by Tamela Hancock Murray
This past week I was privileged to be on faculty at the Florida Christian Writers Conference. This conference is now being run by the lovely Eva Marie Everson and the wonderful Mark Hancock. I like to joke with Mark that he is my long lost relative. If our hosts had not agreed to take over, last year’s conference would have been the final Florida conference after 25 consecutive years. Instead, we had a great time and plans are in the works for next year!
I recommend this conference for a number of reasons. First, the size was ideal to form a sense of community and to have time for meaningful conversations with one another. The faculty included top professionals and enough appointment slots so I felt as though writers were able to meet with the people they sought. The staff made sure to accommodate those conferees who would only be able to attend a day or so.
The conference offered dozens of classes to help writers learn the business and craft plus several continuing sessions were offered. Each class time slot had between four and eight workshops to choose from. Conferees told me they had trouble deciding between them all.
General sessions offered uplifting worship and informative speeches from CBA luminaries such as Rachel Hauck, Alton Gansky, and Dan Walsh. A special highlight for me happened when Dan held up the book Christmas at Holly Hill by one of my clients, Martha Rogers, as he shared the inspiring story of how she had been writing for many years before finding success.
The conference ended with a delightful banquet resplendent with gourmet fare. During the ceremony afterwards, many authors were given awards. Sally Stuart was bestowed a beautiful statuette as the first annual recognition in honor of Billie Wilson, who directed the conference for 25 years before her recent retirement.
Everyone wants to know what to expect in the way of accommodations before committing to a trip so here is my take. Florida weather in February is generally temperate. I brought a light raincoat with a hood in case of afternoon showers. The conference is located about an hour and a half from the Orlando airport. I enjoyed the easy walkability of the Lake Yale Conference Center, with gorgeous trees covered with hanging moss by — you guessed it — a lake. Internet access can be a bit slow, but I was able to keep the fires at the office going during my trip. Most rooms do have televisions, but my room did not have a hair dryer or coffee maker. One conferee told me her room had a coffee maker. I found my quarters to be spacious, clean, and comfortable. As for meals, our faculty hosted tables with plenty of Southern style food. At one meal I enjoyed fried chicken and mashed potatoes and at another, North Carolina style barbeque. On one or two occasions I partook of the soup and salad bar.
All in all, I enjoyed warm spirit and fellowship in a pleasant atmosphere with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I hope you will consider the Florida Christian Writers Conference as you make your travel plans for next year.