, and rally me.
That’s one reason I belong to the Killbuck Valley Writers Guild, a small band of area writers devoted to honing their skills at the craft. We meet weekly, though I can’t always make it. We read, we write, and we share. It’s the writing process personified.
I also like to attend writing conferences on occasion. Doing so helps me keep up with what’s going on in publishing, and in today’s world of instantaneous information, there’s a lot. Time and experience have given me that perspective.
As a youngster, I took my writing ability for granted. I thought everyone could write. It took me a long time to realize that wasn’t the case.
In college, I chose to major in journalism, in part because I enjoyed writing, and because I had experience writing for local newspapers even as a teenager. I can thank the late Hymie Williams for that opportunity. Williams was a sports writer for The Plain Dealer, and got me started writing for the paper at age 16.
But an internship at a major metropolitan newspaper showed me the inside out of the publishing business, and I didn’t like what I saw. Instead, I turned to my first love, helping children. After my 30-year career in education ended, however, the ink in my veins still flowed.
I began my second career in marketing and writing, working for two local, successful businesses extolling the virtues of their products and services. I began writing my weekly column about the same time.
Now in my retirement phase of life, writing has finally become the priority it should have been all along. I greatly enjoy sharing stories week to week. But I also recognize that I still have much to absorb about writing.
When I learned about the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I signed up for the three-day deal. My wife and three other friends who also love to write accompanied me. I could not imagine what a wise decision we had made.
It was pure joy to mingle with people who know and love the printed word as much or more than I do. I was grateful for the chance to learn, grow, and improve my writing by attending workshops, listening to speakers, and joining informal breakout groups.
I had been to other writing conferences, and found them to be very helpful. But they did not compare to the breadth and depth of the offerings at the Festival of Faith and Writing. Held on the campus of Calvin College, the hospitality shown by the staff and volunteers, and even students that I encountered, was generous and gracious.
To be able to hear the personal stories of noted authors like Richard Foster, James McBride, Anne Lamott and Rachel Held Evans was simply amazing. To have the opportunity to speak briefly with them was icing on the cake.
These were real people, with real life issues, not much different than you and me. Hearing them, seeing them, conversing with them gave me renewed hope, and encouragement to keep writing.
The conference was a reminder that we all have stories to share. Attending the Festival of Faith and Writing inspired me to keep telling your stories, my stories, and to continue pursuing my dream of one day publishing a book.
For me, the conference affirmed three points. Writing is hard work. Having a circle of trusted friends is critical for effective writing. And I need to accelerate my writing endeavors here and now. Time is fleeting.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2014