Writing is an "ebb and flow" sort of process. Sometimes, I make great strides. Last November, I took a nine thousand-ish word short story I wrote in college and rewrote it into a forty-five thousand-ish word novella. One step forward. Now, it needs to be edited, and to a certain extent, completely rewritten. Brainstorming, story-boarding, and a lot of thought have gone into this process, but the editing itself is nowhere near complete. Two steps back.

This is a pattern in my writing journey. Sometime in either the fall of 2011 or the spring of 2012, a spark of inspiration hit and I wrote about 75% of the first draft of a children's story during church. I promise, that's the only time I've ever written a book during the sermon. Regardless, one step forward. I then proceeded to sit on that incomplete draft for several weeks, eventually forgetting about it. Two steps back. I only remembered because I stumbled across the tiny notebook full of text while I was switching purses. At that moment, I sat down at my laptop and wrote out a full first draft. One step forward. Once I was done with that draft, I didn't touch it again for months. I'm a big believer in putting your work to bed for a while before you try to edit your own writing, but I have a tendency to forget I have something to edit at all. Two steps back.

Now, that particular children's story is not only finished, it has been professional edited, has beautiful accompanying illustrations, and I'll be pitching it to an agent next weekend. That whole process has been full of a lot of stepping, both backwards and forwards.

This blog is a good example of this pattern in my life. Sometimes, I have things to share. I may write a lot, and often. One step forward. Sometimes, I feel like my well is empty. I may not write at all. Two steps back. I'm writing today because I've had some really awesome opportunities handed to me by God recently, and I feel like they need to be shared.

Back in May, I was able to attend the Northwest Christian Writers Association's annual conference, Renewal. I went in 2015, but due to conflicts was unable to attend in 2016. The conference itself was extremely valuable, as it had been before, but there were a couple of key things God did that were a big deal for me.
1) In the time between 2015 and 2017, I had made a friend who lived close enough to the conference that I didn't have to get a hotel, and she was willing to host me for the weekend. It was huge financial blessing.
2) Almost everyone I met at Renewal in 2015 remembered me. Several authors I respect and people I had been friendly with two years ago remembered who I was with virtually no contact in the time between conferences. I was invited out to lunch with a group of writers, when I could have just as easily been left to my own devices, having attended by myself.
3) Kim Vandel, an author I met back in 2015, encouraged me to check out Realm Makers, a big Christian speculative fiction conference happening in July. She even introduced me to someone who gave me a coupon for the cost of the conference.

Now, I've been working full time since last October, and the process required to get time off can be a little iffy. There's a running joke about sacrifices and special dances being required. Given that Realm Makers happens the last weekend in July, what I presumed would be a highly sought after time frame, I was skeptical I would be allowed to get the time off. I prayed about the conference, and determined that, if I could get the time off, that would be the sign that I was meant to attend. So, the following Monday, I walked into work, sat down at my computer, and applied for the time off, fully expecting to be wait-listed. Everybody wants extended weekends in the summer, right?

I got the time off. I didn't get it later that month, week, or even day. I got the time off immediately. I was surprised, but pleased. I did really want to attend Realm Makers, and this definitely seemed like an indicator I was supposed to go. The next big hurdle was the financial one. The conference cost I could justify, especially with the coupon I'd been given, but airfare and a hotel was going to make the whole excursion a lot more expensive than I was afraid I could work with. So, I reached back out to Kim, who had encouraged me to go in the first place, to see if she knew of anybody who might need a roommate. It seemed like a good place to start. If it worked out, great. If it didn't, then I'd find a back-up plan, which likely would have involved working a ton of overtime. Kim directed me to someone I'd met back in 2015 at Renewal who she thought might be going. Thankful that she'd directed me to somebody I was Facebook friends with, I sent a message, inquiring whether 1) she was going to the conference, and 2) needed a roommate. The answer to both questions was yes. She already had one, and the pair were looking for two more. They brought me into their group plans immediately, and I all of a sudden had everything in order that I needed.

Next weekend, I will be attending Realm Makers, where I will be able to pitch my children's novel, hear from authors I respect, and network with others in my field. My conclusion from the last few months has been that God called me to be a writer, and that never stopped, even when my steps forward were counteracted by steps backward. He's given me several very clear opportunities and great people who have all collectively pointed to the truth that He wants me to write. I'm likely to take two steps back every once in a while, but when I'm relying on God to direct my path, it's definitely not going to be the standard.

One step forward.