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  • Writer's pictureCaroline

Nashville Part 2: The Art of Writing Conference Q&A with Maribeth

Today, Maribeth of Trekking Through Hobbit Holes is joining me for a fun Q&A session about our time at the Art of Writing Conference and Christy Awards! Read her post on the subject here and be sure to check out her insightful movie, TV, and book reviews and her novel-writing journey. She likes to hang out on Twitter, (unlike me!) so you can connect with her here. :)

Without further ado, let's dive right in!

What are your top 3 takeaways from the conference?

Maribeth: 1) Fellowship and camaraderie. Whether we were speakers, attendees, novelists, journalists, or bloggers, we were all in this thing together! 

2) Affirmation. After editing my novel for two years and struggling to come up with anything new, it meant the world to me when one speaker, in particular, assured me that I probably had thirty new books left in me. I really, really needed to hear that. 

3) I will ALWAYS be learning. And because I'll always be learning and honing my craft day by day, I don't have to pretend like I always know what I'm doing. I can be confident in what I do know, but I can also relax (thank goodness!) and work on nurturing a teachable spirit! 

Caroline: 1) Writing is an art. Duh, Caroline. But seriously, for most of my life, writing was my hobby and my dream career, and I had glimmers of what it meant to use it to glorify God. But I never thought of myself as an artist. The recurring theme of using our art to combat the darkness by sharing the power of beauty and creativity and shining the light of Christ was one that deeply resonated with things the Lord has been teaching me this year.

2) I'm not the only one! There are other people out there who are vocalizing and living the same ideas and passions I am, which was so encouraging!

3) Confirmation. I took away huge, huge confirmation and encouragement in the path God has been leading me on this year. I gained practical steps to take in the here and now, and discovered new possibilities and ideas that I can't wait to explore!

What is your favorite quote from your notes?

Maribeth: "Train your brain! Break out of your comfort zone. Try things differently. Don't forget how to play." 

Caroline: "Write to touch an individual, not for a vague group of people. Find that place where your life, your lessons, and yes, your pain, intersects their life."

What was the most unexpected aspect of the day?

Maribeth: I didn't expect to connect with people as naturally as I did. Entering a strange place full of people I didn't know was quite intimidating at first -- but every time I engaged with someone, it was so easy to chat, relate, and exchange contact information. Again, I think it was that sense of fellowship I mentioned earlier. We knew we were talking to people who understood the trials as well as the rewards of the writing life, and we wanted to support each other!  

Caroline: I had no expectations going into this (remember, I got the tickets last minute!) so I could say it was all unexpected. :) But overall, the sincerity and authenticity of those giants of the Christian publishing world (New York Times bestselling authors and CEOs of publishing houses) touched me in a way I was completely unprepared for. I walked out of Lipscomb University that night encouraged not just as a writer, but as a Christian. Obedience to Christ was a constant theme, and a deeply refreshing one.

Aaaannnnndddddd.... the baby moved for the first time during a session! And kept moving! This child has memorable timing. :) Such a special bonding moment.

Is there a concept you can’t stop thinking about?

Maribeth: I haven't stopped thinking about that part in James Rubart's presentation when he urged us to evaluate our 3 favorite movies and figure out their biggest common theme. "The stories that resonate with us provide a clue" as to the themes and "sermons" that define our lives. And it's true! My three favorite movies don't seem to have much in common, yet they all share one particular theme that, I've realized, defines most of my favorite books and TV shows as well. 

Caroline: Apparently James Rubart has a way of being unforgettable! His comments on creativity have echoed in my mind ever since. He had lots of good ideas to train your brain to look at the world from a new perspective, but the one that hit home was, "get bored". Ouch. With Netflix and my phone within reach almost 24/7, it's so easy to sit and scroll to relax or turn on a show while I do laundry, which lulls my brain into mush, honestly. I was inspired to embrace the quiet more often, let my brain roam, and give myself purposeful time to think. Simple, I know, but just what I needed to hear.

What’s a funny memory of the trip that comes to mind?

Maribeth: This has nothing to do with writing, but the funniest moment for me had to be when Daniel turned on "Good Mythical Morning" (quality entertainment when you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, by the way) and Baby Sean started dancing to the theme music in his car seat! His enthusiasm was both adorable and hilarious. 

Caroline: It wasn't amusing at the time, but right before we were supposed to rush out of the AirBnB to keep a full schedule, I discovered that the one pair of jeans I had packed was NOT in the suitcase. I had two choices -- send Daniel on a Walmart run, or wear old sweatpants to a business casual conference. My mom was texting with me, rather in awe that I could trust him with finding the right thing (I couldn't even remember my size in the Walmart brands, y'all) but he came home with an even better option than what I packed... and he got bonus points for the comfort level. Single gals, find you a man with a sense of style. He may save your bacon one day. :D

What was something that affected you as a person, not just a writer?

Maribeth: Anne Bogel's session on using the Enneagram to build realistic characters taught me a lot about my own personality and real-life relationships. Personality studies fascinate me, yet I've been wary of pigeonholing individuals with a number or a string of letters, or--heaven forbid--using personal preferences/idiosyncrasies as excuses for sinful habits/patterns. Anne, however, emphatically rejected these errors and offered sensible alternatives. "You know your type when you're convicted by the descriptions of each type's sinful tendencies" definitely hit me hard. 

Caroline: Honestly, I wasn't sure how much I would get out of the workshop on the Enneagram, especially since the circles I'm in focus more on the Meyers-Briggs personality tool, but I was surprised at what I learned about myself...when I was supposed to be learning about creating fictional characters. :) I also came away from the whole conference with a renewed zest for learning, not just in the area of writing but in all of life.

And of course, what book did you come away most excited to read?

Maribeth: Without a doubt, I'm most excited to read the Christy Book of the Year: Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan. Not only does it sound like an absolutely beautiful novel, but the subject material is near and dear to my heart. As the brilliant, high-spirited, American wife of one of my all-time favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, Joy Davidman Lewis has always fascinated me. I can't wait to read about her from the intimate vantage point of a historical novel! 

Caroline: Hands down, Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan, which won the highest honor of Christy Book of the Year. The premise of the novel already intrigued me, but after they shared a short film about Joy Davidman Lewis' early life, and Mrs. Callahan gave a brief but moving speech about what this story means to her, I was hooked. Look out for it here on Cosmos and a Cuppa very soon! (Close second would be Reading People by Anne Bogel. Look it up here!)

Thanks for sticking with us as we rambled on! I'd love to know what you thought. (That's what the comments are for, people! Your feedback makes my whole week!)

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